Well, this is rather plush, and quite a lovely way to begin my Camino along the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. I find myself en route to Cordoba from Barcelona for a quick pit-stop to check out everything that ancient city has to offer, and I find myself doing it in style.
My very last minute ‘Turista Plus’ ticket travelling direct between the two cities on Renfe came in at only €73, and it’s very ‘Plus’ indeed. It feels like I’ve walked into a Wall Street boardroom, circa 1989, with all of the pared back stylings of wealth you’d come to expect from the era. There are wide black leatherette seats, with legroom ahead of them that feels like it’s as aspirational as any Wall Street trader seated in them. My four and a half hour journey to the south of Spain is surely going to be a breeze with such am ambitious amount of floor space beneath my feet.
Added to the lux vibe is a wooden fold-down table in front of me. It descends gracefully, only to fold down some more with wings on either side that guarantee you have desk space that’s proportional to legroom. It’s ample real estate for a phone, Kindle and travel journal. But I feel too that the intention is for much, much more. A laptop of course, but perhaps also a Rolodex, paperweight, pen set, a three course meal and a whisky tumbler also.
I feel rather chuffed that such a last minute travel purchase offered up such a gem of a seat, but such is the new reality in these strange days of Covid. I should have known that such travel treasure was available to me based on the distinct lack of tourists on the streets on Barcelona in the days prior. It’s a hollowed out city in September 2020 with entire alleyways and even streets available to peruse completely alone, in silence. Barcelona felt like it finally had space within it to breath, similar to the ample space presented to me in my train carriage. There’s room enough for wild beasts in here, and not only because I am one of only three other solo travellers in the space. Even at capacity there’d be oodles of space for sundry said animals, wayward children, excess baggage and even a little boogie down the aisle if your heart so desired it.
My one negative observation, if I did have to put one reluctantly out into the world, is that the nature of jazz doesn’t seem quite fitting for a train journey. It’s the soundtrack of choice in my carriage as we wait to depart Barcelona- Sants. And making it even more jarring is that it’s the lively variety of jazz, the type with lots of punchy piano notes and unexpected saxophone interludes in it. I’m no expect on jazz to be any more thorough than that unfortunately. It’s the type of jazz you’d hear when the scene cuts from the Wall Street boardroom and delivers you into a smoky dive bar in downtown… Is that enough of a detail to let you hear it now in your own head? Hopefully so. Not only is the style of musical ambience jarring, but it’s helped along by being pumped through the speakers at an adequate enough volume to be all pervasive within the space. The carriage is a jazz lounge – sans the smoke, whisky and lively banter you’d otherwise expect.
But perhaps I’m being too rigid in my assessment. Certainly too immediate in making up my mind. In short hindsight it seems fair that the addition of jazz in the carriage is here to add an element of ‘Class’ to the setting, and perhaps even a sense of urgency to the occasion. “You’re on your way” it’s proclaiming. “There’s travel to be joined. There are adventures to be initiated. There are opportunities to spot, engage with and master. Ahead of you is the future, and this next destination is only one many more, but by Jove go out there with your heart beating as erratically and urgently as this jazz and enjoy the damn place.
So yes, now the jazz seems fitting for the occasion, and for the plush stylings of my surrounding. And so I’m happy to sit back and enjoy it, until it’s time to settle in and read my Kindle at least. That’s when such urgency and rigour may really begin to grate. But until then…