Normally when I arrive at a place in Europe, the first order of business is to make arrangements for my departure to the next place. When I got off the train at Madrid’s Atocha train station I went over to the ticket office and took a number. The line at Atocha is always long and slow, but some reason it was particularly slow that day. After half an hour the counter had hardly advanced and I was still 30 numbers away from getting called, so I decided I would come back later and I left. I walked to my hostel, which was the same one that I had stayed in during the second time in Madrid. To pass the time I did a lot of miscellaneous things like buying groceries and trying a different sandwich at the Museo de Jamon bar. When it was early evening I walked back to Atocha and the line at the ticket office was now much shorter. The next city I was going to was San Sebastian, in the northeast Spain. There was no reason to extend my time in Madrid and I opted for a train that left Charmatin Station at 8:00am. It would mean getting up early, but I could always get more rest on the train ride and leaving early would mean more time in San Sebastian. Back at the hostel I ate a late dinner, though I guess in Spain it would have been a more normal dinner time. I wound up not going to bed until after 2:00am because of how long it took to upload photos to social media and the time I spent writing.
It was a very gray day in Madrid the following day. The main event of that day was a day trip I did out to El Escorial, a former royal palace and the headquarters of the Counter Reformation in Spain. I caught a late morning bus, which 45 minutes to reach the town El Escorial is in, and then it was a ten minute walk from the bus station to the palace. Although a palace, the exterior of El Escorial looks more like an asylum or jail, which I guess is fitting for a place dedicated to hunting down anything perceived as a threat to Catholicism. The dull colored stones seemed to match the overcast sky above. The inside is a completely different story, but no photos are allowed, so I was only able to sneak a few shots. The interior isn’t quite as grand as the royal palace in Madrid, but still has a lot of nice stuff in it. I finished up with the palace in the late afternoon and then walked back to the bus station to catch the next bus back to Madrid. As I was waiting I was thinking over and comparing my visit to El Escorial and my day trip to Toledo, which I did from Madrid back in 2012. Toledo is probably the more worthwhile day trip from Madrid, but a proper visit to Toledo requires most of the day, whereas El Escorial can be done in much less time. Back in Madrid I did a final daytime walk that took me up to the St Anton market and then back down to Plaza Mayor. Before dinner I wrote some reviews of the last few hostels I had stayed at. After dinner I packed up my backpack and made sure I was ready for the next day’s departure. I only went out briefly at night and didn’t stay up late because I would be getting up early the next day.
Or so I thought. I’m at a complete loss to explain what happened, but when I woke up the next day I found that it was just past 8:00am and my cell phone alarm was ringing, silently. That was the first time that had ever happened and I didn’t remember silencing the phone. Even on silent, it should have been vibrating, which would have easily woken me up. Regardless of why it happened, it meant I had missed the 8:00am train. Thankfully my packing the night before meant I could leave quickly and get the Charmatin Station to catch the next train, which was at 9:12am. It was a slow train, however, and I settled in for a seven hour ride to San Sebastian.