We arrive in Madrid after a 5 hour train trip and entering Chamartin station I am, I think the right description would be “shell-shocked”. It is an enormous beehive of activity, staircases, escalators and thousands of people scuttling about from one train or metro to the next and after the Camino this is somewhat overwhelming.
We haven’t got anywhere to sleep tonight and I must admit I’m panicking a little bit. We don’t really know which direction to go in so we end up at the information desk asking about possible accommodation. We are given two pages of names of Albergues and a map of the city. She does tell us, however, that we can use our train ticket to get a free ticket into town. Off we go again. Luckily there is a very helpful Spanish guy at the ticket machine who quickly sorts us out with our ticket into town and points to the sign showing 1 min until our train comes. We run down the stairs and arrive on the platform just in time to board the train.
Getting off at Puerta del Sol (the only name I know) I have to reboot my optimism that we will find accommodation for the night.
An hour and quite a few Hostals later we eventually find a place on Gran Via overlooking the bustling city. I have to argue the price down a little bit, but he soon caves and we are sorted for tonight. I’m just grateful that I won’t have to fight the homeless guy with his dog for his cardboard box.
Time to explore the city. My first impressions are of a city with full of history and wonderful old architecture. The streets are really welcoming and are full of little restaurants and cafes. We find a place to eat and as luck will have it the South African couple we met in the queue in Santiago comes walking past and joins us for a while. It really is a small world!
We decide that we will do the tourist bus thing tomorrow as we only have one day and probably the only way to try and see as much as possible.
I am exhausted and when I eventually get into bed not even the noise from the city down below can hinder me.
Bright and early we are out of bed, showered and ready for our day of sightseeing. On our way back last night we found another Hostal literally a few meters further down Gran Via and quite a bit cheaper and we are heading there now to leave our backpacks.
From there it is a quick breakfast at Starbucks and onto the bus. It is a little bit fresh outside on the upper deck of the bus and I’m hoping the sun will warm us up soon.
So much to see and so little time! The amount of old architectural buildings and fountains are almost too much to take in and it eventually feels like a sensual overload. We spend the morning and most of the afternoon between the two buses, hopping off here and there for a bit of a walk through the bustling town or something to eat or drink. Late afternoon we are exhausted, somewhat sunburnt (the sun did its job too well) and we fall down on our beds for a well-deserved afternoon nap.
In Madrid, as with most of Spain, everything only comes alive again after 20:00 in the evening. Before then the kitchens are all closed and you can basically only have a drink and a small snack. So, we head out for supper at about 19:30. The streets are literally alive and thriving. There are street musicians and artists all over the place, people heading home after work or gym or just doing some shopping whilst enjoying the cool night air. We wander over to the palace square and eventually end up at a little restaurant across from the theatre. (If I had something decent to wear I would have loved a night at the theatre or at a flamenco show, but shorts and T-shirt ain’t going to cut it.)
Later on we find another restaurant and have some tapas while being serenaded by a violinist, the only thing missing is the candlelight and the love of my life! Still, it is such a poignant and fitting way to end my trip in Spain.
I have loved every moment of Madrid but although I’m not looking forward to the flying, I cannot wait to get on that plane and head home!