Friday, January 04, 2013

The High Speed Trains of Spain - or how to get around comfortably

With this week's announcements of the AVE high-speed train connecting Barcelona to Girona and Figueres, it seems like a good time to talk about the trains in Spain. As the most extensive rail network in Europe, Spain's high speed lines are top for comfort and ease of getting from one place to another. So today I want to give you some ideas for travelling via the high-speed lines around Spain.

It's not necessarily as fast as flying, but you have the advantage that most of the stations are right in the heart of the city, and you don't have to be there two hours ahead of time, and you don't have to worry about overhead luggage space, or the guy in front of you leaning his seat back into your knees, you can actually enjoy the scenery, even at close to 300 km/h, and you can always go tot he bar car if you need to walk around a little bit.

Most  of the lines are based out of Madrid, making it easy to get from Madrid to virtually anywhere in Spain quickly and easily. But more and more lines are connecting other cities, like Barcelona or Valencia with Seville, or Barcelona and Malaga. For example (with approximate times):
Madrid - Seville - 2 hours 30 minutes
Madrid - Valencia - 1 hour 40 minutes
Madrid - Malaga - 2 hours 30 minutes
Madrid - Girona -  3 hours 30 minutes
Madrid - Zaragoza - 1 hour 15 minutes

Barcelona - Madrid - 2 hours 30 minutes
Barcelona - Malaga - 5 hours 30 minutes
Barcelona - Seville - 5 hours 30 minutes

Valencia - Sevilla - 3 hours 50 minutes

For more information or for help planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The most unique bars in Barcelona by guest blogger Harriet Freeman

Bars form a large piece of Barcelona culture, so it makes sense that when you visit the city you should visit a few. Many interesting bars are largely traditional where you can buy a drink and some tapas and can usually be found outside of touristy areas. However, for those looking for something a little different; here are some of the most original bars in Barcelona.

Ice Bar Barcelona: This bar is a few years old now and has built up quite a reputation in that time. In this establishment, pretty much everything is ice, from the stools to the cup you drink from. Don't worry about getting cold here though because you are provided with coats, gloves, and everything you need to stay warm. You'll also find some great ice sculptures of symbolic sites from around Barcelona, like La Sagrada Familia. There is a downside though… The prices. It's not all bad though because it's right by the beach. If you've planned your summer trip to Barcelona then its a great place to sunbathe and cool down in afterwards (or vice versa).

El Bosc de les Fades: Time was that this place used to be a well kept secret. Not so much anymore, but don't let that put you off, because you should definitely visit at least once. Located right by the wax museum just off Las Ramblas, this bar will transport you into the world of fairy tales. It is beautifully themed in the form of an enchanted forest and is an absolutely bewildering located to sit down with some friends and chill with a drink. Why mention earlier that it's not a well kept secret anymore? Well, with fame came a price hike, so maybe you should only go once to check it out.

Sincopa: This bar was opened by two french people and it's very unique for a few reasons. The first reason is that there are no tables (though there are several stools around the bar). The decor is also incredibly original to the point that the ceiling is a topsy-turvy  concert stage. The drinks are also more reasonably priced than the last two bars and it's a great place to socialise. You can find it on Calle AvinyĆ³, 35.

Pipa Club: Located in the former studio of the painter Pere Pruna, it's a locale in which various celebrities pass through from time to time. It's a unique space for conversing and social gatherings where you can pretty much enjoy a drink  and feel as if you where at home thanks to the very lovely decor with a focus on Sherlock Holmes and pipe memorabilia, as well as the live piano music. It's a great atmosphere and is sort of a "hidden gem", though it gets pretty crowded with locals and young travelers on the weekends. Again with the prices though, at €4 for a beer or even a cola, you might want to consider making it a one off.

Harriet Freeman is a specialist on northern Spain and Barcelona, and writes on behalf of OK Apartment Barcelona, specialists in cheap accommodation in Barcelona.

High Speed train Barcelona to Girona is here!

In an announcement made earlier this week, the AVE high speed train line from Barcelona to Girona and Figueres will officially start running next week. In just 37 minutes you can go from downtown Barcelona to Girona, one of the jewels of the region for its history, architecture, food...well basically just because it's a great city! And in a few minutes more you will arrive in Figueres, home to the Dali Theater-Museum. Why is that so important, aside from the museum? Well, because from Figueres you can catch the high speed TGV train to Paris! Which means....wait for it..... that the Madrid-Barcelona-Paris High Speed line is now in effect (albeit changing trains in Figueres)!

Prices are reasonable as well, as it will cost just under 25€ round trip from the Catalan capital to Girona and 32€ round trip to Figueres. If you want to take the 17 minute AVE ride from Girona to Figueres it will cost just under 11€ round trip, making renting a car unnecessary for a quick day trip from either Barcelona or Girona to visit Dali's birthplace and museum.

For more information on visiting any of the these cities, or for help planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.