A 4.5 hour flight from one end of the Mediterranean to the other was sort of fitting for the transition to the last major leg of my journey across Europe. I would be spending several weeks in Spain, though I would only be spending two nights in the vast majority of cities I was visiting. During my 2012 Europe trip I had seen a lot of Spain already, so some places like Seville didn’t merit a longer stay, while a few other places I was going, like Ronda, were either small or only had a few things I wanted to see, so they too didn’t require anything more than one or two days. My time in Spain began in Madrid, which I would end up staying in three times just because of the way my path looped around the country.
Madrid’s airport is located a ways outside the city and after clearing immigration I took the metro to Puerta del Sol, which is the official center of the city. For my first visit to Madrid I would be staying in my final Air BnB accommodation; an apartment just a block off of Puerta del Sol. The lady who hosted me spoke a bit of English and with my limited knowledge of Spanish we were able to have basic conversations. It was late afternoon when I was settled in and I then walked over to the Reina Sofia Museum. The Reina Sofia carries mostly modern art, which is generally not my thing, but it does hold Pablo Picasso’s famous Guernica. In 2012 I had visited the Reina Sofia late in the day when the museum has free entry but missed Guernica because I wasted too much time on a different floor. This time I was again back at the museum during free hours, but I instead made a beeline directly to Guernica to correct my previous mistake. Although modern art normally does not impress or interest me, for some reason I felt it was important for me to personally view this particular piece of art. Before the museum closed and I had to leave, I checked out the other rooms on the same floor as Guernica. Then I worked my way back to Puerta del Sol, stopping at an ATM for cash, and then continued west, on past Puerta del Sol, and went over to a cafe I had read about. There I had my first chocolate con churros of the journey. Personally, I think chocolate con churros should be the mandatory first meal of anyone who travels to Madrid, or Spain for that matter. After enjoying the meal, I got a bit of food from El Corte Ingles, a major department store in Spain, and returned to the apartment.
Knowing that I would be coming back to Madrid two more times on the trip, I was in no hurry to do sightseeing the next day. I slept in and didn’t get out of the apartment until almost noon. Puerta del Sol was the starting point, with the bear statue, Kilometer Zero, and the Governor’s Office all getting their respective photos. I then walked over to Plaza Mayor, which was partially under construction/renovation. As always, the guys selling stuff to tourists were out in force. Next I visited the San Miguel Market. Since my last time in Madrid, the San Miguel Market seems to have added some seating inside a few bars. There’s some good looking ham and other stuff in there, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything as I suspected I could get everything for cheaper elsewhere. On the way to Almundena Cathedral I passed by Madrid’s town hall and when I got to the church I found the crypt was open. I didn’t remember the crypt being open the last time I was in Madrid, so I went in. Granted, it’s mostly a forest of columns (being directly under the cathedral, they are large support columns) and tombs, but it was interesting enough for a short visit. I then went into the cathedral itself and looked around and sat in the pews for awhile doing some reading. Right next to the cathedral is Madrid’s royal palace, which has one of those maddening no-photo policies. The interior of the palace is arguably even better than the interior of Versailles, but Versailles is still the best palace in Europe overall. The route through the palace felt a little shorter than my previous visit in 2012, but that might have just been me misremembering it. When I finished at the palace I went up to the Egyptian Temple of Debod. The temple is not very big, but unlike a lot of other Egyptian structures you see across Europe, this one was given to Spain voluntarily by the Egyptian government. It was closed the last time I was in Madrid so I went in and checked out the hieroglyphics engraved into the walls. My plan was to finish the day over at the Prado Museum during the free hours, so I walked along Gran Via until I needed to turn to get to the Prado. Gran Via is sort of like the Broadway of Madrid. When I got to the Prado there was a line about 100 years long of other people waiting to get in. It still wasn’t time yet for the free entry to start, so I continued on past the Prado to Atocha Train station to buy a train ticket to Segovia, the next town in line. When I got back to the Prado the line was much shorter and I got in after a 15 minute wait. The staff at the Prado are very serious about enforcing the no-photo policy. Even a photographer as sneaky as me would have a hard time taking photos in there. I was able to cover most of the ground floor during this first visit to the Prado. Since I was coming back to Madrid in a few days I was fine waiting and seeing the upper level another day. Back at the apartment I made eggs for dinner; the first time I had cooked eggs on the trip. Later in the night I went for a short walk and ate more churros con chocolate.
The next day was one of those days. People who know me know how thorough I am in planning and execution of travel planes, but even I suffer setbacks, and this would not be the last one on this trip. I got to Atocha Train Station on time but couldn’t find my train and ended up missing it. The ticket I had was nonrefundable/transferable, meaning I would have to purchase another ticket and the next train for Segovia departed from Charmatin Train Station, at the north end of Madrid. When I got to Charmatin a train to Segovia was about to leave and I couldn’t purchase a ticket in time to get on. It would be 2.5 hours until the next train, which gave me plenty of time for self pity. Still, I knew that this was a comparatively minor problem and lots of people around the world would eagerly trade their problems for mine. I was still a bit upset with myself when the next train left but I was doing better mentally. All I could do was keep moving forward, and the path was now taking me to Segovia.