April 22, 2015: Driving to Madrid

We got up early this morning, Dominica at eight thirty and the rest of us at nine thirty.  Our original plan this morning was to go directly to Córdoba where we could leave the car and catch the Renfe AVE north up to Madrid so that we could avoid driving and parking in the big city.  But after looking at it and really thinking about it we made the last minute decision to just go directly to Madrid by car.  With four of us in the car it just made a lot more sense.

It was almost exactly noon when we got out of the door and onto the road.  It is just over five hours on the highway from Cáñar to Madrid, a bit of a drive and roughly halfway across the country south to north.  This will give us a very good opportunity to see much of the country.

The drive north went well.  Driving through most of Granada Province was very familiar to us.  It was only a little above Granada that we transitioned into Jaen Province which we have not seen before.  That area had a truly amazing amount of olive groves.  I mean truly amazing.  Mountains and hills and valley and stretching to the horizon in every direction for a very long way.

Once we came to the northern edge of Jaen we left Andalucia, for the first time since arriving by train a month ago, and entered, for the first time ever, Castille-La Mancha, the land of Don Quijote.  The landscape immediately changed as we left the mountains behind and entered rolling hills.  The olives and almonds stopped too and more traditional farmland began to appear.  This was more European plain than Mediterranean coastal region.  Very beautiful and the population was quite sparse.  And we really did see Quixotic Dragons (windmills) standing in triplicate on little hills here and there.  And castles would appear here and there dotted around the landscape.  Very magical.

There was really no traffic or large population until we reached Madrid itself, the mammoth city sitting in the very center of the country.

Driving in Madrid was less than fun and the GPS was less than helpful in places.  At one point it sent us to the same roundabout three times with me having to pull u-turns in the middle of the largest urbanization on the Iberian peninsula twice in order to make subsequent attempts at it!  Not fun.  And when we finally got to our parking garage – it wasn’t there.  This caused me to have to go do a turn around in an extremely crazy traffic situation.  And there were policia directing traffic against signals all over the place and at one point they yelled at us to go when an on coming car was not stopping!  Almost had a policia-induced t-bone.

We were very grateful when we were able to turn off of the Gran Via and into the parking garage.  Very grateful, indeed.  The car was parked, we unloaded the kids and walked up to the Fuencarrel to look for our apartment for the week.  It turned out to be a super easy walk and we were set up in the apartment in no time.

This is a very small, very urban apartment.  One small living space with kitchen, nice couch, little eating area, tiny television over the table all in one space.  And then a comfortable bathroom with a nice shower.  And then the one small bedroom with a nice sized bed.  That was all.  Only barely not a studio.  But quite comfortable, a good use of the space and an amazing location.  The windows, one next to the couch and one in the bedroom, basically opened up right next to each other an only existed to let in light and air as the view was only of the apartment a few feet away from us on the other side.

They accidentally left us with no WiFi login information and no toilet paper.  That was frustrating. Dominica managed to reach them and get toilet paper pretty quickly but we did not get the WiFi password all evening leaving me unable to work in any fashion and the girls without anything to watch.  This was frustrating as we had raced to get into the apartment in time for me to attend my seven o’clock team stand up meeting!

I went to the car and got our luggage and stuff and got it up to the apartment. Then I set out to find a market as we needed some food supplies and toilet paper (they had only given us one small roll to hold the four of us over until we were able to buy some of our own!!)  I went north on Fuencarrel and was able to find that pretty quickly.  There was a Carrefour Express right up there.

Then we went out to eat.  There was a Turkish place called the New Istanbul (yes, in English for some reason) that we had walked by just after having parked the car.  We knew that that would be simple so we just went there.

Dominica and I started off with some amazing hummus.  The girls got buttered pasta, as they often do.  Dominica and I each got felafel which was a very nice change of pace.  One of the big advantages of the large city, Madrid has anything and everything.  No need to each traditionally here.  It’s not even traditional to eat tradition when in Madrid!

After dinner it was just an evening in the apartment.  Once everyone was heading to bed I went out for an evening walk and did about four miles in a big loop around the area.  I went south to Gran Via, where my office is located, and headed west to find the office location so that I would be all ready for tomorrow morning.  The I continued on for about a mile or a little more since the road veers to the northwest.  Then I took an east west road over to Fuencarrel far to the north and came down to the apartment from there.  It gave me a decent layout of the area and a good idea of where many things are located.  I found a restaurant called VIPS that looked really interesting – very much an American diner like a fancy Denny’s.  I am hopeful that it will have pancakes which would make Luciana very happy.

Once back to the apartment it was time for me to go to bed as well.  No Internet access yet, so we have nothing but our phones tonight.  Dominica got the big bed.  Liesl, Luciana and I are sleeping together on the couch.