A month on a train in Europe… Spain

Dawn, Chris, and I marveled as we watched the insanely beautiful Spanish countryside fly by.  We had stopped briefly in Port Bou, France, because the train tracks in Spain are different than they are in France and we had to change trains.  A gaggle of American sorority girls were on our train, making me feel both old and slightly irritated.

I remember sitting in my second class seat and looking at the stunning landscape.  A Spanish native said “Welcome to Espana” with a proud smile on his face.

It was bright and sunny as we passed Girona and its cathedral on our way south.  We finally landed in Barcelona in the early evening.  We had been traveling all day and we were tired… and somehow, we ended up at a dirt cheap hostel a few blocks from Barcelona’s train station.  The room was dark, small, and had a window that literally opened into the elevator shaft.  But for three poverty stricken travelers, it would work.

Dawn, Chris and I walked around downtown Barcelona, strolling on Las Ramblas and meeting up with Chris’s friend, Javier, who lived in Barcelona.  I remember getting into his tiny compact car and going on a tour of the city, which highlighted the Olympic stadium.  I also remember eating paella for the first time and discovering bocadillos at Pan and Company, a Barcelona area healthy fast food chain.  We visited the cathedral and stood outside La Sagrada Familia, because we were too poor to pay the admission to go inside.

In 2009, my husband and I went back to Barcelona and stayed in a very nice hotel in Montjuic, which is an area on hill that overlooks the city.  Our 2009 trip was sort of a dream come true, since I had shown my husband my picture of La Sagrada Familia several years prior and he didn’t know what it was.  When I told him about it, he wanted to go there… and we managed to do that, courtesy of a “blind booking” on Germanwings, a discount airline in Germany that lets people book mystery flights (lots of fun– we’ve done it three times so far).

Taken in April 2009.  My husband cried when we went inside because he was overwhelmed by how cool it is…


After a couple of days in Barcelona, Dawn, Chris, and I went to Madrid, where I would be meeting my older sister.  We booked a stay in a comfortable hotel suggested by Rick Steves.  I got a single room and Dawn and Chris stayed in a double.  I remember going to the airport to pick up my sister, Becky, and then after lunch, Dawn, Chris, and I parted ways.  They were headed to see another one of Chris’s friends up north and then take Dawn to Salamanca.  My sister and I, on the other hand, planned to head south to Seville.

But first we spent a few nights in Madrid…  I remember on the first night, U2 was playing and I could hear their concert in my hotel room.  It was right around the time they had released Pop, an album I don’t own but should probably buy because I heard their concert in my Madrid hotel room.

La Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Courtesy of Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plaza_Mayor_de_Madrid_06.jpg)

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t that smart to travel with Becky.  She’s a high maintenance person and immediately objected to the cheap places I had gotten used to staying at.  But we got along okay at first… I was excited about going to Seville, which I had heard was amazing.  We went to the Prado, which Becky insisted on because she’s an artist.  I don’t think we got to see much of it, though, because we had a train to catch.  We had book a bullet train to Seville, cutting down the travel time to something manageable.

When we got to Seville, we managed to find a small bed and breakfast in the maze-like old town, Santa Cruz (Jewish Quarter).  We saw a flamenco show, saw Seville’s massive cathedral, and took a carriage ride around the Plaza de Espana… and I remember it was about this time that Becky and I started to bicker.  She objected to the frantic pace I had been keeping and my cheapness.  And she also didn’t seem to like Spain that much, because people eat later at night.  My sister was an ugly American to the extreme and said Spain was like a third world country.  Having just come from Armenia, where 24 hour power still wasn’t guaranteed, I thought that was a pretty foolish remark.

Plaza de Espana

Courtesy of Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plaza_de_España_-_Sevilla.jpeg)

Anyway, between stories about her love life and complaints about how dirty Spain was, I was quickly realizing I was better off traveling alone.

Becky and I went to Cadiz, Spain next.  Cadiz is in the extreme southern part of Spain, on the Mediterranean coast.  It was in Cadiz that we stayed in very poor accommodations.  I remember it being a simple room with crucifixes on the walls.  After a day strolling around the very hot city and taking a swim at the beach, we went to an Irish pub, where I proceeded to drink five Irish coffees.  I was up all night because there was a loud party going on in the building next to ours.

Cadiz Cathedral

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Though it was very cool to be so close to Morocco, we got up early the next day for a train heading to France…  Becky’s patience with Spain was wearing dangerously thin…  and my patience with Becky was also becoming pretty short.


2 thoughts on “A month on a train in Europe… Spain

  1. La Sagrada Familia is really an amazing achievement. I remember when we were standing in line, a toothless old lady came up and begged for a euro or two. My husband obliged and her eyes lit up. She rewarded him with the most gorgeous toothless smile I've ever seen. I remember my husband saying that he wished he could have brought his older daughter with us on that trip. She's artistic and probably would have loved it.

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