Without Reservation

8438Lounging around for a week was a super idea. We really needed a break after a month of non-stop commando-like touring. I imagined savoring every single lazy day in this little seaside village, sitting on the sand, soaking in the sun, like a week long Corona commercial. Except something came over me that I didn’t expect – boredom.

We stayed even longer than planned in Cadeques. After four delightful days, we became restless and thought about heading back down to Barcelona, but there was no room at the Inn seeing how it was Easter. I didn’t realize that Spaniards celebrate this religious holiday bigger than we celebrate Christmas, 4th of July, and the Superbowl combined. Rather than boarding trains crowded with vacation travelers, we stayed put through Easter. We bought a watercolor paint set in town along with a few extra brushes and sat around the table Saturday night painting raw brown eggs

Monday finally arrived and we said goodbye to Cadeques at the crack of dawn as we walked the quiet streets toward town. The rising sun colored all the adobe buildings a shade of gold that looked striking against the dark blue sky. Our bus showed up and got us to the train station on time to catch the same line to Narbonne we’d taken nearly two weeks earlier. Our train car was nearly empty so I hoped the guards would not spend extra time searching us. At one point a man in a blue uniform came in and asked us – in French – to see our passports. We’d crossed the border and didn’t even know it. No stopping, no guards, no searches.

We had over two hours to wait for our connecting train to Arles. There was just enough chill in the raging wind to keep us inside the station. The seating area was more like the waiting room of a doctor’s office – and just as quiet. Only a handful of travelers shared the wooden pew-like benches. The five of us stared at the silver clock which I swear was stolen from my third grade classroom and the second hand moved just as slow. The only sound was from a very tall older man munching on a sandwich and sipping water from a very stained McDonalds coffee cup. I figured the whole of Europe was in bed recovering from hangovers because the station was dead. I was happy we’d waited the extra day.

We grabbed a few sandwiches from the newsstand and headed back outside to the platform where our tall friend now stood, filling his cup from a water bottle.

“Which car will we board?” I asked Donna.

“Doesn’t matter, we don’t need reservations today.”

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally heard a distant whistle and grabbed our packs. As the train came closer into my sight, I felt a surge of panic. The damn thing was packed – I’m talking faces and asses pressed against the windows packed.

“Hopefully most of them are getting off.”

The doors opened and the entrance was jammed like the front row of a U2 concert. Nobody – I mean nobody got off.

“Just get on.” I yelled. “Quickly!”

Donna and Chris climbed the steps and eased into the crowd. Jill made her way up and inside as well. Alex managed to squeeze in next. I was still on the platform and realized there was not room for me. The train lunged forward two inches and my heart skipped a beat. Could I catch the next train? Considering this option provided a tiny sense of relief – until I remembered something – I had all our train passes in my pocket! I pushed Alex further inside which allowed just enough room for me. I expected somebody to start screaming at me, but thankfully nobody did. I could barely move. My heart began to race and nausea crawled up from my stomach. The door closed and the train began to roll. A conductor appeared and his booming voice spoke unrecognizable words. He gestured toward the cars behind him. I asked “Parlez-vous Francais?

“Yes – I speak French” he replied.

Damn, this sudden change of plans had really smacked me upside the head. I was so frazzled I couldn’t think straight. I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts the best I could, then tried again: “Uh, I mean. . .are there five available seats some place?”

“There are no seats available!” He raised his hands above his head. “Holidays!”

I turned my head one quarter turn to my right and found Alex’s face within inches of mine. “Did he say Holidays?”

NEXT: A Bit of Rome in France

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