4.5 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Commuting by train is no fun, I did it for a little while before a friend got a car and then we could get where we wanted and when. I always regret never taking the time when younger to go interrailing, sadly circumstances never allowed me the time to do that. Until recently it is something that had never crossed my mind to do, but reading this book has made me think that it could still be possible.
Slow Trains Around Spain is a fairly self-explanatory title, and in this book, Tom Chesshyre wants to discover a Spain that most people never come across when they visit that country. But first, he has to get there, and rather than fly, he arrives at St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Gard du Nord in Paris. He crosses Paris to catch the sleeper to Spain. It is an uneventful journey and he first glimpses the country after emerging from a long tunnel in the town of Figueres. There is sort of a plan, he wants to travel around the country taking the slowest trains possible between the provincial towns of Spain is a lazy and badly drawn S.
The sense of Spain being in some way cut off and removed is quite strong here. Yes, Spain is part of mainland Europe, but it feels quite apart too. You get that straight away after crossing the Pyrenees.
Each of the chapters takes us with him on the route that he followed around the country and this book is as much of a cultural tour as it is a geographic one. There are hundreds of mini-stories and vignettes in here about the people that he meets either on the train journeys or who he talks to in the places he stops at. Woven into this modern-day narrative are the histories of the places, from the tragedies of the country under Franco to the structures built by the Romans that are still standing 2000 years later and the Moorish influence that still resonates in the architecture of Southern Spain.
Spain by train seems to reward the lazy traveller – the more ad hoc you make it, the more you lose your way, the more the country unravels before you, revealing itself.
I thought that this was a wonderful book to read. He has a wonderful way with words and it goes to prove that you don’t need to travel to extreme places to have a wonderful journey and make memories. One gauge of a good travel book is, does it make me want to recreate a similar journey and discover that part of the world for myself and the answer, in this case, is yes. Very much worth reading.