I was surprised at the comfort of the train I boarded in Malaga. Huge chairs with leg space to spare, a monitor fastened to the roof where a movie would play later on. A free set of earphones to all passengers.
Then, as I looked out the window, I noticed that we passed villages that seemed to be in a state of decay, streets in need of asphalt and houses in desperate need of repair. Yet, that renfe AVE train I was in was as modern as you could wish, an interesting paradox. Add to that the earphones that were handed out for free by the train conductor. Perhaps a sign that the company know just how dull the landscape is, as they offer a convenient means to plug into the train’s stereo equipment, enabling one to listen to radio or to watch movies that are playing in the overhead televisions in each train car. ;)
A Barren Hilly Landscape
As we climbed the sloping countryside we passed through a barren terrain. The sun hid behind lowhanging clouds, and every now and then a hill would break the monotony of the barren landscape. We passed Antequena and into the heart of Andalucia. We entered Cordoba which is one of the major stops along the way. Ah, major? The feeling of a sleepy hollow was still there, and this holds true for south of Spain if you disregard historical cities like Granada and Ronda. Finally after Cordoba the nature assumes a more
inviting form with deep valleys and hills, lush vegetation and a subtle mist hanging over the landscape.
All in all, don’t expect a varying landscape between Malaga and Barcelona, it’s as barren in the south of Spain as you would expect from the Spaghetti western movies filmed there. You will pass through small villages with little to show the eager traveller looking out the window. When approaching Barcelona and the landscape finally turned into a feast of elevation change, you realize just why Barcelona is the place to go for many people. A coastal city, Barcelona can offer the pleasure of the Mediterranean Sea. Windsurfing, sailing and swimming galore.
Arriving in Barcelona by rail
Now, to be clear about arriving in Barcelona by train. It can be somewhat of a strain. Since the train station is a considerable way from the eastern part of the city with the seafront, you will need to make your way by taxi or bus in that direction, since I presume that your hotel or hostel is close to the seaside. I also take it for granted that most visitors to Barcelona want to see the famous Las Ramblas, the marina and the Gothic Quarters. There is plenty to do and see in Barcelona so a short weekend like the one I spent there gives a very brief glimpse. Nevertheless I had a lot of fun around the Gothic Quarters and the Marina, where people flock every day. Of course the street Las Ramblas is also an important must-see for the travellers that enjoy watching people.
It took me the better part of three days to fully appreciate Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarters and the area around the marina. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the Gothic Quarters, you just need to be patient and strawl around to find the real gems. I recommend LP Bar deep in the Gothic Quarters. During evening with the tungsten light transporting people’s minds to bygone times, this is really one of the highlights of city
Watching people while having having a drink on Las Ramblas is a fun exercise as well. Given the mix of Spaniards and tourists walking up and down this long stretch of road, your attention is bound to be flicker between interesting characters.
Catching the train to Paris
I left Barcelona at nine in the morning, only to arrive after three in the afternoon in Paris. The landscape shifts rapidly as we cross the last stretch of land in Spain and enter southern Paris by Perpignan. South of France has many small places to lure people into days of strawling around, you will pass by small historical towns such as Perpignan.
Especially take care to watch the landscape along the coastline of south of France, where water is abundant in small lakes that the train pass by. While on the train, I considered whether I was ready for the gloomy weather to expect in Paris this time of year. I decided against it. After having raced from south to north of Paris, I got out at Gare du Lyon and made my way to Gare du Nord, bought a baguette with cheese (a befitting snack) and said au revoir to Paris as I jumped on the next train..
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