Sunday 31 March 2024

Cornwall views

gwr train paddington

Another holiday completed by train. I went to say with my sister in Cornwall. A fairly early start was needed to make the 09:31 express from Paddington. When you take into account how long it would be to drive, the train time is comparable at about six hours. But it emits ten times less CO2, and is much less stressful.

A potential problem was my destination; Bodmin Parkway, being around 4.5 miles away from the town. There is the number 11 bus, a taxi or being picked up by my sister. The last one obviously only an option for me.

Once that was dealt with the week was great.

I went for a walk the morning after my arrival, I didn't bring my bike but intended to run instead during my time away.

I hadn't appreciated how hilly it was. So it was with more than a little trepidation that I set off after lunch to retrace my earlier steps in my running gear.

The first landmark was Lantaglos Church.

Lantaglos Church

After a steep descent a moss covered bridge took me over a valley stream.

stream view

A testing climb and then long plunge into another valley; home to the church required another stone bridge.

a stone bridge

Yet another incline lead away from this magnolia tree in the churchyard towards home.

magnolia tree in the church grounds
magnolia tree in the churchyard

We went out almost everyday. Even if it was just to a cafe.

I've been through Tintagel a few times but never stopped. A new bridge to the island was completed a few years ago so it seemed a good reason to visit the castle.

tintagel bridge

tintagel castle island bridge
tintagel castle island bridge

There is a hotel of the same name close by.

tintagel castle hotel
tintagel castle hotel

A few observations.

It is in my opinion over priced. An adult ticket is £18. As we passed the ticket booth/gift shop we were instructed to enter by a guide. I initially thought admission from the top of the path was chargeable; it's not. You only need to pay to cross the bridge. With a combined cost of £36 we had no intention of doing so. We walked down into the valley and had a look around, which was more than enough. A consideration for anyone who isn't reasonably mobile; the path is very steep, you may want to consider the Land Rover taxi service to get to the bottom and back. There doesn't seem to be any consideration of wheelchair user; If you can't get in and out of the taxi you won't be able to use it.

path next to stream

tintagel island

tintagel island viewed from coastal path
tintagel island viewed from coastal path

Another location we went to was Widemouth Bay.

widemouth bay

widemouth bay

GCHQ Bude in the distance.


There were multiple routes I ran during my stay. 

After reaching Delabole I turned for home. There are many wind turbines in the area.

wind turbines delabole

With spring growth in full swing there was much positivity to be had.

spring flowers

We also visited a World War Two airfield at Davidstow.

davidstow airfield

There are many buildings but all have been vandalised and neglected.

The weather wasn't always in our favour but it didn't stop us getting out. We talked almost nonstop and I was relaxed and rested.

It was good to spend quality time with my sister, and I know she felt the same.

But all to quickly it was time to head for home. And catch my train from the out of town Bodmin Parkway.

Bodmin Parkway signal box cafe
signal box cafe

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Riding in Spain

very steep hills great views

I visited southern Spain recently staying with my brother and sister in law near Malaga. Whilst there I had two cycling adventures. They live in the hills around Triana. I borrowed Fitz's bike.

Whilst not hot it was definately warmer than the UK.

I rode twice, both times to the Reservoir La Viñuela. The first was just a tester. I knew the hills were many and steep. They all averaged over 10% with max climbs of close to 20%. The picture above was at the top of the last climb before the descent to the lake. Both ways it hit over 20%. 

We later went for a walk around more of the lake. So I planned a second ride, this time intending to go further.

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela
Reservoir La Viñuela

I wasn't disappointed. The weather was great and the views incredible. I took many pictures, I'll just add them all. Enjoy!

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela


There was a campsite with barbeques. 

bbq   Reservoir La Viñuela

And a stream. I rode through it thinking is was shallow; it wasn't. I got wet feet. They dried very quickly though.

stream Reservoir La Viñuela

Most of Spain has had a drought for a few years. You are forbidden from using the barbeques. And the lake is at only 7% capacity.

lake nearly drained

I found this picture online to give you an idea of what it should look like.

Spain by train


I was invited to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Spain. I have made a commitemnt not to fly. So how to get there? By train of course!

The journey was more expensive and took much longer but reduced GHG emissions considerably.

CO2 Emissions:

  • Flying: A one-way flight from London to Malaga typically emits around 180-250 kg of CO2 per passenger. A return trip would double this amount, bringing it to 360-500 kg.
  • Train: Taking the train can reduce your emissions by a staggering 85-90%. A one-way trip emits around 20-30 kg of CO2 per passenger, with a return trip coming in at 40-60 kg.

