Trip Report: Valencia to Salamanca by Train
I wanted to take a long weekend trip in October, but didn’t have a chance (or wish) to do much planning. My list of places around Spain that I want to visit, which I haven’t visited yet, was dwindling significantly, but I decided to go for one of the remaining ones on this list, because traveling around Spain is really just so easy. No new languages to learn, no currency to exchange. So I decided on Salamanca, situated in the interior of Spain to the northwest of Madrid, home of Spain’s oldest university, as well as a unique food culture.
Salamanca doesn’t have an airport, so the most practical way to get there was by train. This involved a connection in Madrid: first the high-speed AVE train Valencia to Madrid, and then a semi-fast Alvia train from Madrid to Salamanca.
As always, I check the Preferente price compared to the regular Turista price when buying tickets, and as often happens, the Preferente (first class) price was just a few euros more than Turista (coach class).
So early in the morning, I caught an AVE train from Valencia’s Joaquin Sorolla Station bound for Madrid’s Atocha station. There on the platform, I saw one of the catering carts load the meals for Preferente class. Just like those vehicles which load meals onto airplanes at airports, only much tinier and shorter!
Service started with distributing a selection of newspapers from a cart, and a printed menu.
I love the touch of having the menu. Even though there’s only ever one choice for meal, it’s nice to know exactly what you are going to eat. Plus see the selection of beverages they have.
They served quite a hearty breakfast - much more substantial than typical Spanish breakfasts. The main course consisted of a wedge of tortilla de patatas - always a favorite of mine, a chicken roulade, and sautéed spinach. I loved having vegetables for breakfast! And based on the menu, I was expecting the chicken roulade to be strange, since it said it was filled with muesli, but it was quite tasty and not at all sweet as I had been expecting from the word muesli. Though I still couldn’t tell you what the filling was.
On the side, there was an Actimel probiotic drink, a croissant and a roll plated by the seat, and taken from a basket, olive oil and grated tomato. To drink, I chose peach juice and coffee. I had been thinking of making my own bellini with the peach juice and some cava, but the reality is I don’t enjoy drinking very much when traveling.
This was all finished off with some chocolate and a wet wipe.
In Madrid, I had the great fortune of meeting up a friend who recently moved from Madrid to the UK, so in the morning I went to my favorite place for tortilla (perhaps in all of Spain), Casa Dani in the Mercado de la Paz…
…and in the afternoon, after taking in some exhibits around town, had a light lunch of some avocado toast at a kind of hipster café not far from the Atocha train station, Plenti.
The trains to Salamanca actually don’t leave from Atocha, but rather leave from the Chamartín station in the north. Thankfully, there are frequent Cercanías commuter rail connections between the two stations, and a Cercanías ride is available for free on the same day as a trip on the AVE or Alvia. So I hauled myself over to Chamartín, where I found the train to Salamanca.
The Alvia train isn’t as speedy as the AVE trains, but it’s considered the fast one on this route: about 1 hour 30 minutes, compared to 2 hr 45 minutes on the regular Media Distancia (medium distance) trains.
One thing to look out for on these services is that half the seats face forward and half face backwards: they don’t flip around to all face forwards which is a nice feature on the AVE trains from Valencia to Madrid.
While there was a stopover in Madrid on this itinerary, it was a very pleasant travel day with a nice meal in Preferente on the first leg to Madrid, and then some good food, culture, and friends in Madrid. While there was no service on this last leg to Salamanca (Preferente is not offered), there were nice views of the countryside with the sun low in the sky. I really thought of Eliza Doolittle’s “the plains of Spain” when I saw this landscape!