The Paris-to-Barcelona Night Train... Without a Bed or Pillow? Never Again!

January 24, 2018

Barcelona hugging the Mediterranean Sea, a great place to bring your Pillowpacker travel pillow

We spoke to our traveller once before about her trip from Paris to Chamonix and up the Mont Blanc massif. This time she shares her experiences visiting Spain from France, and the rough sleep she had on the way.

Barcelona hugging the Mediterranean Sea

The culture and climate across the Pyrenees, the natural border between Spain and France, is very different. The languages and people are bound by a common history steeped in European culture and the development of Latin in French and Spanish.

Otherwise Barcelona is distinctly Mediterranean, easily distinguished from the continental European styles that Paris has dominated for centuries. Palm trees are only ever seen in Paris when the quays along the Seine are transformed into beaches every summer; in Barcelona, the warm season never ends—January and February average double-digit temperatures—and palm trees are one of the most common plants lining the streets.

A public square in Barcelona, Spain.

For somebody living in Paris, it was worth was worth a visit, at least once. This wasn’t just visiting a quaint ski and mountaineering resort, where things stayed distinctly French. This was something else.

Taking the Train: From Travel to Adventure

the trip from Paris to Barcelona by train

So she boarded the night train from Paris to Barcelona. This is a unique experience for any sleepy traveller. There are sights to take in along the way, too—from Lyon or Limoges and Montpellier passing outside the window, to the beautiful French country side and the towns that dot her landscape, to the Pyrenees mountain range when you cross the border from France into Spain.

But it’s a long trip, travelling over 1,000 kilometers and lasting hours. That’s what makes the night train seem so appealing—just sleep that time away and wake up in a different city in a different country.

But the realities of taking that night train can be hard. Unlike citizens of the European Union, where their right to freedom of movement means passport-free border crossings are standard, travellers foreign to the European Union have their passports collected.

“It freaks you out,” says our traveller. “You’re travelling alone in Europe, and somebody comes and says they’re taking your passport, and here’s where you’re sleeping with three other strangers.”

Sleeping on the Train? Not So Easy

After they collect your passport (to be returned at the end of the trip, but nonetheless an uncomfortable experience for any traveller who needs to get around), you’re assigned a bunk.

That tiny, tiny bunk—and they are bunks, fold-out cots that run perpendicular to the direction of travel, so you roll up into the wall of the train—are stacked one on top of the other, three or four to a sleeper cabin. Once they turn the bunks down for the night travellers, there’s no sitting option in the sleeper cars. Three strangers to a room, no passports, no sitting. “It was fabric just slung,” she says. “I got so sea-sick, there was no sleeping on the train in my bunk. It was horrible. You couldn’t even sit on the bunk, there wasn’t enough headspace.”

“I ended up spending the whole evening in the bar car. I fell asleep, but I had to bring my bag—there’s three strangers in the sleeping car, so I’m not going to leave my bag,” she says.

It was a long day, and she dozed off in the only car with sitting room. “I fell asleep on my bag, my arms wrapped around it, and my head laying on top of it.”

These were regular occurrences for her as she travelled around Europe, making due as a foreigner in areas where that meant accommodations were sometimes not the most favourable. It’s just prudent: without a passport, if anything gets taken, you’re suddenly left very, very alone, with no resources and no way to get home.

The Ideal Travel Pillow for Trains, Sleeper Cars, and Dozing?

Does she think a Pillowpacker® down travel pillow be an ideal pillow for train travel? “If a pillow could be integrated into the flap on your backpack, that would be wunderbar. I spent many a time using my backpack as a pillow. That way you don’t get anything stolen, either.”

That’s what our pillows are built for. With a small profile that rolls up into a stuff sack, it’s easy to take out the pillow, set it to the firmness you want, and tuck it away for right for when you need it. Whether you’re using your Pillowpacker® pillow on a tiny bunk (like we did when we created it), a bed, a sleeping bag, or even as your train travel pillow, you’ll be able to sleep comfortably anywhere.

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