As our fourteen hour train ride ended and we sleepily landed on the platform in Madrid, I rapidly remembered what I would NOT be packing for Peru as we trudged around and around in circles looking for the left luggage office. We knew that one existed at the Madrid Charmartin station because the signs said so, but our three circuits of the car park and concourse had proved fruitless. I prepared to find a litter bin and shed excess baggage if I had to lug my bag around Madrid for the day, when tucked away under a bridge, and nowhere near any signage, we found the lost left luggage office. Airport style x-ray machines and reassuring uniformed personnel were more than we could have hoped for – but a few more signs wouldn’t go amiss. Shedding our excess baggage and believe me, I would have gladly spent more than five euros, we set off to explore.
Madrid was HOT! It transpired that Madrid was currently experiencing higher than average temperatures so we whizzed around some of the major sights, or at least, strolled as fast as we could – it was a fine balance between speeding up to get out of the sun and not going so fast that one would self-combust and then, even I had to concede to the heat and we settled under an umbrella for a very long, lazy Mediterranean lunch.
The Palace was impressive, the market was amazing and thee traffic horrific but I will return and explore Madrid properly. What struck me was that everything was gigantic. They didn’t go in for delicate fountains or neat buildings. The planners must have had competitions – we want a statue – lets make it three times life sized. Want a museum – that of course must be enormous so that the huge exhibits will fit in. Want a roundabout – make them the size of small countries so that vast numbers of traffic can circulate with so much noise that it is impossible to think straight. It was on one of these roundabouts that I lost one of my nine lives. I swear that I felt the bus brush my arm as the malevolent driver tried to prevent me taking my photograph.
Then it was on to our next sleeper train. Oh dear! We had been properly spoilt the previous night We were crammed into this carriage on seats which reclined about 4cms, no blankets or free water, and it was HOT. They didn’t flick the switch of the carriage lights off until 1.30am when most people finally did drift off into a restless sleep – but then – at 3am some officious little upstart flicked all the lights on and insisted on us producing our tickets again. Tickets which had been locked away in rucksacks had to be located by some very sleep deprived individuals. Luckily for the officious little upstart it was too hot to start any sort of social rebellion and we all eventually complied with his request but grumbling is grumbling in any language. Were we glad to finally roll into Lisbon – it was nearly two hours late but we could unravel our limbs and stretch out. A quick breakfast at a backstreet station caff consisted of amazing coffee and some very dodgy indescribable meat in a roll: imagine the taste and texture of a mixture of corned beef and salami; and then we set off to find our designated tram to our accommodation. BF had struck gold again! Booked via Airbnb we had a room in a fantastic apartment and stayed with Guida. There were the original parquet floors throughout and our bedroom had a balcony, the tram to the city stopped on the street opposite and the Optimus festival site was just 10 minutes walk away. We each had a very welcome shower and took a siesta before heading into Lisbon for some sightseeing. It was the best feeling in the world to feel clean and fresh again. Wet wipes are fine but we needed a shower to remove the grime of three days of travel in temperatures of forty plus. We could finally pause and draw breath before the festival