Cascade Park

Cascade Park

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Train in Spain

(image from the web)

Unlike Mexico, where passenger train service is practically non-existent*, Spain has an efficient and comfortable railway network.  For the tourist, travel by train is an excellent way to get from one city to another, and RENFE (the Spanish National Railway) is constantly adding more high-speed routes served by their wonderful AVE trains.  I can remember when the only AVE route was from Madrid to Seville.  Then they built high-speed tracks from Madrid to Barcelona.  Now you can take the AVE from Madrid to Valencia, Malaga, Toledo and Segovia.  There are also several routes out of Barcelona including a high-speed train to Paris. 
Train fares, particularly on the AVE, are a bit pricey, especially for those who are used to the inexpensive fares on Mexico's first class busses.  However, RENFE offers discounted internet rates on its website.  The problem is that their website is notorious for not being "user-friendly".  In the past I have managed to book tickets without too much frustration.  But if you look at the Spain travel forums on TripAdvisor, you will constantly read complaints from people who were unable to make reservations.
A couple years ago I found a website for a travel agency based in the United States which specializes in travel in Spain.  Train tickets are sold on-line, and, as far as I can tell, the prices are the same as RENFE's special internet fares.  If you book during business hours, they send you the tickets via e-mail almost immediately, and you can print them off.  I used the company for a trip to Spain that I took last year, and I have once again purchased train tickets for my trip coming up next month.  On-line tickets are not available far in advance, and it wasn't until earlier this week that I was able reserve my last segment of travel. 
I now have all my train tickets...
Madrid to Burgos... Burgos to León... León to Valladolid... Valladolid to Madrid.
In a little over a week I will be posting from Spain!!!
(* As far as I know there are only two passenger train routes still in existence in Mexico.  There is the train from Los Mochis to Chihuahua which passes through the impressive Copper Canyon.  There is also a special tourist train called the Tequila Express which goes from Guadalajara to one of the tequila producing towns.  In 2012 ambitious plans were announced to build a high-speed train in the Yucatán to connect the resorts of the Caribbean coast with the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and the city of Mérida.  I have not heard any news of construction beginning on that project.)   


  1. And here I read, patiently through to the end, expecting sooner or later the sentence, The train in Spain runs mainly through the plain.

    Yet it wasn't there!!!

    So consider this comment to have filled a certain gap in your post.

    Buen viaje!


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where the trains run all over the place, east/west, north/south, you name it.

    1. Ha ha! I was of course thinking that when I gave the post its title, and I wondered if anyone would catch the subtle reference to "My Fair Lady". I suppose you would have to be of a certain age, or be a fan of old Broadway musicals, to get it. I'm sure that it would have gone right over the heads of most of my students.

      Whenever I hear that song I have to chuckle, because the fact of the matter is that "the rain in Spain falls mainly in the mountains."
      Gracias y saludos,

    2. LOL... Well, though not one myself, I do have an ex who's a Broadway show queen. And I can confess it now that he's not around, but I have a very limited tolerance for listening to show tunes. But for the eight years we were together, I became very familiar with many of them.

      And yes, it makes sense that the rain falls in the mountains, doesn't it? Jajaja.



      P.S. Still considering implementing Disqus?

    3. Well, I'm not a Broadway musical fanatic, but I do admit to enjoying the old classics. During his various visits up to Ohio, Alejandro and I have watched "The King and I", "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music". He liked them, and every once in a while I will catch him humming "Bali Hai" or "So Long, Farewell". LOL
      P.S. Still considering.

    4. Haha! I thought the same as Kim.

      Regarding the user friendly (or not) website for RENFE, I thought of a "problem" we had booking plane tickets on Taca, Peru's national airline. My husband was diligently watching prices day after day, and the day he booked our flight between Lima and Cusco, he bought what was listed as the cheapest fare. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the airport and our super-cheap tickets ended up being in First Class! We think they were having website problems the day we bought our tickets, and we just happened to be the lucky beneficiaries.

      Also, on an entirely unrelated note, I'm visiting your site today to get your salmorejo recipe. We received an abundance of tomatoes from our CSA today, and I'm looking forward to trying it. I'll be sure to let you know how we like it!

    5. Hi Meredith!
      I always enjoy reading your comments.
      Well, congratulations. One of my students knows her Broadway musicals!
      Great that a possible glitch in the Peruvian website worked out in your favor!
      Good luck with the salmorejo. The last batch I made was sort of bland... maybe it was the tomatoes. I had to do a bit of adjusting with the vinegar and sugar until it came out just right. Do let me know how you like it.

      Pardon my ignorance, but what is a CSA?

    6. Sorry about that! CSAs are very popular in our area of Wisconsin, so I often forget that not everyone has heard of them. CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." Every year, we buy a "share" in a local farm in exchange for produce deliveries throughout the growing season. (Technically, I should have said "CSA farm," but CSA is also shorthand for the entire term.) By purchasing a CSA share, you also assume some of the farmer's risk, but lucky for us, that's rarely been a problem. You pay up front, and then you get produce all summer long. Your regular produce delivery is at the whims of Mother Nature, however, so you never know exactly what you'll receive in any given delivery. Some weeks you get a TON of one vegetable, and not much of others if the crop didn't really pan out.

      My husband and I technically purchase a half-share, so we receive a small box of produce every other week, which works out well for us. And our farmer is pretty good about sending us an e-mail 3-4 days in advance that tells us what he expects to harvest that week so members can plan accordingly. Though I don't think we've ever received this many tomatoes before! And it's introduced us to vegetables we'd probably never have tried otherwise: kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, and Swiss chard are three that come to mind. Our farmer grows mostly vegetables, though this year he started including apples. Some CSAs can include other fruit, eggs, meat, or cheese. There's even a local honey CSA in our area.

      The Local Harvest website ( can help you find a CSA near you, if you're interested. We love ours! We work on the farm one day each year to offset some of our cost, and it doesn't hurt that our health insurance plans gives us a rebate every year for being CSA members. Both of these make the price very reasonable for us.