Sunday, 22 June 2014

My travel report - part 1

We had the most amazing holiday on the luxury train between León and Santander: visiting many interesting places and making some new friends too, which for me is the ideal holiday. I'm not a lying on the beach person. We stayed in Alicante for our first night before continuing to León via Madrid.  We had booked a hotel for one night in Léon as well, because the luxury train journey was starting in the morning so we didn't want to worry about being there on time.

As this blog is mainly about fashion, and I have already shared my travel wardrobe, I thought I would start by telling you how successful my holiday capsule was. Readers, I wore every item I had packed with the exception of the following: one pair of socks (in case it was cold, as my feet get cold easily. Luckily it was warm every day); a spider bag for any serious walking that we had to do (we didn't, as they took us by coach to the city centres and places of interest); and an umbrella because rain had been forecast (it didn't rain!)  I only wore my Mango jacket once, when we went out for dinner followed by a trip to the Casino in Santander on the last night of the train trip. As we were dropped off at nine o'clock I decided to wear the jacket, though it wasn't strictly necessary. Could I have coped with less items? Yes, if I was prepared to do some hand-washing, but this was billed as a luxury holiday so I wanted to take advantage of not flying and being able to take a larger case.

Sitting beside Gaudi, facing Gaudi's Casa Botines in León
Please note that I didn't include the hat shown above on my original packing list - that's because I bought it on impulse while wandering around Alicante! I'm not really a hat person, but it seemed like a sensible buy when I knew we would be walking in the sun - and Mr Over-60-and-over-here didn't shudder too much when I tried it on.

After a walking tour of León followed by some free time, we were taken by coach to the National Parador of San Marcos for a delicious lunch before joining our train at San Feliz.

Cava and canapés to welcome us on board our train
As we don't usually go on package holidays, we were a bit wary about what the other passengers might be like. We quickly bonded with David, an Australian travelling on his own, who had a similar sense of humour. We discovered that most of our fellow travellers were Spanish or from Spanish-speaking countries, however our tour guide Ana spoke excellent English and one or two other people knew a few words of English too. We decided to listen to Ana's explanations in Spanish as well as in English, to make up for our Spanish classes having finished for the summer! It was good to hear the English version too, in case we had missed something.

Our suite was a bit snug, which is to be expected on a train, but we had a double bed with room underneath for our cases, a wardrobe with plenty of hangers and a decent shower, so it was better than travelling on the trenhotel to France, which is my only other recent experience of long train journeys. We sorted out our bags then showered before changing for dinner, and decided to go to the lounge area so we could sit and enjoy the scenery.

The good news is that, once we reached the town of Cistierna, our train was staying there for the night so we had the chance of a decent night's sleep. The bad news, which Ana broke to us over dinner, was that we would be woken at 8 in the morning by the campanilla/bell!  There were a few groans when she announced this, however we knew we had a full day ahead of us so an early start made sense.

What was interesting was the fact that not many people dressed up or changed for dinner. When we're on holiday, John and I always like to take a shower or bath before changing for our evening meal, even if we're only wearing smart casual rather than dressy clothes. Somehow it doesn't seem like a holiday if we wear the same clothes that we wore during the day-time.  What about you? Do you like to dress up a bit for dinner when you're on holiday?


  1. So glad you enjoyed yourselves. Your hat is VERY stylish. I love hats. I need to get mine made as I have a very small head. Sun cancer is a very real problem here yet few women wear hats. As to dressing for dinner, we usually have our baths @ 5pm after a hard day sight seeing so it is easy to put on something nice. It makes a pre dinner drink a bit special. Also the weather is usually cool
    Nice to have you back
    Cheers, Judy

    1. Thanks, Judy. Glad that you liked my hat! I've always been careful in the sun as I have fair skin with freckles so never really tan. I also walk in the shade wherever possible, but being with a group I knew I might not have that option. Apart from skin cancer, which is a real concern, I've noticed that women with lovely tanned skin tend to have more wrinkles once they reach a certain age! Most evenings I just changed into navy trousers with a blouse or coloured top - pretty casual, On the last evening I wore my dress, however many other women changed as we went to a restaurant for dinner. At least one woman wore a long dress.

  2. Perhaps you will become a hat person as you look very charming in that one! In regards to dressing for dinner, here in Atlanta most people dress very casually unless they are going to a cocktail party or formal event - especially in the summer when it is so hot and humid. We did change for dinner on our last vacation but it was still pretty casual. Perhaps you will set the tone!

    1. Thanks, Juhli. I do have one other hat, which I bought in Madrid last year, but I hadn't taken it (partly because it's brown and didn't go with the clothes I packed!) However when I spotted the hat in Alicante, I realised that it would have been sensible to have brought one - and it only cost 9€!

      Here in Spain women love getting dressed up, and comfort definitely comes second! I went to a concert in a bodega on Saturday night and wore trousers with a pretty top and flat shoes, partly because we were walking there and partly because Patricia who works there had told me we would be outside and I wanted to keep warm when the sun went down! The majority of women were wearing strappy little dresses with high-heeled shoes! I probably need to raise my standards somewhat!

  3. Sue

    You comments brought to mind when I lived in Turkey (and when I visited Italy), seeing women in fairly high heels and dresses climbing around ruins. Like you, I don't go to that extreme but we definitely clean up before dinner, even if it's a casual dinner. I'm not sure wearing high heels for an outdoor concert (especially facing a walk home!) is raising your standards as opposed to meeting someone else's. Looking pulled together and effortless is a high standard and you achieve that!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Robin. Yes, I've noticed lots of high heels in Italy as well as Spain - they must train their daughters to walk in them from a young age! I'm going to another concert in a bodega this weekend and this time I may wear a dress and smarter shoes as it's only a short walk from our house. I'll take a wrap or jacket though as bodegas aren't that warm inside!