Train travel in Spain is kind of exasperating. Most trains go to Madrid. It’s hard to get from a major Spanish city without going through Madrid first. Or at least that’s how it was in 1997. Anyway, Becky and I had a long journey ahead of us. She wanted to go to the Loire Valley, which was quite a ways north from Cadiz. And we didn’t have access to a bullet train from Cadiz, so we ended up taking a slow train that left early in the morning. We were both pretty tired, not having gotten a very good night’s sleep during our night in Cadiz. The sun was not yet up when we boarded the train, so we tried to relax a bit as our long day commenced.
We got to Madrid, which required a short stop in order to catch the next train to Hendaye, which is a Spanish city on the French border. There, we would change trains again. I remember it was a Sunday and a lot of businesses were closed. Becky and I went to a park to kill time before we caught our train to the border. I wanted to pick up a newspaper, so I left her in the park with my bag while I searched for one. It took about twenty minutes. When I got back, Becky was absolutely beside herself with rage.
“Where have you been?” she yelled. “I have to go to the bathroom!”
I was completely non-plussed by her outburst. We were in a beautiful park and it was a Sunday and Becky was very angry. She went on about not knowing Spanish. I reminded her that many people speak English in Spain. Then I told her how to ask for a bathroom in Spanish.
Becky continued yelling at me, at one point calling me a motherfucker… which I thought was amusing, since I was a virgin at the time and had no physical ability or desire to fuck a woman. Then she berated me for “bragging” about knowing Spanish, which I actually don’t speak that well. I just studied it for many years in school. Besides, when I tried to speak Spanish on my trip, it invariably came out Armenian.
After I’d had enough verbal abuse, I looked at Becky and said, “You know, I don’t have to put up with this. I’ve been on vacation for three weeks now. I’d be just fine with going home.”
That comment made Becky go even more ballistic. She started screaming about how much money she had spent to come to Europe and how I couldn’t just leave her there. I told her that the money she spent to come to Europe was immaterial to me. She had chosen to come there and travel with me and she was a grown woman who could take care of herself. I wasn’t going to put up with her rages. Actually, given the depressed and anxious mental state I was in at the time, I’m surprised I found the strength to say these things. Becky is tiny, but she can be really scary when she’s raging.
So she finally calmed down, but still tried to control things. I was worn down by the drama, so I just gave in. The trip was becoming less and less fun. We got on a slow train that I think must have been overnight, because I remember getting off in Hendaye in the early morning. I also remember getting on the train from Madrid in the late afternoon, after Becky’s meltdown.
We eventually ended up in Bayonne, France, where we switched trains and went to Toulouse. It was at that point that we realized we were going off course. But we ate lunch in Toulouse and I went to a travel agency and purchased a one way ticket back to the United States. I remember the travel agent warning me that the flights were more expensive when they were one way. I didn’t care. I needed to know I’d have a ticket home.
We took another train to Bordeaux, but we didn’t get out and see the famed wine city. Instead, we changed trains again and got on one to Tours. I remember it being a nice train and we talked to a beautiful blonde French woman who gave us travel tips.
Actually, I was pretty glad to leave Spain. As much as I heard people talk about French people being rude, Spanish people seemed far ruder. Since that trip in 1997, I have since found that’s not necessarily the truth, but it happened to be my experience in Spain at that time. Maybe that’s because we spent so much time in train stations and cheap hotels.
Next installment: Tours, Amboise, and Paris