I took the sleeper train from Paris to Madrid on Friday night. I did this because, when I (finally) got back from my spring travels, I was a little concerned that the ash cloud might stop me getting to Valencia for the grand prix (and as it was me who held the tickets, it was kind of important I got there on time). I've travelled by sleeper train before, from Munich to Paris and I knew I wasn't going to get much sleep. For some reason I can't kip properly on them – maybe it's the rocking motion – but even last time, when I was fortunate enough to have a car to myself, I couldn't nod off. So in a cramped little booth with no air con and three other passengers, I'm not surprised I saw 4am.
But that's not why I hate the Francisco de Goya sleeper train. No. Unlike the Munich to Paris, we weren't able to lock our compartment from the outside, so in the morning I had to decide what I classed as a valuable and take it with me, leaving the rest of my stuff open to the rest of the train. And I really did want to leave and go get breakfast because the train was running an hour and a half late. Not that anyone told us this; I worked it out for myself. Two Spanish women in the compartment got up at 6am – presumably leaving the train at an earlier stop. Except they came back about 20 minutes later… I asked, in English, if the train was late and they answered, in Spanish, yes (I caught something about an hour). They eventually got off at 8am. I can understand there not being announcements during the night, but how about something at 9.10am, when we were supposed to be arriving into Madrid? Or having any staff anywhere whom you could ask? Or any staff anywhere whom you could ask to put the beds up once mid morning had arrived? (Again, we figured it out ourselves.)
(This late running was annoying for me because I was trying to catch the 9.40am out of Madrid to Cartagena. On a Saturday, you have a choice of the 9.40am or the 16.40pm (by the way, this is a 5 hour journey). In the end I switched my ticket to Alicante which meant my parents driving 90, rather than 20, minutes to collect me, but this is a whole other rant about the Spanish rail network being a lot more irregular than, say, the German, Austrian, Italian or even Slovenian one.)
(You will note I generally prefer central Europe.)
(In the interests of fairness, and general parentheses overload, I should perhaps also note that I was / am grumpy because my back chose last Friday morning to knock itself out of alignment / go into muscle spasm / whatever it was I did to it in Denver nine years ago, which is not great for carrying a rucksack. Or for wandering around sunny cities when you suffer from photic sneezing and sneezing makes your back spasm.)
Also unlike the Munich to Paris sleeper, there are no showers on board (at least, not in pleb class) and this unseasonal North European heatwave had left me soaked in sweat in Paris, in which I marinaded all night (no air con, remember). While I'm in the mood to offer up too much information, I couldn't even wear the bra I'd had on on Friday because it smelt so bad. Which is a new one for me.
Generally what I'm saying is: avoid the Paris-Madrid sleeper.
I caught a plane back.