Ash-stranded 2,000 kilometres from home – Tuesday update

April 19, 2010

* 1600 euros the quoted fare for taxi from Barcelona to Perpignan

* Train from Perpignan cancelled, but we blag our way on to Paris-bound service

* Chaos in Calais

Original post: “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”

That quote from “Withnail and I” has been rattling around my brain for the last few days as I’ve looked for a way to complete the 2,000 kilometres (1,243 miles) or so from the small town I’ve been staying in south of Valencia, Spain, and my home in London.

I’ve spent most of the last 72 hours on the internet, searching in vain for reasonably priced car hire, bus, train and ferry tickets.

After giving up on our original flight from Alicante, and the replacement one from Valencia due to leave tonight, we took the train up to Barcelona and a friend is giving us a lift up over the border to Perpignan, France. From there it’ll either be a train, if the strike that prevented us buying through-tickets in Spain allows, or a hire car up to Calais, and a ferry on Wednesday morning.

We’re lucky. I was based in Spain for a long time and I know the train routes and travel websites inside out. We have friends and family to stay with and I can do at least some of my work remotely.

A group of Germans we met in Valencia last night were being quoted 1500 euros (1,320 pounds) to hire a car in Valencia and return it in Mannheim 36 hours later. We’ve

Steam pours out of an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull,  Iceland April 19, 2010. The erupting volcano in Iceland sent new tremors  on Monday, but the ash plume which has caused air traffic chaos across  Europe has dropped to a height of about 2 km (1.2 miles), the  Meteorological Office said. REUTERS/Lucas Jacksonjust had an email from a friend stuck in the south of Spain who is trying to buy an old car and drive it across France as a cheaper alternative.

So far, everyone we’ve bumped into in a similar situation has been remarkably good humored. It must the famous stiff upper lip the Brits are supposed to have.

I’m typing this from a town called Camallera in Catalunya, about 75kms from the border, eating pan de coca con sobrasada and drinking Estrella Damm, which reminds me of the time I spent living in Barcelona.

Next stop Perpignan, and its train station famously painted by Dali. I’ll video blog from there tonight (all being well).

UPDATE: Well, our scheduled train from Perpignan to Calais at 0642 Tuesday morning was cancelled because of the strike, which left us little option but to get on the next train to Paris and hope for the best. On board we met Jose Manolo, a businessman nearing the end of a four-day journey from Miami to Amsterdam, carrying about seven boxes of samples. He followed a similar route to us from Barcelona to Perpignan and after originally being quoted 1600 euros he ended up paying 400. Bargain.

Our problems looked minor in comparison, though five hours standing up in an overcrowded TGV with two small children was a test of good humour. We made it with our nerves intact, just, and even managed to pick up a connecting train to Calais.

There, it was chaos … with hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for buses, trains and taxis from the Fréthun station into the town. We must have looked so desolate in the lengthening queue that a station worker took pity on us and drove us to a hotel. I almost cried with gratitude.

Tomorrow, we hope to get foot passage on a ferry. I still think we’ve come on holiday by mistake…

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