AVE Maria

On a last minute whim, I decided to take myself off to Fitur, the Travel show in Madrid. I go to our nation’s capital once in a blue moon, so thought I’d treat myself and take the AVE, the much lauded high-speed train from Valencia to Madrid that came into service in December.

By chance, I was talking to a friend who’d been on the train a couple of weeks ago and he warned me to allow a bit of extra time at the station. The Estación del Norte, the wonderful modernista building beside the bullring, is our central station, but the AVE goes from a station named after one of Valencia’s famous sons, the artist Joaquin Sorolla. (Who, given his artistic temperament, would be sad indeed to see the appalling corrugated iron shed that bears his name.) The problem was, no-one I know seemed to know where it was, so I was pretty glad that my friend had been on the AVE and could give me the gen on how to get there.

The reason you have to get there a bit early is because the new station is a bit of a walk behind the Estacion del Norte, but not to worry, because there’s a shuttle bus between them that runs every ten minutes. Fine and dandy, so I set off to by my advance ticket.

When I got to the main station I found that all the sales points, which haven’t that long ago been refurbished, were closed, and that you had to buy long-distance tickets at the new Joaquin Sorolla station. Fair enough, I thought, and wandered down the long platform at the side of the station to the shuttle bus stop. And there it was, waiting for me.

I went to get on and a Renfe chap dragging on a cigarette asked for my ticket. “I’m going to buy one”, I said. “Well you can’t get on the bus without a ticket,” said he, and pointed to a sign beside the driver, which, sure enough, said that only people with tickets could use it. “So how do I get to the station to buy a ticket?” I asked in complete confusion. “You walk down there”, he said, pointing to a path at the side of the station, which I knew took about ten minutes to arrive at JS. “So I can only ride on the bus with a ticket, but the only reason I want to get on the bus is to get to the station to buy a ticket.” “That’s about right.” At least he had the decency to look a bit sheepish. I could think of nothing more to do than to burst out laughing. “That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” I said, still laughing. “Just about,” he replied. “Go on, get on.”

“This is Spain,” I said, a couple of minutes later when we set off, empty except for me and the driver. “No,” he said “This isn’t Spain. This is Renfe!”

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web sites, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered


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