Seville to Madrid on RENFE’s AVE High Speed Train

Last day in Seville.

We woke up very early. We had to catch a train to Madrid later on in the morning, and we wanted to go have breakfast in one of the neighborhood restaurants.

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There are many such sidewalk restaurants all over Seville that finding one is very easy. The problem is getting back to where we came from. You see Seville is a very old city. It is at least 2000 years old … yes, it is founded at about the time of the birth of Christ.

So it is a very unplanned city. Maps are useless here. We get around by walking in circles and trying to spot landmarks to know the general direction. Yes, we got lost quite a few times and asking for directions is quite hopeless too because not many people speaks English here.

We decided to take a short walk to the Alameda de Hercules which is a delightful tree lined plaza. It is quiet in the morning but at night it is busy. At each end of the long plaza was two tall columns bearing the statues of Hercules and of Julius Caesar.

Not knowing which is best, we went to the oldest looking restaurant we could find. It is called the Badulaque. In the cold crisp morning we wanted to sit outside but did not.

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You see, people smoke a lot in Spain. It was bothering us and so we decided to move indoors. This place does not speak much English too but it was not much of a problem. After 10 days already in Spain, we know enough words to get breakfast. Words like cafe con leche, jamon, tosta …

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Cafe con Leche everywhere in Spain … is really good. Every place we went to, big or small, have a mean looking espresso machine.

They do take their coffee seriously and it seems like everyone drinks this for breakfast.

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We also got ourselves a glass of orange juice. In Seville, when you ask for orange juice, they squeeze it fresh for you.

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Breakfast is simple … it was toasts with tomato and toasts with ham — beautiful Spanish ham. They call it Jamon (pronounced as ha-mon).

We just love this type of simple breakfast. Well it is simple here in Seville but am sure if they serve this in Vancouver, people will go crazy over them.

The tomatoes were very cold but yet it was not frozen. It was kind of odd eating toast with cold tomatoes but it was refreshing.

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Instead of butter or jam you find on the North American breakfast table, they gave us olive oil instead.

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It was a cheap breakfast.

After the breakfast, we had a quick walk around the plaza and then started heading back to the hotel to get ready to leave Seville. This time we did not get lost!

It was a toss between walking to the train station or taking a cab. On the map it was about 1 km only but if we took a cab it will be 12 euros ($16 Canadian)! We decided not to chance it in case we got lost within the narrow and confusing roads.

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Spain’s train system is very efficient although most of the instructions is in Spanish. The people who worked at the train station speaks English and were very good with dealing with tourists.

The person who manned the ticket booth made sure I understand that he wrote down everything he said on a piece of paper … the price, the destination, the platform and all that.

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We took the Renfe high speed train from Seville to Madrid. At one point, this train was the fastest in the world but today it had been surpassed by other train systems.

Travelling by this train is not cheap since we only bought the tickets the day before. It costs almost the price of an airfare. However, travelling on trains beats flying anytime because it goes from city center to city center.

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The train was comfortable, spacious and very clean. There were not a lot of people travelling on the train that day.

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We could pick and choose our seats. We choose the middle section where there is a table complete with reading lights.

The ride was amazingly smooth even though it was flying at over 300 km per hour.

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Beauty. They even have power outlets on every seat too. Too bad we did not have internet connection because I was kind of stuck not knowing what to do when we get to Madrid.

All I had was a travel guide book with some poor maps. Actually I was quite panicky because I have difficulty trying to pinpoint where the hotel is.

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Oh … they even gave every passenger earphones too.

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I thought that the onboard washroom was really spacious and clean. Fancy huh?

Yeah, we enjoyed this ride much better than flying Ryan Air’s cattle class from Barcelona to Seville.

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The ride from Seville to Madrid took about 2.5 hours.

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So we arrived at the Atocha Train Station at about noon. This is the largest train station in Madrid and it is beautiful complete with an indoor garden in its central plaza.

As beautiful as it seems, this station was where 10 bombs were set off three years after 911 by an al-Qaeda cell  killing 200 people and injuring 2000. That event was Spain’s 911.

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There is even a turtle sanctuary in the middle of the plaza.

We did not spend much time here and surprisingly we got to the hotel without much fuss. We were very glad to learn that the hotel lies smack in the middle Gran Via, which is like the Champs-elysees for Paris or Time Square of New York. Score!

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I am very impressed with the Spanish people who takes their food seriously. Even the McDonalds here are better than the types we find in Canada and USA.

Anyway, after putting down our bags in the hotel room, we immediately headed out to get something to eat. Being quite disoriented and overwhelmed in a big city like Madrid, we thought we have a no fuss sandwich in McDonalds.

We thought that at least here they will speak English.

Wrong! We had a hard time telling them what we wanted despite letting pointing fingers do most of the talking. We got two sandwiches which costs 6.20 euros.

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No Big Mac here … the sandwiches here looked a million times better. The above is called the CBO, Chicken Bacon Onions. The CBO is only available in Europe.

