AVE to Valencia

Trip Start Jul 14, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Valencian Country,
Monday, July 18, 2011

My two days in Madrid are over. Today
I head to Valencia to meet Olga and Vicente -- the host family I will
stay with for the next 2 ˝ weeks. I'm a little nervous about it,
but I am sure it will all go fine. Olga wrote me an email a few days
before I left Maine to tell me that they were expecting me this
afternoon. She said she has to work, but her husband will be at home
and will wait for me to eat the afternoon meal. I am not sure how
long it will take me to get to their apartment; I'm planning to take
the metro (subway) and then walk. I downloaded a metro map and a map
of the area of Valencia near the apartment where I will be staying,
so I think I will make out ok. I'm just a bit worried about walking
with my bags in the midday heat, but I did it 2 years ago every time
I went from one city to another.

 I'm on the AVE (fast train) to Valencia
right now. We left Madrid at 11:40 and should arrive at 1:30. The
train is a very comfortable way to travel. In the front of each
train car there is a sign that announces the time, how fast we are
going, and the outside temperature. The maximum speed that I have
seen it reach so far is 301 km/hr (about 187 miles/hr), but seems to
travel mostly around 298 km/hr. The ride is so smooth, though, that
it doesn't feel like we are moving that fast at all. It is only when
I try to look at poles or trees near the tracks that I notice the

I left the hostal this morning around
9:30 to walk to the train station. I was glad that I had a bunch of
euros with me because Javier (the owner of the hostal) asked if I
could pay with cash rather than with a credit card. Guess I´ll have
to go to an ATM sooner than I had planned. Good thing I had bought a
bunch of euros from my sister before I left the USA. (She had a lot
left over from her 2 trips to Spain earlier this year.) Because I
had scouted out my route yesterday, I knew exactly where I was going
this morning. I didn't want to take any wrong turns with my luggage
on my back. Stopped along the way at a neighborhood bar for a
breakfast of café con leche y un bollo (coffee with a Spanish
breakfast roll). The bars in Spain are different from those in the
USA. They are open from morning to night and are for coffee and
light meals as well as alcohol. More of a café-bar. They are in
every neighborhood, so you never have to walk very far to get a
coffee, a snack, or a glass of wine.

I ended up at the Atocha train station
around 10:00 am – much earlier than I needed to be there. I spent
the time people watching and relaxing. I was amazed how quickly the
time went by. There was a woman in a full burka sitting near me in
the train station. Can´t imagine how someone can survive completely
covered in black in this heat; she only had a small slit for her
eyes. I had previously seen many Muslim women with head scarves, but
this was the first woman I´d seen wearing the full burka. I
listened to a podcast on Spanish culture on the plane and heard that
there is a large Muslim population in Spain now, particularly in
Granada. I´ll be in Granada for 2 days in August, so I imagine I
will see more women in burkas. It is even hotter in Granada than in

The train sign says it is 1:20, so I am
going to pack up my computer and get ready for my arrival in

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