Eurotrek 2006 – Interlude

Been driving hard. Once we left Paris, late in the afternoon of Thursday, the 6th, it quickly became apparent that nothing would suffice except the beauty, peace, and wondrously calming environment of the Med. Like this:


We made it to Toulouse that night, scrounging a hotel across from the train station at 1 a.m. The next morning we continued on, over the high Pyrenees, through Andorra, and on to Barcelona. It was getting late and I was in no mood to search for a hotel there, so we headed north along the Med and finally found a nice place. Then we ate at about 10:30 p.m., but being Spain, this is normal. Locals were arriving after us.

Anyway, we’re at this tiny little village of Sant Pol, just one step up from Sant Feliu de Guixols. Our lodging, the look from the terrace in the photo above, is right under the "Sant Pol" label you see at that Google Maps link.

Dinner. I’ve catching up to do, which I’ll do tomorrow. We’re here for two nights.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Richard Nikoley on July 10, 2006 at 02:35

    Well, Rollory, I've not just "spent time" in France, I lived there, with a 3 BR appartment on the Med. I owned a Chevy Corvette and an Austin Mini. Drove all over.

    You don't need to tell me how to get around in Europe. You're way, way out of your league, je t'assure.

  2. Rollory on July 9, 2006 at 22:12

    You're driving? In France?

    You're doing it wrong. Take the train. The only possible reason you'd need a car in France is if you're going to some forsaken corner of the countryside, or up in the Alps – and for that, if you must, you could just rent a car for a day. Everywhere else is accessible by mass transit; it is far easier, more comfortable, more convenient, less stressful, etc. etc. Those government subsidies, in that case, produced results.

    I've spent probably a total of two years of my life in France and never once rented a car.

  3. Kyle Bennett on July 10, 2006 at 14:01

    Some people just have a public transit fetish. In order to convince everyone to throw money down that black hole here, they first convince themselves that it really is more easy, comfortable, convenient, etc. Lying to themselves first makes it much easier to lie to us. Then when someone points out how patently ludicrous the claim is, (just do a quick compare of door to door time for car vs p.t., or the "convenience" of lugging a weeks worth of groceries on the bus), they counter with some observation about how them enlightened Europeons do it so much better than us.

    The times I've taken public trans to work, a 5 mile drive that took less than 15 minutes took an average of 45 minutes by bus, and I both lived and worked within one block of the stops. In another case a 35-mile drive in the worst traffic took 1:30, 1 hour or so in better traffic, but well over 2 hours door to door by commuter train. Oh, and I had to pay to park the car at the train station (it was 2.5 miles from my house), but didn't if I drove it all the way to work.

    The reason I took that train was that it was, at first, marginally less stressful than driving, and I could read a book. Except that after the novelty wore off, the stress of getting up an extra hour early, dealing with throngs of people bumping my elbow while I tried to read, the hassle of going from the car to the train to a mile+ walk on the other end, (or taxi if it was raining or frigid cold, more $$$), and always worrying if I'd make the train (add 20 to 60 minutes, depending on time of day, to that trip if I missed it), was far more stress than driving could ever be.

    And of course, without the car, any options for lunch, working off hours, or running errands on the way were severely limited.

    Anybody who says that public transit anywhere is easier, more convenient, or more comfortable in general (outside of a few niche circumstances), is delusional, has another agenda, or doesn't ever have anywhere important to go to.

  4. Lute Nikoley on July 10, 2006 at 15:12

    Kyle, my feelings exactly. Living here in the Santa Clara/San Jose Area, we've had trolleys for years and of course busses forever. I have never taken a bus in the 22 years I have lived here. I took a trolley for the first time about a year ago to attend the Grand Prix indowntown San Jose, because I figured it would be easier than trying to find a place to park. I will probably do the same this year. Whenever we go out of town, even when staying with ralatives, I always rent a car. Also rented a car on our trip to Germany.

  5. Richard Nikoley on July 11, 2006 at 01:15

    It's just like most things: time, place, and circumstances.

    In my experience, the best public transportation systems are the Paris and Tokyo subways — the ones I know best. They are very flexible, inexpensive, and fast. In most circumstances I've been in, on balance, there's no better, faster, cheaper way to get around these cities — and it's stress free. No traffic, no parking. A bit of human shoving, at worst.

    Late night, the taxis are usually better, as it's door-to-door and the traffic has died down. Although, in many of the popular nightlife districts, the taxi lines can get way long and you have no way of knowing how long it will take since the taxis don't come at regular intervals.

