Stopover in Madrid
My next destination was Barcelona, and as the train from Lisbon goes through Madrid, I thought I would stop there for a couple of days to work from a few cafes and see a bit of the city.
The only trains from Lisbon to Madrid seemed to be overnight trains, so I booked this as I wanted to do this stretch of the journey without flying (otherwise I may as well have just flown straight to Barcelona). I know I don’t sleep well whilst travelling, so I armed myself with a white-noise soundtrack, a small bottle of wine and a pack of sleeping tablets (please be careful if you try this). Despite this I don’t think I even slept for a second (placebos?).
There were sleeping compartments on the train, but this didn’t seem to be an option when I was booking. I used this train booking site (also for the train to Barcelona) which is much more user friendly than a lot of other train/travel sites. I think it is only for booking with GBP though. For anyone wanting to do the same journey, I’d strongly recommend getting a sleeping compartment, so maybe use a different site to book this one.
My first experience of Madrid was helping a French person use the ticket machine, to the sound of huffing and watch tapping from behind me. I thought I was back in London (everyone also seemed to be in a massive rush, just like in London). I then wandered around for a bit in a tired zombie like-state, desperately trying to revive myself with coffee before finally collapsing into the bed for a while at my next AirBnB.
This booking was in an apartment with a couple (one half was away though). My host was amazing and kindly asked me to have dinner with her and some friends on one of the evenings.
Whilst there, I got to experience working from a rooftop bar overlooking the city, thankfully my phone can be used as a portable internet point, because there was no wifi there! Sounds great, but the bar featured weird mist producing water-squirters designed to keep you cool (in the temperature sense), so I kept having to move out of the direction of the wind in order to protect my laptop from getting wet. Nice view though.
In the evening I visited the Reina Sofia (modern art) gallery, which is free between 7 and 9. It contains some of Dali and Picaso’s pieces (including the famous Guernica) which were great to see. The Museo del Prado (classic art) is also free between 7 and 8, which I unfortunately missed – the next day – because I thought it was also open until 9. It contains the famous Las Meninas painting by Diego Velázquez.
I was surprised at how busy the nearby park was, so late at night, with people hanging out, jogging, rollerblading, doing yoga etc around 10pm. There appears to be a stronger outdoor social vibe in the European countries I have been to when compared to the UK, probably because people can actually go outside in the summer as it isn’t raining!
I had picked the location where I was staying carefully (i.e. very close to the train station) because my next train to Barcelona was at 7:30am. This meant I could roll out of bed and onto what was a much more comfortable seat (that actually reclined), if only I could have had this from Lisbon to Madrid then I might have got some shut-eye!