This summer I travelled to Andalucía. I arrived in a heat wave, early and intense even by Spanish standards. It was 41 degrees by the time I reached Seville on 10th July and the walls and pavements were still radiating heat at 11.oo at night. The mountains beyond Seville were fresher, but the heat was taking its toll upon local crops.
Europe by Train
Popular opinion says the easiest way to get to Spain from UK is to fly. But I wanted to travel from Knighton to Seville by train. I was going to do some writing, and it was climate related. I had come across a new company called Loco2 that sets out “to make booking trains across Europe as easy as booking a flight.”
The small team at Loco 2 have put together some clever software that simplifies booking trains in and across Europe and they now work with many of the big train companies including Renfe in Spain, SNCF in France and Eurostar. You can plan your journey and order the whole thing online, with print-at-home tickets for many routes. Loco 2 have also developed a tool that tells you the carbon dioxide savings you can make by taking the train in comparison to flying the same route.
Air travel is still the fastest growing contributor to climate change. The huge increase in aircraft pollution is mostly because of the growth in air traffic since the sixties, but Eurostar recently commissioned independent research to assess the CO2 per passenger produced by a London-Paris Eurostar journey compared to a London-Paris flight. They found that taking the train to Paris instead of flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by 90 percent.
Despite all the dire warnings about hold-ups at Calais, the only real problem was the London tube strike. I walked from Euston and just managed to catch my train from St Pancras International to Paris.
The next morning it was the high-speed TGV to Barcelona. This is a long journey, but from the upper deck the views, especially along the coast, are fantastic.
The changeover at Barcelona was a bit rushed and in future I would plan to stay at more destinations along the way.
Another thing it helps to know: Spanish trains are on time. They are also very sociable with friendly, lively bars.
And something I will never forget:getting off the air-conditioned train at Madrid to walk into a wall of heat. There is no preparing yourself for the 25-degree temperature change between Wales and Southern Spain.
From Madrid to Seville takes just over 2 hours in an AVE train. The scenery along my route had steadily transformed from lush in Mid Wales – through the patchwork crops of central France and vineyards to the South – and finally into sun baked mountains, scorched earth, magnificent solar arrays and lunar landscapes between Madrid and Seville. I was picked up by car and taken by Sam to Finca Buenvino. Time to get writing.
By the time I left Spain, temperatures were peaking at 48 degrees. This extreme heat is unimaginable until you experience it. In Spain the weather is getting hotter, in Wales – mostly wetter. This December is the Paris climate summit. I hope UK will follow Obama’s lead and commit to real action towards clean technology and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. I’m not saying we don’t benefit from some deep heat from time to time – but there are limits – and – the world has reached them.