I’m sitting in the station at Perpignan, waiting for my train to Barcelona. It’s just after four o’clock on a Friday afternoon in February.

My train is in just under an hour, and the surprising thing is that between now and then, there is only one other train going out.

It’s true what they say, that Ftench TGVs are great, but the frequency of service on the wider network leaves a lot to be desired.

Perpignan is the local regional capital, and not small. Think Truro or even Exeter, except with the whole of Spain lying beyond it rather than Cornwall.

I can’t imagine that Exeter gets by on two trains an hour on a Friday afternoon. God help anyone who wants to commute by rail into Perpignan.

Husa Chamartín, Madrid

Husa Chamartín, next to Chamartín station in Madrid. Very seventies feel, from the built in and non-functioning radio controls next to the bed, right down to the English racists in the bar, talking about how Asians “will always fuck you over”. For once, since they were English and I was offended at the bad impression they were giving of my country, I told them not to be racist rather than just sitting and fuming as I normally would.

Six months ago, I would have said that the Husa Chamartín seemed fated for redevelopment. With the troubles in the Spanish economy, it might take a few years longer.

Not the sort of place you’d want to stay unless, as I am, you’re arriving late on a train from Paris. Husa Chamartín, Madrid


A couple of belated thoughts on Ghent, which was a lovely place and not nearly as touristy as Bruges.
Top B&B: Four Corners run by the super-friendly Karin Verhaest. Details at http://www.bedandbreakfast-gent.be
Top bar: 't Zuiden van Europa at Vrijdagmarkt 30


A good time had by all, despite the torrential rain, at Dunster Castle. Great lunch at the Stag's Head on West Street by the castle entrance. Farmhouse Pie particularly good.

Fine Burger Co.

Grabbed dinner yesterday on the way back through St Pancras at the Fine Burger Co., which is an interesting concept. It’s half way between McDonalds and somewhere like Gourmet Burger Kitchen. They sold me a fantastic fresh burger with loads of veg, great chips and a coke, but (unlike GBK) delivered to fast food timescales and in a grab and go setting rather than sit-down. It’s very nicely done indeed and will make me very likely to head home via St Pancras on a future occasion when I need a quick bite to eat on the way back from London.

Café Pascucci, Clapham Junction

Grabbed breakfast this morning at Café Pascucci on St John’s Road near Clapham Junction. Great little Italian cafe with comfortable modern surroundings and fantastic espresso. Their English breakfast was also very good.

National Rail Timetable online

If the fancy takes you, you can now download the entire National Rail Timetable in pdf format from the Network Rail website. Not as easy to use as the web-based journey planners, but good for finding slow routes that wouldn’t show up on the web – like the direct Exeter to Brighton trains on Saturday mornings that are as slow as anything but also eliminate changes at Salisbury and Fratton for my mum.