Pierre-Alexandre’s Pick - Trans Iberic Journey
travellers in 2015
years of rail travel experience
If you want to capture most of the Iberian peninsula’s atmosphere and landscape, I propose this little “in a nutshell” trip I made last summer.
I recommend starting the journey in Bilbao in Basque country for a vision of the typical regionalism that characterized the Spanish kingdom. In this old industrial city, you’ll discover local cuisine in the beautiful medieval city-center “Casco Viejo.” Enjoy a walk along the Nervion River and stop by the Guggenheim Museum with its wonderful collection of contemporary art before crossing the river on the Vizcaya transporter bridge, an iconic symbol of the city.
You can extend your stay with a day trip to beautiful San Sebastian, the little Rio de Janeiro of Basque country. The city landscape looks like a big South American metropolis, with hills surrounding beaches and the eclectic city center.
Bilbao is only a few hours away from Madrid, thanks to RENFE, Spain’s national rail company. The trip offers the opportunity to discover various landscapes: from the green forests of the north coast, to the grey mountains of the “Montaña Oriental,” to the yellow plains in the north of Madrid.
You then need to spend a few days in Madrid to discover the capital of Spain and its famous museums like the Prado or the Queen Sofia Arts Center. Together, they will take you across the universe of modern and classic arts. Madrid is also a very good stop for parties, with the trendy bars in Chueca or the night clubs in Gran Via, one of Madrid’s main streets.
To finish your trip and get an overview of the peninsula, you need to head to the capital of Portugal. Board the night train from Madrid to Lisbon. Fall asleep before even leaving the Chamartin Madrid station, and wake up arriving at the Santa Apolónia station in the heart of Lisbon the next morning.
In the capital of this little country you will discover a whole-new world: another language and new culinary specialties such as fish, shellfish and the delicious pastéis de nata (a little cake made of cream, dusted with ice sugar or cinnamon). You can taste all the various dishes in the Ribeira market. Lisbon is also full of beautiful museums, but my favorite things to do are to walk around in the Alfama district, “a little Montmarte,” and to ride the tramway all over the hills to get the best viewpoints of the city.
This little itinerary was a great opportunity to combine beach, discovery, delicious food, party and culture. It’s a peninsula in a nutshell and all we have a need for vacation in a nutshell!
Pierre-Alexandre’s Pick - France