The AVE train – the death of air travel?

One of the secret pleasures of my first month in Spain has involved travelling between Madrid and Barcelona on the AVE train. Does this mean I’m becoming a dreaded TRAINSPOTTER?

Ave Train, Atocha Station, Madrid, Spain

Standing for Alta Velocidad Española the name is also a play on words with AVE meaning ‘bird’ in Spanish. Travelling at speeds of up to (and slightly over) 300 kmh/h, the AVE goes significantly faster than birds, and takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to travel from the centre of Madrid to the heart of Barcelona – Barcelona Sants. The other route that the AVE covers is Madrid – Seville, which also takes about 2.5 hours. RENFE – the Spanish rail company – are so confident of the AVE’s puntuality on this route that they offer a full refund should the train arrive more that 5 minutes outside the advertised time.

Ticket prices have come down considerably recently, and booking your AVE tickets online through the RENFE website gives you access to some web-only fares – which are as low as 40 Euros one way for Madrid – Barcelona.

Having experienced this rather special train, and having an increasingly deep aversion to airports and air travel, I can safely say that I’ll be travelling by the AVE in Spain whenever possible from now on….


AVE train on Wikipedia

Moving to Spain – another new beginning

After 281 days (about 9 months) travelling from Guatemala in Central America to Buenos Aires in Argentina, I ran out of steam!

Three weeks ago I flew from Buenos Aires to Madrid as an old friend had offered me the use of his apartment for two months whilst he and his young family escaped the searing Madrid heat in July and August. It was an offer too good to refuse, and it motivated me to leave the South American winter and enter the furnace.

Drummers in the Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain (Photo: drummers in the Retiro Park, Madrid)

Having met up with an old London friend in Barcelona last week, we’ve decided to set up a series of websites together over the coming months to try and generate a new ‘location independent’ income. As a clue, we will be working with the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) market.

I will be posting regular updates on Earthoria about the trials and tribulations of setting up a business in Spain. Right now, we’re just finalising the names – probably the hardest part?!

Podcast: Spain celebrates beating Germany!

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This podcast is a bit of a departure from the usual in more senses than one. Firstly, it’s from Spain and secondly it’s not about enemas, or massages… it’s about ‘the beautiful game’ – football. It features the sounds of the Spanish celebrating their Euro 2008 win in Vejer de la Frontera, a small town in Andalucia in Southern Spain.

Vejer, Spain

Shameless plug: Rent a beautiful house in Vejer de la frontera! You can also see 2009’s post on Vejer de La Frontera here.

I cushioned my re-entry from Thailand to the UK with a month in Spain. Beginning with a few days catching up with friends in Barcelona, Tina and I made our way down to Andalucia – flying to Jerez near Cadiz – then staying in a small town called Vejer De La Frontera.

Vejer de la Frontera - Jewish Quarter

Perched on a sizeable rocky plateau about 7 miles inland from Cape Trafalgar on the Costa de la Luz in Spain lies the medieval town of Vejer de la Frontera. The Costa de la Luz is a section of the Andalusian coast facing the Atlantic Ocean, extending from Tarifa, at the southernmost tip of Spain, north and northwestward, along the coasts of Cádiz and Huelva provinces, to the mouth of the Guadiana River.

With stunning views of the surrounding countryside – and all the way to Morocco in the background – it is hard to recall a more strikingly located town.

Vejer has been granted the status of Area of Historic and Artistic Interest and has also won the Most Beautiful Towns of Spain award. Vejer contains several ancient churches and convents, and the architecture of many of its houses recalls the period of Moorish rule, which lasted from 711 until the town was re-captured by the Spanish in 1248. Fighting bulls are bred in the neighborhood and a running of the bulls is held annually.

Cape Trafalgar (Cabo de Trafalgar) is perhaps better known as the location of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 where the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Nelson put paid to the combined French and Spanish fleets, and died in the process.

Losing yourself in the maze of narrow, cobbled streets of Vejer feels a bit like stepping back hundreds of years in time. The locals are wonderfully friendly and put up with my Thai/Spanish/English language mixture. The coastline of the Costa de la Luz is undeveloped, unspoilt and extremely beautiful – with wide, never-ending windswept beaches. Could this be our next destination?!

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Video: Tarifa in Spain – A kitesurfer’s paradise

This video shows the amazing windswept beaches of Tarifa.

Tarifa in the south of Spain is possibly the most windy beach I have ever been too…I nearly blew away 🙂 But it is also incredibly beautiful. On our Flickr account you can see some of the beautiful pictures Thomas took when we visited Tarifa this summer.

The narrow streets and old castle also makes Tarifa old town a charming place for a walk. Most of the remaining old city was constructed in the 18th Century.

However, it is the 10 kilometres of white sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside and some of the best windsurfing conditions in Europe that have made Tarifa a surfers paradise. Not to mention the crazy wind that makes it impossible to suntan on the beach because you will be eating too much sand…but it does make good waves.