We have often said we wanted to visit Pensacola, Florida but that has not yet happened. Instead we find ourselves on a Regional Express train heading north to Peñíscola, Spain to celebrate our anniversary. What a wonderful few days we had.
Peñíscola Castle is perched on an outcropping of rock overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is surrounded by water on three sides and joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. This majestic castle was built by the Knights Templar between 1294 and 1307 over top the remains of an ancient Arab citadel.
It became the residence of Benedict XIII, who turned it into a palace and papal library when he arrived in Peñíscola in 1415. We have so much we want to share. To see some amazing castle photographs click here or on the picture.
Today Peñíscola is a popular and busy beach destination, especially in the summer months. For us it was the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary and Peñíscola will remain in our memories as a tranquil and special time.
Speaking of celebrating, a favorite course at dinner was dessert – a cold strawberry and pink peppercorn soup, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was fantastic! When you have gluten allergies, dessert options are often extremely unimaginative in restaurants. This has not been the case in Spain.
After thoroughly exploring the castle for a couple of days, we searched around for other things to do. We came across Casa de Las Conchas, a cute and unusual house, which has been entirely covered with shells.
Next door is a delightful outdoor bar and a great spot to enjoy a beverage and the peaceful views. We laughed at the creativity necessary to have a level seat while being positioned on a slope.
There is a beautiful beach, strewn with shells, that is a wonderful walk. The beach stretches 7.5 kilómetros or about 5 miles between Benicarló and Peñíscola and it is perfection. We walked about half way before being tempted to stop for a passion fruit sorbet, then we slowly meandered back.
And, yes, the sea and sky were really that blue. Peñíscola was beautiful and we want to tell you how to get there because it was a bit tasking.
Emboldened with our new knowledge of Valencia’s City Trains we decided to venture a little further out using a Regional Express train. There are no seat assignments on a Regional Express train but you do need to book your ticket in advance and print it at home. On your ticket you will find your train number and this is what you will use to find your track (Via) number on the big display at the station.
Your train number will be displayed about 30 minutes before the train is scheduled to leave and your track number will appear about 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. Everything was as expected except we were confused about how we would pass through the turnstiles with our ticket, that we printed at home, which is now a large piece of paper. There was no machine at the station that we saw capable of reading such a ticket so we asked.
Apparently passengers with printed tickets for Medium Distance and Regional trains are to wait at a gate situated in between the two banks of turnstiles until someone comes to let you in once the track number is displayed. After doing this just once you will be a pro but while it was easy it was not obvious. After passing through the gate to your train you can board any car, select any seat and you are on your way.
[Update] We have now noticed that they have placed a big red sign next to the gates identifying this spot. Good idea!
Unlike the City Trains there are luggage racks in each car for larger suitcases as well as overhead space for smaller carry-on bags.
And be sure to keep your ticket close by; you will be asked for it once more by the conductor.
For even more information check out these two sites that I have used. Both have been extremely helpful in figuring out and booking train travel in Europe:
For a massive amount of good information: https://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-travel.htm
For simple and fast purchase of train tickets: https://loco2.com/
Once we arrived at the Benicarló-Peñíscola train station we were met with our next challenge – how to get to Peñíscola. I had read that you simply walk outside the station and for about 15 € a taxi will take you to your hotel in Peñíscola. Easy enough if there are taxis waiting but of course there were none to be found. You can call for a taxi but with my level of Spanish I could imagine how that call would go.
As seasoned travelers we knew that train stations are a short walk from the city center where there are always bus stops, taxi stands, perhaps a tourist office and it was no different here. A short 20 minute walk brought us to the local tourist office and from there a quick bus ride to Peñíscola for 1,50 €.
It would have been easier if we had planned for the possibility of no taxis and marked the route to the city center on Google maps but we survived anyway. And just as important we had now learned the return route.