The Sword In The Stone

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yesterday was pretty much a waste of a day.  After getting of the night train and getting on the other train we dozed on and off for most of the train ride in very uncomfortable positions since we were back in normal seats.  The train didn't arrive at Madrid until 2pm so once we got there we found a travel information office that recommended a hotel a short way from downtown near a metro stop.  It ended up being an old hotel, that you could tell used to be really fancy, but now it was cheap and worked perfect for us.  We were still exhausted though, so we grabbed a small lunch and took it back to the room and fell asleep for a while.  I'm not sure if we really gained anything from the night train since we ended up sleeping the whole day away anyway, we could have just taken the morning train from Paris and made it to Madrid by the time we woke up in the afternoon.  Still I guess it saved us on a hotel for a night.  For the rest of the evening in Madrid we were going to go out for tapas, which are small plates of food that you get a few of so you can try different things, but we ended up just walking around for a bit and getting fountain drinks from McDonalds.  It was the first time on our whole trip that we have gotten anything from McDonalds.  Man do I love fountain drinks.  We went back to the hotel and I finished my book.  Before leaving on this trip it had been ages since I had read a single book, but in the past couple months I have finished around 5.  Jacki has finished just as many.  This book that I just finished, though, was unbelievably long.  It is called Pillars of the Earth and is over 1100 pages.  I have been working on it almost daily since Florence.  It is an awesome book, still I can't believe I actually finished it.  I am glad that I can stop carrying it in my day pack too.This morning we woke up completely refreshed and went out for churros con chocolate for breakfast.  We had some communication issues with the waitress and ended up with a huge meal not entirely of stuff we ordered.  The bottom line was that we got the churros con chocolate, which I have been looking forward to for months.  They make this special hot chocolate that is super thick, so think you can lay your spoon on the top and it won't sink.  The churros are pretty much just fried dough like funnel cakes and you dip them in the super hot chocolate.  Awesome.Our other adventure for the morning was to find a nunnery.  There are nuns in Spain that bake cookies and sell them.  The fun part is that the nuns don't interact with people in the outside world so it is very different than just walking in a bakery.  First we had to find the convent.  I don't know how but we found one on a side street off one of the main town squares.  In the square there were a group of kids flamenco dancing, mickey mouses selling balloons, and a fat guy dressed up as spiderman with his stomach hanging out.  Then right down the road there is an unassuming door with a small sign.  The door is locked so we paged the nuns.  A lady came on the intercom with 'Hola?' and Jacki knew the correct response of 'Dolces,' so they buzzed the door open.  Down the hall and through some courtyards there was a wall with a wooden lazy susan and a price list to the right of it.  You never actually see anybody, the nun (who sounded super nice, though was just rattling off sentences in Spanish that we had no idea what she was saying) put some cookies on the tray and spin it around.  Then you take the cookies you want and put the money down and spin it again back to her.  It was pretty fun, and we ended up with a bunch of cookies, and we supported the convent.  Everyone wins.  I still have no idea how we found it.  After that we went to the train station.  We are heading to Toledo in the afternoon so we got our tickets for that train and while we were at it we booked the rest of our train tickets for the rest of the trip so we don't have any more surprises.  I can't believe that we only have a few more train rides, a few more cities, then we head home.  It really is pretty sad.  We are ready though.Toledo is an old old Spainish city.  It used to be the capital at one point.  The train ride there was only about half an hour from Madrid.  When we got there the train station was an amazing building with carvings and stained glass windows.  The station is outside of town, so we could have walked about 20 minutes up the hill to the city, but instead we went super tourist and got on a double decker tour bus.  They give you headphones and they tell you stuff about the city, while taking the scenic route into town.  The city is on the top of a hill, like most medievel towns are, and is surounded on almost 3 sides by a big river that curls around the hill.  There are walls surrounding the city, and in the middle on the very top is a huge cathedral.  The bus took us to an overlook on a nearby hill, then up to the center of the city before dropping us off.  The town was great, like most of the old walled cities that we have been to recently.  One weird thing was that they charged a ton to get into the main church.  I didn't know you were allowed to charge to go in churches.  We've seen a few big ones on this trip so we just wandered around going in a lot of shops.  It would rain on and off throughout the day.  They really push the whole medievel thing here so we decided to buy a small sword.  When it was time to head back to the train station it was pouring.  We found a cab though and he took us right to the station.  When we went to get on the train to head back to Madrid security stopped us.  We can't take the sword with us unless it is wrapped in a box.  Well the train was leaving in 15 minutes and it was raining.  There was a sign saying that you can take that sort of thing on the train, but I guess the kicker is that it has to be packaged correctly.  So we went to a shop at the station, no boxes.  So we went to a bar and they gave us a big box that smelled like cheese.  We tossed the sword in and went to get on the train.  Nope.  Security still wouldn't let us through, I guess the box has to be sealed.  The train leaves in less than 10 minutes.  So our choice was to try and find another box in the rain and maybe miss our train, or throw it away, and while it wasn't a fortune, the stupid thing wasn't cheap either.  So we went out in the rain, and I went down the road and couldn't find any shops nearby, but there was a pharmacy.  The pharmacist was super nice and got us a huge box that the sword fit in fine and taped it closed.  If you're ever in a pickle anywhere in the world, go see a pharmacist.  We took it back to security, tossed this huge box on the x-ray machine, shot the security guard a dirty look, and got on the train.  I'm not sure what difference a strip of tape makes, but I guess rules are rules.  The sword isn't even sharp.We weren't very hungy, but we hadn't eaten in a while so we went out for tapas by our hotel once we made it back to Madrid.  Jacki got potatoes with 6 salsas, which it turns out means french fries and beenie weenies with variations of ketchup and thousand island sauce.  I went out on the limb and got anchovies.  I don't think I've ever had them before, but they really weren't bad at all.  Just very salty.When we were back at our room for out night getting ready for tomorrow it hit us that of course we are going to have problems with that stupid sword when we get on our train to Grenada tomorrow.  There is only one real train that goes to Grenada and it leaves at 9am so there is no chance of finding a post office in time.  We spent 2 nights in Madrid and saw almost none of the city.  Spain is very different than the other European countries we've been to, it's fun though.  Hearing all of the Spanish speakers for some reason is kind of weird, since it is similar to the Spanish we hear at home, but a little off.  It's hard to explain, but for example instead of 'gracias' they say 'grathia'.  I'm sure we speak it terribly.It was a fun day though!
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