It was mid morning and I was back on an Ouigo train this time heading to Madrid’s main train station, Atocha. Unfortunately, the train ticket was not as cheap as the previous time. Matter of fact it was almost three times price since I paid €61 euros instead of the €21 I paid going to Barcelona. From what I saw though the prices vary quite a bit depending on the time of day you pick. Regardless if a flight ticket was cheaper, having an XL seat with no one next to you, free wifi, no airport hassle, and a view out the window will always be better.
What sucked though is that half-way to Madrid the train stopped and in total the delay was 2.5 hours which basically doubled the time of the trajectory. I could not complain too much because we were told on the speaker phone and via email that we would get a full refund and so I will take a free ride to Madrid any day of the week especially since it did not affect my plans in Madrid since they were for the evening.
The hotel I booked for the night was about a ten minute walk from the central train station so I checked in, took the at home Covid test because it was still mandatory at the time to return to the US, and got ready to head back out to the station, but this time to meet up with a work colleague. I work for a global company and I had been working closely with Luis who is based in Madrid on a project. When I told him I was going to Barcelona for vacation he said I had to make my way to Madrid to meet up. It worked out that my flights were to and from Madrid so we arranged to meetup on the return part of the trip. This would also be my first time meeting a colleague in person so it was exciting to see a familiar face physically.
History was repeating itself at the train station and I could not find Luis. There are more entrances and exits at Atocha than Sants and require crossing streets to get to each of them so I did that several times trying to find him. Eventually we saw each other and the reason for the delay was that he had just missed the train close to where leaves so he had to wait a bit for the next one.
I did not know my way around Madrid because I had only been here two days about 12 years ago, but Luis had a plan and we took a taxi to get to the famous park El Retiro. There were various nice restaurants there and we walked upstairs to the terrace of one of them. Even though it was already 7 o’clock they were not serving food yet so we had to sit in the section that just served drinks. Luis got a beer and I got my favorite Spanish drink, Aquarius. Something I did not know is that in Madrid when you order a beer you also get a generous bowl of candy and not the bad and cheap kind, but actually tasty candy. With my Aquarius I got some nuts.
Eight o’clock came around and we were finally allowed to move to the tables from which you can order food and we went all out. We ordered croquetas, a tomato tuna salad, calamares, and a milanesa. By the end of the meal I felt absolutely stuffed, but there was one more thing I wanted to eat that night.
After returning to Atocha and saying goodbye to Luis it was about 10 pm, but I still needed to get some churros. I did not get any while in Barcelona and it would be a crime not to get any during my whole stay in Madrid. I googled for the best churros in Madrid and Chocolateria San Gines came up. Many reviews were saying these are the best churros in the world so I was excited to try them, but I needed to walk fast to get there before they closed. I made it and I got the typical Spanish hot chocolate with the churros.
I immediately knew these were not going to be the best because they had the bags of churros lined up and also the cups of hot chocolate. I guess this was their way of keeping the to-go customers moving quickly, but it is certainly not the way to have great tasting churros. The only thing that made the churro warm was the hot chocolate, but the churro itself was already cold and there was no crunch. An outside crunch for me is a must and with most fried things if you do not eat it fresh the taste is completely different. I was a bit disappointed, but after a very satisfying dinner I still felt very good.
The night had certainly settled in, but nightlife in Spain and the capital is just different from other places. Many people were still celebrating Madrid’s Champions League final win from the day before, but I certainly did not share their joy. Barça did not even win the Europa League. Anyways, it was time to catch some sleep and head back to Miami.