Moving to Madrid

August 20, 2015 - Madrid, Spain

Our train was to leave Barcelona at 10am so we figured we would need to get a taxi about 8:45am to have plenty of time for any eventualities. With that in mind we were up and packed and, leaving our bags ready to grab later, we walked out into a deserted Les Rambles for a last look around. The little cafe across the road seemed tempting so we went in for a coffee and croissants for breakfast. While we were there we picked up some filled pannini to take with us on the train.

We were dropped at the station with plenty of time in hand but the board was already giving us a platform number which seemed unusual. When we went looking for the platform we realised that there was a luggage control that put all bags through some sort of scanner. I am still not sure if it is an x-ray or some other sort of scan. Maybe it is just for size and weight as my pocket knife in my bag did not cause any concern but it may be that the operator was just distracted by seeing Margaret about to walk through with her camera bag and handbag still on her shoulder. In any event we were soon on the far side where there were seats, and plenty of them, and we sat down to wait for our time. We still were not on the platform as they were another level below us and there was a ticket control point before the escalators. While we waited I went up to the ticket control point to ask about our tickets and was told that they would indeed scan these print-at-home tickets and that the ticket control for that journey would open twenty minutes beforehand.

As the time drew near people, especially those with large luggage items, began to queue up so we joined the crowd. It did not take long for the tickets to be scanned and we made our way down the escalators to the platform and the waiting train. We struggled on board with our bags and Margaret went to claim our seats as our experience suggests that people tend to move about to please themselves rather than conform to the bookings. Meanwhile I stood aghast at the relatively small luggage space at the end of the coach. Surely we can't fit everybody's luggage in there! After a few false starts I looked along the coach and realised that the overhead racks in the RenFe trains are large enough to take big items so I dragged them along the aisle and hoisted them into the racks. Thank god for all that weight training.

Happily settled in to our appointed seats we relaxed with a book in Margaret's hands and my Android Tablet plugged in and charging in my place. It was with very little ceremony that the doors shut and we began to smoothly slide away from the station. Madrid, here we come! We were soon running along smoothly at 295 to 300 km/hr and after a little time writing up a few journal notes I gave up and read for a little while before dropping off to sleep. Happily Margaret stayed awake to watch and photograph the scenery as it flashed past. The time also flashed past and the landscape changed from the small terraced fields scratched into the chalky soil around Barcelona to more hilly and rugged grazing lands as we approached Madrid. In a bit over three hours we pulled into Puerta-Atocha, the railway station in Madrid and found our way out to the taxi queue and piled in to a waiting car. Our driver recognised our attempts to explain the Hotel Catalonia Gran Via and squeezed past other cabs and people (without quite running over toes) and we were soon heading up the Passeo de Prado and into the Gran Via. I remain surprised at the rules for red lights. Turning right from a green light the drivers then stop for the red in the street they have turned into. Obviously I would have broken the rules many times if I had been driving.

Our room at the hotel was ready and we went up to take possession for a few nights, moving some things into the wardrobe and arranging books on bedsides and toiletries in the bathroom. It all looks quite grand and here we have two armchairs and a desk with a chair. Another hotel with room to move. With a view to establishing the meeting point for tomorrows trip to Avila and Segovia we went out into the afternoon heat and walked up Gran Via to the park at Plaza de Espana to search for the Julia Travel office and to make sure our names were on the list. Our next idea was to find a 2nd Hand Bookshop Margaret had ferretted out on the web. (Speaking of ferrets we have passed several cafes with the delightfully thought evoking name of Ferreteria; do they feed your ferret or feed you ferret, we wondered.)

Desperate Literature proved findable with the aid of Google Maps and my new phone. A small recompense for the drama of putting my old phone through the wash cycle. We browsed in the tiny bookstore sipping glasses of water with sprigs of mint supplied by the owner and picked up two books to add to our collection of things to lug around. Again we bought a collection of digital volumes with us but continue to hanker for the real thing.

Our path back toward the hotel was a little convoluted and revealed several little cafes and shady squares but none that were inviting enough to tempt us in until we found the Tabern d'Norte. The interior looked to be more comfortable and elegant rather than a cramped 'greasy spoon' so we poked our heads in and asked about food. The woman that greeted us had a little English (certainly more than our Spanish but that is not conceding muchas gracias), but we were seated and soon had a tapas menu and a large beer each. We ordered our favourite patatas bravos again and a mushroom risotto and, as has always been the case so far in Spain our drinks arrived with some little nibbles. The food was delightful and with a dessert to share was more than enough to call a meal. Margaret had been tempted by the earlier sight of another Punt Roma store as we walked down the Gran Via so she went back that way up one leg of a triangle and I walked up the other leg to go the shorter way back towards our hotel. We both managed not to get lost and met a little later at the hotel. Margaret was disappointed not to find the same range in Madrid as she had seen in Andorra la Vella so she surprised me and returned empty handed.


Almost deserted Les Rambles
On the way to Madrid
On the way to Madrid
On the way to Madrid

1 Comment

Heather Holloway:
August 27, 2015
What a wonderful trip!
I hope I can persuade Jim to venture to Spain and Portugal next year.

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