Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I hear the train a comin'

Tuesday morning, we dragged our luggage to the train station in Valencia and began our journey to Madrid. Trouble ensued immediately when they opened the security checkpoint on our platform, let us put our luggage through the detector, and then informed us that we could not proceed down the platform for another fifteen minutes. The very pleasant train station personnel said that we could stand off to the side and out of the way until it was our turn. Shortly thereafter, a very unpleasant train station security person approached us and informed us that we had to go outside of the secure barrier and go through security again when it was time to board our train.

We went through security a second time, maneuvered our luggage to our car, and began loading it. As we have mentioned previously, Ken and Mother of Ken have devised a system for loading and unloading their luggage. Ken boards the train with a small suitcase and Mother of Ken hands the larger suitcases up to her so that they can be stowed the luggage rack. Today, however, a large elderly lady continued to nudge Mother of Ken each time she turned around to get another suitcase, but Mother of Ken wouldn’t budge.

Our luggage properly stowed, we took our seats in front of a pair of Spanish magpies. Keep in mind, this is a three and a half hour train ride. They jabbered incessantly. They barely came up for air. They also received several cell phone calls, providing them with more people to jabber with. It is noteworthy that when two Spaniards are together, it is impossible for them to be quiet. We are not saying this to be mean or condescending, but it is the truth in our experience.

On these train trips, seats are assigned. However, some people jockey back and forth for a more advantageous seat and then they hope that no one boards the train later with that seat assignment. This happened several times on this trip.

After we arrived in Madrid, we took a cab to the Hotel Carlton, where we will be staying for the duration of this trip. As we were checking in, we noticed a few Americans sitting in the lobby talking. When we came back down to eat lunch a few minutes later, there were even more of them. When we finished lunch and were using the four euro per half hour computer, there were at least 20 of them. These are the kinds of people who give American tourists a bad name. They were jabbering like Spaniards, but much louder voices. One especially bright lady was trying to make the Spanish desk clerk tell her what the exchange rate was from dollars to euros.

As though we had not spent enough time on trains today, we had to take the metro to another part of town so that we could buy food for our room and a few items to take back to the US with us. Getting there was not a problem, but we were trying to get back to the hotel at Spanish rush hour. The first train that pulled into the station was jammed with people and not many of them exited the train, so we decided to wait for the next one. The next one was only slightly less crowded, but we elbowed our way on and clung to the overhead bars for dear life as the train lurched toward our stop.

Side note: In the entire three weeks that we have been here, we haven’t seen a Spanish child feed itself yet. Today, in our first sighting of a child feeding herself, we observed a toddler with a bag of ham flavored Ruffles. She took tiny, dainty bites of the chips and was thoroughly enjoying them. Mother of Ken did not smell them, but Ken (with her keen olfactory sense) was able to and it was not pleasant.

The metro in Madrid is not nearly as nice as the one in Valencia. For one thing, there are no escalators at the stations we have been to in Madrid. Also, evenings in the Metro seem to bring out various musicians playing such hits as “The Sound of Silence.” The sound of silence would have been better.

On a brighter note, we found a Dunkin’ Coffee (the same as Dunkin’ Donuts in the US) about a block from our hotel where Mother of Ken is planning to load up on crullers tomorrow morning.

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