A Very Complicated Holiday

Too much? Probably…but it’ll be quite a journey. In my innocence, I thought that – with one month’s notice – I could book some flights at some sort of reasonable price. Not too far off the mark but, in the end, the only reasonable pairing of flights this seasoned traveller could find comes with the added complication of finding a route from Madrid right up to Brussels:

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Aer Lingus – back when “fly for 1 cent!” advertisements were still legal – offered flights for €12; Ryanair even had free flights on some dates. This does make me wonder what’s wrong with Brussels…no matter, however: the bulk of this trip will be spent in Barcelona and onboard some interesting trains enroute to my not-really-that-close-at-all ultimate destination:

  • Madrid – Barcelona on the AVE
    Spain is where the action is for trains right now: I blogged about their hugely ambitious plans to connect up to 90% of their population with high-speed lines by 2020 earlier this year and the very latest installment connects Madrid with Barcelona in under three hours (more than halving the previous rail journey time).
  • Barcelona – Paris on the Elipsos
    A twelve hour overnight journey on the Elipsos Train Hotel, which seems more train than hotel. A special offer from SNCF gets me a shared room (with just one other person), lets me sleep off most of the journey time to Paris and reduces the hotel bill by one night.
  • Paris – Brussels on the TGV
    “Just” a TGV journey to catch the flight home.

The AVE is undoubtedly the highlight: one of the newest and fastest lines in the world, leading to a city I’ve wanted to explore for quite some time. Quite an extravagance, too: it turns out a “3 days in 10” Spanish rail pass can be had for less than the price of this ticket. The Elipsos should be fun – Monocle reported on Germany’s rejuvenated overnight train services last year – and I can’t wait to wake up early in the morning to find myself in Paris.

Then, at the end, I’ll get to see what’s so bad about Brussels. Pictures, etc., to follow.

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