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Sunday, 26 April 2009

CANFRANC PART ONE


So the trip up to Canfranc was fulfilled at last and was worth it as one of the best days out so far. As my hobbies include dining out and going out in general. my first thoughts for the day apart from tea usually involve some plan to get out of the house. I think it is my gypsy blood that requires me to be out there and often bringing bits of it home in the form of stones, shells and memories. The train journey starts here in Huesca and involves a tiny train called I believe The Canfranero. I love train journeys and often feel close to my fellow passengers although I will never see them again. I love watching the train driver and the ticket inspector going about their daily duties and here on this route watching them stop every now and then to have a fag or wait a bit so as not to arrive too early. I gave them nicknames, the driver was Hunter as he had a certain louche appeal like Hunter S. Thompson and the inspector was christened Snatch as he looked like an actor in a film of the same name.

On the way up there were several men keen for us all to know they had climbed the mountains of the world including Ben Nevis which made me wonder whether there had ever been a gag about going up Ben Nevis but it seems too obvious. Sadly, they didn't arouse my feelings of camaraderie I held for the rest of the passengers.I often meet these climber types and get embroiled in a conversation I'd rather not be in and this time without thinking managed to end it just in time to see the Mallos de Riglos come into view, a wonderful set of red and orange rock formations that these guys had climbed of course. I succeeded in killing the conversation by innocently admitting that I could never climb these things to which one of the guys asked why in that way that people who have achieved such feats can not understand. "I suffer from vertigo' was my reply and the man just looked at me in horror and immediately didn't want to know which delighted me as he almost killed my gusto for looking out of the window. I have to add that once I mentioned my vertigo dilemma to a friend and when she asked, concerned, when it happened I told her, "every time I stand up'.

We couldn't have picked a finer day and the sun was splitting the stones and the sky so blue and I was in my element as we went through villages with such romantic names like Santa Maria Y La Pena which I will have to dedicate another day writing about. Also Caldearenas, Placencia del Monte and Castiello. If there wasn't anyone at some of these staions and there had been no request from the passengers to stop the train just trundled through. We passed over old bridges and at one point some girls run along the track shouting for the train to stop for them which it did and I got the sense I had gone back in time and the whole journey felt like that to be honest and time didn't mean anything to me.

Our destination Canfranc means 'Field of foreigners' and has the most interesting history and I don't know where to begin. It holds such a fascination for me and is one of my favourite places for the feeling it induces. The station looks like the Eiffel Tower fell over or someone designed and built it in France and placed it in between the mountains just for the hell of it. If the info is correct then work started in 1888 with the inaugaration of the station finally happening in 1928 attended by The King of Spain and the French President. From then on it seems the whole project was doomed with The Depression, a terrible fire in the station and then the Spanish Civil War when soldiers sealed up the tunnel to stop people from entering from France. Then in 1944 there was another fire in the village destroying most of the homes. Finally an accident in 1970 involving a train on the French side led to the tunnel and link to France being closed. Since then it appears to be a bone of contention as The French or rather the government there don't feel too keen to have it opened again even though we are all being encouraged to use public transport.

You can walk up to the entrance of the old tunnel but you are not allowed to enter which makes it all the more mysterious. It says something in Spanish about demolitions and the need to wear a hard hat but inside there is a laboratory which appeals to me and which I want to go in if I get permission from The University of Zaragoza who play a part in the experiments which go on inside the mountain which is reached by the old tunnel. Here is The Canfranc Astroparticle Underground Laboratory which looks for dark matter and searches for other great sounding things like Galactic WIMPS and maybe MACHOS. I have asked people about this laboratory which is no secret and often get perplexed looks as loads of people here don't know about its existence. I now wonder if it is because of this place that the tunnel and route into France and beyond will never be re-opened. It just fuels my desire to know more about this place.

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