Valencia Spain… A beautiful popular city surely deserves days not minutes of one’s time, so why did I only spend less than an hour in this idelic location? I’ll try to shorten the story somewhat.
I was looking forward to heading back to Spain to resume my hospitalera (volunteer helper) on the Camino de Santiago at the albergue of my good friend Bruno in Moratinos Spain. I have walked the Camino several times and I truly appreciate volunteering helping out pilgrims (walking or biking) headed for the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed the remains of the apostle St James can be found.
My trek from Ottawa Canada included many stages of car, trains, plane, and more train rides. The last portion of my trip was a 3 hour or so train ride to a town called Sahagun. I consider myself somewhat fluent in Spanish even though i know I have a French accent.
I bought my train ticket at the airport and took the commuter train to the station to wait 4 hours. When I checked the departure time on the ticket I noticed that the arrival city was marked as Sagunt and NOT Sahagun. I asked a Renfe (train company) agent if this was a ticket to Sahagun and she said “yes, of course”. I somehow felt something wasn’t right so I asked another agent who also confirm I had a proper ticket.
Before I boarded the train I wrote down the name of the city and asked the very busy agent if my ticket was correct to which she said “Yes” so I boarded the train.
At that point I was running on empty having been awake for 23 hours. A few hours into the train ride I saw a sign on the adjacent road with an arrow pointing to “Cuenca”. I jumped off of my seat to find the train manager. I spent 3 summers in Cuenca and I knew that this was NOT the right direction at all. I found the Renfe person and he noticed my concerned look.
“What is the next stop?” I asked.
“Valencia” he said
“Are we going to Sahagun?” I asked, somehow knowing in my gut that he was going to say no.
“Sahagun? We are going to Sagunt, Sahagun is more than 500 km from here!”
I couldn’t speak. My lack of sleep showed and I sat down and shook my head in disbelief.
He sat down beside me and explained that the best approach would be to get off the train Valencia, return to Madrid and take the early train the next day
I have to say that the staff at the Renfe station in Valencia were very helpful in calling the Renfe office, arranging the new travel and reserving a Madrid hotel for me. I had to cover the hotel cost but they did arrange to get the authorization to cover my two train tickets.
A two and a half hour train ride back and a two kilometer walk later I, of unsound mind and exhausted body arrived at the Madrid hotel. I admit that at that point I barely made it through my shower and flopped on the bed for a few hours of sleep.
To all who travel abroad, fluent or not in the local different language, take my advice and WRITE down what is needed.
Otherwise you might en up with much different results!
Now that a day has passed, and I have had time to rest at my proper destination, I can look back on this “mishap” as an adventure and a lesson learned!