October 02 2016
No trip is complete without a little bit of failure and a lot of fun. Of course, anyone who knows me is aware of my many challenges, one of them being directions the other being just plain bad luck.
But that story is to come.
What at first I had planned on being just a lazy weekend suddenly seemed unappealing. So I got on Googlemaps and strategically examined cities within one to hours by train. Zaragoza hit the mark, so my roommate and I hopped on a train.
Zaragoza is the capital city of Aragon, Spain. (Side fact, I had requested Aragon as my top pick when applying for this program and didn’t get it.) The Ebro river runs through it, the same river that runs through Logroño.
The city was founded by Augustus and named Caesaraugusta. There are still a great many roman ruins in Zaragoza.
In addition, the great Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar is one of the great centerpieces of the city. The story goes that Saint James was praying on the banks of the Ebro and that Mary, Mother of God appeared to him and told him to build a church in her honor.
“This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.”
And then, in typical half-Spanish fashion, we try to ask if it was possible to buy our tickets online and were only half sure of the answer we received.
So instead, we went for a coffee and bought tickets for the later journey at 9:30. There is something about me and trains that always has a bad time of it. I have a vivid memory of messing up a journey by train coming back from Oxford, England four years ago. My friend and I got on an earlier train thinking it wouldn’t be a problem since we still had tickets, just a few hours later. (Looking back, perhaps it was a bit nieve.) The woman checking our tickets decided to go a bit mental on our misunderstanding, shaming us in front of the entire train and demanding we pay for a new ticket immediately.
Suffice it to say, I have great apprehension of ticket failures or getting on a train without a ticket in hand.
Zaragoza is a really beautiful city, and it was an amazing day to walk around exploring it. We had fun shopping along all the different streets and found some really cool antique jewelry shops and tourist traps. Calahorra doesn’t really have the same vibe or shopping opportunities, so it was fun to see the different fashions for sale and look at jewelry.
The Basilica was amazing. Looking at pictures online before we went, I didn’t think it would be quite that big.
So fast forward to our day drawing to an end. We decide to give ourselves 45 minutes to make it back to the train station get catch the 5:45 train. We are waiting at the bus stop patiently for bus 45 that will take us to the train station. Then, across the street, we see 45. So we run for it, get on it. And proceed to ride the opposite direction of the train station for 30 minutes.
An attempt to ask where the train station stop is is met with a shake of a head and an insistence to pay for another trip because we just missed the last stop. And it wasn’t the train station. Turns out, we hopped on the bus coming from the train station.
By the time we headed back into the city, staring at the ever present clock, we accepted our fate that we had, indeed, missed our train. So we hopped off, much to the confusion of the bus driver, and walked to the Aljafería Palace. Funny story. I thought the fortification was a recent build because it looked like an office building made to look like a castle. Turns out it was built in the 11th century and we fail. As in, I didn’t even take a picture fail, haha.
The sun was setting, and we walked around the grounds and just talked about life, and how we had ended up here. Which is still a funny conversation to have, both with yourself and with others. Some days it feels like a dream. Me? Spain? For a year? How on earth does that even add up to reality?
This time we decided to walk to the train station and arrived an hour before our next train departed. Because last train. So, yah. And wonderful side not. For reasons still confusing and not completely known to me, our tickets were able to be switched, and so our loss actually ended as a gain. I’ve learned that it never hurts to ask these last few weeks. The worst that can happen is someone can tell you ‘no.’
Below are photos of our day exploring. Zaragoza is a beautiful city! If you do anything, just spend time appreciating the amazing architecture.