Saturday, October 17, 2015

Last day in Madrid

Iglesia cerca del Prado
When traveling in a foreign country, the most difficult and complicated tasks are invariably those surrounding transportation arrangements. Today, I spent the morning riding the Madrid Metro trying to find the correct train station (Madrid has several) from which I will depart tomorrow morning, bound for Barcelona.

Madrid Metro map

First, at the suggestion of the barista who served me café con leche at the bistro near Moncloa, I went to Chamartín, where there was, in fact, a train station. The staff there were surly and unhelpful and it took me a good 45 minutes of standing in line and asking diffident questions before I learned that, no, this was not the train station from which to buy a reservation for the train to Barcelona. That  station was in Atocha, halfway across the city.

So, I got back on the Metro  (which, I'm afraid, has a pervading smell of human shit in many of the train cars) and rode to Atocha where I stood in line for another half hour or so. Eventually, I learned that, since I had a Eurail pass, I didn't need to purchase a reservation at all. There are many daily trains that make the Madrid-Barcelona journey. They leave nearly every hour. I need only show up at the train station on the morrow, pass in hand.


Turtle pond in the Madrid train station
I was flustered and frustrated and immediately beset by those familiar dispiriting questions. Why did you think, Dade, that traveling by yourself through Europe was such a grand idea? Wouldn't you rather be at home with Maty?

I needed a break, so I sat down and ordered a coffee from a cafe with wifi.  My mood brightened when I learned, via Google maps, that my sightseeing objective for the day, Museo del Ejercito (Army Museum, recommended by JR Tracy) was less than a kilometer from the train station. That put some spring back into my step. I finished my coffee and found the museum with minimal effort.  

Only to learn that it was closed.

A disappointing end to a rather frustrating morning.

Casas en la calle
I decided I'd just spend the rest of the day walking around the city. Near the Plaza de España, an elderly couple approached me. Septuagenarians, by the look of them. They were well-dressed, but obviously tourists, probably German. The woman was elegant and polite. "Señor, lo siento," she said, in tentative Spanish. Her husband stood close behind her. They seemed at a loss.

"Sí, señora," I replied.  

"Esta calle es Calle Ferraz?" she asked. They were looking for a particular street. But the street she indicated was, in fact, Calle del Pez. I've learned my way around the central part of Madrid by now, and the street they were looking for was further south, along the Plaza de España

This is going to be difficult, I thought. I don't speak a lick of German, so I'll have to give them directions in Spanish

I spent a moment or two trying to construct a comprehensible answer. But then I heard the old gentleman mutter to his wife, "I don't think he knows, dear."

Relief flooded over me. "You speak English?" I asked, with a chuckle.

"We're from England," she said. They both laughed.

"Hell," I said, "I'm from the States." I got them pointed in the right direction and felt much better.

Problem solved and the last vestiges of doubt and anxiety were dispelled. My better angels chimed encouragement: Come on, Dade! Is it really so bad to just spend the day roaming around beautiful Madrid? You're not in a hurry. Your time is your own. Enjoy!

Loving life in La Plaza España
It's been very good, Madrid. Hasta la proxima.

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