Tren Al Andalus: The Palace on Wheels

I wake up to a room that looks completely foreign, save for the familiar suitcase standing against the wall. The ceiling is low, and the walls are covered in glossy wood.  Everything around me looks plush.

I am suddenly filled with dread,  as if the walls are closing in on me and that at any moment, someone will force his way into the room, drag me out and tell me I don’t belong here. I am Tom Ripley in that Matt Damon film, pretending to be someone I’m not.

It takes me a while to shake the feeling off. Then I remember.

No, I am not Tom. I am Pauline. I am aboard Tren Al Andalus.  I am one of the travel journalists/bloggers  invited by Renfe and Spain Tourism Board to cover the luxury train’s first trip using the Santiago de Compostela route.  And I belong here. At least, for now.

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The Tren Al Andalus has just recently come out of a long hiatus, freshly renovated and upgraded. Yesterday, as soon as we arrived  in Zaragosa from Madrid, we were whisked straight to the platform where the train was waiting for us.  In the middle of a very modern train station, there it stood, a beautiful relic from a bygone era. In fact,  parts of it were originally built in France in the late 1920s. Used by the British Monarchy for vacation in Spain, particularly covering the routes from Calais to the Costa Azul, it has now been transformed into a palace on wheels for mere mortals to enjoy. The affluent mortals, that is.

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The train has four lounge coaches and seven suite coaches comprising of thirty-two suites. The lounge coaches date back to 1929 and 1930 and consist of the two restaurant coaches, the bar coach and the tea lounge.

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This tiny corridor can only fit one person at a time. Or two, if both are under 100 pounds.

Meanwhile, two types of suites await guests:  the Standard Suite and the Superior Suite. I am very lucky to have been assigned a Superior Suite, with all the amenities of a regular five-star hotel room. There is, of course, the spacious sofa that folds out unto a queen size bed for comfortable sleeping…

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a tiny table for one to write (or dine)  on…

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a beautiful cabinet for storage…

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and an adorable little bathroom fit for a queen (or king)!

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Upon arrival, we were treated to welcome drinks by the staff of Al Andalus. In the quiet elegance of the Bar coach, our small company of travellers greeted each other with reservation that would soon melt away with each passing day together on the road.

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Seeing the Al Andalus for the first time yesterday, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine what travelling  might have been like back in the day. Its Belle Epoque-inspired interiors evoke a certain kind of nostalgia for days when travel was slow yet more meaningful and certainly more extravagant. Something like this…

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Interior of a railway carriage, Circa 1920s by Albert Percy Godber, from AP Godber Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

Today, Tren Al Andalus continues the tradition, taking care of everything down to the most minute of details;  even installing modern necessities such as WI-FI . But for me, the best part about travelling on Al Andalus is the convenience of having a hotel on wheels. Guests need not worry about hauling luggage from one hotel to another as their rooms will be waiting for them at the train station at the end off each day.

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I look around in my wood-laminated cocoon. Up to now, it all feels a little surreal, as if this is all a dream and I’m on the verge of waking up.  And then I hear the campanilla. Its loud clanging fills the tiny corridors outside like an old-fashioned alarm clock.  The sound wakes me up completely.

Time to get up, Pauline,  and finally sample the best of what Northern Spain has to offer!

 

For more information on Tren Al Andalus, visit their website here.

Photography Notes:  Coloured photos taken with a DSLR, B&W photos taken with my  iPhone.

 

This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Spain aboard the Al Andalus.

Read my other posts here:

The Way of St. James:  The Journey Begins

The Ancient City of Zaragoza

This trip was made possible by:

spain

renfe

blogcarnival

 

This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Blogger’s Blog Carnival with the theme ‘My Favorite Room’ hosted by Aileen Campos of The Super Tourists.

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16 thoughts on “Tren Al Andalus: The Palace on Wheels

  1. In my bucket list….. But I’m too scared to even ask how much it would cost me!

    Been planning to do the Camino for the last few years. Not getting any younger and before the knees give in, i know i have to do it soon. This presents a good “reward” or “incentive” (excuses!) —- love the idea.
    Lifeisacelebration recently posted…THE FOOD TRUCKS ARE HERE!My Profile

    • Hi Tita Lili,

      Yeah, this is definitely another way to do the Camino haha. I’m sure you deserve a trip like this. As for the cost, published rate is 4,450 Euros for single occupancy in a superior double suite like mine. THat includes all meals and tours for 6 days and 5 nights! I think it’s worth it! :)

  2. Lucky Lucky you!!! Imagine taking a first class train for Free for your Camino journey. :D You must have done something good dear. <3

  3. Wow! I’d like to travel in it. A luxury train! Do you think I can afford it. Haha… I love the details of the 20′s or earlier and this train has them. I envy you! Lol

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    • Hi Claire,

      Strangely, Paolo Coelho was far from my mind when I went to SDC. But his pilgrimage there years ago was the reason why he started writing in the first place! It’s a lfie-changeing trip, I must say. Highly recommended!

      Happy travels!

      Pauline

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