Spain, We Have a Problem: About This Blog Entry
It’s hard for even me to believe that there was a time in my life when travel didn’t excite me. But there was.
There was actually a period in my life when I would travel–mostly cruises, with my family–when I didn’t have the travel “bug;” that unquenchable thirst for exploration, to see it all, as much as I could. I didn’t dislike traveling, but I certainly didn’t carry even ten percent of the enthusiasm I have today, I think because the travel may have been too organized. Piling off a cruise ship with 1,000 other American tourists and getting on a bus to see the main square for three hours never really did it for me. Maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to appreciate world travel. Who knows? What’s important, is that things changed later on; in a big way. I’d soon discover my true passion for travel: going solo to off-the-beaten-track places to see things most have never even dreamed of…and well, you know the rest of the story. I’m certainly making up for the years I missed.
But my first two trips to Spain landed in that first category above; the one where I didn’t really appreciate travel. Luckily, I did manage to take a handful of pictures, but no travel notes at all. All I remember is that the cruise stopped in the ports of Vigo and A Coruña, but which pictures are from which stop, I have no clue. I was just a clown clumsily walking about town, with a taste for travel not even close to being developed yet.
Spain, Take Two
With my travel tastebuds still developing, I didn’t even take one picture during my second trip to Spain! This time I’d flown into Barcelona with my dear Mom, to hop on another cruise ship. I just vaguely remember my walk into town from the port, a meal, and spying the church designed by Antoni Gaudí out of my taxi window…but that was it! What a travesty!
Third Time’s a Charm
But thankfully, my third stop into Spain was absolutely appreciated and savored, as it was years later, and well into my current travel addiction: the one taking me to every country in the world.
Though I’ve been doing my best to avoid doing repeats–visiting countries I’ve already seen–sometimes it’s simply the routing that forces you to return to places you’ve been. Such was the case in my big 2018 end of year trip that had me traversing all over Africa, from east to west, and finally crossing the straight of Gibraltar, from Ceuta (in Africa) into Spain. Most of my international flights are purchased with miles and points, and I’d get the best deal if I came home from Madrid. Plus, I’d always wanted to see Gibraltar, so it just worked out.
This last stop in Spain was kind of like a victory celebration for me: the end of a very long and complicated itinerary that included sixteen countries in four continents in just three weeks! And some pretty sketchy places at that, like Mogadishu, Somalia! The itinerary included planes, trains, automobiles, boats and my feet–and was so jam packed and tight, that even I didn’t expect everything to work out. But it did, and here I was in Spain to finish up one of the biggest journeys of my life!
Spain by Bus, Spain by Train
Getting to Madrid was fun and a little complicated, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It started by waking up before sunrise in Gibraltar and walking two miles, across the line and into Spain. From the Spanish side of the border, I took a taxi to a little bus station in the nearby town of San Roque. It was still dark when I arrived in San Roque and very cold. I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right place and had always been semi-confused about my ticket to Madrid, which included part-bus ride, part-train ride. But I’d done it right, and soon I was joined by a dozen other passengers, waiting with me outside the almost abandoned rectangular building. I was hungry but didn’t want to chance missing the bus. I’d been scarred as a six-year old, when the bus that was supposed to take me and my mom to the airport passed right by us on that rainy and wet Saturday morning in Pasadena. I remember chasing the bus down in my grandparents car, following it to the next stop and then even banging on the door when it had stopped–all the while, the driver completely ignoring us, as we frantically tried to get his attention, rain pouring down on us. He never did open the door.
But the big bus that pulled into San Roque did indeed stop and let everyone on and soon we were rolling as the golden morning sun lit up the surrounding hills. The ride was uneventful and 90 minutes later we were pulling into the bustling train terminal in the city of Málaga. Sadly I didn’t have any free time to explore the town; I’d need to head straight into the station and find my train to Madrid. I did, with no problem, and soon we were off. I let out a big sigh of relief, as this train ride, from Málaga to Madrid, was the very last leg on this enormous trip, and I’d actually made it! I’d successfully completed the dozens of flights, the car rides, bus trips, ferry sailing and rail-rides, from the Middle East (Saudi), across Africa, over the Mediterranean and to my final destination of Madrid. Not that I doubted my own ability, but the fact that none of these flights, trains, buses and boats had canceled or been significantly delayed defied all odds. The travel gods had rewarded me, and I was ever so thankful.
Look Mom, I’m in Madrid!
My hotel was just three blocks from the train station in Madrid. I dropped my bags and I was off! I’d only have half a day to explore and I wouldn’t waste a second. Before I even left the block, I stumbled upon a little bakery–a local joint, not a touristy, fancy place–and I felt like I struck gold! I grabbed some cookies and pastries knowing darn well I’d walk them off this afternoon. The sudden spike of carbs and sugar was just what I needed for my afternoon of running around town on foot.
Walk the Walk
I enjoyed walking the streets of Madrid for the rest of the afternoon. I had no plan, no destination, no to-do list. I simply explored and enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was absolutely perfect and the streets and sidewalks were bustling with locals and tourists alike. I stopped to admire the countless statues, fountains and buildings. The city was clean.
Lunch in Madrid was not what you would’ve expected. Tapas? No. Steak and wine? Ummm, no. Cereal? Yeah!!!
I turned a corner to stumble upon a Cereal Hunters, a restaurant dedicated to American cereal. I had to go in and check it out. I was in heaven.
Moving Right Along…
Between my earlier bakery stop and that giant bowl of Waffle Crisp, I probably had more carbs in my belly at this moment than my entire three-week trip put together, so I was eager to get back out there to burn some more calories and see some more sights. I headed for La Gran Vía but ended up strolling down a giant and very long pedestrian walkway, jammed with tourists and every type of shop you can imagine. Not really my scene (crowds), but I did enjoy the walk back to the hotel, flowing down the walkway like one trout among a thousand. The energy was at full blast and people watching was fun. I passed by some Mariachis playing for a crown near a big fountain before arriving back at my hotel for a quick breather.
An Early Night
I had to wake up before the sun to catch a horribly early flight home the next morning, so in true old-man fashion, I didn’t stay out to late. I did sneak a ride in the metro to explore a nearby neighborhood, before heading back in the general direction of my hotel to search for food.
This entry was posted in Europe