Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Home Finally

This is the second of two entries on our journey home from Nerja. Read the earlier one here

The last few hours of the journey home were significantly less eventful then the earlier ones. We left the Internet cafe about 3.30 pm, picked up some doughnuts, wandered abbout Camden for a while and then headed back to the station about 5.30. Train had loud annoying women getting drunk and yabbering in welsh. I was unimpressed. They seemed to take great enjoyment in discussing our donuts, perhaps they don’t have doughnuts in wales. One of them got up and spilled her drink all over herself at one point. I lol’d.

Arrived in Holyhead about 11pm, where the only entertainment was drinking tea and making journey small talk with other passengers, well Ornat talked, I was too tired. Coach brought is on to the boat about 2am, found our cabin and was pretty much asleep when the boat was leaving the port. Woke up a few hours later in Dublin, and back to the house by about 7am.

As planned travelled Nerja -> Granada -> Madrid -> San Sebastian -> Hendaye -> Paris -> Le Havre -> Portsmouth -> London -> Holyhead -> Dublin in 4 days, about 2900 km according to Google Maps.

69 Hours

Last Thursday we were supposed to fly home from Nerja. Due to the ash clould we had to move this to the following day. When that flight was cancelled ryanair would not offer us another flight until at least Wednesday. We began to research other options to get home, but, decided they were too expensive when Aer Lingus had reasonable priced seats on their Monday flight. On Sunday when our third flight was cancelled we decided it was time to leave anyway. This is the story of how we got from Nerja, Spain to London, England.


5:30pm – Leave Internet cafe in Nerja with plans made to start travelling later that evening. Suddenly in a rush to pack and get out in time for the bus.

6:15pm – Leave the apartment with all the bags packed and head back into town and drop off the keys. Have enough time at the bus stop to eat the icecream that had nearly been forgotten in the fridge in the rush to pack and go.

7:15pm – On the first bus of the day, leave Nerja for Granada. It’s about a two hour journey, through some cool looking hills and tunnels.

9:15pm – Arrive in Granada. Have a few hours to kill here, so we decided to keep going past burger king and head in towards town. Didn’t manage to find much town, ended up walking in a huge circle to get back to the bus stop – at least it killed some time that would otherwise have been spent in the bus station. Got a Mc Donalds when we got back up towards the station and then waited for the bus.


12:30am – Bus left Granada for Madrid, 5 hour journey. Bus was pretty nice, had things to plug headphones into with some radio/music stuff. Was mostly awake for the first half of the journey, there was a pit stop about 2.30 and managed to get a bit of sleep after that.

5:30am – Arrived in Madrid, with two hours to make it to another bus station to catch our bus out of town. Met some guy here who’d got a flight up from lanzarote and was trying to get home too. He asked us if he was in a train station, I don’t think he’d had much sleep. After this we went down to the metro station and waited for the first train at 6am – the next bus station was on the same line a few stops away.

6.30am – All bus stations are horrible places, number three wasn’t much different. We found a crappy little cafe in the place, ornat had coffee and some kind of pastry thing. I got a can of coke which I forgot to take with me when we got up 🙁

Not much else to do around here, walked outside and there was nothing open at all, so went back downstairs to hang around and wait for super bus.

7.30am – Super Bus. Madrid to San Sebastian was next on our itinerary. Buses and trains to all other more central places were all booked up, so we were heading for the border. We had a train booking from the far side of the border but weren’t exactly sure how long it’d take to find transport accross so we wanted to leave Madrid as early as possible. The first bus of the day to San Sebastian was the afformentioned super bus.

It cost a little extra (€45 as opposed to the €30 for regular on that journey) but was totally worth it. Not only did we arrive in plenty of time, but the thing had large leather seats (3 across, not 4), extra leg room and a fucking hostess. So, on bus number three we were served snacks, coffees and sandwiches. Well, I missed the sandwiches cause I was asleep again, but ornat got some. There was also a TV with some awful Eddie Murphy movie awfully dubbed in spanish. Luckily you only had to listen to it if you had head phones.

12.45pm – Arrive in San Sebastian. This was a pretty cool looking place, and the weather was far better than what we’d left behind in the south the day earlier, but, no time to stay around and enjoy it 🙁

As soon as we got into town we started looking for a bus back out. Helpfully, the bus ticket people told us we actually wanted to get a train. Destination: Irun, the last place on Spanish side of the border we were planning to cross.

