Well we left Lisbon after a final flutter with traffic snarls because of the ancient streets. Our cab was due at 8.30am and about that time a truck parked in the road to unload cement for the renovation going on down the road. The road is one way and there is no footpath because it is so narrow so this truck effectively blocked all traffic wanting to use this road – both by car and on foot – and our taxi was one of those cars. So we struggled with our suitcases over broken cobbled street through a line of men carrying concrete into a derelict building supposedly being renovated and finally made it to the cab. After that it was smooth sailing or should I say flying.
We arrived in Madrid and grabbed a cab – set 30 euro fee to the city but given that again we are staying in a narrow street in the old city, we needed someone to find our accommodation. And what accommodation. This one takes the cake for miniaturisation.
Our host Roberto is very helpful but his assistance only confuses when we visit the Information office in Plaza Mayor and that was very near impossible to find. We started out following Roberto’s map and walking to a nearby office of tourism information. It appeared to be near the railway station. We walked down to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte – a huge building being a mixture of an old 19th century building with a 21st century extension. We could see the rail station – another 19th century edifice and there were no signs nor any sign of the tourism office. By accident we went into the square in front of the Museo and there in the Spanish equivalent of a donga was the office. The assistant gave us another map (the same useless thing Roberto had given us) and told us that for the information we were seeking we needed to go to the office near Opera.
Now Roberto and the tourist info girl told us to buy a day pass on the underground as the most inexpensive way to travel around Madrid – 24 hours travel on buses and metro for 8.40 euro. We did that only to find out that they expire at midnight on the day of purchase. Anyway we travelled to Opera – the Metro system is quite easy to follow once you obtain a metro map – not so easy to find. Then we wandered aimlessly around Opera looking for the Tourist Information Office. Not a bloody sign anywhere. I felt that it had to be in Plaza Mayor though we went there and it was not obvious. The Plaza is undergoing major renovation and there are barricades and scaffolding everywhere. We did however admire the town hall with its myriad images of naked men and women. We then journeyed like lost sheep until a gruff Policio told us it is in Plaza Mayor. We turned around went back and as soon as we entered the plaza from this direction the information sign could be seen just above a barricade camouflaged in dust and dirt. We made our enquiries and booked an excursion for a Tapas tour the following night and other adventures. We were now tired and hungry so we went to a restaurant on the plaza where we had paella and drinks before going back to our rabbit hole. The roads leading to the plaza are filled with shops selling Christian iconography and other accoutrements for the clergy. It was like IKEA for the catholic church and really weird in my view.