In a time when life seems to rush by at light speed and air travel has made the World seem a much smaller and maybe less exotic place, it is deliciously refreshing to be able to journey back to what is often termed the golden age of travel. A time when luxurious liners crossed the oceans and atmospheric trains, softly lit by exquisitely shaped glass lamps and smelling of freshly polished veneer surfaces, offered an irresistible way to travel cross country.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo is more than a means for travelling at a leisurely pace through Asturias’ hypnotic landscape, it is a time machine that transports its passengers straight into the pages of an Agatha Christie novel…albeit one that exchanges murder for a few 21st century touches.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo – The Route
El Transcantábrico spends seven nights travelling along the coastline of Spain’s northern regions from San Sebastián to Santiago de Compastela, or vice versa, stopping for excursions to the scenic highlights of each region along the way.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo De Luxe Suites
The classic narrow gauge luxury train is comprised of spacious deluxe suites with names that fit the 1930s style décor such as The Ambassador and The Princess, just to make their occupants feel a little bit more special. Each is fitted out beautifully in period style with beds that swallow you up and a saloon area where passengers have the choice of watching the countryside roll by from a soft leather sofa or a delightful little table with pouffe seating. The ultimate in decadence, however, is reclining like a prince or princess (depending on personal preference) on the bed and soaking up the scenery through the suite’s panoramic windows.
The en-suite bathroom is a mix of state-of-the-art contemporary and Laura Ashley. Whilst the sink cabinet matches the rest of the carriage, the shower looks as though it belongs on the SS Enterprise with a control panel to match the bridge of that aforementioned ship. With a sauna and hydro massage as well as conventional shower built in, it’s an all in one spa and may take a bit of figuring out. Still, if it’s too confusing, the El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo’s ever attentive and professional staff are a press of a button away (in the shower of course) to rush to your service…so have your bath robe close to hand.
The other modernistic aspects to the suites include Wi-Fi, its own computer, TV, DVD player and computer games.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo Lounge Carriages
Four lounge carriages offer a change from the scenery from your deluxe suite (if anyone can drag themselves away from their suite). There are two comfortable lounge areas to relax with a book or to socialise with other passengers as well as a ‘pub’ which is where evening entertainment takes place. The pub has a disco complete with a rather sophisticated mixing deck. Being able to enjoy boogie nights on a luxury train is a surprise element of El Transcantábrico and one that should appeal to younger passengers. The disco carriage is located well away from the suites so no chance of being kept awake by The Black Eyed Peas for early-to-bedders.
The fourth lounge is the dining carriage which lives up to everything you would expect from a train of this calibre. With rich classic French styled upholstery and immaculately polished brass lamps it presents a scene that’s only lacking James Bond and Vesper Lynd bantering flirtatiously.
The food is first class and reflects the gastronomy of the region it happens to be travelling through at the time meals are served (País Vasco, Cantabría, Asturias and Galicía).
Buzz Trips View
I was fortunate to travel on the El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo as it rolled through the Asturias section of the trip as a guest of the Asturias Tourism Board and Feve’s Trenes Turísticos de Lujo. A week on this train isn’t cheap, but it is one of those once in a lifetime experiences. It was luxurious without being pretentious and the staff are attentive without being fussy. For me it was a travel experience that was right up there with the best of them. The Asturian countryside is seductive and I found that one of the greatest pleasures on the El Transcantábrico was simply sitting in the luxurious confines of my suite watching the world roll by. At one point a sleek black horse tried to outrun the train, it was a travelling nirvana moment. To travel on El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo is to taste a rich slice of old fashioned luxury travel…with a disco. This is a ‘Buzz Trip’ and then some.
One piece of advice, the corridors to the suites are quite narrow and may present a problem for anyone who is of, let’s say, ample proportions.
For more information see www.eltranscantabricogranlujo.com
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+