We woke up after far too few hours of sleep and strapped our backpacks on, ready to leave Barcelona and catch the train to France. In hindsight, we definitely allotted ourselves way more time than we needed to navigate the metro system and figure out the train station, but all is well; a lack sleep is very worth a reduced level of stress. When we woke, we could hear a distant ruckus coming from outside and wondered what was going on. We locked our door behind us and began the long climb down the winding stairway, the noises getting louder and louder the closer we got to the exit. I made Jesse open the door and step outside first; we were amazed to be greeted by a crowded street of drunk/still drinking people… yes, at 5:50am. A few middle-aged locals paced back and forth yelling that they had beers for sale, but the rest of the crowd was much younger. After hearing a whistle and being uncertain of who it was directed towards. I clung close to Jesse as we navigated throuh the rest of rowdy crowd toward the metro. We passed one man who stood in the corner and began pulling his pants down to pee. He eyed us carefully and yelled/slurred, “Don’t look at me!” Keeping our eyes ahead of us, we got to Las Ramblas and saw many police officers standing guard and carefully watching the crowds to make sure nothing got out of hand. The metro was quiet; only a handful of people were on it, and most of them were in a drunken stupor, ready to pass out. We easily figured out the train station and found the platform we were departing from. It helped that the Sants Station was large and had good signage.
The train ride was easy and we got to relax a bit and catch up on journaling. It was a comfortable and easy ride. The scenery was lush and peaceful, and I enjoyed listening to the communication system transition from Spanish/Catalan/French to just French. We had a moment of panic in Narbonne, when we got off to switch trains. There were two trains listed as going to Carcassonne, our destination, but neither of the train numbers matched up with ours. After using a lot of gesturing and simple vocabulary (it’s harder to come by English speakers in small towns), we were able to confirm which platform and train we needed to board.
When we arrived in Carcassonne, we instantly fell in love with France. It was so calm and peaceful… the voices, the slowness of life, the scenery, the way people drove… my soul was rejuvenated by being in such a quiet, gentle place. The people there was also very kind, helpful, and gentle, not rude or arrogant as I had feared.
Our hotel, Hôtel Astoria, was close to the train station, so we were able to quickly find it and drop off our bags, though our room wasn’t ready until later in the afternoon. From there, we began the trek to the old city, making a quick pit stop at the local Monoprix for some lunch snacks. The grocery store was also quiet and gentle. No one was irritated or in a rush, nor seemed upset about the little old lady at the front of the line who was taking an especially long time to count her change. It was very relaxed and slow paced, quite the contrast to what we’d just experienced in Barcelona. Both of our brains were having an incredibly difficult time transitioning from Spanish to French; Jesse managed a basic bonjour and merci to the store clerk, but my brain and tongue weren’t quite agreeing, leaving me mute. We headed back down the road to continue the long-ish walk to the castle, passing classic French country-style buildings and homes on the way.
The view of La Cité from the distance was incredible. The castle is majestically perched on top of a hill and watching it grow larger and larger was we grew near was quite exhilarating (or maybe that was the walking?). It was surreal. We crossed over the river via the Old Bridge and took a detour to the nearby park sp we could sit and eat our snack/lunch. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and there was a slight breeze… my heart felt so at peace and at home in this tranquil town, and I wondered for a moment if I’d died and gone to heaven. Words cannot convey how lovely and intimate this town was. I experienced so many emotions and desires all at once; I wanted to take a nap in the luscious grass, run around singing and dancing with my hands in the air, paint a picture, weep from overwhelming joy and peace, and play an instrument. I really wish there was a way to bottle up the serenity I experienced and take it home with me. I finally understand why so many brilliant artists have spent at least a portion of their career in France.