The Ash Cloud

After 4 weeks away in sunny Spain, we were meant to fly back to real life on Saturday, 17 April. As luck would have it, our flight was cancelled and we had to brave it Spain for yet another week…I know…poor us 🙂

First up, how to get home…and when?

Mother nature can’t be reasoned with. And with K traveling to the US from London in a week and a half from our original flight date–and G needed back at the office in London, we decided that it would be best to sort rail or boat travel as an alternate to trading dates for our flight (esp since the earliest available date for a return journey by air was EOD the following Saturday, 24 April!).

So, looking at trains next…the Spanish and French sites for trains were completely overloaded with traffic and essentially ‘broken’ for browsing. But, from what we could gather, there were no trains available to travel north to France on Saturday…or Sunday (17/18). It could be possible to travel north on Monday/Tuesday, but the costs altogether would essentially double those of our EasyJet journey refund. And, the Eurostar was adding additional journeys to their schedule, but at a cost of £400-450 from Paris, not including the journey costs north, we decided an alternate would be best. Traveling by train would be neither FUN or cheap.

Finally, upon reviewing a few maps in our Spain guidebook, we found a ferry route to the UK located in the Northwest of Spain–an easy train journey from Barcelona. Centered around the cities of Santander and Bilboa, the journey back to the UK would just about equal out to the cost of our EasyJet return refund (including the domestic train journeys at either end). And, it would afford us a week in lovely San Sebastian. On the downside, this option includes a 29 hour ferry ride back to the UK…but at least we’ll have a room…

Next, up rail tickets for the 4.5 hour journey to the north to San Sebastian. So, we woke up bright and early on Sunday morning to purchase our train tickets for [hopeful] same-day travel to San Sebastian. Upon our arrival at the station, the line was already snaking! For an hour and a half, we waited behind an army of people who visited the window with questions like ‘do you have tickets available for ANYWHERE in France?’. Wow. We took turns standing in line so that the other could grab a number (as in number to be seen) to purchase train tickets for the next day’s travel–just in case train travel for same-day service had sold out. And we also took turns visiting a park outside the train station which was lovely enough to somehow feature in the guidebook. After waiting for 2.5 hours at the station in total, we secured tickets to San Sebastian [the attendant was pleased to speak with some people with a very pointed request and sold us tickets for Monday (next day) since the Sunday journey had sold out when we reached the window!!–though he could have sent us to stand in yet another 1.5 hour line].

After a painless train journey on Monday morning, we’re now safely stowed in a lovely and CHEAP room in San Sebastian’s old town. While it’s true that flights are now running to the UK, we’re happy with our choice…

Stay tuned for more on San Sebastian…

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