Wednesday, 17 May 2017

RENFE: The Train in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

           (Estacíon de Santiago de Compostela)

Before I flew to Spain, I was worried on how to move around from city to city. As I was doing my research, I realized, instead of flying between Madrid and Santiago de Compostela, or between Santiago and Barcelona, I could just take the RENFE trains and make those trips part of my tour. 

Even as I was preparing for my trip, I was already daydreaming of sitting on the train and watching the Spanish countryside go by while a guitar was playing Spanish Romance. Riding the train and watching the countryside would be part of my itinerary.

            (My seat on the train from Santiago to A                              Coruńa has a charger!)

                   (Ticket vending machines)

RENFE stands for Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles  Espańoles, or National Network of Spanish Railways. And for me, it is the best way to see Spain if you're visiting several cities. No need to go through airports and squeezing oneself into domestic flights. Just hop into a cab and go straight to a train station.

Before I left for Spain, I tried to buy RENFE tickets through its website. Unfortunately, even after several tries, the website wouldn't let me. Even 'Irene', the RENFE online customer service assistant, wasn't able to help.

So what I did was to print a hardcopy of the train trips I needed to take with specific dates and target cities. I thought I could just present this when I queued at the RENFE ticket office when I got to Madrid. 

But as I was looking for the pre-paid airport transfer stand after landing at Madrid-Barajas Airport, I chanced upon a RENFE stand with one señor manning it. I immediately thought, perhaps, I should buy my tickets here already! So I went up to him and asked, "¡Buenas tardes! ¿Puedo yo comprar billetes aqui?

"¡Si!", he replied.

                 (My snacks on board the train. 
           I just bought Coke from the seńorita)

I whipped out from my handcarry bag the printout of my itinerary and just gave it to him. He asked me if I wanted 'Turista' seats or 'Preferente' seats. Of course, I was a turista! 

After he booked my tickets, I just paid with my credit card. This way, I saved on my Euros.

I was glad I bought my train tickets even before I left Madrid-Barajas Airport. I didn't have to spend time queuing at RENFE ticket office at Chamartin Station, which I later saw had a long queue.

          (The train has monitors showing the route 
            and the current location of your train)

On the day I left Madrid for Santiago de Compostela, I just took a cab from my hotel to Chamartin Station and my talkative cab driver talked to me about Pacquiao and Isabel Preysler after I told him I was from the Philippines. I think I ran out of Spanish during our 25-minute ride. Ja-ja-ja!

All in all, I had nine train rides during my vacación espańol, seven of which were short rides taking less than an hour. My ride from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela took about six hours, while the ride from Santiago to Barcelona took about 12 hours. 

My other short rides were from Madrid to Álcala de Henarés and back, from Ourense to Santiago de Compostela, from Santiago de Compostela to Á Coruńa and back, and from Barcelona to Monserrat and back.

 (I left Santiago de Compostela at around 8:30AM; I   arrived in Barcelona Sants Station at around 9PM)

When I bought the tickets, I asked for window seats because I wanted to see all the pueblos and open fields from my seat.

And as I sat there trying to figure out from my Spanish map the names of the cities, towns, and regions I was passing through, I remembered that, a few months back, I was only daydreaming about that moment, the moment of watching the Spanish countryside while Spanish Romance was ringing in my head. 

    (Tip: Put your suitcase on the next car if your          car's luggage corner is full. I put my ube maleta 
in the next car, and it was easy for me 
to retrieve when I got to my destination.)

It turned out, that sleepy song could never play in my head because sitting there watching the old cities, farms, rivers, and pueblos was interesting and fascinating. 

Well, though my trains in Spain really stayed in the plain, my rides offered me not just transports: they were part of my vacación, my travels, and my adventure!

¡Hasta la vista, Espańa!

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