Today, we departed Barcelona for Madrid. Tomorrow, we will meet our fellow pilgrim travelers and set out for our first destination together. (We will be driven to our first departure point for walking the Camino, but we won’t be doing any walking tomorrow; it’s a six hour drive to our starting point.)
Departing Barcelona meant packing my suitcase–thank goodness for the expansion zipper! By the time I finished re-distributing items between my suitcase and my backpack, it looked like both backpack and suitcase were bursting at the seams, not to mention they were heavier than heavy. My suitcase was so lopsided that it could not stand up unless it was leaning against something. Kris was in slightly better shape than me–remember, she sent some items home by mail–but both of wondered how we would lug these monstrosities onto our train and into the overhead luggage rack.
We did not have to wonder for long. We boarded the train at 11:35 and with a little help from one another we managed to hoist the suitcases in the overhead
bins. (We later discovered that there were floor level storage racks at the end of our railway car. I felt like Laurel and Hardy in their infamous piano moving short film.
We rode on one of the high speed trains that run between Madrid and Barcelona. At one point were were traveling over 189 miles per hour!
The ride was smooth with that gentle rolling feeling that one has on a train. This feeling rocks you to sleep in your seat, but is murder when you have to stand in the restroom. (I wisely picked a time when we were at a stop, only to have the train begin to accelerate. Makes me wish that I had not given up Yoga.)
We arrived at our hotel in Madrid and I was struck with a confluence of things that have beguiled me about the bathrooms in our two hotels. The room in Madrid is a “smart room,” meaning you have to insert your key card into the a slot by the door to get the lights to work. At no time does the hotel clerk alert you to this, and it only took me 10 minutes to figure this out. [You have to be smart to use the room!] 2) You discover that you have to be a circus contortionist or Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four (he’s the guy who can stretch into any shape) in order to reach the toilet paper. I don’t think that I have ever had to twist my arm into such a crazy shape to reach for the roll. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and kept the spare roll on the bidet cover for easy access. 3) The “sink” in the room in Madrid was one of these kind that resembles an old fashioned wash bowl. Yes, it looks pretty, but is perfectly designed to make the water backsplash EVERYWHERE. 4) The faucet is a modernist work of art, but has no markings to indicate which direction is “hot” or “cold”; I found out the hard way.
After getting settled in our rooms, Kris and I went for a long walk to Plaza Major which is about a mile and a half from our hotel. We then chanced upon the Mercado San Miguel, another one of those indoor markets similar to the ones that we saw in Barcelona.
The difference was that the crowds in this one were more manageable than the ones in Barcelona. While there were stalls selling meat, seafood and cheeses, the vast majority of stalls offered small portions of food: stuffed olives, skewers of fresh mozzarella with various condiments, cones of mixed nuts or smoked sausages, sushi, some types of seafood that I have never seen before, and the list goes on.
They have a modest area for seating, similar to our food courts in our malls, but the atmosphere was more like a wine and food tasting event than an indoor market. I was even able to carry on a modest conversation in Spanish with a Columbian woman who was sitting with her husband and friends next to our table.
After getting turned around for the return walk, we chanced upon a mobile Tourist Information booth with a very friendly young man who gave us good directions home. The adventure continues.