27 April 2009
Overnight Trains Go “Choo! Choo!”
Alyson and I decided to decrease our carbon footprint, resist the temptation to fly discount and travel old-school on the choo-choo train. BEST. DECISION. EVER. In doing the math (which I inevitably do) I added up not just the flight but the cost of checking luggage (they do that on discount airlines), the cost of getting to and from the airport, the cost of eating over-priced airport food since you have to be there days before you leave and the cost of a hotel (when traveling overnight by train). When you add all of those pieces together, the train is either cheaper or marginally more expensive. Of course, there is no way to really quantify overall happiness and enjoyment, but that easily pushes the value of train travel. I mean, it’s just great.
We took the high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid (city center to city center), traveling at 220 miles an hour through gorgeous countryside and covering 500 miles in just under three hours. Perfect, no?
Then we engaged in a much more serious journey - Madrid to Lisbon. This was overnight and while I had done the same in China and Tibet, it was Alyson’s first full-throttle train experience. It could not have been more perfect. For just over $100 each we had our own two-person cabin complete with two beds that converted to proper chairs for day-time travel, a sink complete with privacy curtain and little stairs that led up to the top bunk. Our train commander took our tickets to “deal with the border so we could sleep” and offered a wake-up call in the morning so we could enjoy our free breakfast in the dining car before arriving in Lisbon. Yes please. And what was this journey called? The “Train Hotel.”
We enjoyed a nightcap in the bar car before bed, were whisked to sleep but the rhythmic vibrations of the train, awoke to a gentle tap on the door and dined on fresh bread, eggs, bacon, fruit, yogurt, fresh orange juice and coffee while watching the sun rise over the grape fields of northern Portugal. Can I please go again like, RIGHT NOW?