Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Voyage of the Damned

We said goodbye to the lovely Hotel Puente Romano in Salamanca on Monday morning and journeyed to the Salamanca train station where Ken attempted to buy tickets to Toledo. Unfortunately, we were not able to procure tickets for the 12:45 p.m. train but we could get tickets for the train to Madrid at 3:50. The one bright spot was that Ken was able to purchase tickets from Madrid to Toledo at the Salamanca train station, thus avoiding potential mishaps at the train station in Madrid.

The next several hours were spent dealing out bridge hands and discussing bidding (Mother of Ken is teaching Ken to play bridge…again), playing Gin Rummy, and eating an Italian lunch. We finally boarded the train to Madrid, further perfecting our luggage handling strategy. A mere two and a half hours later, we arrived in Madrid. Despite Ken’s strategically timed exit from her seat to retrieve the suitcases and stake out a place by the door, we were foiled by a non functioning exit door. The people behind us were getting upset and glaring in our general direction until someone shouted to them that we were unable to open the door. Farther down the car, another door was open and there was a mass exodus to that door. However, a kindly Spanish person waiting to board pushed the button to our door from the outside and it finally opened. Seconds later, we were off the train and headed for the exit.

Our next journey would take us across the great city of Madrid to the other train station (Atocha), where we had to catch the train to Toledo. Ken and Mother of Ken are always interested to see which cab drivers are able to pack the trunk as well as Father of Ken, getting all four of our suitcases in the trunk of their tiny Spanish taxis. There are a variety of techniques for closing the trunk once our luggage is inside, these include: the battering ram, which consists of slamming the trunk lid over and over again with all of the force one can muster until it closes; the mathematician, the driver who analyzes the sizes of the luggage and, as if he were putting a puzzle together, fits all four suitcases in the trunk and gently closes the lid; and, finally, the let’s get this show on the road guy, who loads the luggage in the order in which he receives it and puts any that won’t fit in the trunk in the front seat.

It must be said that Madrid is chock full of people who believe that they are artists with a can of spray paint. Never have Ken and Mother of Ken seen so much graffiti.
After our driver took what must have been the longest possible route to the train station, taking us by way of Baltimore, we finally arrived. The journey to Toledo was uneventful and short because we were on the high speed train. Our first indication of the impending disaster was when our cab driver told us that he couldn’t drive us to our hotel because there was no access to the street. He cheerfully deposited us at the top of a hill, pointed in the direction of the hotel, jumped back in his cab, and sped off into the night.
A view of the street from above:
Ken and Mother of Ken lurched across the cobblestone street dragging their luggage, which soon took on a life of its own rolling down the hill toward the hotel.

They entered the Hotel Sol, a modest establishment, and were greeted by a friendly desk clerk. While filling out the paperwork for our room and taking Ken’s credit card information, she casually mentioned that her boss had made an error and that we had to take the room with the “marriage bed” for tonight and then move to our double room tomorrow for the rest of our stay because all of the double rooms were occupied…or so she said.

Ken and Mother of Ken entered their room to discover that a “marriage bed” is apparently made for pygmies and the rest of the room was small as well. In fact, Mother of Ken is certain that most prison cells are larger than this room.

Our Sharpie embroidered bed sheets:

Entering the bathroom, Mother of Ken was surprised to find half of a bathtub with the standard swinging glass shower door, which in this case covers the entire half of a bathtub. In order to enter the bathtub, the door must be opened over the toilet (see photo below). Mother of Ken also discovered that the lid of the toilet had been ripped from its hinges and she quickly made management aware of the situation. The saving grace of the bathroom is that the tile work is a lovely blue and gray color scheme with the mirror inset in a tile frame.

The rest of the room consists of a pygmie TV, four hangers (one is wire), a blanket (it is 95 degrees here), the pygmie bed, two small end tables, and a dressing table with a metal patio chair. The room is about 8 x 12 feet.
As always, Ken and Mother of Ken went in search of food and ended up in a neighborhood restaurant where they had roasted chicken and French fries…again.

Because the menus of the restaurants that Ken and Mother of Ken frequent are so similar, Mother of Ken can now order her own food like an expert because she can recognize the same dishes that seem to appear endlessly.
Lentil soup:

Mixed salad:

Chicken and French fries:

At one point during the “meal” the proprietor of this establishment walked by the table and launched into a violent coughing fit, which lasted the length of the restaurant. No attempt was made to cover his mouth or wash his hands as he continued to serve patrons. Mother of Ken remarked that she thought the human body had an amazing capacity to ward off germs, bacteria, etc. and isn’t that a good thing? Shortly thereafter, he served us bread, dropping one piece on the floor and picking it up with the same tongs he used to serve the bread in the first place. Then he disappeared. Soon he returned with bread for the nearby table of eight French tourists and Ken and Mother of Ken were really hoping that the five second rule works.

Rest assured, gentle readers, we are not discouraged or disheartened—we just know we aren’t going to get much sleep.

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