The first downside is the cost. Flying is subsidised; public transport is not or at least not to the same degree.

For the length of journey I made time is another negative. Shorter trips may compare better when you factor in getting to and from the airport and the extended check-in times.

Another way to think about it is as part of the holiday. I got to see Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, if only for short periods.

I carried my clothes in a medium sized backpack. Some of the huge suitcases I saw the last time I flew would be difficult to convey between stations as was needed in Paris. So that would be a consideration. As would transporting a bike. Fitz had a spare, or I could have hired one.

The journey there and back turned into two mini holidays.

Eurostar to Paris, then TGV to Barcelona for an overnight stop, then one change in Madrid before arriving in Malaga. The return was the same in reverse.

It meant I had some time in Paris as I walked between stations, a morning and afternoon in Barcalona, and an hour in Madrid. 

Gare du Nord
Gare du Nord

Gare de Lyon
Gare de Lyon

Both are impressive looking buildings.

It took me 45 minutes to walk the 2.6 miles from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. It was raining and it wasn't very picturesque. I could have wandered more but I wasn't sure how long it would take me.

Place de la République
Place de la République

July Column
July Column

The trains displayed info much like planes do. Showing where you are and velocity. Through England I travelled at around 144kph (89mph). Once into France this rose to 245kph (152mph) after Paris the speeds increased. On the double deck TVG it was 293kph (182mph).

double deck TVG

double deck TVG
double deck TVG

The two trains in Spain both travelled at over 200kph (124mph) for much of the time.

high speed train in spain
high speed train in Spain

On the way home the display proclaimed 298kph (185mph); very impressive.

What was less impressive is Barcelona station.

Barcelona sants station
Barcelona sants

Malaga station looked very similar.

Madrid could have been more appealing. I'm sure it will when the rebuild is complete.

Madrid station outside

It looks better inside.

Madrid station inside

The morning in Barcelona wasn't enough time to see much. Just the La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia

It felt a little rushed. And before I knew it I had to catch my next train.

Maybe I was tired, but the return leg was more stressful.

Madrid caused me some confusion; no problems as I headed south the previous weekend. I had trouble locating the correct platform, and which level it was on. I suppose it might have been that I only had 20 minutes to make the connection that had me panicked.

Also the Eurostar departure area in Gare du Nord is very small. When I got there it was full, and the passport control overly complicated. Two automatic gates that scan your travel docs and your face. Both didn't work for me at the first attempt. I eventually had to been seen by a real person.

Some lessons.

I used a travel agent to book the trains and hotel, maybe an extravagance. I could have done it all myself and saved some money, but it was quite complicated to get the timings right. I guess I could have had a simpler trip as my first go at international train travel, but I needed to get to southern Spain so that's what I did.

A backpack is best for train travel. It's so much easier to move around between trains if you don't have to drag a suitcase.

Label your luggage; I didn't think I need this because it was carry-on. But it's mandatory.

All Spanish trains require you to pass through luggage control; airport style x-ray machines. As did Eurostar. It takes time and should be factored in especially when you're transferring to other services.

Eurostar gates close 30 minutes before departure, or at least that's what they say. But on my way home they didn't open until 20 minutes before the train was due to leave.

On Eurostar you go through passport control twice during departure; firstly for the country you are leaving and then for the one to which you are headed. This worked more smoothly in St Pancras.

All seats have a power socket for charging devices. The Eurostar has one per two seats, the rest give each passenger their own. They aren't easy to use due to their location. Cafe's and restuarants rarely have accessible power. So I took a powerbank with me. It also meant that I could charge as I walked.

The train companies have apps to store your ticket, you can show an email or saved file using your phone. I had a paper version too, just in case of some device issuses. I couldn't get the Renfe one to work though.

I liked the ever changing view from the window; much better than clouds, or distant sea/landscapes.

There is a lot more legroom than on a plane.

I read sleeper trains are to be reintroduced. That would be excellent. It would cut journey times and cost. 

By the time I got home I was tired. I think if I'd not changed trains so often I'd have felt better.

I'm not a coffee expert, but I was not impressed with any of the hot beverages I bought at station cafes. I'd suggest you find an independent establishment locally. 

Vegan food was very hard to find generally, but at the station it was harder. I did locate this "burger", I would call it a pasty. And it wasn't too bad. The chain called Como had falafel wraps which were nice.

Malaga station coffee and food
Malaga station coffee and food

A short walk from Barecelona station was the Areca Bakery. Very nice coffee, but only sugary treats. There we others that servered sandwiches etc. They looked nice and were reasonably priced but contained animal products.

Areca Bakery barcelona
Areca Bakery Barcelona