Tag Archives: spain

To be, or not to be, on schedule

I wanted to go from Madrid to Seville by train. There were a couple of options for travel, but my big decision was if I would be going on the slow train ($) or the fast train ($$$). I don’t remember what the exact travel time was for each train but the speedy train would take me only a few hours versus the slow train which would take me the better part of a day.

I was told that there was a refund policy. Imagine that! If the train was more than five minutes, five!, late, the train company would refund my money. As a very budget traveler, I had been hoping it would arrive six minutes late, as I had splurged on the speedy train. Of course it wasn’t late, it was perfectly on time, just like I was promised.

Yet, just outside of NYC, there are still train delays today, more than 24, yes that is TWENTY FOUR, hours after a train derailment yesterday morning. Thankfully, no one was hurt. I understand the process of re-railing (un-railing? un-derailing?) a train is probably difficult and time-consuming, but this seems a little crazy.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route services travelers from Boston to DC and beyond. New Jersey Transit’s trains heading into NY Penn Station are shuttling passengers on some of the same tracks on various routes from all over the state of New Jersey.

I should mention for readers unfamiliar with this area, that these tracks (the Northeast Corridor tracks) are likely the busiest in the nation as they connect major cities (Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC) all along the US Eastern Seaboard.

As a former New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor commuter (Hamilton, NJ to New York Penn Station), I assure you, there are a lot of people being shuttled to and fro on these trains. Picture double-decker trains, with only standing room available. Every single day.

I no longer do this daily commute but I know many people who do. The tracks belong to Amtrak but New Jersey Transit uses them to shuttle commuters, travelers and tourists daily. Amtrak trains always have priority as they are Amtrak’s tracks. And because I use Amtrak sparingly, I can’t speak for Amtrak, but I know NJT trains are consistently delayed, thanks to Amtrak’s (much-needed) ongoing construction, track failure and other oddities that happen on a fairly frequent basis.

I don’t know how to solve this transit problem and I certainly will not pretend to know the answer, but there has got to be a better way. Even if the tracks in Spain shuttle fewer passengers, they obviously are doing something right if there is a refund policy for delays longer than five minutes. Shouldn’t the US get Spain’s best practices and follow suit?

Why Wednesday.


WHY leave?

This week’s WHY Wednesday questions why some travelers leave their comfort zone, only to eat foods that they are familiar with and know.

This was in the NYT and is crazy! The best part of traveling is eating like the locals…I don’t travel to faraway lands so I can eat cheese fries.

I have so many fond food memories from my travels but some of my favorites are getting freshly sliced cheese from a Swiss cheesemonger, spicy sausage on a roll with the local sauce in Bosnia and some unidentified tapas plate in Spain that the bartender sent over.

Personally, I’m not traveling just so I can eat something that I would eat after a night out at the bars when I was 22.

Eating while traveling is about finding a local market, tasting things on the menu you can’t get at home and being offered foods that you wouldn’t otherwise try. I ate fruits I never heard of in Costa Rica, I ordered fondue in Brussels only to find out that was actually mozzarella sticks and drank locally sourced milk at a market in Denmark!

Yes, sometimes there can be a negative experience. Like the time the boyfriend ordered the daily special in a small town in Tuscany and wound up getting a plate of fresh meat. So fresh, and chewy, in fact that he, a meat lover, had to follow each bite with a glass of water and a sip of wine. The place was small, and the staff attentive. Not wanting to insult, he finished most of the plate. I went with the pasta special of the day. Even now, years later, I remember how good my gnocchi and wine tasted. But he tried his, didn’t like it and didn’t insult anyone either and now we have a great story.

If something is on the table that you’ve never seen or tried, at the very least, take a bite! You’ll find yourself eating foods you wouldn’t have otherwise found!

Now the exception to this french fry story is ordering pommes frites in Belgium…you’ll need to get them topped with a few squirts of mayo, just like the locals!

Do you have any fond food memories? Feel free to post in the comments section.