We awake to another wet and windy morning in Santander - do the usual thing, shower, get our stuff together and head off to the Station. It's a breakfast of local scran and a coffee. We then head through security to the train station - yes you now have to get your bags x-rayed and all that stuff - this is due to the train bombings in 2004.
We then waited for the train as the hall filled up - I noticed a few Mainland Chinese had showed up, these are the nouveaux riche of China, the ones the Hong Kongers love, they have the famous brand names on the outside of their clothes and are clutching bags from Chanel, Gucci and other famous brands. I get that feeling that I sometimes have, that this lot are going to be sat behind me being a grade A pain in the ass. I wasnt wrong. We'd managed to blag First Class Tickets to Madrid, so was looking forward to this. Then just behind me two of the female Mainlanders sat down. Straight away they behaved like spoilt 5 year olds - on with the mobile phones and began shrieking to their mates back in China - they also put them on speaker phone so everyone else could hear how much fun they were having. This wasnt going to be a peaceful ride. Just when I thought my normal tolerant nature was about to be broken, some Spanish people beat me to it and called the train guard - fun and games for a while - they refused to shut up and laughed until the guard told one of them to get out as she was in the wrong carriage. Eventually the other one shut up and peace was restored. This lot really are all fur coat and no manners. The rest of the ride was quite pleasant and we got to see quite a lot of the Cantabrian Mountains and some ancient castles. Towards the end of the ride, the one who had been slung out of the carriage snuck back in and normal spoilt Chinese Brat behaviour resumed, Only upside was that they forgot to get off at their stop due to the fact they wouldnt listen to the guard. We saw them in Madrid & they didnt seem that bothered as they were probably ordering a Private helicopter to take them back to the other station. I was glad to see the back of them.
Once in Madrid Station, we realised we hadnt done our homework (PPP by PPB)* - We were about 6 miles from where we were staying, it was dark and pouring down and the traffic was in gridlock - but we were clueless - so had to jump in a taxi - Our taxi driver looked like a Spanish version of Jack Duckworth, a down to earth chap, smelling of fags and cursing the traffic. It took 45 minutes to get to our gaff and cost 30 Euros - If you're heading this way, do your planning - there is a Metro underneath the Railway and will cost you 4 euro per person for the same ride. Doh! All part of the fun. I let Grant deal with the pleasantries and Grant managed to learn some new swear words in Spanish.
The Hostal was in the centre of Madrid, but really I had no idea where we were. Madrid is big and we didnt really see much of it on our little ride into town. The Hostal place was okay, clean and cheap, what else do you want? We then had a mosey around our area and eventually found a great little place - ancient, standing room only with massive beer taps and a Lead bar - probably wouldnt be allowed in Blighty. The locals all tend to keep to their own social groups, having a small beer, some nibbles and then move to the next bar and do the same. So there's no inquisitve chat to the weirdos who have shown up - bit of a shame really. Then in comes a chap who's as isolated as us, so we get chatting - his name is Dominic (Surname retracted) (also a doppelganger of my mate Rhidian Morgan), Dominic is from Montreal - he's been travelling for the last 9 years and had some great stories to tell - he told us he'd got bored after doing a trip from Alaska to Mexico and when he got back to Montreal, he did the sensible thing and ran away to the circus - seriously. He is now an Electrician with a global circus that navigates the planet and stays in various places for 3 months at a time. Dominic was great fun and as the night was drawing to a close, Dominic suggested he show us "an interesting place" he knew of. Dominic has been in Madrid for the last 9 weeks and it's always nice to get a bit of local knowledge. The place we ended up in was a Pole Dancing Cat house full of scantily clad South American ladies. Lord Gibbs of the Foreign Office would have described these ladies as being ''Very Friendly".
We had one beer and left, it wasnt a particulary heavy scene in there, but these kind of places are the same the world over - best to keep your wits about you, have a beer and vanish. Our new friend Dominic seemed to be having a great time, so we left him to it.
So that was our uneventful first night in Madrid.
(* PPS by PPB = Piss Poor Planning by Piss Pot Billy - a term coined by Lloyd Scragg after a particurlarly badly planned Journey in Asia a while back.)