Madrid to Paris and St Malo
I'm writing this lying on the bed in our train cabin on the way from Madrid to Paris. Obviously, this will be posted when I am back in a hotel with Internet access. It's a "Preferential Class" cabin, one step down from a "Grand Class" cabin (shared rather than individual toilet and shower as well as no dinner thrown in). I have to admit that I am rather disappointed with the cabin. In eating mode it is not very comfortable. There's no reason why a bench seat rather than two individual seats could not be used. The decor is very utilitarian and the included breakfast is apparently in the restaurant, not served to the room (could be wrong here). No entertainment other than a Spanish magazine, but I wasn't expecting any.
All in all, my recollections of sleepers on the old Overland between Melbourne and Adelaide and the Vinelander (Melbourne and Mildura) are of a superior service. I would always stay awake on them, just to look out the window. I think I'll try for sleep on this trip.
B is already asleep. We requested that the conductor lower the bunks early, something he was reluctant to do. The train shakes a lot more than other high speed services in Spain and France, and B was feeling motion sick. I don't mind itself. It's generally aircraft and rollercoasters that get me.
I am quite glad to say goodbye to Spain. The country certainly had a number of high points, including the landscapes, Muslim gardens and hot chocolate. We just never felt as comfortable there as in some other places. Sometimes it was the language, for which we only have ourselves to blame. The service also left something to be desired. For instance, we spent most of the day shoppinqg alonqg Calle Serrano. At 2pm we felt very hungry, so we sat down for lunch at Cafe & Te at ABC Serrano. The waiter took our order, there was even an English menu. Drinks came out and... nothing. We waited and waited. We asked the waiter where our food was. The kind Spanish couple besides us asked. The waiters couldn't seem to give a damn and even avoided us. After an hour we paid for our drinks and left.
Very hungry, the only eating places seem already packed and we wanted fast food now. Eventually we walked all the way back along Calle Serrano and ended up eating greasy so-so food at Cafe Nebraska.
By the tim we returned to the hotel to collect our luggage it was already getting late. We dragged our luggage down to the metro and, with one change, thought we were on our way to Madrid Chamartin, the departure point for tonight's train to Paris. On the way we realised that the metro station at Chamartin was not open and instead we needed to catch a connecting bus at Plaza Castilla. We could have saved ourselves one metro change!
Plaza Castilla is the location of the twin slopping glass office towers. That's all I have to say about it.
We made it to Chamartin with time to spare. Wandered around, bought a couple of t-shirts so that we have something to wear tomorrow. Would like to have visited the toy shop which sold model railways. Pity we missed out on the Prado in Madrid. At least we prepurchased a museum pass for Paris so that we can spend a day viewing some culture!
The good part about this train ride is that it is an enforced rest. No wandering the streets late at night looking for places to eat or shop, no surfing the internet until late. It's a good chance to pick up on some relaxation during the holiday.