Monday, November 07, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Santiago De Compostela To Madrid

Note: I suppose technically this not a Camino de Santiago post.  My Camino ended once I got on the train.  I'm still calling it a Camino post though.

The train was on time, leaving Santiago de Compostela around 10:30 PM.  The train cars have seats that face the front except for the first two seats that face the rear.  Like on the train to Hendaya, I was stuck in one of the rear facing seats.  I talked with my seat mates including a Canadian.  As the train pulled away from the station, the feeling of leaving the Camino was palpable.

Not wanting to think about what I was leaving, I hoped to fall asleep.  The back facing seat was a little inconvenient because you were limited on how you could lean the seat back.  The seat rolled forward but, since you were facing another passenger, if you did this you would end up playing footsy with the other passenger.  So, for most of the night I struggled to get comfortable and sleep while trying to avoid the dreaded whiplash head bob ... of doom.

The train did not announce the stops and some passengers were worried about missing their stops if they slept. I wasn't worried as the Madrid station was the last stop of the train.

The train arrived at the station around 7:00 AM or so.  I headed for the metro station located under the train station and made my way to the hotel.  I exited the metro and walked a kilometer (0.6 miles).  The walk was through a residential area with a few hotels, schools, and strip malls.  I found the hotel (Thank you GPS) and tried to check in.  It was way too early but I payed the early check in fee and got moved into my room right away.  A shower and a shave later and I felt human once again.

The desk clerk had said there was a shopping center not far away that had restaurants and that I could take a taxi. Psshhhaaaww!  I'd just walked 510 miles.  How far could it be?  I headed in the direction the GPS said it was.  It took a few failed attempts and a real close look at the GPS map to realize that I had to cross two major freeways to get there.  I eventually made it after taking a roundabout path over one crosswalk and under another underpass.  Of course it was Sunday and everything was closed.  The doors to the mall were open but all the stores were closed ... except McDonalds.  Them mcnuggets tasted mighty fine.

Back to the hotel and then ... sleep ... nap like I'd never napped before.  Slept like a baby.  I tried to watch television but the only English channel was ... Russian News Network (WHAT!?!).  Bought a sandwich in a store in the hotel lobby and then ... went to bed.  It felt like a long day.

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The next morning I slept in a little.  I went down to the lobby, reserved my spot on the airport shuttle the next day, and headed for the metro.  I took the metro down to the Opera station.  From there, after passing a McDonalds and seeing that they didn't have hotcakes, I walked to the Plaza Mayor.  I arrived there just as the tourism office was opening.  I went in and got a map of Madrid and a copy of the tourism bus route (the one I'd ridden oh so long ago).

I stopped at a cafe just opening for business near the tourism office and had my last piece of Tortilla Española and Zumo de Naraja (Orange Juice).

After breakfast I began walking the tourist bus route.  I walked the route taking pictures and admiring the architecture.  I passed the tent protesters (think Occupy Madrid though they predate the Occupy Wall Street protests).  Walking the route allowed me to see the city much better than riding the bus.  I didn't go in any place, including the Prado.  Most of the places you would go in are museums that aren't on the top of my list of places to go.  I'm sure I'll be back with the Wife someday and we can hit the museums if we feel like it ... though the Wife is not a museum person either.

Madrid was just as hot as Santiago de Compostela had been on Saturday.  I found some shade in the Plaza de Retiros (I think it means Retired Park).  I bought an expensive can of soda, relaxed by the large pond, and watched people rowing boats in the pond.

I passed the statue of Christopher Columbus and walked through an exhibition of art along a main boulevard.  Except for the heat it was quite nice.  I ended up on the Via Real, a main drag and a shopping district.

It was lunch time so I went to a big McDonalds (I was trying to re-acclimatization my body in preparation for coming home ... or so I told myself).  I ordered two quarter pounders.  The person taking my order suggested a "Menu" (a meal) would be cheaper so I said sure.  I expected two burgers, a large fry, and a large soda.  I watched as she puts two quarter pounders on the tray ... followed by two large fries and two large sodas.  I didn't feel like arguing so I took my double order and found a place upstairs to sit (This place had marble floors and very nice decor).  Next thing I know I'd finished everything.  I even got two commemorative coke glasses (which I carried home).  I guess I was hungry.

I walked around a market, took pictures of monuments, fountains, and statues.  I visited an Egyptian temple that had been a gift to Spain (It was closed ... naturally) and the national palace.  The last place I visited was the cathedral.  I was a little disappointed with the cathedral as it was fairly modern.  I was turned off by the gray, concrete-like exterior.  I bought a magnet and the last rosary for the Wife (number five).

I headed back toward the Plaza Mayor stopping in souvenir shops looking for magnets.  I stopped at a food market and bought an apple which I ate on the way back to the Opera metro station.  I took the metro back to my hotel.

I decide to skip dinner.  I was instead going to pig out on ice cream.  I left the hotel and went in search of ice cream.  It was surprisingly hard to find.  I did find a small grocery store but all they had was 900 ml (0.95 quarts) containers.  I figured if I ate that I would give myself the shits ... not a desirable thing.  I headed back towards the hotel feeling extremely hot and a little dejected when I passed a candy store that had a cooler in one corner.  What did I find in that cooler?  A pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie -  this happens to be my favorite flavor.  Woo-Hoo!!!

I hurried back to the hotel wondering if I would have chocolate soup by the time I got back to the room.  I get to my room and ... the key card doesn't work.  I go down to the front desk, get a new key, and get to the room.  Fortunately, despite the heat, the ice cream was mostly intact ... and I had a spork.  It tasted wonderful.  I think I could have finished a quart of that stuff.

I had trouble falling to sleep that night, my last night in Spain.  I was still on the Camino in my head.  Once I did fall asleep I slept well.  (The stats below are for the walk around downtown Madrid.)

Total Distance: 9.55 Miles (15.37 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 22 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 654 ft (199.64 m)
Total Elevation Down: 656 ft (199.95 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

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