I came across this tight bit of travel genius on Condé Nast, the official publication for the Association of the Voyage Impaired:
Made for Spain has booked a car for you in Barcelona’s Sants Station—and supplied instructions on how to retrieve it. It’s a 90-minute drive north to Girona, the capital of the province of Girona, near the French border, so leave the hotel by 10 a.m. Park in the train lot, where you’ll meet your guide.
Maybe that doesn’t seem terribly wrong to people who don’t know Catalonia, but read it again and keep in mind that this is for a person staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Passeig de Gràcia. You’re picking up a rental car at a train station to then drive it to a train station. If that doesn’t seem odd because you’re thinking, “well okay, but it’s so much faster to drive!” then let me emphasis that the “90-minute drive” is complete and utter horseshit.
Getting from Barcelona Sants out to the highway takes a good 20 minutes without traffic. Leaving in the morning means that there will be traffic. Getting in to the center of Girona is a) slower than getting out of the center of Barcelona and b) not easy as Girona is probably the most difficult town to drive in, in all of Catalonia. Also, to make this time, you have to take the toll road as the non toll road takes a good hour longer.
Let’s get back to the train station to train station by car thing. You see, from Barcelona Sants to Girona, there’s the very nice, direct Media Distancia train. It takes one hour 15 minutes and costs just a bit under 10€. Oh yeah, you can take it at the Passeig de Gràcia station instead of taking the Metro or a taxi to Sants because the Mandarin Hotel is right on top of Passeig de Gràcia!
So, here’s the suggestion by “travel specialist” Virginia Irurita at Made for Spain to go from Barcelona to Girona: 100€ (50€ for the car, 20€ in tolls, 30€ in gas) minimum in travel expenses plus 3-5 hours in round trip travel plus the stress of driving in a very foreign setting. And here’s the suggestion by anyone with the smallest fleck of common sense: 20€ round trip train (15€ if you want to save more and take a slower Regional train) plus two hours 20 minutes in total train time, up and back, plus getting to chill the fuck out while riding the very comfortable trains that Renfe has.
So, brav-o Condé Nast and Ms. Irurita for guiding travelers to Catalonia in such a “special” fashion. I’m sure their credit card providers salute you.