Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spanish Fling

We took a flight from Rome to Madrid and landed around 2 pm. The hotel we had chosen was near Atocha Renfe (the largest train station in Madrid) - for two reasons - one, there is an express shuttle that connects Madrid airport to Atocha Renfe at just 5 euros per head. Two, Atocha is the primary station serving AVE high speed trains to other key cities in Spain. Since I had plans to visit Barcelona as well, a hotel near Atocha Renfe made perfect sense.

We were tired due to a long day at Pisa the previous day, so we decided to just walk around the neighbourhood (after check in) and had an early dinner. This hotel didn't provide complimentary breakfast but there were several small cafes around that served delicious pastries with wonderful coffee all day.

Next day we decided to finally break my vow and climb aboard a hop-on-hop-off tour bus. And to be honest it was a good way to figure out the key attractions of the city. There were two routes and we had enough time to do both. I found Madrid to be a really beautiful city - really gorgeous architecture!

After the tour, we stopped at a place that is known for its Calamari sandwiches. It was a Saturday and a lazy day for locals as well. We sat in the sun, enjoying chilled beer and hot sandwiches. The sunny and beautiful day soon got over and it was time to board the AVE to Barcelona.

AVE, so far, is the best high speed train I have travelled in. My first experience was TGV in France and then Frecciarossa in Italy. But for some reason the ambience inside the carriage in AVE felt very superior - wider aisles, better luggage storage and cleaner restrooms. Plus the train reached 299 kmph within minutes and I barely felt the speed. And the best part, the train departed and arrived on dot - I haven't seen this timely performance with TGV and Frecciarossa.

I reached Barcelona Sants at 22:40 and was met at the station by other group of friends (the Italy group had left for India from Madrid itself). In spite of the late hour, we first went out for dinner (with my luggage in tow), then walked back to the service apartments and then (after midnight) we headed for an area called Port Olimpic (a place with a happening night life) and landed at a club called Shoko.

By 2 a.m., I was wiped out but rest of the gang was just starting to get into the groove so I decided to head back alone. As I stepped out I found the cold sea air very invigorating and I walked around for some time before hailing a cab back to the apartment.

The party gang came back at 5:30 am, woke me up and then went to sleep themselves. I went for a run at about 9 am in the 7 degrees Celsius temperature but thanks to the sun I didn't feel cold at all. It was a gorgeous Sunday morning and soon I reached the road frequented by runners. Since I was sleep deprived, I decided on a short run (3 miles) and post shower headed to Barcelona Sants to book return ticket to Madrid. Near the station, I had an amazing coffee and a wonderful chocolate croissant while enjoying the mid morning sun.

The afternoon was spent walking around Barcelona and enjoying a long paella lunch along with some Spanish cava. Evening the party gang again left for club hopping and the old me decided to catch up on my sleep instead.

Next day I woke up to find everyone sleeping (they had come back around 4 am) so I decided to let them rest and joined a bicycle tour of the city. One of the guys woke up, wanted to join me and in the process delayed me so much that I had to run 2.5 km from the apartment to the tour starting point. I made it in the nick of time and had an amazing day with a Canadian guide and 14 members of the group that comprised of Americans, English and Portuguese.

After the tour I grabbed some tapas and wine at a tapas bar and walked back to the apartment. On the way I grabbed some gelato again and yes, I am paying for that (I have gained 5 pounds on this 10 day holiday across Italy and Spain). I wrapped up the day with some cava and a short dinner as next day I had an early start for Madrid to catch the flight back home. The group went partying as usual and came back at 5:30 am to wave me goodbye!

While 4 days are not enough to cover 2 cities like Madrid and Barcelona, I am glad that I was able to catch some glimpses. May be a longer Spanish affair awaits me in future but for now this fling would have to suffice :)


Casa Batllo

Casa Mila

Spanish version of Trevi

Man made beach with imported trees and sand

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