Traveling by Train [Reviewed]

Only two days after arriving in Madrid, it was time for me to make a new trek to Barcelona. I figured I would be in Madrid all semester with school only allowing short trips, so I’d take a longer one before school started to see more. I was planning on traveling to Paris but decided on Barcelona because the city speaks a language I know, and is only three hours by train.

A journey that would originally take seven hours by car only takes three hours by the train that travels at 300km/hr, or 190mph. I only found out about the speed early in the morning the day of my trip and began to worry about the train going so fast that I would be plastered to the back of my seat. Upon shaking off my grogginess, I realized how funny of a thought that was, especially since I had just been on an airplane going over 500mph.

My train didn’t leave until 11:30am, so why was I up early enough to have such silly thoughts? After visiting the train station the day before, I realized it was much bigger and more hectic than I had originally thought– multiple levels, security checkpoints, and lots of different numbers on my ticket that I couldn’t comprehend. So I arrived at the train station, one backpack on my back and one on my front, croissant and muffin inside, two hours early.

However intimidating the massive station may be, finding the correct train and depot was surprisingly straightforward. Match the string of numbers assigned to your flight to the one on the TV screen which tells you if you’re departing from the bottom floor or the first floor. Once through security on that floor, there is a long room with 15 different platforms laid out next to one another. About 20 minutes before the departure, one of these platforms will be assigned to your ride on the TV screen and people begin lining up. They scan your ticket, you walk down to the train platform and then enter the car assigned on your ticket. There are assigned seats inside as well, however, the seats are called “plazas” which sparked confusion on my part. I was sitting in an unsuspecting man’s seat who had to tell me I was in the wrong place and then point on my ticket to where I could find my seat number. At least he was nice.

I’d rate the boarding and train station four and a half out of five stars, only because there were not enough benches in the departure area and I had to take up camp on the dirty floor. However, if I had arrived at a normal time like most, I wouldn’t have needed anywhere to sit anyways.

I’ve had multiple advisors in the study abroad process tell me that I won’t mind having to commute 45 minutes to school because the time can be so productive. I never fully believed, or understood, what they meant by that until I got on the train.

Someone else is driving, meaning I was free to do whatever I wanted. I read my book, wrote, did work for the magazine I write for, talked to my mom, slept, ate a blueberry muffin, eavesdropped on the people next to me, and had extra time to spare in the three hours it took for us to get from Madrid to Barcelona. By the time I arrived, I realized that my initial plan of getting off the train and immediately finding a Starbucks to finish my work in was no longer needed, I could get straight to walking around the town.

The only thing I’ve experienced similar to this has been a plane. Generally on planes though, I’m too anxious about being miles high in the sky to really get any good work done. I realize now that I was comparing a morning commute to an airplane ride, something that renders me unable to perform at my best. I was also comparing it to sitting in a car, which generally gives me enough motion sickness that being productive during the drive would be impossible. However motion sickness didn’t bother me on the train because we were traveling in a straight line the entire time, and the train didn’t sway much due to its size.

It’s also an overall relaxing experience. Driving a car, although mundane, takes up so much energy staying focused on the road, keeping the speed limit, and having to pass cars going too slow. After two days of walking an average of 15 miles, I was ready to kick back and let the conductor do all the work for me.

As I sit here outside of this Starbucks successfully stealing their Wifi without buying anything, shoulders and legs sore from walking 10 miles already today by 3:00pm I find myself looking forward to my train ride ahead. A little oasis of kicking my feet up from my usual routine of kicking the dust-up in good ole’ Spain.

Therefore, I give traveling by train five stars.

Yours truly, 



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