Saturday, November 01, 2008

the trains in spain ...

It seems Spain is available in 2 temperatures.

Too hot or too cold.

Despite the outside temperature of 5-10 Celsius we spent the 5 hour journey to Madrid sweating in the 30 degree heat of the train carriage.

Other than a sentimental longing for summertime I can think of no explanation why this should be the case.

It was refreshing to emerge into the chilly night air wearing a t-shirt, much to the amusement of the taxi driver who took us to our hotel. He was wearing a winter jacket and scarf and kept saying "mucho frio?" as he shook his head at my attire.

Normally at this point with an English speaking person from a foreign land (say for instance London) I would launch into an explanation about this being normal attire for a winter night out in Leeds. A tale which invariably ends with the statement "...and you should see what they wear in Newcastle".

This being Spain the only thing I could think of saying by way of explanation was "Loco Ingles" while pointing at my own chest.

In the end I decided against reinforcing the stereotype.

Our initial delight at being upgraded to a suite in our hotel was short-lived, as was my enthusiasm for the cold. It was bloody freezing. I can honestly say I haven't had such a cold sleepless night since camping out in the snows of Mongolia.

Predictably the opportunity to thaw-out came early the next morning as we boarded our train to find the thermostat turned up to the max. I think Renfe should start running hotels.

2 hours into the second leg of our coast to coast journey we finally broke free of the rain cloud which had dominated our trip so far and emerged into clear blue skies and gorgeous rolling countryside of southern Spain.

Algeciras will not be remembered as a highpoint of the trip.

As the main haulage route from Europe to Africa it seems to cater primarily to migrant workers, lorry drivers and drug smugglers rather than tourists. Not so much a destination as a transit point with all the aesthetic charms of Grimsby.

In the end our quickest route out was a short bus journey down the coast to the far more visually pleasing fishing port of Tarifa, where we boarded a fast boat to Tangier hoping to arrive in time to make our connection with the overnight train to Marrakech ...