The Road to Santiago.
September 27, 2002



11:00 p.m.: Well, I'm finally out of Madrid, but it wasn't easy.
I got up around 7:30 to discover that I was still alive. I was a little wobbly but feeling a lot better. Thursday was a lost day. After a good shower and clean clothes I felt daring enough to venture out into the city. Hadn't eaten more than a glass of orange juice in 24 hours, I needed something to eat. (The good thing about my insulin regime is that I take Humalog when I eat and the dose is related to the amount of carbohydrates in the meal. The long-acting Lantus insulin accounts for my baseline metabolism. Thus, I can skip a meal without fear of becoming hypoglycemic. Although, to be on the safe side, I test my blood every 2 or 3 hours when I'm sick.)

Most Spaniards eat a pastry roll and a café con leche for breakfast. Obviously, I try to avoid such a meal. So, I found a little place which served eggs. I ordered huevos revoltos con tocina (scrambled eggs with bacon) and a café con leche. Normally this would agree with me. But today it didn't! One bite was all I could take. So I ordered a zomo de naranja (orange juice-fresh squeezed!!) Because orange juice has so much sugar in it, I generally avoid it, but this morning I couldn't help it. To compensate, I had to take an additional shot of Humalog.

It was 9:00 a.m. and I wanted to buy a couple of things before I left Madrid. But the stores don't open until 10:00 a.m. so I wandered the streets. I found I cyber café and decided to check my email. Boy, do they have fast connections. I wish my computer with its modem worked as fast. I also wished that the cyber cafés would allow  me to hook up my computer and up load my journal entries and photos. They don't! I've been told it's because they are afraid of viruses getting into their network. Saw a message from my web guru and answered it. Read a note from my brother and answered that. Then I saw another note from the web master. It was a response to my response. This surprised me because 9:00 a.m. in Madrid is 3:00 a.m. back home. The man must never sleep.

Went to the super mercado to buy some food to have available if I can't find a restaurant during the trip. Bought a couple of pears and oranges and a package of boiled ham. The full-sized super market with fresh fish, live shell fish, and fresh-cut meats is in the bottom level of El Corte Ingles, one of Madrid's largest department stores. Talk about one-stop shopping!

Got back to the room and stowed my things into the backpack. Boy, it seemed a lot easier than I had anticipated yesterday when I was sick. Left my other bag with extra clothes for the return trip with the hotel concierge who will store it until I return. Called home at 1:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. Boston time) to say that I felt good enough to head out. After a quick lunch of a fresh pear, I donned my pack, hung my scallop shell around my neck, put on my hat, grabbed my pilgrim's walking stick and headed to the train station — first leg of my trip. The first step on my trek was - to the metro.

The metro in Madrid is excellent — one of the best I've ever been on. It's well laid out with clear instructions and friendly helpful workers. So, I thought the trip to el Chamartin train station would be a breeze. Well, it was until I got to the point where I had to change lines for the last two stops before the train station. That line was in repair, so I had to ascend to the street and take a special shuttle bus. Talk about crowded! And I'm trying to get in with a bulky backpack and a 7 foot walking stick. It was so crowded I started to get nervous. I was reminded of the time when I was pick-pocketed on a subway train in Mexico City. I immediately became suspicious of the little guy next to me. So I rode the whole way with my hands over my pockets while trying to maintain my balance as the bus lurched around the corners.

I got to the bus station about 3:15 p.m., in order to take a 6:00 p.m. train. Once inside the station I had to wait in line for 45 minutes to buy my ticket. When the ticket clerk asked me if I wanted smoking or non-smoking, I said I didn't care. So she asked again, "smoking?" I shrugged okay. She took my credit card and swiped the strip though the machine. It didn't take so she entered the numbers manually. Then she said the fatal words, "completo." How could my credit card be full, it was only the beginning of my trip. So I pulled out my ATM card and asked her if there was a machine nearby. She said that she didn't mean that my card was full, she meant that the train was full. She then told me the next train was 7:00 a.m. mañana.

I started to panic. I checked my Frommer's guide to find that the only nearby hotel listed the cost at $100 per night. So I went outside to ask a cabbie where there were some cheap hotels. He said "centro de ciudad" (center of the city)  Great — that's where I had just come from. Well, I never like to backtrack so I decided to try a different tack. I went to a lady in the information booth and asked her if there was any other way to Pamplona. She said I could take a 10:00 p.m. train to Zaragoza, arriving there around 1:30 a.m. and transfer to a 2:15 a.m. train to Pamplona arriving at 5:45 a.m. It was a little longer than the 4-hour trip I had anticipated. But I felt that I had no alternative. Besides, perhaps I could sleep on the train.

So I had to wait in line again for a ticket — this time only about 20 minutes. When I showed the ticket man the itinerary that the information lady had printed out for me, he raised an eyebrow. "¿Porque Zaragoza?" when you could take a train at 6:00 p.m. directly to Pamplona? I said "¿Pero, completo no?" and he said "¡No!" When the first ticket clerk said, "Completo!" she must have meant that the "smoking" section was full — language barriers are sometimes trying!!!

Well, I boarded the 6:00 p.m. train to Pamplona. It was the cleanest, brightest, and roomiest train I had ever been on. And the ride was so smooth that I didn't realize we were moving until I saw the station slipping by. Before long I was fast asleep.

I awoke about 9:30 p.m. at a stop before Pamplona. Fear started to set in again. It will be about 10:15 when I get there. I'll be too tired to walk far from the train station. Train stations tend to be in the outskirts of town. Hotels near the train station will be expensive. I could take a taxi to the center of town but then it would take some time to find a hotel no es completo (with a vacancy). To hell with it; I'm too tired to care. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be! I'll take what comes. What came was a beautiful new hotel with a nice spacious room and a great big shower only 200 meters (that's the length of two football field) from the station — for 36 bucks a night. What a way to end the day!!!

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