Madrid, ES – Barcelona, ES//24February17[Renfe]

Living as a Spaniard in England can often be a challenge.

Although I speak more English than the the entirety of my (quite large) family, put together, I’m often not understood by the natives here in Newcastle.

The weather is a constant blight on my spirits. Grim winds and spitting rain are often the order of the day, regardless of the season – dismal compared to my home city of Barcelona. Finally, although there is a vibrant rail buff community here in England, the trains themselves are rather disappointing to ride. Slow, bumbling and often late, I don’t share the same love of the British Railway system as my fellow writers here on RTSC.

The hardest thing about being a Spaniard in England is the distance I have to live from my aforementioned family. Moving from Spain to England was a challenging experience and one that made me truly appreciate every single one of them. They’re a rascally bunch of miscreants, but they also make for the best of company. Brothers, sisters, cousins and parents – they are all growing a little older and wiser every day whilst I’m away from them. I miss them all dearly whilst I’m here and always look forward to my annual visit back to Spain.

In order to make my journey a little cheaper (and more enjoyable) I employ a few  clever tricks that I’ve picked up over the years.

Firstly, travelling home during the major holiday seasons is strictly off limit for someone on my budget. I usually look to book my trip back home to Barca in February, when flights are at their cheapest. Flying directly into Barcelona is usually far more expensive than the other major cities in my home country, so I fly into Madrid to save a hundred or so pounds. With the money I save from the cheaper flight, I book a high-speed train from Madrid back to my beloved Barcelona.

The Renfe operated service, from the gorgeous Madrid Puerta de Atocha, has been in operation since 2008. My Father (a huge rail buff and Renfe employer of over thirty years) was over joyed when we first rode this line nearly 10 years ago. Up until that point, it took either 6 hours to drive or an excruciating 12 hour train journey, making frequent stops, to cover the 630 km.

Today, the AVE Class 103s travel at speeds of up to 186 mph, making the travel time from Madrid to Barcelona a lightning-fast 2 hours and 30 minutes.

These trains still feel as modern and elegant as they did when they were first introduced. It’s an experience that blends the sleek style of airline travel with the comfort and space of the old days of First Class trains. The seats are tall, wide and deep, offering plenty of legroom for even the tallest of travellers. There’s even the option to watch a movie, with complimentary headphones given out. However, with the views of rural Spain that you are afforded as soon as you leave urban Madrid, you’re unlikely to pay much attention to it.

Riding on this smooth, almost noiseless, non-stop express is an absolute joy that I wholeheartedly recommend to any traveller, regardless of their love for trains.