After stepping off the new high-speed train from Barcelona, I emerged into the evening heat of central Spain. Not only was it hotter than Barcelona, Madrid was also more humid. The weather kind of reminded me of summer in New York, but without my friends Saurabh and Malavika. Like its coastal cousin Barcelona, Madrid had an excellent metro system, and I used it to get myself to Hostal Miralva, a few blocks up Valverde from Gran Via, one of Madrid’s central arteries.
The hostel was pretty spartan, with little character, but adequate as a crash pad for a few days. At the hostel, I met a neat Greek couple, who are travelling for a couple of months. After a night´s rest, I accompanied them to El Rastro, Madrid’s sprawling Sunday flea market, which offers an exhaustive array of things old and new. You can buy a castle door, stolen car stereos, 2 Euro shorts, books, bikes, millions of other things and all sorts of delicious foods.
I spent a good part of the day exploring El Rastro, then parted company with my Greek companions and set out to see more of the city. I visited the main bullfighting ring, and then spend most of the afternoon relaxing and thinking next to the pond inside Parque del Retiro. After watching the escapade of many people paddling about, I returned to the hostel to prepare for bed – but not, of course, before going into Telefonica’s flagship store to play with the iPhone 3G for a few minutes.
As I dozed off, I chatted with the Italian and Belgian women in my room and offered one of them a couple of non-traditional ideas – Coney Island, UCB, Bagels in Williamsburg and Bar Four – for her upcoming trip to NYC. The next morning, I got up and hopped on to the light rail en route to the train station. Due to construction, the light rail was delayed and I ended up missing my train, which was super frustrating because I was standing right next to it (I physically patted it), and the doors were still open. Anyway, I went inside and made reservations for the next train, which was 7 hours later. I also looked again at the train schedules that Deutsche Bahn published and tried again to book them. This time, the ticket agent was more clever (or perhaps better understood what I was trying to accomplish) and managed to get me all the connections I need to get to Porto on July 23rd. So, in spite of missing the earlier train, I actually get to spend more time in Bilbao, which, having walked to the hotel from the train station, seems like an really great place. But for now, I’m off to bed.