Trip Report: Renfe's Barcelona-Sants Sala Club lounge, Barcelona to Valencia on the Euromed in Preferente
After arriving in Barcelona from Turin, it was time jump on the train to Valencia.
One of my pet peeves of the transport system in Spain is that none of the airports connects with any intercity rail lines. For example in the Netherlands it’s easy to hop on a train just under the terminal to Eindhoven or Utrecht, and Frankfurt it’s easy to catch an ICE high speed train to Cologne. Meanwhile, in Madrid, you have to take a bus, metro, or commuter rail to the main train station Atocha, making the connection between the airport and another city a hassle and a bit risky. Of the three local options, I think the bus is the best choice, because the bus stops at all terminals and goes directly to Atocha quite frequently, 24 hours a day.
In the case of Barcelona, it’s worse, especially when landing in Terminal T1, the main terminal. First one has to take a shuttle to Terminal T2, the terminal of EasyJet, Norwegian, and Ryanair. That bus takes about 10-15 minutes, because the two terminals are quite far from one another. Then at T2, one has to walk over a very long skybridge to get to the Cercanías commuter rail station. And finally, the Cercanías train only leaves once every 30 minutes!
So of course, we ended up arriving at the platform just a few minutes after the last train departed, and we had to wait almost half an hour for the next train. Thankfully we didn’t have checked luggage, and had built in a 2 hour connection.
This left a few minutes to check out Renfe’s Sala Club lounge in Barcelona-Sants station. I’d never been before, having only visited the Sala Club in Madrid Atocha (and only one time). Since I had a Preferente ticket, I had access to the lounge. Keep in mind when buying tickets, that a Promo ticket doesn’t grant lounge access, only Promo+ and above fare categories!
To find the Sala Club, follow the signs for McDonald’s.
The entrance to the Sala Club is just across from McDonald’s.
After having our boarding passes scanned, we were allowed into the lounge. There were a few different seating types, but a bit awkwardly arranged. For example, these tall tables with bar stools were kind of floating in the middle of a passageway from the entrance to the food.
Meanwhile, comfortable armchairs were placed in a long line armrest to armrest, also from the entrance to the food area, so one had to walk all the way to the end to exit this “hallway” of chairs.
Anyway, at the end of this parade of chairs was the food area, with some packaged snacks and coffee machine on one side, and a fridge full of beverages on the other.
I liked that they had a selection of Ines Rosales snacks. Ines Rosales is a brand from Sevilla, and here I chose a biscuit with a layer of cabello de ángel, a sweetened pumpkin jam that has the appearance kind of like transparent threads, hence the name literally meaning “angel hair.” I also took one (or a couple) of their faintly anise-flavored olive oil tortas, which are actually also sold in the US. Besides these sweet snacks, I had tomato juice, water, and potato chips.
We were in the lounge for about 15 minutes, and then went off to board the Euromed train. Seats are cloth-lined, arranged 1-2 per row, all facing forward except the end where the seats face a table.
I was originally seated in a different car from my friend, because we both purchased Promo/Promo+ seats where there is no seat assignment. But the conductor said that the three seats facing a table in my car was empty for now. He made sure to tell us that there was a possibility that someone could purchase a seat there after the train departed Barcelona, and board at an intermediate station! But we took the risk and took those vacant seats.
Service started out, as always, with a choice of newspapers, followed by crackers and beverage.
Then a towelette service, and then the menus were handed out.
The trays were then passed out, and we were offered a choice of white or whole wheat bread, condiments like olive oil, salt and pepper, and grated tomato, and were asked whether we wanted the consommé of the day. The consommé turned out to be a fish broth, which was quite nice and went well with the main course of hake.
The starter was a dish of chickpeas in yogurt sauce, with olives, pickled pearl onions, and capers. I thought it was quite imaginative, and quite filling. The pickled parts had a nice acidity to them.
The main course was a hake fish with "spinach and pea bechamel sauce," and peas and carrots. The hake was a bit firm, not surprising because it had to be re-heated in the onboard ovens, but I was quite impressed by the hearty portion of fish and its creative presentation. Also, after a few days of eating on the road, it was great to get fresh vegetables not only as a side dish, but as a sauce for the fish.
Dessert was an "Irish" cake, according to the label on the lid. I’m not sure what made it Irish? Also not sure what those black flakes on top were. Nevertheless, it was nice and moist, and just a bit sweet. I paired this with a mint tea.
And the service closed with packaged towelettes and a little piece of dark chocolate.
Always quite predictable, booking this train ticket in Preferente was a no-brainer. I paid only 41€ for a Promo+ fare, less than 10€ more than Turista (Coach) class. Given that the train departed Barcelona at 8:30pm, arriving in Valencia-Joaquin Sorolla Station close to midnight, meant traveling smack in the middle of Spanish dinner hour, so we would have had to buy something from the station otherwise. The excellent catering for dinner alone was worth it, not to mention the more spacious seating and the lounge access beforehand.