Day 9 & 10 – I Did Madrid

Happy with my time in San Sebastian I headed off down to the train station to board my train. Nothing opens before 8am here so there was no chance of breakfast.

I was taking the high speed train to Madrid, which even though is high speed, still takes around 5 1/2 hours to get there. Some of the trip is through the mountains as well so that slows the train down a little too.

I was surprised by the service that I got on the train. It was more like a flight and included a meal, refreshments and a movie (not that I could understand it). So that was a bonus. Many of the newer trains also have power points at every seat so I was able to sit up and watch videos on my laptop for the entire trip.

IMGP1015 I arrived in Madrid at around 2pm and headed over to the Hostel to check in. The first problem was that the bed that I booked in a 6 bed dorm was given to someone else (apparently they sell their beds on multiple websites but aren’t smart enough to split the beds between them) so he booked me into the 14 bed dorm and charged me the lower rate. The second problem was that he wanted a 20 euro deposit for the key. After paying for the bed I only had about 5 euros left. I offered to give him that and leave my bags in the room and would bring the rest of the money when I came back. No dice. He wanted that deposit. Even after I convinced him to let me into the room to leave my bags he still wouldn’t give me a key. So off I went to get another 20 euro and leaving him with the 20 euro I had. Surprise Surprise he can’t count. When I returned with the extra money he gave me back in change the cost of the room, and when I left I received the full 20 euro deposit back. So jokes on you pal I only paid 5.20 for the room.

Anyway. After getting pad the watchdog at the door the hostel itself wasn’t that bad and had some friendly people staying there plus the other staff were easy going.

I headed out to do some sightseeing with what I had left of the day. Madrid is not exactly the easiest place to find information on. A quick search of the internet for Tourist Information Office returns practically nothing. I ended up finding someone mentioning that there was one near the Metro station called Sol so I headed off down there to get a map. By the time I wandered around and actually found it it was already closed. Closed pretty bloody early too.

Luckily it was located in the Plaza Mayor which is one of the big sights in Madrid. Its a big square filled with cafes, restaurants, and street performers. Madrid is one of the busiest places I’ve seen so far in Europe. People were everywhere and they’re not all tourists.

IMGP1045 I wandered around a bit more enjoying the scenery and came across the Royal Palace and the La Almudena Cathedral (which face each other). I stopped for some photos and then kept walking looking to see what else I could find. It had started raining a little by now so I was eager to get to some cover.

I had heard there was an Egyptian Temple that had been relocated to Madrid in the 60s when they were building the big damn on the Nile in Egypt. It turns out its just around the corner from my hostel and also has a pretty good view of the palace and lower Madrid.

It was around 6:30pm now and I needed to go and get my train ticket to Granada organised. I headed down to the train station to make the reservation. There was a really long line. Around an hour later I ventured out to see if there was anything of note near the station. I walked through a gigantic park called the El Retiro not actually seeing anything special, stopped at a supermarket and headed back to the hostel.

I’d decided to book the late train to Granada so that I would have all of the next day to look at Madrid hoping that I would be able to pick up a map in the morning.

No map. The Tourist Office is still closed so I again venture off looking to find things. I did a few top things to see in Madrid searches on the net and worked out the whereabouts of a few sights to see.

IMGP1053 I walked from Sol to the Plaza de Cibeles. Pretty much most of their Plazas are just roundabouts with a fountain or monument in the middle. This one had a nice (although covered in scaffolding) building but not really as impressive as the description reads. I then headed up to the Puerta de Alcala. This is a monument arch set in a roundabout and was built to commemorate Charles III’s entrance to Madrid. It also serves as a bit of an entrance to the El Retiro park. With a little more information on hand I had another walk through the park and found some of the major monuments located within. There is a little lake where you can higher rowboats and take them for a spin. Although looking at the colour of the water you wouldn’t want to fall in.

I walked back down to the Prado Museum and had a look from the outside. I was a little arted out after London and Paris so decided not to go in. If I had found the place the night before I could have gone in for free.

I made a trip over to the Ventas metro station which is right underneath the Las Ventas Bullring. I walked around and took some photos from the outside but I was a little late for the tour. After listening to some of the others at the hostel who had gone to see a bull fight I wasn’t that disappointed. They stab the bull in the neck with spears to weaken it and wear it down before the actual bull fight begins. Which I don’t think is very sporting.

IMGP1112 I took the metro again over to the Puerta de Toledo and walked past the San Francisco El Grande. Another church but one of the most impressive I have seen. No photos unfortunately. The inside is covered by a gigantic dome with intricate paintings and all sorts of decoration. Its one of the few times I’ve walked into a church and said ‘Oh my God’ out loud. 😉

I then walked past the royal palace again for some more photos and then back around to the hostel to pick up my bag and head over to the train station.

I did actually end up finding a tourist office (actually a booth) and picked up a map. Unfortunately after I’d seen everything on. Madrid was nice but I wasn’t all that taken with it and was glad to be moving onto Granada. I can’t wait to see the Alhambra.

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