Trains, metros and automobiles

Transportation in Madrid is social and patterned. Passing through turnstiles you commit to a way of being together: elderly priority seating, stroller and mom, squeeze but respect space, make room for oncomers, commuters in their own Kindle world and young teenagers in packs without supervision. Although public transportation can be confining, there is also freedom and adventure.


We are on the metro to the Chamartin station to catch a train to Segovia. Twenty euro round trip ticket on the high speed Ave, and we arrive in thirty minutes. Thirty years ago I remember getting to the station with my backpack, looking up to the salidas board and deciding where to go. Today we bought tickets at a kiosk with a card and selected our return tonight at 9:30. Then I wrote in my journal and fotos with my camera, saving three months of film rolls in an X-ray bag; today I blog and sacar fotos on my phone.

I love the time on the train for reflecting, talking, eating without worrying about renting a car, passing trucks or getting lost. The train time is a break from the constant thinking and processing travel requires.

I went to Segovia on a bus with the programa as a college student. In thirty minutes we travel back to the end of the 15th century when Isabel and Ferdinand married to unite Castille and Leon and rule Spain from the Alcazar. They sent Columbus to the new world and expelled Jews from Spain. In the next century Felipe would move the capital from Toledo to Madrid to rule the from the center of the peninsula. There he developed the acres and acres for recreationg and hunting at the Casa de Campo (which we visited a few days ago), moved the throne to the royal palace and led the inquisition from El Escorial.

Cars provide the independence and choice, but trains allow for travel with strangers like the bearded thirty year old commuter on his MacBook or the smartly dressed grandma with her adult granddaughter or the students with their roller bags traveling together. I think the two dozen just flew back from Paris and trained home from Madrid.

We get on bus 11 that takes us all to the 2500 feet long, 100 feet high roman aqueduct built 2000 years ago by Trajan and then a walk to the castle and cathedral, the noble homes and the beautiful views from the tower.

From that tower we met a couple from Sacramento, took pictures for each other, talked about our travels and families (they left an eight and four year old home with grandparents) and made a date for dinner later in the week in Madrid.

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This morning (Wednesday) we took the metro from Sol to Atoche Renfe and bought a fast train ticket ida y vuelta for Toledo, where we hope to rent a car and explore wine tasting at Marques de Griñon in the relatively new La Mancha wine region.

We could rent here in Madrid, but the 90 minute drive home into Madrid at night doesn't sound as appealing. And there might be a bus that gets us there.

"There" is a Spanish winemaker who studied at UC Davis and cultivated vines on the property his family has lived on since the 13th century. He and his daughter were written about in Wine Spectator a few years ago as a father-daughter team running the winery. Their wines were highly rated by Robert Parker.

I'm getting ahead of myself. We have only finished our cafe Americano and cortado, croissant con chocolate and and are waiting our train. Already it's a great day.

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We asked the tourist information in Toledo about a bus to the rental car that would take us to the winery. We got to Avis but there was a sign: "Gone for twenty minutes. Forgive the inconvenience."

We took the bus back to the old city, enjoyed the cathedral, and found a vinoteca to sample a local Cabernet and Tempranillo blend with locally cured venison. Then to the famous Count of Orgaz painting by El Greco and a walk back through the 15th c Jewish Quarter before sitting down for a three course menú del día, a nap at the train station and an earlier train back to Madrid.

Not the day we planned, but an adventure nonetheless.

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Natalia, who served us the Matua wine and deer jamón at Colección Catedral, recommended we visit the owner's Terraza Cibeles at Plaza Cibeles 1. We knew the landmark plaza but were unaware it was located on the sixth floor roof of the iconic post office (where we shipped home our extra stuff at the end of our sabbatical in 1997 and where I posted letters in 1981.) It must be the largest post office with the best vista in the world.

Anyway, our adventure continued with an amazing view.

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P.S. We bought a bottle of Marques de Griñon and cheese at El Corte Inglés for a dinner on the rooftop of our pensión.

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