We found the little train station after a few minutes walking up into the town – Just a couple of suburban lines, nothing major looking. Got a train to Irun pretty quickly, journey was something like 15 minutes.

We were planning to get to Irun so we could walk to Hendaye on the French side of the border, but, it turned out that there were some trains that kept going past Irun and on to Hendaye.

We briefly left the station and walked around Irun. It was middle of the afternoon and pretty much everything was shut, so we headed back after a few minutes for the next train two stops down the line to Hendaye, France.

2:00pm – We arrived in Hendaye totally unprepared for what happened next. We’d met some people trying to get home and chatted with them, but, we had yet to encounter mobs of people trying to get home. In France, home of the ongoing rail strike, this all changed.

Our tickets were booked, all we needed to do was collect them from the small station’s ONE ticket machine. However, there was a queue of people that filled most of the station between us and the machine.

Between the people with no tickets and unable to get them, the people trying to get bus transfers, and the people with cancelled trains this place was… busy. I didn’t hang around too long anyway, Ornat waited in the queue while I went in search of Internet to check on our Ferry plans for the next day. Got back to the station about an hour later, Ornat had got tickets and was talking to two guys also trying to get that train and head for a ferry. The four of us found a small bar just up the hill a little and had some lunch, headed down to the station about a half hour before the train was due to leave expecting to walk up to the train and find our seats.

Our seats were gone, as were most of the seats and much of the standing room. It seems many of the people who had cancelled trains or bus connections had been told to board our train. There was one seat left, which I suggested Ornat grab. She did.

The journey pretty much continued to go downhill for the next 2/3 hours after this, as, everytime the train stopped more people tried to get on. By the time we were approaching Bordeaux half way into the journey there was no standing room left in the asiles at all that we could see.

Luckily, at this point there was an announcement that everyone who did not have a booking for the train would have to get off at Bordeaux and get on another train there that would go direct to Paris. Shockingly most people actually seemed to get off and the atmosphere qucikly improved. I don’t think I would have gotten off to wait in uncertainly for another train mob, especially since we didn’t see a single ticket inspector (probably due to the strikes).

Anyway, with things cleared up, I headed to the bar carrage. In front of me was the older woman who had been occupying my seat, who insisted on buying us drinks for all the trouble. I accepted her offer 🙂

While we were down there we got talking to the man who had been standing behind me by the train door, self appointed in charge of making sure not too many people got on our carrage at each stop – the first person we’d met who was travelling further than us – this guy (and his family) were trying to make it back to Sweden.

After heading back towards our seats we got chatting with the other people travelling with the swede. A few more drinks were had. In the end I didn’t spend much more time sitting during the second half of the journey than the first.

11.45pm The train fun had to end eventually 🙁 and we arrived in Paris a little before midnight. Ahmed, who was letting us stay with him, met us at the station. Great thing he did too, cause we’d have been totally stuck if he hadn’t come in. When we arrived in St Lazare to catch the train back to his place it turned out that it had been cancelled. The only way for us to get out there was to run and try catch the RER to La Defense.

We ran. Caught the train, although with just seconds to spare and Ornat losing her shoes running up the platform. Quick sit down on the train and then we had to run again for the next one. Slight problem, we didn’t have the right tickets for this one and no time to buy them. Solution: Jump right over the barriers and keep running…. so that’s what we did.

At the train station there was a long walk up a long hill to get to Ahmed’s. We arrived there sometime around 1am and I showered helped inflate the matress while Ornat booked the hotel for the next night and sorted out other stuff we’d need on the trip to London.


3:00am – Finally get to sleep.

8.15 am – Woke up about now, took great effort to acually get up. It seems that blow up matresses can be really comfortable if you’re tired enough. We were. Luckily we were able to get a bus back to the train station which only took a few minutes. We stopped down here for coffee (and totally stayed longer than planned, but it was nice)

9:30am – Back on the train to paris. We were lucky, it only made a few stops and we got into St Lazare just before 10. Our next train was at 10:50 and we had to find food and other essentials. After the mess of the previous day we wanted to be plenty early for this train.

In half an hour we made it to subway and H&M – ornat bought better shoes, I bought clean socks.

10:30am – We were the first people onto the train after they announced what platform it was leaving from. It never got as busy as we expected and there was plenty of room when it pulled out of the station at 10:50.

We had a pretty relaxing trip to Le Havre from here, I ate my subway and wore clean socks, then napped for a bit.

