18 October 2013

Making the most of Madrid

Granada was the last proper stopover on our Great Rail Journeys' Marrakech Express and our way home started with an early train to Madrid.

As with most of the trip, a ridiculous amount of time was allowed for contingency, even though we could probably have walked to the station, and we arrived there about an hour before the train left and that meant a lot of standing around in a featureless waiting room. I could have got myself a coffee to help pass the time but I had only just finished breakfast in the hotel so there was no point.

We got to Madrid at lunchtime and were taken straight for lunch. Various questions from the group made our guide confess that we would be taken straight from the restaurant to the next station so that the lunch would be the only time that we would get in Madrid. The timetable had suggested that we might get a few hours to actually see something of the city but that was not in the plan apparently.

The vegetarian option for lunch was largely absent and rather than wait for something special to be prepared I bailed out to grab a quick view of Madrid.

Just a couple of steps away from our restaurant I discovered Plaza Mayor.

It is quite a large square, Wikipedia tells me it is 94m by 129m, and there is nothing the centre, apart from one small statue and lots of tourists.

The most colourful building was the Casa de la PanaderĂ­a. This was a municipal building housing, amongst other things, a Tourist Information office where I was able to get a map.

The paintings on the front of the building were fairly new, they were only twenty years old,  and the depicted scenes from Madrid's history and from mythology. It looked like an excuse to paint lots of pictures of naked women to me. Whatever the reason, the paintings had the required impact on the square which, this apart, lacked distinctive features.

I only had quarter of an hour or so before I had to rejoin the rest of the group so I did not linger in the square for very long. There were several ways in and out so I headed diagonally across the centre of the square and out the other side.

There I discovered more old and picturesque buildings and a lovely little covered market. There was not much clue inside as to its original purpose which had been swept aside to provide lunches for the local office workers. I suspect that the new use gave the building much the same lively buzz as its previous one.

I wandered around the streets a little but the time constraints (and a slight fear of getting lost) stopped me from straying too far from the restaurant and I found myself back in the square.

Taking another exit took me to some grander buildings, a church and some statues; all the things that I expect to find in a old town. The more that I saw the more that I regretted that I had so little time to see more.

The scant consolation was that on my previous trip to Madrid, when working for IBM, I saw even less as the late working meant that I was confined to the IBM office, my hotel and taxis between the two.

I rejoined my group who were gathered outside waiting for the coach to pick them up. I did my good deed for the day and told them about the square and they all went to take a very quick look while our guide tried to keep up all together.

It was a reasonable trek across Madrid between the two stations but the traffic was not unreasonable and we needed none of the contingency that had been allowed for this leg of the journey. So we arrived at the station a good two hours before our train was due to depart.

I though that was very bad planning. If I had not gone off on my explore we would have spent the middle of the day in Madrid and only seen the restaurant and the stations.

We did have access to a lounge at the station where we had free drinks but I would much rather have been out walking the streets. The lounge had no wi-fi so I had to go and stand in the main concourse where I managed to find some and could update my podcasts and do some essential tweeting.

We left Madrid on a sleeper train to Paris.

I had gone for a medium level room as that level of privacy and comfort had been sufficient on previous journeys. There was an upgrade available but I was not desperate to have a shower in the morning.

I sat and read comics on my iPad for a while before going to the bar for a quiet drink. That was not that quiet as some other people from the group were there and I got involved in a few conversations.

When I got back to the compartment the chairs had gone and the beds had appeared. I took the hint and climbed up to the upper bunk where I eased myself to sleep with some podcasts.

As a day of travel we achieved what we had to achieve, we had left Granada and were on the train to Paris, but the overall impression was of missed opportunities to see something of Madrid. I am grateful that I at least managed to see something, even if it was little more than just one square. Perhaps Madrid will be third time lucky for me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Matthew
    Nice trip Matthew, I'm little bit envy...I have a plan to go Madrid this year. Your article give me much nice place that i;ve to go there, especially Casa de la PanaderĂ­a. You are right, it is nice and colorful building

    Thank you for this information


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