My absolute favorite way to travel is by train, but unfortunately we don’t have a proper public train system here in America. I only get to experience real train travel on my trips to Europe. I hate driving, and flying on a plane requires the occasional interaction with a flight attendant. Traveling by train is the blissful experience of being able to ignore everyone around you entirely and simply watching the speeding landscape pass while doing whatever you like. You get to eat on your terms by grabbing something out of your bag or heading to the dining car when you feel it’s time to do so. This, of course, is the dreamy first class tourist version of train travel and not likely something felt all the time by daily commuters, but it’s an amazing experience. Until that one time, when heading back to Madrid, I wanted to save a few bucks and try the extreme economy class. That was a different experience entirely.

On the way to Southern Spain, I experienced white linen table cloths and venison pâté in a lovely uninhabited dining car. I felt like I was some sort of celebrity. Not an A-List one of course, as they would be traveling entirely alone, but some C-List celebrity who could just afford to travel well and was too unpopular to ever risk being recognized. When it was time to return to Madrid in order to head back to the States, however, my friends suggested we conserve our cash and travel the lowest class available. Though my initial reaction was full on dread, I found this to be a rather sensible thing to do, so I agreed. Gone were the white tablecloths and I was suddenly spending several hours in a overcrowded cabin, sitting next to a man who was greedily eating jamón chips while wiping his greasy hands all over his legs. The smell was so overwhelming my eyes teared up. This was made particularly awkward, because we were all being forced to watch a Spanish version of the live action Scooby Doo movie.

As people stared at me wondering why this ridiculous movie had moved me to tears, I simply closed my eyes and waiting for the whole experience to end. Actually, that part’s not entirely true, as I rather liked the Scooby Doo movie so I watched it in its entirety first. But after that, I tried to go to sleep. I think I dreamed I was being attacked by a large potato chip that smelled like ham, so it wasn’t a particularly restful slumber. At the time, I was crushed that I had missed out on a truly wonderful bit of train travel during that last leg of our trip. But like all of my experiences, I also rather loved it because it was a new one. Granted, I’ve never signed up to experience it again, but I love the fact that I did. Though it might seem better to recall by trip to Spain as a world of pâté and linen table cloths, I’ll instead remember it for Scooby Doo and jamón chips, and that one glorious time, I truly traveled by train.

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About the Doodlewash

M. Graham Watercolors:  Cobalt Teal, Gamboge, Pyrrol Red, Permanent Green Pale, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.
Day 8 #WorldWatercolorGroup Traveling By Train Interior Train Seats with Window First Class

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73 thoughts on “Traveling By Train

  1. I love travelling by train and have only truly been on one once…..on one once, hehe that sounds a little awkward but fun….well, back to the train….On my first ever train ride, we hit a truck and were delayed an hour, since no one died, we were released sooner than later. Still fun and I prefer the train to travel nowadays. Your economy trip to Madrid was one heck of a story, so funny, you are right that story will be the one to stick in your memory the most. Great post!

  2. I also love train travel. We traveled in a sleeper from Wisconsin to Seattle. What fun. I really felt like a celebrity with our own porter. Taking a shower in our sleeper was another interesting experience. Imagine sitting on a toilet with the shower hose in hand trying to wash with the train lurching from side to side. Ok, TMI 😂😂
    Thanks for the memories with your wonderful sketch!

  3. I love going by train to places, although sometimes due to the price versus planes/the length of the trip versus planes, I have to fly. I like flying as well, but nothing beats the comfort and view of the train. Such a shame the US doesn’t have a wide reaching, decent train system, but when I can utilize them, it’s always a fun time.

  4. It would be so awkward to travel alone and have to share the allotted leg room with the stranger sitting across from you. Could make for some interesting travels! Planes have closer quarters but at least you don’t have to face each other. I love to visit new places but find the actual traveling part a bit stressful. Since time travel hasn’t been invented yet, I guess we have to go through the necessity evils to explore this wonderful world. Great doodlewash, Charlie!

