Hola! We spent the first two weeks of November interrailing in Spain. Our ambitious plan was to tour also Portugal, but the weather (forecasts) changed everything, so instead of traveling to north of Spain and then down south on the Portuguese coast, we headed to Eastern and Southern Spain. The route we took was Barcelona-Montserrat-Logrono-Bilbao-Valencia-Cordoba (Sevilla) - Granada - Malaga - Barcelona.
Then we had another change of trains in sunny Montpellier. We had a quick stroll to La place de la Comediein where people were playing music and dancing - no photos, sorry, the low Sun made the lighting conditions really difficult for our camera.
La Sagrada Familia, the most known Gaudi creation and still under construction after more than hundred years. It is planned to be completed in 2026.
We learned that we can only buy tickets online, and there were none available for that day. So, we decided to come back the next time, and continued the city tour, walking all the way.
We took the train to Montserrat Aeri cable car station, since we knew that due to the strike the cable car was the only option to access the mountain and the monastery. However, we met a huge line of visitors at the cable car station. Then we found out that there is a hiking trail. The guard at the station said it would take two hours to climb up. We considered our options; the weather was gorgeous, we had a hotel booking awaiting on the mountain, and the sign at the trail head said that it takes 1h25min to walk up.
We settled for a hike. The trail was very steep and mostly loose gravel, at times forming natural stairs --- a completely new experience with the heavy backpacks and without the hiking poles. It also was quite warm, as there was hardly any shade on the slope.
We found a bar that was still open for a while, and ordered bikinis and pints of Estrella beer. Finally we learned that bikinis, a curiosity of Catalonia area,
named after the famous Barcelona night-club, are grilled ham and cheese toasts.
Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat. Despite the long lines for the cable car, few tourists decided to stay overnight, so we had a very peaceful dining experience in their restaurant with a beautiful vault ceiling.
The train arrived 30 minutes late in Logrono. We were a bit lost since it had been 15 years from the last visit to the town, and we were not sure if the new railway station was in the same place as the old one. Anyway, we needed a GPS to find our hotel.
After the obligatory shower and a load of laundry we were ready for dinner. Being already quite late, it was difficult to find a place that served proper meals, not just wine and tapas. But we wanted a warm meal! Even pizza could do!
After a long walk in the chilly night, we saw La Tagliatella. Finally warm food! The salad with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, and mozzarella was very delicious, and so was focaccia. Their pizza was good but the pizza oil was not hot. But we were happy.
Last night we studied the future weather forecasts and decided to head to Bilbao next, and then South to Valencia. We visited the railway station to get the tickets, and spent the rest of the morning walking by the river.
The traffic signs serve regular pedestrians and pilgrims alike. Last night we met a young Finnish guy, who had walked from Paris and was going to Santiago di Compostela. He did not have many friendly words about the customer service representatives who he had met on his way, claiming that they were too inflexible --- a strange comment from a Finn. I guess he was very bored of walking, too.
After checking in at our residence at Residencia Universitaria Blas de Otero, we booked the tickets to the museum for the next day, and made a quick tour in the town before returning to the hostel to do laundry.
For dinner we headed to the old town. We found most of the places having almost equivalent menus. We chose La Cuina de Jardines because it looked trendy still cosy. We had veal carpaccio for a starter and then two fish dishes.
Tonight we decided to skip the sit-in dinner and chose to have wine and pintxos at various bars despite the rainy weather, which made the traveling from place to place somewhat disagreeable. We started at Casa de Jesus with 4 pintxos and 2 glasses of red wine (not pictured). From there we wandered to Plaza Nueva where we found a suspiciously quiet place, and ordered 4 pintxos and 2 glasses of red wine (pictured).
Next morning it was time to leave the rainy Northern Spain and head South. We spent the whole day in the train to Valencia, via Madrid, where we changed trains. At the very last moment we realized that we should have probably checked if the next train left from the same station where we arrived, and it did not. With some complicated instructions and help of friendly conductors, we found a train that took us to the right station. Phew!
In Valencia we took a taxi to the hotel, to avoid the stress of navigating in a foreign town. The check-in process took forever, since the receptionist wanted to introduce as every single place and service in the hotel.
For the dinner place we chose Restaurante El Pony Pisador --- or rather, they chose us --- and ordered oxtail stuffed peppers for the starter and Paella Valenciana for the main. Food was ok, not spectacular.
After three ours of touring The City, we continued to the old town. It was lunch time already. On our way we chose a small and nice looking Los Madriles Nueva Taberna, and their lunch special: croquettes with oxtail stuffing for a starter, and meat and vegetables for the main.
Because of the substantial and late lunch, we skipped the dinner, and went to buy train tickets to Cordoba for the next morning, and had Irish beers afterwards while trying to get into wifi to book accommodation. After a long struggle, we still did not succeed.
The experience from Valencia to Cordoba was perhaps the worst: we ordered bocadillos at the restaurant car about 40 minutes before arrival, and got them just 7 minutes before --- all that time the person working at the cafeteria was not doing anything substantial but pouring drinks and taking new orders. We stuffed the sandwiches in our mouths, and met some real difficulties getting back to our car to fetch the backpacks, since all the isles were crowded with passengers with their luggage waiting to get out. The train stops in Spain are surprisingly short, but we managed to rush out with just a couple of spare seconds.
After settling in, we quickly resumed our tourist activities and left for a town tour; first the most famous destination in Cordoba, Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (Mezcuita-Catedral de Cordoba). This was the courtyard.
Then it was lunch time. We chose the first place we found, Taberna El Potro. We had their lunch menus No. 2 and 3. Tomi's salmorejo soup was an interesting experience. It was like eating tomato flavored mayo with a soup spoon --- pretty heavy but not very tasty.
For the mains we had fried stuff, again heavy and not too tasty. The menus also included desserts, arroz con leche and flan. After finishing everything we were still not ready to leave, since together with the bill we were served a small bottle of sweet wine, which seemed to be customary in many Spanish restaurants, not only in Andalucia.
The train to Seville reached there ahead of the schedule. The first task in Seville was to buy train tickets to Granada for the next day, and then from Barcelona to Grenoble on Sunday (this was Tuesday). The latter was quite complicated, but we managed.
On our final day of the Interrail we visited Sagrada Familia. We had booked the earliest time slot, which was a very good decision; not too many people were there that early (9am.), but the time we ended our tour the place was quite crowded.
The visit to the towers is not included in the entry pass, and has to be purchased separately. Still, one can only visit one of the towers, Nativity or Passion, per visit. We had chosen Nativity, with no particular reason.
After spending an hour and a half at Sagrada Familia, including shopping, we walked back to our hotel, packed our bags, and went to Barcelona Sants. Before taking the train to Valence and Grenoble, we enjoyed last bits of railway station lunches, paella and seafood pasta.
To wrap up, we were really happy with the train traveling in Spain; the trains were clean and, with one exception, always on time. The seats had enough legroom, and often came with an opportunity to charge mobile devices, no wifi though. In addition to having a restaurant car some trains also had beverage and food/snack carts servicing the cars.