Travel Date 25th June 2013.
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The night train from Lisbon to Madrid was a better experience, mainly because I slept well this time. The four-berth cabin was identical to the Irun – Lisbon Trenhotel. As we started later (9:20 pm) the berths were already laid out for sleeping. I had luckily scored a lower berth again. With my experience from the earlier journey I set up my bag and some cushions as an extension of the berth and was much more comfortable. We all slept in our clothes, mostly on top of the bedclothes, although late in the journey I pulled the sheet on top when the temperature dropped. Happily there were no snorers or evil odours.
The only difficulty in the morning was a Japanese tour group who were obviously under instructions to stand outside the “hotel” door with all their suitcases at a set time each morning. That may work in a hotel but it makes navigating the corridors of a train to the restaurant car and back a difficult obstacle course. Long before arrival they very patiently, very politely, and very effectively blocked the passages for the final couple of hours of the trip. The short progress for two carriages to the dining car became 'so sorry', gently push, 'so sorry', gently push. In some cases they simply looked at me, so I physically picked up their suitcases and carefully placed them back inside their compartment to make space in the passage. Nobody got upset, but some seemed surprised. A Portuguese couple behind me was quite happy to let me clear the way.
We arrived at Chamartin Station.
After working out how to buy a ticket to connect to Atocha station, I emerged to trek up the hill to the Tryp Atocha Madrid Hotel, which I had won in the Priceline bidding lucky-dip. I was looking forward to a 4* experience after the train. The hotel was a little disappointing but acceptable, especially as they let me check in early. In Australian or US terms it would be 3*.
We visited Madrid on our first World Trip. I had seen all the usual tourist sites then. This time the night in Madrid was a just a transit stop en-route to Cordoba. I had no particular plans; my intention was to take it easy, walking and soaking up the atmosphere for a pleasant relaxed day.
After a shower and relaxing for a couple of hours I headed for the area we stayed in back in 2003 when Lorraine and I first visited Madrid.
The Puerta del Sol and nearby plazas were still much the same but there was a noticeable absence of Gypsy beggars. Possibly the local authorities have cracked down on that. Excellent. I still recall being approached by a toddler back then, refusing to give money, then feeling distraught when I saw his mother beating him for returning from the street café without cash.
I must admit to wondering how a corpulent Spiderman makes a living. Not quite my mental image of a super-hero.
Sadly, tourism appears to have changed the tapas culture in most bars, with extra cash required for the tapas. Eventually I was pleased to find a couple which still worked to the old rules and had a very satisfactory lunch of two nice vino tintos with associated tapas repeated in two bars. Both hosts were excellent company for a conversation on a lazy afternoon. Good food, good wine and good company. What more could I ask? Life can be good.
Dinner eventually was also tapas; although a little more elaborate the meal of delicious pork at this restaurant was very inexpensive.