You’d never think that I’d miss New Jersey Transit and the cacophony that is the Port Authority, but guess what!
No, wait, let me amend that– You’d never think I’d sing the praises of New Jersey Transit and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Agency, but guess what!
Compared to figuring out transport in Spain, NJT & the MTA embody the height of organization, facility, and courteousness.
The transit workers in all the stations here in Spain seem to be programmed to either know absolutely nothing whatsoever or to keep any and all information on the routes and schedules top secret. How I long to arrive at a bus or train station and see a sign, a schedule, even a handwritten piece of paper taped to a window that that says anything – anything! – but cerrado. Closed.
How convenient to have a schedule, an actual list of stops each bus makes, with town names and destinations and estimated times of departure and arrival. Spain is in Europe, right? Can’t they borrow a clue from the Germans? I mean, if New Jersey can do it, why can’t you, Spain? What gives? (Viva, España!!!)
In trying to coordinate my travel here, I find myself dreaming of typing into a simple search engine the Spanish equivalent of “Millburn to Point Pleasant” and being brought directly to a functioning page, and seeing that not only do I need to change trains in Newark, but which exact station and platform in Newark and when I’ll need to change and which track the train will be arriving on.
But no. Traveling in Spain gives new meaning to the phrase “Can’t get there from here.”
So to get to Jaca, I headed to the Bus Station, taking the Metro back to generally where I’d started that morning. Made 3 changes – Wrong bus station!
“How can I get to Jaca?” I ask.
“Go to the other bus station.”
“How?” I ask.
“Take the Train”
This confuses me to no end. I think for a moment.
“You mean the Metro?”
I buy another Metro ticket, but can’t figure it out, and so begins a long afternoon of me asking people how to get to the Bus station to get to Jaca.
“Is it this station?” – “Yes.” — “No.” — Take the RENFE train! –Metro – Arrive at the RENFE train station! — But can’t tell which direction – Ask, “Is this right train?” – Guy nods. — Follow guy to Bus Station – Gut he can’t get out of the turnstyle! – I wait. – OK, we’re at the bus station. – I can’t figure out which window! – Ticket lines meld into one, crowded with Northern Europeans and drunk British 20-somethings trying to get home – Eventually get a ticket. – Time to Wait, wait, wait. – Buy fresh OJ. – Oh shit, did I miss the bus? – No. – Good. – Get on the Bus — Yay! —
Relax on bus — No! You need to change buses! — Change buses in Huesca. – New bus breaks down! — No clue what’s going on. – Book says, Alburgue closes at 10:00. – I call the Alburgue – “Can you keep it open?” — “No.” — “Uh, pero…” *blubbers* – “Go to hotel, good price, no te preoccupes.” Don’t worry. – Yo me preoccupo. I worry. – Woman behind me on bus says there’s another pilgrim on the bus, she’ll point her out when we get there, maybe share a room with her. – OK…. –
New bus comes – Get off broken bus, get on new bus — Sit next to a very, very, very old lady. Across aisle is grumpy goth-looing chick with dyed black hair, straight bangs, lip and eyebrow piercing & a scowl — Think, “I hope it’s not her.” – It is. – Share room – Marie speaks English, gruff, very knowledgeable about the routes. – “Don’t start here,” she says, “Go to France, Walk across Pyrenees.” – OK, cool! —
Next day, up early. – I’m going to France! With Marie! — Take bus from Jacá to Canfranc Estacion on the border, to catch 11:00 bus to Orloron, France. – Arrive in Canfranc Estacion. — But guess what! – What? – It’s Bastille Day! – What? – It’s freaking Bastille Day! — So? – No Bus! France is closed!
Yes, France is closed.
Wait for the much, much, much later bus. — Drink Coffee. — Lots and lots of coffee. — Eat a kind of raw Spanish tortilla, wander about the very (very) small town, write. Call mom. – Afraid to miss bus, hang around station. – OK, bus to Oloron! Yay! –
Arrivein Oloron. – Mad rush to buy tickets to Pau. – Buy tickets to Pau. – Get Train to Pau. – Bathrooms are broken. – Stinky Train! – Young man walks into bathroom, walks out gagging. – All passengers cover faces with cloths, try not to gag. – Dina and Marie giggle hysterically and choke at same time. – Arrive in Pau. – Taxi to Lescar. –
Nous sommes arrivees! WE MADE IT!!!