9 things to do when you miss the train

madrid charmatin train
Waiting anxiously at the train platform…

Mistakes happen to the most seasoned travellers, and yours truly is one of those mistake-makers, despite my seemingly substantial travel record. As Murphy’s Law rightly puts it ‘What can happen, will happen.’ And this is how I missed the train to my Friend W’s wedding.

In this case, it was due to a series of mistakes. I had drunk a substantial amount of wine the night before. Naturally, I woke up late in a rather hungover state and took longer than usual to pack. The journey to the train station also involved pushing along a new luggage, thereby taking up more time.

But the key issue is that we assumed that the train was leaving from the Atocha train station in Madrid, and it wasn’t the case. It was leaving from Charmatin, as my Friend W would repeatedly stress (somewhat in exasperation) – ‘It’s in the wedding PDF document I sent you guys, did you read it?! ‘ (sigh)

At Atocha, we went into a frenzy, trying to find the right gate to the train. (There were not many signs in English, and the noticeboard had no trains departing to Ourense, the wedding destination.) After much gesturing with the train staff, we were eventually directed to a platform. The sign read, to Charmatin and had other foreign looking words as well. There was no mention of Ourense on the board, and I thought to myself…. that Ourense was probably one of the stops along the way, therefore it did not deserve a mention.

madrid charmatin train
Still slightly hungover/ deluded when the train arrived.

Now the befuddled traveller in me heaved a sign of relief thinking we had finally caught the train. The train arrived and we boarded it.

On the train to Charmatin, I sensed a bad omen. In all my travelling experience on trains (exclu India), long distance trains were, well, not as shabby as the one we were in. Then I realised, it was actually a connecting train to Madrid Charmatin, the destination of where the train to Ourense departs from.

So what happened next? Here are 9 things to do when you miss the train to your friend’s wedding.

1. Remain positive

There’s nothing like a black face to ruin the rest of the trip. Amidst your frustration, stay positive and try to laugh at the epicness of the situation. To me, there was nothing more dramatic in the entire trip than to miss the train to Friend W’s wedding (which was why I had flown to Spain in the first place). In fact, it’s a story that will live with me for a very long time…

2. Avoid blaming someone else

Crying over spilled milk is not necessary. It’s easy to shift the blame to someone else, but then again, I realised that I had much to be blamed as well. I understood perfectly that it was not possible to go back in time, and all I could do was focus on what to do next.

3. Get a local SIM card to make calls

miss train wedding
When all is said and done, all is left is smile : )

I didn’t have a local SIM card with me as I was travelling in Spain for only a week. But once we missed the train, I immediately purchased a local SIM card, to send a distress call to my Friend W (who was in the midst of preparing for her wedding). That was super inconsiderate I realised, but I absolutely did not have a choice.

Essentially a local SIM card will enable you to make calls and receive texts in the most affordable way possible.

4. Call for help

There’s no one who will be better able to offer assistance, than your friend who lives in the country. When I missed the train, the first person I called was my Friend W, who directed us to her hubby, Friend M. He then got in touch with his friends who were driving up to Ourense, and asked if they could give us a lift. They said yes, and soon, we were on our way to meet them at the suburbs of Madrid.

5. Immediately book the next train out

If you’ve missed a train, immediately queue to purchase tickets for the next train out. Tickets sell out really fast, so you’ve got to be quick. If you find that you don’t require the tickets later on, the cancellation fee is still worth the price – €8/ per ticket in that case.

6. Be prepared to pay twice the price

renfe sleeper train tickets
Sleeper train tickets which costs €76 each. Thank goodness we took a ride from Friend M’s friends instead!

The train we missed left at noon, and the only one with vacancies leaves in the evening. However, it cost us twice the price as it was a sleeper. It was scheduled to arrive at Ourense at 5am, (a rather ungodly time for a rural city). But to increase our chances of arriving at the wedding in time, I purchased the tickets first.

7. Scout the area for a left luggage

Travelling with a huge set of luggage will hold you back, and storing your luggage at the train station may be just the way to go, should you have to catch a ride from your friend’s friend.

And this was how we got to the wedding in time. Friend M knew of friends who were driving up to Ourense from Madrid. He arranged for them to pick us up. However, his friend mentioned that it was almost impossible to hold a big luggage as the car was smallish – and we stored the luggage away at the left luggage section of the train station. Which brings me to my next point.

8. Be quick to react

When told that we had to stash our belongings away and bring only what was required for the trip, I nearly left my dress for the wedding behind – gasp! It was a rather stressful experience attempting to pack one’s belongings into a smaller bag, and locating the left-luggage department at the train station.

9. Learn your lesson (never be late again)

We caught a ride from M’s friends in the end. I must say it’s quite a different experience, being in a car with three Spaniards for four hours. In fact, I would say that it was rather enchanting to hear them share about their lives. Like Singaporeans, cost of living was the main concern on their minds. The couple had a baby and had sent their kid away to their parent’s for the weekend, so that they could drive up to Ourense for the wedding. It was their first weekend away together, without the baby and they were kinda relaxed and happy.

* * *

After all the rush, I finally understood why it is important to arrive early at airports and train stations. I’d rather wake up half an hour earlier to catch the train/ flight, than spend time fretting over a missed train.

But that being said, despite it being a somewhat stressful journey to the wedding destination, it was very worth it in the end. We made it, and the most crucial thing I learnt from Friend M’s childhood friend Mr G (Guillermo), is that his favourite drink, Gin & Tonic is good for digestion. : )

spanish wedding
All ends well in the end : )

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