Europe by train: Day 1. Barcelona, Spain to Caussade, France.
“Where are our passports?” I ask Brian. We’re walking down the crowded streets of Barcelona, everything we own packed onto our backs like turtle shells, and it’s just dawned on me that I have no idea where the most important items in our possession actually are.
We drop our bags on a nearby bench and begin the frantic archeological dig through t-shirts and toiletries – items that seem to multiply when I’m hunting for something I really need.
With relief we locate one passport and then the other and make sweeping promises to stay more organized. Traveling for a year and a half has turned us too relaxed, perhaps lax is the better word, and our sloppy habits are bound to get us in trouble eventually.
With our passports safely secured and our eurail.com train tickets in hand we march towards the train station. Today we’ll catch a series of trains that will deliver us by evening to the French countryside outside of Caussade. Once there, we’ll spend a few days with our friends Hannah and Lee in their French chateau.
I took the train from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia once and saw bald eagles, big and stately, swooping over Puget Sound. On the Indian trains, the call of the chai-wallahs and the swelter of heat and stench rushing through the open windows are the memories that remain with me.
Now, as our train knocks over the border from Spain into France, I’m lulled into a meditative state by the whoosh and rhythm of the rails. We speed past open, golden fields. The dark shadows of mountains rise on the horizon.
The train stops. Waves of riders disembark and a new crowd filters on. We’ve just crossed the border, leaving Spain behind, and already the French are impeccably dressed. The men sit in their tweed pea coats, the collars turned upward in an easy air of style. Women walk past us, a splash of red lipstick. The smell of their perfume lingers once they’ve gone. I look down at my stained jeans, unshapely jacket, and florescent running shoes and feel dumpy.
Outside of the train window the world rushes past. The trees are bare in the November waning light, their skinny brown branches pointing nakedly towards the clouds. But the sky is as blue as a Robin’s egg. The train enters a tunnel and the world beyond my window goes dark. In the reflection I can see my own face. There’s a smile on my lips.
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