Taking the early train

September 21, 2017 - Bilbao, Spain

We needed to be at the station ready for scanning to board the 9.18am train to Bilbao so we were ready for the 7.30am breakfast call. That was easy as all we had to do was put a few things back in our bags and we were ready to go.

There was a good choice for breakfast but little choice of a table except for one of two set for eight people as the place was crowded with a bus load of Germans, Dutch and French by the sound of it. That would have been a good mix on the bus! I assume they were all together as they all left about the same time and we saw some boarding a tour bus outside when we left for the station.

We were at the station by about 8.40am and the platform was already shown on the Departures board. We waited for a while but decided we should find our way over or under to Platform 4. Over turned out to be the easiest and once on the platform we could only stand and wait. There were several announcements for delays to a train to Madrid Chamartin, given in Spanish, Basque dialect and English so we had a fair idea what was going on. There was nothing showing on the board on our platform even after 9.10am.

We were getting a bit nervous and so was a woman standing nearby. 'Do you speak English', she asked. So we got into conversation about the train. She was going to San Sebastian and we were going to Bilbao but we knew both were part of the same train and due to separate somewhere down the line so had different numbers. As it transpired she was from Bellevue Hills so we were practically neighbours.

Soon our train was showing on the platform indicator board and our new friend asked a passing attendant if shew knew where to stand for Coach 1. We did the same and our friend headed to the middle of the platform while we headed for the far end (of course). This was shown as almost a four hour trip on our tickets and Margaret had managed to get 'Preferente' class tickets at an unbelievably cheap price so we were looking forward to a bit of luxury.

The train was late in arriving by almost 10 minutes and when it arrived we still had to walk a little further down the platform for Car 5 Preferente, Seats 14B and C. This was an older set of rolling stock than we were used to and although it was the Preferente two seats and single seat across the aisle, the seats were a bit aged and firm. Before we left I headed up to the Club Car to get some coffee to sustain us and had to negotiate the rolling deck with full coffee cups (take-away containers at least) as the train slowly built up speed.

As it transpired there was no difference in service (or lack of) on this route and only a very perfunctory offer of purchasing drinks. No wonder Preferente was cheap. We crossed a lot of flat area as we left Valladolid and followed a broad valley and plain for quite a while before we passed through a limestone gorge and into Burgos which is where the train split, I think.

We arrived in Bilbao about 1.10pm, so about 6 minutes late at this end. The whole trip was a lot slower than the routes we have travelled before, the line was less smooth and had tighter corners so we only got to something like 140kph, to judge by road traffic when we were on the flat near the motorway.

From the station we managed to get another grumpy taxi driver who 'humphed' his way around the car and held his arm at a funny angle. I actually put all our bags into the boot so maybe he thought he wouldn't get any extra coin from these self-sufficient damn Aussies.

It was only a small fare anyway but too difficult to otherwise negotiate so he got a little extra (and his arm turned further inward as I got the bags out).

We elected to pay an extra €16 per night to upgrade our room. Whew talk about lashing out but what the heck, next week will be a small place in the country. From the time we first opened the door to our 'suite' we were constantly getting lost. A passage to a connecting door (for your staff presumably) then a long bar with the tea and coffee facilities that also separated the room from the lounge area and balcony. To the left was a larger dining area and a powder room (larger than some bathrooms we've had on this trip). A very heavy and soundproof sliding door separated that space from a massive bedroom, complete with massive bed, and an office area with desk space and a real office chair. The space was such that one could set up your printer etc. if you needed that. Opening off the bedroom was a walk in robe with plenty of hanging and drawer space and through that was the bathroom with spa-bath and separate shower as well as a separate toilet and bidet area. Is it any wonder I kept making wrong turns?

We went out for a little walk around the park nearby. Our room overlooked the park and we had stood on the balcony watching the antics of many dogs as they are allowed off-leash in most of the parks nearby. It was great to see so many well behaved and well mannered dogs. No grumpy ones and many that seemed to know each other from their other afternoons in the park.

After the walk we stopped at the bar for a beer (we get €10/day to spend at the bar or café) before returning to our room for a bit of journal work while we waited out the 8.30pm curfew on eating. I don't know how they do it. Not only that but most places seem to be empty by 10.30pm and presumably people sleep after all that food.

Speaking of all that food, we decided that as we were pampering ourselves we would also eat at their up-market restaurant tonight (and maybe starve for the rest of the week).

So dinner at the Aizian Restaurant (One Michelin Star).

A Bottle of Rioja Puente de Ea 2012,

Bottle of water,

Nibbly biscuits (gratis) – one pair with thyme and one pair with cheese crumps baked in,

Bread (gratis),

Margaret chose Cochinillo Asado y Deshuesado con Zanahori (Boneless Roasted Piglet with Carrot and Orange purée,

Max decided Rape asado con carbón de sepia y crema de apio-nabo (Roasted Monkfish with squid ink and celeriac cream) which was suggested as it was 'Sin Ajo' with no misunderstanding,

Firm Chocolate fondant with Almond Muffin and thin Sesame and toffee brittle (gratis),

Coffee Irlandes (Irish Coffee) for Margaret,

And for Max a Café Doble and Copa Sauci De Hueva 2011 (Muscat style wine from Pedro Ximenez and Amontillado grapes).

 

All a bit flash but an extremely enjoyable meal. Everything was a taste experience and a wonderful blending of flavours and textures.


Pictures

A little station on the way
Another little town from the train
Margaret snoozes away on the trip to Bilbao
Our Bedroom in the suite
 
 

1 Comment

Sarah:
September 25, 2017
Dinner sounds v yum
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