Spain

Somewhere between Málaga and Madrid, 280 km/h

Oh, hello there…

I’m currently traveling backwards on a train traveling at 292 300 kilometers, white cities on barren mountainsides passing me by like unregistered images in a dream. Olive trees line the tracks, but all I can see are the rows between. In the distance on mountaintops are wind turbines, but I can only see the white stems and the shadows the blades make as they turn between the sun and the land. White cities, red dirt, green trees, and shadowed mountains create the landscape for this 6-hour journey to Barcelona. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Spain.

 

I’m Pretty Much a Native Speaker

We waited in the glassed-in ticket lobby of the train station for our number to be called. As 387 flashed on the screen, we approached the woman. Once again, I was able to show off my excellent, and so infrequently used, Spanish skills to my parents in an effort to prove that the money they spent on my education and study abroad to Spain wasn’t wasted. Translated, I said a complicated “We need four tickets to Barcelona, for tomorrow, please.” Impressive! Let me explain a little about long-distance train travel in Spain:

The Train

If you want to vacation in Andalucía (the southernmost, and therefore warmest, region of Spain) and go from Valencia to Málaga, it will take you around 8 hours on the regular trains. The high-speed train (Ave) goes from Valencia to Madrid, and then from Madrid to Málaga, which would, in total, take about 4 hours. This costs about 700 euros for 4 people – or $925. For a 4-hour train journey. I do not recommend this. We ended up spending all day on the train and saving a few hundred euros. If you’re interested in traveling on the exciting high-speed Ave train but you want to save a little money, ask about sitting at a table. You’ll sit in a normal train car, in regular seats, but you can face the other two members of your party and create a sort of train picnic/mess on your table that you can deal with for 6 hours. If you’re comfortable and patient with each other, you can even share some seat space with the person’s feet across from you, as I’m doing now. (Thanks, Dad. Your feet smell great.) It costs half as much to sit at the table on the Ave as it does to sit in a row of two. I guess staring at the back of a seat is worth about 70 euros. If you’re traveling alone, you might meet someone. Or you might get awkwardly stared at. Depends. It’s a risky move, but it’s worth it.

Andalucía

When planning for this trip, I had the idea that I would lead my parents into the old cities of Granada, Córdoba, Sevilla, and Málaga. Travel proved herself to be unpredictable yet again, and things went awry when we realized the money and time spent on trains wasn’t worth the travel. We decided to settle for Málaga, the southernmost city on the list, and stay there for a few days, as we did come to Spain primarily for the warmth. (My parents left 80-degree Oklahoma in April and weren’t pleased about the cold weather in northern Europe.) The city of Málaga boasts that its biggest industry is tourism, and that there are many things to see, including the Alcazaba of Málaga, a ruined Roman amphitheater, and the Picasso museum.

Here’s some advice from an unbiased source – you can skip Málaga on your Andalucían vacation. It’s a pretty small city, and the history, architecture, and food can’t compete with some of the other cities in Spain. Granada has a more interesting alcazaba, with orange trees blooming on the patios and beautifully decorated corridors and arches. You can find Roman ruins in most Spanish cities, and, yes, Picasso was from Málaga, but even he didn’t go back after age 19. Barcelona also boasts a Picasso museum, which, if I remember correctly, was more interesting than the museum in Málaga. As far as warmth goes, we were not disappointed, as my sunburn will prove. If we had more time, I would have taken my parens to see the hanging houses in Cuenca, or the aqueducts in Segovia, or the mosque in Córdoba, or the tomb of Columbus and the Giralda in Sevilla. Another time, España. Another time.

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