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We also had something called the NYC Crispy which again is not available in North America. The “crispy” side of the sandwich came from the battered and fried onion pieces.

We actually felt rather sophisticated eating in a McDonalds in Spain. More tomorrow.

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  1. if you end up in barcelona again… you need to go to a little cafe called ‘Chai Chai’. It is soo good! i would recommend the iced chai (iced down with house made chai sorbetto)

  2. Hi Ben, reading your Spain post now reminds me of my spring trip last year. Aren’t the Renfe trains amazingly spotless?? We travelled from Madrid to Barcelona on this train & purchasing the tickets 21 days in advance online, we paid only EUR43 1-way each. The Atocha train station has many eateries and shops and we had breakfast here twice on the way to Barcelona as well as Segovia.

    1. Hi HM: I still remember after all these while how the Spanish people took good care of their trains. Immediately after the train pulled into the station there were already people washing the outside of the train right at the platform. Did you know that Spain has the second longest network of high speed rail tracks in the world (after China)? They even have MORE tracks than Japan. Ben

      1. Oops, I thought Japan has more tracks than Spain…LOL!! Tks for the research!

  3. I love travelling by trains, they give you a chance to see the scenery and so much more comfortable than planes. It’s always so exciting travelling to new places. I am very jealous!

  4. I couldn’t get enough of the jamon iberico when I was there two years ago. It is now being imported into Canada but at quite an exorbitant price.

    1. Hi Michelle, where can I can the Jamon Iberico in Vancouver? Is it in Granville Island? Missing it so much!

      1. Hi HM,
        I believe Oyama and Bosa are the only places that sell it. But they don’t always have it in stock so call ahead. I believe it sells for $20/100gm at Bosa and Oyama may be a bit more as he has the Jamon Iberico de Bellota which is the best quality. You can also sometimes get it on the menu at Salt Tasting Room. I’ve checked and there are also some online Spanish suppliers in the US that import it so I imagine you could bring it in through the US if you have a contact there. Of note, Oyama is making Spanish morcilla in the next couple of weeks and you can call to put in an order….I did…:-). That was also something I loved when I was in Spain. The tapas bars were absolutely incredible there, especially in the town of San Sebastian.

        1. Thanks Michelle for the info. While in Spain, I had lots of the jamon Iberico de Bellota…just can’t get enough! Unfortunately, I didn’t go to San Sebastian.

          1. Bosa is the main importer here in Vancouver for Jamon Iberico, I believe. I usually get the Serrano, but on a splurge I buy Bellota from Bosa (on Kooteney St as the Victoria Dr location doesn’t usually carry it).

            Salt Tasting Room often has it as well as Au Petit Chavignol (I just had some there last night after spending some hours at the East Side Culture Crawl actually). APC is more generous with their slicing and is better value overall.

  5. McDonald’s in Asia is also WAYYYYYYYYY better!!!!!!!!!

  6. Totally agree!!! Taiwan McD’s are so much better than the ones here too!!! Actually, not just McD’s…even Wendy’s or BK…hahah!

  7. Yes,I have had McChicken in the Philippines Fried Chicken and Rice,McBurritos in Mexico and Mc Congee in China.There is more variety in Asia

  8. Our exchange student from Spain ate at McDonalds every chance he could get (3x week all year) because the US McDonalds were So Much Better, in his opinion. So you never know!

    1. Hi etranger: That is so funny! I would love to know what he thinks that the McD here is better than in Spain. Maybe it’s because it’s cheaper here too, right? For me, the buns are “fancier” and their McCafes have more of a restaurant feel than a fast food place. Ben

  9. This is an interesting discussion. I usually avoid McDonalds at all cost. BUT I did had McDonalds first day we arrived at the Florence train station. That day was a national holiday and we knew that NOTHING would be open. So we just ate at whatever was serving food. I can’t say it’s better but as like other McDonalds in other parts of the world, it’s different from the Canadian ones.

  10. HM.Have you tried Cafe Barcelona,If I am not mistaken,the owner is the BC distributor of Iberico Ham.

    1. Thanks Pinoy Gourmetfor the tip. I’ve not been there before but will certainly give it a try someday…when the weather is warmer! LOL!!

  11. Let’s see: He thought the buns were better, the beef was tastier and he loved the super size option and the refillable drink. He didn’t gain weight while he was here btw.

    The Spanish Table is a main local importer of all foods Spanish. They are on Western Ave in the lower part of the Pike Place Market Building. They have a good email newsletter in which they tell of their experiences in Spain and Portugal .

    1. Hi etranger:

      One thing I can relate to is that beef is much tastier in North America and so is chicken too. Oh, can you still get supersize these days in McDonalds? I don’t see it on the board and I thought they had taken it off the menu at about the time when the show Supersize Me was first shown.

      OMG! I just went to the Spanish Table website and found out that 4oz of Jamon Iberico de Bellota is $57 and even the cheaper Jamon de Serrano (8 oz) is $18. I should have paid 33 euros and smuggled a 6kg whole leg (Serrano) back from Madrid.

      Ben

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