Traveling to Barcelona

To get to Barcelona, we decided to take the RENFE AVE high speed train.  It was faster than going to the airport, checking in, flying, and getting to the hotel, though it probably cost about the same. 

We took the Metro to the Madrid Puerta de Atocha station, which is a very nice station in appearance.  It is a central station for not only the high speed long-distance trains, but also a variety of slower regional trains.

We asked a few people who directed us to a small ticket office in which you took a number in one of two lines, and waited for your number to be called.  It wasn't moving very fast, and there were a lot of people waiting.  The screens in the room showed a lot of trains, including some to Barcelona, but they didn't seem to be the high speed trains.  While I held our place in line, Jen went to see if there was someplace else we should go.  Eventually she found that while we had been directed "to the left" to the ticket office, there was a second ticket office further on in the station, also on the left, for the AVE trains.  We went over there and got in another couple of lines, and eventually got our tickets.  We upgraded to First Class so we had nicer seats and a meal.  All told, our two one-way tickets cost US$464.  If you're using our notes to book your own trip, be sure you don't go to the ticket office with the A and B lines!

We had a little while to wait before our train so we got something to eat and waited in the nice station.  We headed to the train about 10 minutes before its departure, and found it wasn't as straightforward as we thought.  First, you had to go up a level to the departure area, go through a security checkpoint, put your bags through an airport-style metal detector, then go (run!) down a long ramp to the train and find your assigned car.  We got in with about 1 minute to spare. 

But the cars are really nice, and reminded us of the Shinkansen.

The food was good, a nice hot meal and your choice of Spanish wines.

The train made several stops along the way, including Zaragoza, where the Space Shuttle could land if need be.

It's a fast ride, and pretty smooth, but not smooth enough for me to take a clear picture of our 280 km/h speed.

It's a pretty country.  We saw quite a orchards which we suppose grew olives.

After about 3.5 hours we arrived at Barcelona, on time.

At the Barcelona-Sants train station (nice and clean), we took a taxi to the hotel.

From there we went to take the Barcelona Metro, called the TMB.