  5. I haven’t had many experiences of traveling by train. I’d love to travel to Europe someday and experience it this way. Always enjoy hearing about your adventures, Charlie! ❤️🎨😄🛤

  6. My father worked for the railroad, and back in the day, we could travel for free. That was way before Amtrak…but as a non-driver, I do wish, along with you, that we had better train service in the States. Still, along the east coast and in the NYC metro area, not too bad. (K)

  7. I would love to take a luxury train journey. I’ve touched The Orient Express when it was in a station in France but some day I’d like to board it. Unfortunately most of my extensive train experience was either commuting in and out of cities (for London paying through the nose for a season ticket doesn’t remotely guarantee a seat) or traveling between London and Edinburgh to visit my family (a seat at least but pretty basic).

  8. Laughing out loud, snorting coffee with your telling of the jabon chips and Scooby bringing tears to your eyes. You are priceless, Charlie. And that Doodlewash – you have such a way with glass and reflections. Wonderful post!

  9. Your last train journey sounds like the last train journey I went on, Charlie. I was travelling back from Birmingham, somehow I managed to get the last seat, and spent the next hour or so with a man I never knew sat on my shoulder. He couldn’t help it, though, as none of us could move. I vowed never to take the train again after that journey… although I probably will one day. Especially if the carriage looks like your painting!

  10. After a very stressful day, Charlie, your post was just what I needed. You poor thing, the economy train ride didn’t sound very nice, but like everyone said, it’s probably the one that will stick in your mind the most. But the luxury train ride sounded like something right out of Agatha Christie. I watch Poirot on Netflix and they show him riding the train sometimes, very elegant. It would make me feel very special I think!! Love your painting of the train compartment, too. Have a great weekend Charlie. Hugs from Sharon in Florida.

  11. YES YES YES!! Trains are the coolest way to travel, period 🙂 We are planing on doing a train trip: Krakow – Prague – Vienna. Two days in each city, night on train.. can’t wait! Is the train system that bad in States? Always thought it’s very good, maybe because of the movies 😛

  12. I love travelling by train but I agree – in first class when you don’t have to talk to anyone coz everyone is just as aloof as you pretend to be 🙂 .. currently planning a Trans Canada rail trip – in a sleeper of course!!

  13. I love the relaxation of travelling on a train. Alone time to watch the journey unfold second by second, the constant view of new scenery that takes away your breath. The different sounds and light rush through the pane and become as one! Great post.

  14. I love this, it explores a different and usually not recognised way of seeing the world. Im going to be sure to check out the rest of your blog as it’s truly inspirational to someone like me who has just started their own travel blog! thank you

  15. I live in Europe. And I hate travelling by train. I rather fly from mine to the other pond. It is indeed very hectic travelling by trains which is more likely to be overcrowded at all times. But then on the good thing travelling by trains is that you get to see the beautiful country views as the trains speeds along the rails.

    1. I’ve never lived there for a long period of time, so I’m sure it’s much different when you do! Or maybe I picked some really odd times because the trains I was on weren’t crowded. If they were… I would probably jump off and run on foot to the nearest airport! 😉

  16. I love this! I’ve had my fair share of weird train experiences. And I recently wrote about a weird almost train experience (albeit minus the jamón) on my blog too. I’m heading to Europe at the end of the month and I’m so excited to experience the public transportation. It seems like an adventure!

  17. I love train travel. If I have to choose between a two hour flight (with a cab to the airport, one hour minimum arrival, then a cab into the city from the destination airport) and a train ride, I will always pick the train ride. For longer journeys, if the price is right, an overnight train ride is awesome because you arrive at your destination, awake and ready to see the sights, and you didn’t have to get a hotel or hostel! Trains are the way to go!

  18. I did the two-week, ‘If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium’ tour back in the 70’s, when you could actually find hotel rooms for $10 a night.. We had a Eurorail pass, and no plan, so to save money and see the most places possible, we’d often look at the map and say, ‘Oh, that’s about 6 hours away.’ Then we’d hop on a sleeper train in the evening, and just clean up at the train station on the other end. The best part of the whole trip were the trains. I’ve often wanted to take the Amtrak train from Portland to Seattle and see how it held up, but never had the chance.

    1. Oh wow! That trip sounds absolutely perfect! What fun! Yeah, trains were the best part of those trips, but the American once somehow seem different. Probably because they’re slower… I still like getting somewhere in the end. hehe😊

  19. For 6 weeks in the summer of ’72, my boyfriend and I wandered around Europe using the unlimited train travel passes available cheap in those days. Incredible memories of being free to go almost anywhere, any time.

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