Travels - Links to each trip

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata - Days 2 & 3 - Lost and found


Well, let me first finish the rest of yesterday (March 30) since I didn't say anything about the hotel. There were about a dozen rooms on the 4th floor of an old apartment house with all the other floors occupied as residencies with a tiny convenience store next to the entry. There was also a very old elevator in the middle of a staircase that went around it. There were many similar looking old houses on narrow streets in this section of Madrid.



After finishing yesterday's blog I fell asleep but was woken in the middle of the night by strong winds whistling around the tall buildings. It was a storm without any rain but in the morning it was over but it had got much colder.

I got up at about 7:00 and after packing the few things I had with me I headed out to the station for the train to the airport which I reached at about 8:30. I had some difficulty finding to go to look for my luggage and was told to just go the wrong way back into the customs area and tell the police you are looking for delayed luggage. It was no problem and there was my backpack still going round on the carousel. I was able to take it and now I was where I had hoped to be at this time yesterday.

Happily I returned to the train station to wait for the train to Mérida which would be in a couple of hours hours. I put my backpack in a locker area and walked in town a bit and found some lunch. Atocha station is amazing but also confusing. Trains can come and go on at least 4 different levels, and there seem to be several different brands of the main rail company " renfe" each with its own ticketing office and machines scattered around. Confusing for some but an amazing transformation of a very old station and incredibly busy. The train service is also clean, fast punctual and not expensive. My 4.5 hour trip today will cost 22 euros or $25 for a senior, otherwise about $40 but still less than rail travel in US.



There is even a "tropical garden" in part of it surrounded by shops and small restaurants


The train ride was very interesting. Out of the city and into the flat dry area where olive trees and cattle grazing took up huge areas with occasional farms and mountains in the distance. Not easy to get a good picture from a fast moving train.



I had bought a sandwich before I got on the train because there was no food available otherwise and would arrive at 9:00pm. Serrano ham and brie with lettuce and tomato- delicious!


Later we came through some of the towns I will pass on my journey and the landscape had changed. Hilly with rivers and lakes. Really very pretty.


I hope the weather will be as nice when I pass these areas at a more leisurely pace.

The train had to wait a couple of times to let other trains through because much of the track was single line with trains using it in opposite directions but we arrived in Mérida pretty much on time. I walked to the hotel I had booked for the night and tomorrow the Camino proper begins. So please wish me well.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata - Day 1 Travel to Spain

With all the excitement of Easter and the family visit I still had a list of things to do before I left for Spain.

Packing and making sure that I have what I think I'll need and that the total weight is not more than my target of 18 lbs is one of the final preparations.

On Tuesday March 29 it was off to the airport.


I decided to check my backpack since it was bigger than the limit for carry-on luggage but that proved to be a mistake. When it was getting close to time to board the flight first to Washington, then to Frankfurt, then to Madrid United Airlines announced that the flight was heavily overbooked and offered $500 to anyone willing to take an alternate flight. I could go on American Airlines with only one plane change in Philadelphia and arrive in Madrid about 4 hours earlier. I took their offer and all went well until my backpack did not arrive in Madrid. I filed a claim with American and was told there would not be another flight for it until the next day.


Since I can't start my journey without my gear I decided to stay in Madrid for a day and hope that the luggage arrives tomorrow. In the meantime I bought a low cost phone with a local SIM card for use here since the wifi is often not available or incredibly slow and I have promised Christa once again to try and blog each day.

I used the phone to look for a cheap hotel near the city center and found one which turned out to be fine. It is near the Prado museum with lots of little shops and restaurants nearby. After I had taken care of this I got a train to downtown and found the hotel. The shower felt good after a night on the plane but of course no change of clothes. The weather is perfect so after settling in and calling Christa I set off to the Prado Museum which is a huge building.

Artists had set up stands outside and were selling their artwork while someone played Spanish music on a guitar. It was very nice.

I spent about two hours in the museum and only saw part of it. It was sensory overload but well worth the visit even if my timing was unfortunate. There are hundreds of pictures of the crucifixion, many of them very gory and I could have done without that so soon after celebrating Easter.

By now I was ready for a bite to eat since I had not eaten anything since very early thi morning before the plane landed. I found an outdoor café and enjoyed a chorizo sandwich along with a beer.

Then back to the hotel and on the phone to try and find out where my luggage is. American were no help and said they had no information as to where it was. I then called United who were very good and told me which plane it was on to Philadelphia but had missed the connection and would be on a plane arriving in Madrid at 8:20 am tomorrow. So I will go to the airport again in the morning and see if I can track it down.

This is not what I had planned for Day 1 but it was overall a nice day once I got adjusted to the idea of a change of plan. Will have to see what tomorrow brings and whether I can get back on plan!

I found little friendly restaurant for dinner and had pulpo (squid) with rice and some wine - all very nice and friendly. Then back to the hotel and an early night.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata - soon to begin

Having completed the 500 mile pilgrimage hike Camino Frances across Northern Spain in 2013, I set out in 2014 on the Camino Via de La Plata starting in the beautiful southern Spanish city of Seville. On day 3 of the pilgrimage journey I fell and broke my ankle, ending up in a hospital back in Seville.

I was so impressed and spiritually refreshed by the experience of walking long distances with just a few possessions on my back that my wife Christa elected to join me on a 2015 Camino. We chose a portion of the Camino Portuguese and it was a truly wonderful experience for both of us.

If you go to the above TAB "Links to each Camino" you can read about it.