“Perdón, I have to go. I need to catch a train,” I excused myself from band rehearsal at 9:45 on Thursday night. I had arranged to meet my two friends in the train station at 10:15 to catch our 11 o’clock (this is 23:00, or p.m.) train-hotel to Galicia. The rehearsal had passed splendidly: first off, my violin teacher had said that I was improving, and then during the group practice, we received a new piece of music: Bryan Adams’s “I Do it For You”, which just happens to be, first off, one of my favorite songs, and second, has a violin solo pretty much throughout the entire thing! Since I was the only violinist there that night, I got a lot of playing in – and you all know how I just soak up the spotlight.
The evening took a turn for the sour when one of my friends realized, as we scanned our tickets to board, that she had bought them backwards: she had the same trip, but from A Coruña to Zaragoza rather than Zaragoza to A Coruña. She couldn’t sort it out in time to catch the train, so my other friend and I ruefully boarded without her. She ended up not being able to find an economical way to meet us there the next day, so Melanie and I made the best of things on our own. Luckily we were able to change our hostel reservation to two, and although we missed her dearly, we managed to go on with the trip and have lots of fun.
The train-hotel takes 12 hours to cross the northern edge of Spain from Zaragoza to A Coruña (La Coruña in Castillian…yet another regional language confusion!) and is composed of an elegant restaurant car, a café car, four “butaca gran comfort” (big comfortable seats) cars, one of which we were in, and seemingly infinite cars with four rooms each. Rumor has it that each room has two or three cots and even a shower, but we, on our student budgets, were confined to the seats. Not to say they weren’t comfortable – the degree of recline was astonishing!
We woke up the next morning to Galician landscape. In preparation for the SYA conference in Lyon I’ll be going to in a couple of weeks, I have to survey a medley of Spaniards regarding historical memory. I figured that these last couple of train hours would be a good opportunity, and made my way to the cafeteria car to corner some survey victims. I had success, and had racked up two more people surveyed when a RENFE (the train company) official came up to me and said, “Can I speak to you for a moment?” (In Spanish, of course.) He took me into the next car and informed me that taking surveys is illegal on RENFE trains! Luckily, however, I was able to explain that it was a history project, wouldn’t be published, I wouldn’t do it again, I’m not from Spain, etc, and the officer said that this time it could be “forgotten”. Oops.
Luckily we managed to arrive in A Coruña on time and without committing any more crimes, ready to enjoy a Galician long weekend!