My Struggle to and from Madrid
Spain: Madrid to Valencia
I had arrived in Spain one week after the Madrid train bombings in 2004. After a wicked night out in London and only three hours of sleep, I left for the airport in search of a new adventure. At 5 am, I stumbled to the Bayswater Station a bit hung over (or maybe still drunk). There were no seats on the tube train, so I stood during the forty-minute ride as it lurched between each stop on the way to Heathrow. My head throbbed and I began to feel a cold starting to attack my immune system. I slept during the flight, only waking for a short moment to enjoy the breakfast snack before passing out again. The plane circled over Madrid for an extra hour while they completed additional security checks, and while everyone else was probably annoyed by the delay, I slept peacefully.
Upon arrival, the overall mood of the people was calm and welcoming. After the first two hostels I encountered were full, I finally arrived at the Los Amigos Hostel in Madrid. It was one of the friendliest hostels I had the pleasure to experience. I met so many people with whom to wander and explore the highlights of the city: Bella Artes de San Fernando Museo, Thysen Museo, the Botanical Gardens and the Parque de Retirio, and not to forget the Egyptian Temple in Madrid. Yes, there truly is an Egyptian temple that was built 2200 years ago. In 1968, the Republic of Egypt donated the Temple of Debod to Spain. I also spent time at the Prado Museo to see the gorgeous paintings on display.
I stayed in Madrid one week before planning to travel to Valencia by bus. On my sixth day, I bought a bus ticket to secure a seat for the following day. I struggled with my Spanish-English dictionary and was thrilled when I was able to communicate my wishes and complete the transaction. Little did I know that planning in advance in Spain was not beneficial. Josephine and I headed out for a night out on the town. One might think “tapas y vino” would not have turned into such a wild excursion.
We met some locals in the first pub, and they came with us to the second pub. By the third pub, well let’s just say I can’t recall the names of any of these places or how many bars in total we visited. We laughed a lot, and eventually we stumbled back to the hostel around 4:30 am. By 9:30am, I was wrenched from my sleep, stumbling down the hall in search of an open bathroom where I continued to puke my guts out for the next 3 hours. I continued to run back and forth from my bed to the toilet with my toothbrush in hand. By 11:30 am, I realized there was no way I could handle a four hour bus ride to Valencia that left in thirty minutes. I had the hostel worker contact the hostel in Valencia and ask to postpone my reservation for a few more days. I stayed another four days in Madrid!
When I finally returned to Autobus Estacion, there was a bus strike. I was told that there would only be one bus leaving for Valencia at 4pm. It was 11 am when I arrived, so I sat on the floor of the bus station, and waited. Lucky for me there was a hot Argentinean guy sitting in line too. He was a bit young, but his accent was so sexy! For the next 6 hours we waited on the cold hard floor of the bus station and attempted to keep ourselves entertained by learning each other’s language with the help of my English-Spanish Dictionary. Around 3pm we were informed that the bus would take 35 people to Valencia. I tried to count the people in front of me, but it was difficult to determine where the other people were traveling. So we continued to wait. I was number 34! I made it, only to find that I arrived in a town in the midst of torrential down poor in the middle of April.
I didn’t have a waterproof covering. I was soaked by the time I arrived at Plaza de Reina in Valencia as I wandered lost in search of the hostel. I found a small hotel where the lady at the reception desk only spoke Spanish. I tried to explain but she did not understand or know where the hostel was located. I called the hostel on my mobile phone and told the hostel worker my predicament. I handed the phone to the lady and she spoke Spanish on the phone and then hung up. She waved for me to follow and together we stepped out into the waterfall that fell from the sky. I followed, as she walked me two blocks in the right direction and then pointed down a narrow street. I thanked her as we parted ways. I continued to walk down the street, which opened up to a plaza, and across the plaza sat the Home Hostel. They had been awaiting my arrival for the past four days!