Atocha to Sants – world’s apart?

So we all remember that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in that pretty sailing ship.

Well fast forward 500 years and Spain unveiled a slightly speedier form of transport, a very fast bird indeed, the AVE, which shunted out all shiny and new from its shed in the Expo city of Seville (a city that comes with its own health warning if visited in 48 degree heat mid-August by pinky-white bodied novice travellers) .

Art gallery exterior Madrid

Today, you can exit stage right after morning tea from the richly manic metropolis of Madrid and clickety-click your way in style to beautiful bustling Barcelona arriving re-energised to feast upon all this Catalan gem has to offer for lunch.

Thanks to its air-conditioned temperatures, windows tinted from the glare of the ever-present Spanish sun, you can float your way across the 500 kilometres in less than 3 hours, even with your feet on the ground.

Okay so you could battle your way through rush hour traffic to the airport, dragging your 50cm trolley dolly behind you, praying that the zealous blue-coated ones don’t randomly select you for that fifty euro over-the-limit baggage check (once is unlucky, twice more than a coincidence, three times and it’s time for the train), form part of the mob clambering to get onto the plane first so you can find somewhere near for your bag and away from sticky fingers and vocally unchallenged toddlers as they test their (and your) eardrums), withstand that audio assault on your ears of details of what pre-packaged plastic coated culinary delights you are passing over from the overpriced trolley or that bingo card for the third time and then sit as patiently as you can when a three year old decides your seat needs some more kick-testing and hope for no delays on or off the apron to repeat the same process at the other side, retrieving that overloaded outsize bag en route, traipse three miles from tarmac to taxi, smiling at scowling unabrow security people en route (okay, that’s only the women).

 

Sol metro sign

Or you could just take the train.

 

Where your holiday begins as you step onboard, stretch your long-ish legs, store all your bags (well not the ones under your eyes) nearby and chill.

Settle into some ‘me’ time with your own soundtrack and suspend your other reality for a few hours allowing your mind to wander as the panorama of local Spanish life unfolds before you through city, suburb, billage, pueblo, la mancha, prairie, plain, arid desert, scorched earth, Spanish flags, Catalan flags, black bulls, Damn beer, all the passing shapes, colours, images and sounds that escape you at 35,000 feet.

Put your head in the clouds at ground level.

After all, aren’t we all just in transit?

chocos n churros

Or embrace the changing landscape, the human traffic through your carriage, the smell of real food and Spanish coffee in the dining car, fellow (yes noisy Spanish) travellers happy to divulge where their passing ships are headed today and all those tomorrows.

Of course, if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to work on the go you can either embrace or (curse) that solid train table in front of you, just a couple of feet away from your ipad’s electric lifeline as you dread (or eagerly await) the mobile messages from the boss (or family waiting at the other end) for another task (warm welcome).

Or maybe like most of us, you have two perspectives.

Contrast Madrid’s capital city sprawling superiority complex with Barelcona’s buzzing beach-side touristy charm. The former’s eager influx of colourful immigrant populations and their rich legacy of sub-continental foods, smells, charms and robes.

Spanish football

A legacy of its regal conquering past to Barca’s fiery independent upstart spirit, never quelled, always under the surface and putting it up to its bigger brother as it not only survives the economic mess Spain find itself in, it thumbs its nose up in Catalan fashion as it speaks its own language, dines on Its food and dances to Its own tunes.

Oh yes, you are definitely in Spain.

To book your ticket across Spain, check out the options here.

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