Up n atom for the last leg - We worked out that there is a metro in Seville, it's not big - this is due to great aspitations but history got in the way - Once they started digging to put the metro lines in, the construction crews kept coming across Roman ruins and basically the plans got put on hold - so there's only one line and it doesnt even get close to the Railway station - we foolishly decide to try the Metro, just to check it out and see how close we can get to the Railway station - it would have been easier to get a cab - we walk about a mile to the first Metro Station, jump on board and get off at the nearest stop to the Railway station, that's another walk for another mile. If you are staying here, just use a cab, it's much easier - Hey you live you learn. Our train will now take us back to Madrid and we'll have another hour to wait before getting the train to Valencia - Once again we've managed to blag some more First Class tickets so we travel in style - Seeing the countryside this way is great. the train is superfast - 200 KPH - and the seats are very comfortable - we've got nothing like it in merry olde Blighty. Into Madrid for more terminal boredom and wait it out until we can find out which platform we're on. Off we go again, through security and are on our way to Valencia - Another fast train and it's only a couple of hours to the next port of call.
We opt for a cab as Valencia seems quite a bit bigger than Seville - it doesnt take long to get to our Hostal, another cheap and cheerful place. Turns out we're bang in the centre of town, right by the Central Market which is impressive. We are surrounded by some excellent architecture. Light is beginning to fade so we do the usual thing and embark on our normal city hike - clueless as to where we are going - this takes a couple of hours - the city is very busy, a lot busier than Seville. We end up doing a full circle and realise we're back where we started and really we're in the most interesting of areas - We're in El Cid's capital - one thing that we noticed - where El Cid set up business, he did it properly - there's marble pavements around the entire area - well done El Cid - some proper planning for a change. We get some tapas etc at a place nearby - it's funny how it works, we always find the emptiest place - but within twenty minutes of us sitting down, the place gets packed - A crowd attracts a crowd - it's not us working our magic, it just happens this way, we tried it a few times just to see if it works. It does. We then have a wander and what seemed like a quiet area a few hours ago is now teeming - we stop off at a few bars - they're not really bars - most are tapa joints where the locals do their thing huddling together around small tables sipping beer and sharing tapas - so we wander around generally being ignored. Towards the end of the night I'm thinking it's a bit of a snore, but Grant does his thing and starts talking to some locals - Boom, we're then introduced to everyone and have a great time - our local mates are then heading home and it's getting late - the bar owner is yawning a bit and Grant says he'll try to get us a last beer and goes talking to the bar owner and his wife - come on in, more beers, no problem - they're really interested in Grant and how he's come to learn more Spanish - being a history buff, Grant starts asking about the history of Valencia - turns out he knows more than the locals and they think it's brilliant that Grant knows all about El Cid and the wars of the area - this is good news for us as they start bringing out food and get a few beers in - Eventually it's time for us to leave so we opt for a Kebab to end the evening - it's been a good night.
Sunday and it's a chilly start and a bit of an admin day - Grant will now be moving out to his apartment for the next week as he's joined up to the local university for a week of advanced Spanish. I also want to find out how to get to the airport without getting a cab - So we wandered down to Estation de Norde and work out that this is my metro station, I just go down and jump on the red line number 3 and this will take me directly to the airport. Seems simple enough. We then have to walk back to our area and Grant will pick up the keys for his apartment - this goes well enough and we then look at the address for his new gaffe - it's a bit of a walk and we end up getting lost a few times trying to find it. Eventually we get there and the keys dont work - there's 2 girls who are doing a similar course and tell us that the same thing happened to them and that we've come to the wrong address - they tell us that Grant's apartment is another 40 minute walk to the north of the city - Grant is now in a flap over this. I say let's get to the station and he can get in a cab - theres no point me coming as it'll take another hour to walk back to my place - so we agree, I say, give me a call later if you want to meet up - so I wave him off and away he goes - I walk back to the hotel and then get a call from Grant - the taxi took him straight back to our area and his new apartment is 2 streetss away from our hotel. Not bad - can only happen to us.
Grant checks into his new gaff, which is a 3 bedroom apartment and is pretty good - he walks back to my hostal, which takes him 5 minutes and we head off for the evening tapas. There's still quite a bit going on this Sunday evening and we end the evening in an excellent bar, which somehow we'd missed the night before - this bar was very old and was like a very grand small sweet shop from days of old - despite the grandness, the people who worked there were very down to earth and welcoming - they specialised in craft Spanish ales so we sat down and had a few sharpeners, very nice as well - I was on the Spanish IPA, which seems to be a new thing for them - amazingly it wasnt expensive either - Grant said he was going to make this his local - dont blame him, it was great - we thought it was a bit quiet as the weather was cold and windy but around 10.30 pm, the place got mobbed - everyone had been to the Bullfights and were now having a nightcap - looks like they'd all enjoyed themselves. We called it a night at 11.30pm and then went our separate ways - It's been a good trip - really though the adventure just starts for Grant - he's got a week of academia to polish up his Spanish, then he'll head north via Barcelona to Gerona, then into Bordeaux and jump the trains through France to Paris and then onto London and finally back to Cardiff on the 21st of November - where we'll meet up as we traditionally do at The Prince of Wales for a pint of Abbots.
So in summing up, yes it's been a good trip - we've seen quite a bit of Spain but really scratched the surface of the cities we stayed in - Madrid especially as it's such a big place. Seville is still the place of choice, relatively unspoilt by the modern world - and also doesnt suffer the same level of graffitti as the other cities - yes there is graffitti under the bridges and train stations but none in the historic areas - every other city has been smothered in the stuff - funny really why it's accepted, Valencia as well was smothered with the stuff - not on El Cid's buildings but virtually every other place was - I imagine if El Cid was around, the Graffitti "artists" would be rounded up and fed to the lions.
Today, Monday 11th November, I'm up early, showered and now on my way to the airport - should be a doddle as I'd even done the dry run yesterday - just walk to Estatio de Norde and get on the Metro Line direct to the airport. So off I go and yes get lost, dont know how that happened but I do find a metro station - so head there and try to get my bearings - I do manage to work it out but somehow I now have to change at another station - it's not too difficult and eventually I'm on the right line and get to the airport - not bad, it took 35 minutes and cost less than 5 euros - better than the 20 euros plus that was quoted by the hotel guys. So here I am now killing time - I got myself a coffee and thought well I'm here now I've got a couple of hours to go and can relax - I then noticed there were no Ryanair planes on the runways....and for one cold sweaty moment I wondered if I was in the right Airport ....I'd heard there's 2 and the other one was a hundred miles away - after a quick panic attack I run around the airport and finally work out that I am in the right one - Phew - I say this because it's happened to me before and can be massively stressful (See Gibbslocates passim - Bangkok).
So that's about it for this one - I'm now having a gentle sharpener to while away the hours until the flight back to Bristol.
A few things, I'd mention, Spain is quite a laidback place - do learn Spanish if you come here - They do understand English, but you'll make friends if you make the effort to sprechen the lingo.
The people are pretty much always dressed well - the young ladies are pretty and even the old boilers scrub up well - The older a gentleman gets over here, the smarter he dresses. I also think that in Madrid, Olive from "On The Buses" is a bit of a fashion icon as all the girls seem to be wearing the same glasses as her - quite disconcerting really.
So, it's now back to a particularly cold wintery Blighty and home to our old friends "The Heavily Tattooed Bellowing Apes" who thankfully dont migrate to Spain at this time of year.