It is summer 2002. Degree Finals are over, my friend Fiona and I are graduands. Three years of hard work, and more specifically, three months of intense stress, have come to their conclusion. It is time to party; we spend an entire week drinking hideous quantities of dire alcohol, killing a few braincells and frying our livers in the process. We go to some of the most awful clubs Bristol has to offer and dance as if we have never been in a club before...ever. Having expended all Bristol's possibilities, and virtually all that remains in our bank accounts, we begin to think globally. The time has come for us to relocate our pageant of revellry to foreign shores. The extent of our overdrafts dictates that we cannot afford to go far, but then we hit upon a plan. Our friend, Lauren, has been living in Barcelona for the past six months; it is time to pay her a visit.

Filled with the anticipation of visiting a new city, the alcoholic toxins that have been steadily accumulating in our systems and the enthusiasm of new beginnings and opportunities ahead of us, we arrive in Barcelona. The start of our trip is not that for which we might have wished: the airline loses our luggage. However, we do not allow this to deter us; Rioja and Tapas fuel our visits to the Picasso House, to the Museum of Erotic Art, the harbour and aquarium and to the city of Girona, slightly to the north of Barcelona.

We travel by train to Girona. The journey is short enough to not feel draining, but long enough to allow us to absorb the countryside. On arrival in Girona, we head over the bridge and into the old city. We wander around the narrow streets and explore the old synagogue before we decide that it is time to enjoy a long and relaxed lunch. After lunch, Fiona telephones the universty and receives her degree result. It was exactly what she had been expecting, and we are all in a state of euphoria. We visit the museum attached to the Cathedral before walking back over the bridge, into the new city to catch the train home.

The station is buzzing, but we are in plenty of time to catch our train, the 7.01. I hear the announcement, but Lauren does not. The train on platform 1 is for Barcelona. We head towards platform 1 and board the train. We are tired, but excitable and do not pay a great deal of attention to the journey. After about 40 minutes, the train pulls into a station and Lauren looks to see how far we have left to travel. A ear-shattering scream rises from her lungs: "This is Figueras!" Rather than travel south towards Barcelona, we had been heading north, towards France. The announcement had named the station from which the train had come, not to where it was going. We grabbed our belongings, leapt off of the train and headed post-haste towards the information area.

Spain is a Mediterranean country, it has a siesta culture, shops are open well into the evening; we did not envisage any difficulty in getting a return train to Barcelona. How very wrong we were. On our journey from Girona to Figueras, we had crossed the last train heading towards Barcelona. There was no train until 6.14am the next day.

Spain is a Mediterranean country, it has a siesta culture, shops are open well into the evening, even if the trains do not run; we did not envisage any difficulty in getting a bus to Barcelona. How very wrong we were. There was no bus to Barcelona until 6.30am the next day.

Lauren stood in the small square before the train station in the failing light and issued a scream of frustration, maybe even despair. Fiona and I were strangely calm. Yes we were stranded, no we did not know Figueras at all, but we had to find somewhere to spend the night. The trusty Let's Go guide to Barcelona and the surrounding area was dragged from my bag and we began our search for a hostel.

Three possible selections were made and we walked purposefully into the town in search of potential lodgings. We concluded that Figueras was indeed one of the strangest towns that we had had the fortune to stumble across. Compared to any other Spanish town, it was virtually dead. The silence resonating about the streets at 8pm was almost numbing. No cafes spilled their clientele onto the pavements, no bars sent inviting music into the night air, there was no enticing smell of tapas hanging in the atmosphere. After much wandering, having vainly attempted to locate a hostel, we walked into an expensive hotel (in fact, the only hotel we were able to find) and requested assistance. The receptionist was less than welcoming, but did provide us with a map and vague directions towards a hostel. After a little more tripping down backstreets, and locating the Dali House, Fiona spotted a sign that purported to indicate a hostel. Momentary relief.

We quickly ensure that we look respectable, following our day of drama, and walk through the door. The manageress confirms that she does have a room for three available, and that we would be required to pay 12 each. Between us, we have sufficient funds and sign for the room. Relieved, we head upstairs and consider our next move. We are all exhausted and tension has suppressed our appetites. We decide to explore a little more, in an attempt to negate the initial impressions cast of the town. There was no helping it. It was dead, as any proverbial dodo or doornail.

Fiona decides that she wants to spend some more time in Figueras and visit the Dali House; Lauren has to return to Barcelona to go to work, I decide to catch the early train with her. We sleep badly, but we are safe and there is a roof over our heads. We meet again when we have lunch the next day. That is most certainly another story. However, I have learned to always carry with me a clean pair of knickers and a toothbrush!

For iceowl and his adventure quest

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