The Great Train Ride

In Spain, I convinced my dad to take a trip to Barcelona. He argued it would be too expensive. However, I was desperate to see the world’s largest concentration of Gothic architecture (aka funky cool building), eat more tapas and touch the Mediterranean Sea. With great persuasion, we bought train tickets to Barcelona. The night of our departure, a snowstorm hit Madrid. Also, I grew ill and lost my voice.

No matter, what mama nature gave us, Barcelona was our destination. Of course, I spent the 8-hour train journey hacking up a storm. The thought of seeing hills and the sea kept me smiling. Spain’s countryside was hidden by snow and dark skies. Our train arrived in Barcelona in the early morning. I touched the Mediterranean Sea, climbed Antonio Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and enjoyed street performers on Las Ramblas. However, we took another train back to Madrid at night. From then on, I decided not to take another nighttime train.

These trains are convenient like red eye flights. However, I’d rather see the endless spans of Spanish countryside as opposed to feeling oblivious.

Although, I spent plenty of time basking in the joys of cosmopolitan Spain, I took a less touristy path in Japan. Tokyo makes me feel like a kid in the world’s coolest record store. There’s so many cool sounds, interesting buildings, funky neon lights and the fashion is the best in the world. I took a detour from the glossy catwalks of fashion forward Ginza and Shibuya.

My buddies Bryan and Yuki lived in a small town two hours from Tokyo. I took the bullet train for the first time. No train trip could be complete without Japanese goodies.

Kit Kat bars are quite popular. They come in a variety of flavors from exotic green tea to tantalizing grape. I stocked up and paired the chocolaty delights with a bag of pizza-flavored potato chips. These curious potato chips have always been hard to find outside Japan, but (surprise) actually tasted like pepperoni pizza. With goodies all in place, I was ready for more laid back surroundings.

As the train left Tokyo station, the Japanese capital looked like it just jumped out of an anime cartoon. The train progressed; Tokyo’s steel and glass wonderland remained in place.

Half way through the trip noisy Tokyo turned into snow-covered lands. Classic Japan emerged; the houses were all traditionally (you guessed it) Japanese.  They were like miniature Imperial Palaces. As the train came into the station, even the culture changed. Fashion forward Tokyo turned into a more down to earth, homey environment. It was the equivalent of going from New York’s Grand Central Station to a far out suburb.

It was lovely to see my friends and visit a side of Japan not splashed in neon and loud rock n’ roll. We celebrated my arrival by going to a traditional style diner. Curry was the cheeseburger deluxe of the menu. Bryan and I always enjoyed it with cheese (which is added into the curry) dripping from our chopsticks

Seeing Japan during the light and its many facets remains a favorite travel memory. My first long distance train trip was to Barcelona. I’ve ridden trains in two continents (not including depending on the subway every day). However, nothing beats looking out the window at a nation’s splendor. Not matter how boring grass and hills become, it’s always inspiring.

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