Madrid. 21st March 2014

We got up early (well 0800hrs) and set off on the bikes to the railway station which we had scouted yesterday.
Once there, we locked the bikes next to the Spanish version of Boris Bikes and steeled ourselves for the purchasing of two return tickets to Madrid, in Spanish.

As it happened this was fairly painless and we soon found ourselves on platform 5 with the rather posh looking train ready and waiting. So we hopped aboard and found a seat.

I was considering moving as the young lady sat opposite us was texting and she must have had the ‘click’ volume channeled through some Marshal speakers and she had an awful lot of texting to do. Before I could swap seats, other passengers boarded and I realised she was the best of a bad lot.

Now I know our Spanish partners like to talk but I didn’t realise how much. Almost every person on the train had a mobile to their ear and was attempting to have a ‘Life or Death’ conversation with some one. As the noise increased each conversation had to get louder in order to be heard and it was like sitting in front of the Tredegar Male Voice Choir.

When we got to Madrid Atocha station we exited on the upper level, crossed a very wide street and saw the open topped tour buses departing from a stop across the way.

We decided to grab a coffee and one of my new found friends the Tortilla before setting off. We could have picked a worse cafe with worse service if we’d tried but we just didnt have enough time.

When we came out, we made our way to the bus stop, dodging 8 beggars on route and sat and waited. Like busses all over the world you can wait for ages and then ….. Well none come along. This was a bit strange as we’d seen dozens as we crossed the road from the station and the info said they ran every 8 minutes.

We eventually realised we were on the wrong street and had to cross the road and turn a corner in order to catch the tour bus, which as advertised, ran every 8 minutes. Funny ‘how everything always looks the bleeding same.’ Quote from Squeeze there!

Once on the bus we settled back for an informative tour. Our first obstacle was encountered when Jaki, my official translator, tried to plug her ear phones in and found there were 18 different languages available but nothing in English.

We changed seats at this point.

We had the camera out, poised for action but found that due to the narrow width of the seats and the close proximity of the seats both in front and behind, I couldn’t raise my arms above waist height. Try as I may I didn’t capture any worth while shots whilst using the camera by mouth.

The weather was at best cool and on the open top bus the wind became positively fierce.

I managed to unroll my Pacamack and put it on backwards to protect my chest and arms from the Arctic blast. This worked with limited success in that it did keep me warmer but it acted like a straight jacket and when Jaki decided to get off, I was unable to as I didn’t have
the necessary escapology skills to follow her.

We spotted a Cezan exhibition at a nearby Museum so trotted of to see the great Masters work, however, it was €17 each and on top of our train fare (€8) and the open top bus ticket (€20) this was fast becoming our most expensive day. We set off in search of something less expensive but every Museum and Gallery wanted to charge an arm and a leg. The central art gallery did have concessions between 6 and 8 pm but by then we would need to be back at the camper cause we’ve got no lights.

Interestingly when I put the camper in for its MOT they stuck some black tape on the lights to make them legal for the UK. However, we have been unable to date to get the glue residue off the lights and our command of Spanish doesn’t as yet run to.
“One bottle of methylated spirit please Mate.”

So we settled on visiting the botanical gardens at €3 each, which was a mistake as it would appear the whole site had recently been decimated by Locusts. There wasn’t a thing to see except hundreds of metal labels.

Returning home feeling somewhat cheated we boarded the train at the same time as 3 million commuters making their way home and they all needed to chat too.

Once back in Aranjuez we cycled to the nearest bar where we ordered a few beers, though the barman was a bit confused when I ordered ‘Dos Cerveza’ and then went for an attempt at ‘pequeno’ a small beer. There was a lot of head shaking and gesticulating at this point culminating in the Cook coming out of the kitchen to explain that I could ‘smoke outside’?

On the way back to the site we decided to get some fresh supplies but the Supermarket we’d spotted turned out to be an electrical appliance store so I cycled stoically on to the next village which did have a supermarket.

The journey took about 50 minutes but on the return, fully loaded and down hill I made it in 3.

After some half hearted fishing, some BBQ’d meat (of unknown providence) and a game of Scrabble which I won hands down, we battened down the hatches and slept the sleep of the just.

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