June 16, 2012: Madrid

Today is our one day, and not even quite a full day, in Madrid, the largest city in Iberia and the third largest city in Europe with over six and a half million people in the metro area making it quite a bit larger than Houston, Philadelphia or the DFW.

We got up around eight this morning. The sun is so bright here in Madrid. Luciana was the first one up and demanded that I get up with her. Liesl was really cute passed out between Dominica and my pillows.

I got up with Luciana but it was only about fifteen minutes before Dominica was up too. This morning the task is to finish packing up the hotel room, drop off the luggage with reception and spend the day touring Madrid. We did not see any of Madrid last night but we had a good time relaxing and we needed the downtime in a nice, low stress location and Madrid really did it for us.

Tonight we are spending the overnight on the night train, our second one on this trip, so we knew that it was important to have our packing all in tip top shape and to be all showered as late as possible as we will not be able to shower again until we get to our hotel in Portugal which might not be until tomorrow afternoon. Maybe there will be a shower on the night train but we have to be prepared that there might not be.

We stayed in the hotel till around ten after eleven. Even so, today is going to be an exhaustingly long day for us as our train to Lisbon does not leave Madrid’s train station until nearly ten thirty tonight.

Once out of the hotel we walked to the train station and got some food there as that is nice and easy. We got tortilla (that is Spanish tortilla which is nothing like Mexican tortilla) and ensalada russa. We are addicted to ensalada russa and will be working hard to introduce it in the States once we return.

We stopped by Madrid’s tourist information booth at the train station and they set us up with information on the city’s bus tours and directed us to take the Metro back down to about where we were yesterday. Depressing that we have to cross the city again my Metro but at least it is super easy, and cheap, and we know exactly how to do it and where to go. We really like the subway systems in Spain. They are some of the best that we have ever seen.

We hoped the L1 metro and were back down to Atoche in no time. We popped out of the Metro in front of a Dunkin Donuts and Dominica demanded that we get some iced coffee. Madrid is not burning hot but it is rather warm and she really misses American coffee. So in we went and out we came with two iced coffees and four donuts. Two dulce de leche donuts for Dominica and I and two regular vanilla iced donuts with rainbow sprinkles for Liesl, our “rainbow sprinkles” girl.

From the Metro stop it was hardly a walk at all to get to the tour bus. We bought our tickets on the bus and were off to see Madrid on “Line 1” or the “Red Line.”

Madrid is a really nice city but from a tourist perspective it is nothing like Barcelona. Barcelona is people everywhere, tons of restaurants and eateries and something to see at every turn. Madrid is beautiful and must be a wonderful place to live but there is much less to see and the city itself is far less interesting than its sister to the east.

Still the bus tour was interesting and there was a lot to see. Madrid really is a lovely city. Great parks and fountains and wide boulevards and some really impressive buildings. We are very sad that we are right here at the Prado but cannot go in to check it out because the girls cannot handle going to any museums, especially not one like that.

After the bus tour we got off a the first stop, at the Prado, and went to switch to the second line, the blue line.  When we did that we noticed that there were some artists selling artwork in the park there.  We stopped and checked some of it out and ended up buying a number of painting to take back for our house in Texas.  We have been wanting real artwork for a while and were never able to find what we were looking for.  This artwork is perfect as it is Don Quixote themed and, more or less, is reminiscent of the paintings that my aunt did that I grew up with.  We resisted getting bull and toreador paintings although that would have been hilarious, my childhood considered.

After we bought our paintings – we bought enough that the painter gave one to Liesl for free – we hopped on to the blue line and rode the entire circle from and back to the Prado.  It was a lot of bus riding today.

After finishing the two bus runs we decided that we would just try walking the city.  That has worked well in other cities and if we spent the remainder of the day walking towards our final destination, Chamartin Station, then if at any point we just wanted to call it a day we could hop on the Metro and be there in a matter of minutes.  So best to get some exercise.

So we walked through the middle of the city.  It was pretty warm but not too bad.  We knew that there was likely going to be a nice playground for Liesl along the walk pretty quickly as we had seen one or two from the buses and we were right.  Almost immediately there was a playground in the middle of the park.

We stopped and the girls played in the playground for a bit.  Liesl loves to run from playground item to playground item trying every one of them out.  Luciana likes to try to climb the slide up the slide portion and makes me help her slide down over and over again.

There were a number of really nice fountains and gardens along the walk as well.  It did not take long before Liesl was too tired to walk on her own and so we had to resort to carrying one or the other of the girls.  We cannot wait until they are able to propel themselves – what a difference that will make for trips like this.  Carrying the girls and the girls’ supplies are what really wear on us physically.

We made it a long way through the city and then stopped at a Spanish sandwich shop and got lunch.  Lunch was excellent, really good sandwiches and salads.  I love the European “half sandwich” mix and match thing here.  You get more variety without so much food.  I always eat too much not because I need the volume but because I was to try lots of different things.  Here they plan for that and accommodate you far better.

We walked a little further but Dominica’s feet were starting to hurt so we called it a day and took the Metro the last little bit to the main station.  We arrived with about two and a half hours to kill.  Most of that time was spent with one or the other of us, mostly me, chasing Luciana through the train station.  She was determined to run everywhere.  She has just moved from walking to short sprints in the last day.

For some reason the track from which our train was going to leave did not post until ten minutes before the train actually had to leave. That is pretty annoying for those of us sitting there for hours watching the board, trying to be ready.  And for an overnight train it would be good to have some warning.  As it was it was really difficult to make it to the train given so little time and so much luggage.

We got onto the night train without any problem.  This train is quite a bit more modern than the one that we took out of Vienna on the OBB and is much better designed.  The cabin has much more space and is more usable.  We feel safer in this one and can move around as needed.

Our train pulled out of Madrid at twenty five after ten.  A late night for just getting on to the train.  Luciana was way past being ready to go to bed.

It takes nearly an hour to get situated on the overnight trains.  There is just no getting around that.  Getting all of the luggage in place, getting dressed for bed, finding everything, getting the kids ready… it all adds up.  On the Renfe overnight the bar and restaurant cars are open until two in the morning for dinner and cocktails and they open again at six in the morning for breakfast!  Pretty impressive.

The restaurant car is a real, nice restaurant with a great looking menu. Dominica sent me to the bar to get snacks.

It was probably after midnight when we got to bed and many hours later when we fell asleep.  We cannot open the window on this train but we do have marginally working air conditioning.  Of course the A/C controls are unreadable and Dominica accidentally covered up the air intakes for the A/C which did not help it at all.  So it was struggling to keep up with the four of us that one room.

Leave a comment