After the visa forms, instrument passports and all sorts of other red tape for our trip to Moscow at the beginning of April, we were anticipating a more relaxed tour to Spain. With just one flight from Heathrow to Barcelona then a coach journey of about 1 hour we would be in Girona ready for our first concert. Simple! What could possibly go wrong??
Well, a little less than a week before we were due to fly, a certain volcano in Iceland (I believe it’s spelt Eyjafjallajokull, but don’t ask me to pronounce it!) started spewing volcanic ash into the sky and thus began its week-long stranglehold over the UK and European airspaces.
So on the Monday morning before our Thursday departure the ECO office was a hive of activity, discussing whether we would cancel the tour, or if we were to make it work then how on earth would we get from London to Girona in northern Spain. Cue Orchestra Manager Charlotte to the rescue, whose wealth of European travel knowledge came in very handy! She had done some prior research over the weekend and realized that we could get to Spain very easily on two trains and with the help of a couple of coaches and an instrument van.
Of course, we didn’t want to confirm this very expensive travel alternative straight away because at this point we weren’t yet sure whether planes would be operating on the Thursday; however as our deadline got closer and closer and with British Airways still not confirming if their flights would be leaving as scheduled, we actually had no choice but to confirm the train journeys.
So our very long travel day began at 8:02am at St. Pancras International when our Eurostar departed for Paris. We were met outside the Gare du Nord by a representative of the Spanish concert agency who had a van for the double basses (we couldn’t take them by train within France as they are very large and very heavy!). We then proceeded to Paris Gare du Lyon where we had a few hours to ourselves to get lunch before our trains departed to Montpelier. At this point we were split into two groups separated by an hour. I traveled with the second group and after leaving Paris at 5:20pm we arrived into Montpelier at just before 9pm. We had a quick stop to pick up food before heading to the coach for a three-hour journey to our final destination of Girona, and we pulled up outside the hotel at just before 12:45am. So a 17-hour travel day finally ended and then the “5 concerts, 5 cities in 7 days” tour of Spain could then begin….