12.50pm – Arrive in Le Havre. It’s way bigger than I’d expected. Not entriely sure where the port is we follow the croud in front. After a few minutes we can see a ferry, and figure we’re probably heading in the right direction.

Get to the ferry terminal expecting to see lots of people trying to get home. There’s suprisingly few. We get in a queue and are checked in after a few minutes.

1.45pm – Ornat minds the bags in the ferry terminal while I head back down towards the shops to get some stuff. Get a little lost on the return, and it was far too hot. Eventually got back with wine, Jameson and a phone charger for Ornat. Forgot to buy more bottles of water 🙁

2.55pm – People are already bording as I get back to the terminal. We quickly jump in the queue and after having to wait a few minutes to get the bags loaded we walked onto the ship and found nice seats in great proximity to windows and bars (well, the only bar).

Sometime after this an announcement is made that the Port Authority in Portsmouth won’t allow the ship to dock until 10:15pm and not 9:30pm as planned. This meant that the ship would arrive after the last train to London. Some people looked worried. We looked worried.

Ornat went off to find somewhere to use her new phone charger, and came back having met two women from Belfast who were getting a minibus straight to Holyhead. A minibus that might have extra seats. We called the guys organising it, no luck on the free seats. About this time there was an announcement that there was going to be an extra train to London at 11:30. At least we had someway to keep going.

10:15pm – After piling up around the exit door for some time we were allowed off the ship. Expecting great numbers of people to be trying to get the train to London we split up at this point – I stayed waiting for the luggage to arrive while Ornat went to find the station and get train tickets.

Cold. It was cold waiting for those bags – never even thought when packing the bag up that we’d land up somewhere cold and closer to home and should have kept coats out. After about 15 minutes we were able to get the luggage unloaded and rush through passport control.

Got a taxi up to the train station after a few minutes in the queue, trying to keep going quickly expecting the piles of other people to arrive.

11:36pm – The train leaves the station for London with us on it. Us, and about 20 other people. I overheard some people saying some big ship that was expected hadn’t arrived. However they got home, I didn’t see any of the people from out boat at the train. Maybe some people made other plans, but, the demand for this special 8 carriage train was significantly less than supply.

Got the number for hotel and some details about tubes/buses (thanks Eoghan). Call the hotel to let them know we’ll be arriving later than planned.

Hotel is less central than would have been ideal, guess we weren’t the most awake when thinking about it in Paris. Would have been fine if the ferry had been allowed in on time and we’d made the tube. Start planning bus journey.


1:10am – Got into Waterloo station. Considered getting a taxi, but, decided to try out the bus option. Walked to the first bus stop.

1:38am – First bus arrives on time. Great start. The second bus was also on time, and the driver didn’t charge us cause we had no coins 🙂 Great service was great, arrived at the hotel without any more drama, though later than we would have liked.

5:45am – Alarm goes off. We were planning to leave at 6am to get a 7am train from Euston to try get the early ferry.

6:45am – Realise we’ve fell back asleep. We decided at this stage that since we’d missed the train we wanted to just get an extra few hours sleep.

9:30am – With the tube running journey back into London is much easier and faster than the journey the previous night.

Get into Euston station and try buy sail/rail tickets. They say they don’t sell them anymore and it has to go through the ferry. Ring the ferry. Seems the deal has been suspended temporarily. Not surprising really, the journey that a week ago would have cost us £30 is now going to cost over £100 buying the tickets seperatly.

Go out in search of an Internet cafe to plan tickets for the ferry. Found one eventually, had tea and croissants while searching 🙂

The only sailing we can get tickets on and make in time is the 2.30 am ones. Decide it’d be better to spend more time in London than in Holyhead, booked direct London -> Holyhead train for 7pm.

One last thing to check on the Internet – the location of the nearest pizza hut – something I hadn’t been able to find all week (really, I looked everywhere).

1:00pm – Having got day tickets and grabbed a tube from Euston we eventually find the Oxford St Pizza hut, and enter for it’s tasty buffet delights. This is the cleanest and best staffed Pizza Hut I’ve ever been to, would totally recommend if you’re in London and need huge amounts of buffet pizza.

2:30pm – After a few minutes walking about find an Internet cafe near the Hut. Start writing this blog (had to finish it in Dublin) 69 hours after leaving the internet cafe in Nerja.

The remainder of the journey is covered in the next entry.