Friday, September 4, 2009


The train ride to Madrid was another overnight one, but at least this time we boarded at 11:00 PM instead of 3:00 AM. The first half of the trip was on a train that seemed right out of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. The seats were old and reminded me a bit of a dentists' chair. They had a large footrest that popped out from the front (but couldn't actually hold the weight of the feet without drooping 6 inches) and the seat itself could be reclined to about a 45 degree angle. Of course this puts the top of you head practically in the lap of the random stranger seated behind you. One little, old Italian woman apparently did not like this and at about 2:00 AM woke up half the train with her disapproval. The people sitting right behind us had a one year old baby who they sang to sleep for about 45 minutes. It was very sweet and the songs were in French so it was neat to listen to. Little did they know, they weren't just singing their kid to sleep, but me as well. At 7:00 AM we arrived at the border of Spain where the French border control fellas popped out of nowhere (like the Agents from the Matrix) to make sure no one was trying to... well, trying to leave illegally? I'm not exactly sure. But there was an unlucky young couple on the train that they took an interest in. After a few minutes of discussion they asked them to "Please step off of the train" with them. The poor guys face did a double take when he was asked to step off, but they did. Our train continued on into Spain without them! Poor guys. First thing i noticed when we got into the Madrid train station was that it felt like America. I'm not even sure why, but it felt more like Amrica than any place we've been yet. And the metro system in Madrid is one of the best in Europe that we've seen. We ended up at our hotel with pretty much no problems and took a rest. Our hotel, although a decent place in a decent area, is right next to hooker-corner. To get to the hotel you have pass by a corner where there are usually about 7-10 prostitutes gathered at a time. Sometimes you'll see a man hanging around, looking as though he's probably cheking out the goods. I don't know where they take their Johns, but luckily we never saw anything more seedy than the ladies hanging around in their skimpy outfits. But it never felt dangerous - just a little awkward and humorous. So we passed them on by to go out for an afternoon snack: bocata de calamares, or a calamari sandwich. The place we chose to eat at ended up being a rather unpleasant experience as the staff was constantly giving us the evil eye. I felt like I had spat on a statue of their god or soemthing. All I wanted was to give them my money for their sandwich! The sandwich itself was pretty good, although it could have been jazzed up a bit with a nicer roll. So that was a sad introduction to Madrid dining for us.

On the 12th we headed out to see a few sights and get train tickets for our next stop: Malaga. We saw the Opera House, Royal Palace, and a lovely park before we reached the station. Chuck managed to communicate well with the lady at the ticket counter, despite the fact that she didn't speak English at all. He's pretty good with his Spanish! Walking around Madrid at that time of day (or honestly, anytime that the sun is above the horizon) is miserable! It is so hot! It's like Las Vegas heat and just goes right into your bones. I much prefer Florida heat, and I was sure to make sure that Chuck knew exactly how I felt all day. We saw Plaza Mayor and then finally found a little place to eat that looked more like a local bar than a tourist trap. We got a couple of tapas and beers and cooled off from the heat for a while. My shrimp (or gambas) were served fully intact and I wasn't quite sure what the etiquette on eating shrimp in Spain is. I Just ripped off the heads and peeled the body, but maybe I'm supposed to... eat the brains or something, bleg. When we got our bill the bartender poured us two free shots of a sweet, greenish alcohol! I have no idea why - did he just like us? Is it something they do for everyone? Do they give free shots to tourists? Either way, it was really nice of him and made for a much nicer experience than the sandwich place from the night before. After that we grabbed some food from the grocery store and stayed in the rest of the day. So hot!

I have to admit, the rest of our Madrid trip was pretty boring. We stayed inside most of the next day, but we did get out in the evening. I really wanted to make sure we tried a good paella while we were there so I did some research and found a place that seemed to have some good reviews. We had to wait until 8:00 PM to go out, because Madrid's dinner scene doesn't get started until then. It's that whole siesta thing, right? Everything shuts down around 3:00 PM and opens again after 8:00 PM. So we went to La Paella and had a seat. We tried our best to order and speak in Spanish, while our waitress did her best to use English. The paella, although expensive, was really good, and very pretty when it comes out of the kitchen. When it's ready they bring it to your table still in the dish its cooked in for approval, and if approved they serve it onto plates for you. I wonder if anyone ever says "No, no good." What do they do with it?? We got a seafood paella which had mussels, clams, large red shrimp (they were huge), and other bits of fish. It was tasty! I'm going to have to make paella sometime when this trip is over. Or when I have a kitchen again at least. While we were walking back to the hotel after dinner we realized that Madrid comes alive at night. Don't get me wrong, it's very alive during the day, but at night everyone is all glammed-up in sequins, short skirts, and high heels, ready to go out partying. The downside is that you see the effects of too much partying on the sidewalks the next morning. More than once did we see little, chunky piles of vomit on the sidewalk. Pretty disgusting.

Our last day in Madrid we managed to get out for lunch. Chuck found a place online that looked good, but when we arrived we decided it was too expensive and that another place we had just passed would be perfect. So we took a seat and ordered the lunch meal deal. It was €9.50 for a drink, bread, starter, main, and dessert. That's a really great deal! I would normally expect that much food to cost €18.00 or more. Chuck's starter was arroz negro - rice mixed with squid ink and calamari. Sounds weird as an American, but really very tasty. I got gazpacho, which I had heard of but couldn't remember what it was. It was a yummy, tomato based, cold soup that came with chopped veggies that I could toss in. And for the main course Chuck got a carne platter that came with five different small portions of meat, while I got a ham steak. And dessert was ice cream and a tiramisu flan. Good stuff! Now I'm getting hungry... After lunch we decided we'd better find a place to stay in our next destination: Malaga. After looking at places to stay in Malaga we decided we couldn't afford to stay in Malaga, let alone find a room that was available when we needed it. So we changed our plans a bit and decided Granada would be a nice alternative. We'll take the train to Malaga, then hop and €10 bus to Granada and hopefully it will all work out. Let me tell you, it can get incredibly frustrating to try and find places to stay while on the road and on such short notice. We looked for hours and hours before finally deciding on where to stay. It's very reliving, though, to know that it's taken care of!


  1. prostitutes always intrigue me. as well as the johns. is a very interesting subculture.

  2. It is rather interesting - especially when you look at the attraction factor (which frequently seems very low from what I've observed).