    I've also used the trians in both Europe and Japan. They have their time and place too — but not on this sort of vacation where the whole objective is to not have plans and stop when we see a place we can't pass up. The train is for going from point A to pre-planned point B, and if you find you can't pass up a place along the way, you either can't get off the train at that particular point, or if you can, you've just messed up your schedule and ticket.

  6. Billy Beck on July 11, 2006 at 07:06

    I've never ridden a train in Paris, Rich, but I disagree about Tokyo. I've never had personal transportation at my disposal there, but have often wished I had. Moving around that city with the geographical resolution that public transport offers, I see the city in two dimensions, only blowing out to full 3-D at the arbitrary points where I can step out of a train station. The place is enormous (you know this), and that simply doesn't hack it.

    Hell, man: I get more out of it when I can walk. If I had my way, I would definitely motor around on my own.

    It's not like anything in America. (I have a photograph of an intersection in Fukuoka, which I took expressly to demonstrate that my '72 Chevelle — what I was driving at home in those days — simply could not have navigated it: it wouldn't fit through any of the turns. It probably would not be difficult to find similar impasses in any or every Japanese city.) However, the tiny motorables that they drive would do the trick.

    A motorcycle would be the thing for me — if I could survive the first day or two of riding in the left lane.

  7. Richard Nikoley on July 11, 2006 at 15:10

    I probably needed to be a bit more precise. In my five years in Japan, I owned three cars in that time. The first one was a $150 hand-me-down from another officer leaving the ship, and I'd have not trusted it beyond my daily trek to work across the peninsula to Yokosuka. Then I bought a better car and began exploring more.

    (Yea, you had to get a Japanese license, which required a driving test because of the left-side-of-the-road thing.)

    In the months before that, we'd take the train to Tokyo, change at some station I can no longer recall (this was in '84) and take the subway from there. I used to go all over the damn place in Tokyo — Roppongi, Shinjuku, and many others. Problem was, we either had to catch the last subway at about 11:30 p.m., as I recall, or we were stuck until 4:30 a.m. Not that there weren't bars open, but we often had to work the next day.

    So, I soon learned how to drive my way around Tokyo. It has an elevated, 2-lane highway network throughout the city, akin to the subway itself, and I eventually new that completely. I could drive all the way out to Narita from Yokosuka and then get into Tokyo at exactly the district I needed to be.

    Still, I loved that subway system. There was and likely still is a wonderful 5-star hotel in the heart of Tokyo run by the U.S. armed forces called the Sanno Hotel. You had to always book months in advance, or, you could get a spur-of-the-moment cancellation opportunity which I did a lot. But, once I handed the keys to the valet, it was the subway from then on. I could be most places I wanted to be in 10-15 minutes, and back again just as quickly. With the car, you always had traffic jam risks and parking hassles.

  8. Richard Nikoley on July 14, 2006 at 10:36


    You're way, way out of your league, chap. I lived there; I worked there, for the French, in 100% French; I speak the language fluently; all my friends were French.

    If you were a man, you'd have just copped to the fact that as it applies to me, in this context, you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

    And don't give the the pity party. You're the one coming in to my blog on my travel log saying I'm "doing it wrong."

    Pretentious? You're fucking pretentious.

  9. Rollory on July 14, 2006 at 09:40

    >Well, Rollory, I've not just
    >"spent time" in France, I lived
    >there, with a 3 BR appartment
    >on the Med. I owned a Chevy
    >Corvette and an Austin Mini.
    >Drove all over.

    Yeah? So?

    >You don't need to tell me how
    >to get around in Europe. You're
    >way, way out of your league, je

    No, I'm not. You may have lived there, but if this is the conclusion you came to, you lived there as an American and thinking like an American, in a place that doesn't require American attitudes, and utterly failed to notice half of what you could have.

    For what it's worth, and in spite of Mr. Bennett's attempt at unthinking knee-jerk witchhunt, this has nothing to do with ideology of any sort for me but is simply the result of trying both ways to travel on multiple occasions for multiple reasons and finding that one simply worked better than the other.

    I could go into all the other reasons for _knowing_ my view on this to be more informed than yours – variety of trips, people met, familial connections, habits of people who live there, feedback from other people who took or declined the advice above – quite enough to make your "way out of your league" line look like what it is, a pretentious, foolish, and uninformed statement – but it's clear enough your ideological blinders are firmly enough affixed as regards how you view personal vehicles as opposed to mass transit that it would get both of us nowhere. You knows what you knows; I won't try further to confuse you.

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