Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Plane or Train in Spain?

Exactly two months from today, I will board a plane for Europe.  I'm crossing the pond much sooner than I had anticipated.  An opportunity presented itself and I am taking it; the band Peter plays in is going back on tour this spring and I am meeting him in Spain once it ends.  We are taking the trip we would have taken had he been able to return to Europe at the end of my teaching contract. 

I am flying from Vancouver to Amsterdam.  I have a few-hours-long layover in Schiphol before boarding a plane to Madrid.  Now that we are two months away from our trip, it's getting near time to solidify how long we want to be in each Madrid, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.  We both fly back to North America from Amsterdam, and Peter really liked the Netherlands when he's been on tour there, so we would like to spend time there too.  Our trip is 10 days, so I'm inclined to allot three days to each city.  If you've been to any or all of these cities, what do you think?

My next planning dilemma is how we will get from Madrid to Barcelona.  It seems we have three options:
  1. Easy Jet does not fly from Madrid to Barcelona, yet Ryan Air does.  I have never flown with Ryan Air, but the reviews I've read and heard have not been great.  Ryan Air also typically tends to fly to airports on the outskirts.  Ryan Air flies to Barcelona-Girona which is 98km away from Barcelona; the city can be reached by either bus or train.  The flight takes 1 hour 30, and airfare starts at €20,51 each.
  2. There is a high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona that takes 2 hours 30.  From what I've been able to discern on the Renfe website, fares start at €118,50 each.  There is also an overnight option for €44,60 that departs just before 11:00pm and arrives just after 7:30am.  Despite the savings, I'd be less inclined to opt for this as I am not sure of how restful the train would be.  I have also been told that the Spanish countryside, and especially the coast, are worth seeing, which we wouldn't get a view of at night.
  3. Driving.  This option is very expensive and likely out of our budget.  According to Google Maps (which has failed me before when planning road trips), the drive from Madrid to Barcelona via Valencia takes 7 hours 21.  The benefit is that we could take a day to do the trip at our own cost and stop in Valencia for lunch.  
Have you been to Spain?  How would you recommend we divide our time between each city?  What mode of transportation would you recommend we take?  Any other tips?  I'd love to hear!

(Map photograph: My own of Atlas Général Bordas, publication year unknown)


Helen A. said...

I spent 8 days in Barcelona and there is definitely TONS to do there. I flew in with Ryan Air and it is probably as bad as people say it is, but keeping in mind that you get what you pay for, you can deal with just about anything for an hour and a half. There are direct busses from Barcelona Girona that are timed with the Ryan Air flight and take you directly to Barcelona. I'd say that it is definitely worth it to fly for the simple reason that you spend more time where you want to be and less time getting there. Amsterdam is also a wonderful city that is worth at least a few days but it really depends what it is that you want to see. It is quite small and easy to get around.

Anna Felicity said...

I don't want to say there isn't a LOT to do in Amsterdam, but I think three days is enough to cover the broad strokes, and you'll defs enjoy yourself there. :)

Vanessa said...

Helen - 8 days in Barcelona? I'm so glad to hear that. It sounds like it may be like Rome (or any of Europe's other great cities, I'm sure) where you could probably spend an infinite amount of time there. If you had only 3 days, what would you recommend I prioritize seeing?

Anna - I once had a dream that you and I were in Amsterdam together (with two others, maybe Peter and a guy that was your boyfriend in my dream). Having been to Amsterdam, I think we'll focus on doing whatever Peter wants to do. I'd love to go on a bike ride as that seems very dutch. I'd also like to go for a canal boat ride on our first day there, as last time I left it for the last day and it wasn't as amazing as I knew the city well by that point:(

Caylena Cahill said...

I'd recommend more than 3 days in Barcelona if you can swing it (especially if you've been to Amsterdam before). I'm a bit biased, having been to Barcelona 3-4 times. I absolutely adore it. That said, I only spent 1-2 days in Madrid and 2-3 in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is doable in short time because it's small, but I might have liked more time in Madrid.

As far as transportation, I'd recommend the train or driving. I wouldn't recommend flying because it's such a hassle if you don't go to the major airport in Barcelona/Madrid and because you have to worry about checking your bags if you bring the wrong luggage. It might not end up being faster, either, if you end up having to go to Girona (which is about 2 hours from Barcelona).

The train is much simpler, and more convenient because you can wind up in the center of the city and take whatever luggage you want.

Be really careful in Barcelona, pickpockets are bad there.

Caylena Cahill said...

Go to the bar Princesa 21 (it's in the old part of Barcelona) - they have awesome mojitos/capirhinas for cheap.

Vanessa said...

Hi Caylena! Nice to hear from you! I think we'll be taking the train as the luggage part is definitely a concern of ours as it is yet to be determined exactly how much tour stuff we may be lugging with us. Maybe 3 days in Madrid, 4 in Barcelona and 2 in Amsterdam? I've got some planning to do.

Vanessa said...

Oh and thanks for the recommendation for the bar. We're always looking for good spots:)