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Note to self: When taking the shuttle to the airport to the metro to the train station, start earlier.

I woke up this morning 45 years old. Whoop-de-do. Actually, it is kind of fun being another year older, and kind of significant as a milestone, especially in Spain. My birthday breakfast was Euro deliciousness, and was replete with scrambled eggs, a couple of crusty rolls, and melt-your-eyeballs-from-the-inside coffee. Yummy.

We took the shuttle back to the airport, because it would be cheaper* (*read as “FREE”) to do that and then take the metro subway to the train station. Okay, that option kind of started to crust over when it took a bit to pack the slightly late shuttle to the gills with passengers, then an extra loop around the airport to get to Terminal 4. We got on the metro without too much difficulty, but then realized that the number of stops ahead of us would probably keep us from getting to the train station on time.

We didn’t make it. The first thing we did was rebook our seats on the next available train, which gave us another hour-and-a-half or so.

Plus, Kevin was oddly attracted to my man-bag and wanted his own. I had purchased said bag at the train station the last time I was in the train station, and being late for our originally-scheduled train meant some shopping time was on our hands. (On our way to Coronel Tapiocca in the train station, the store that sold the bags, I was successfully panhandled by a crazy lady… and I was FAR too easy a target. Sigh.) Kevin scored a man-bag, which we have dubbed the “Captain Pistachio” bag, and off we went into the gate area of the train station.

If you have never been to the Madrid Atocha train station, think about visiting on your next trip to Spain. The interior of the building past the shops is a mini-rainforest, and there is a nifty pond with about a billion turtles (okay, maybe just about 500 million) swimming about and sunning. They look like read-eared or yellow-eared turtles (for you biologists, I KNOW that turtles don’t have ears, but that’s what they are called, duh!) and probably have as lush a life as could be desired for a crunchy little reptile.

We made it to Valencia in record time, courtesy of the high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Valencia. We found our hotel after a short, but meaningful, taxi ride with a female taxi driver that I will forever call “Lorena, mi taxista.” She was awesome, and I hope to see her again this trip. I got her number, so if we need a taxi, we have a driver.

We spent some time exploring the city by foot after we got our stuff into the rooms. Ahhh, Valencia. Lovely city, pleasant people, and one crazy fella who cornered us and talked at us in bad German (to Kevin) and ridiculously fast Spanish (to me) for about 20 of the longest minutes of my life. Several times he asked me to translate what he was telling me in Spanish to Kevin, which was NOT an effective use of anyone’s time. We successfully hunted down dinner (more like tapas, really), drinks (more like beer for Kevin, really), and dessert (more like a TGI Fridays, really).

Perfect way to end a birthday.