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.
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.
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.
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…
a tiny table for one to write (or dine) on…
a beautiful cabinet for storage…
and an adorable little bathroom fit for a queen (or king)!
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.
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…
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.
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:
This trip was made possible by: