Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DAY 27: Bad Blood

That’s the only way I can explain why today was such a rotten day. Every started out well, I was so glad to have wifi on the airport express bus that was only €5, and it only took about 30mins to get from the airport to the center of Madrid.

Then things just started falling apart. First, because I only had one converter(I left on on the train at some point), I couldn’t fully charge up my iPhone, but I had charged my extra battery back up. I’ve had it with me for a while and it’s a champ. But for some reason, this morning, it stopped working, the lights that indicate it had a charge wouldn’t light up.

Now that meant I had to be careful with my phone. Since I had planned on a long day, I was a bit worried. The airport bus took us directly to the Atocha Renfe train station. I had an expat explain to me at the airport. He also said, you can’t get lost, just walk up to anyone and say ‘Prado’.

Ok, so I asked my bus driver as I got off, he waved his hand, spoke in spanish(I keep asking them in Spanish so I can’t blame them). It looked like I was just to walk down, cross the street and keep walking.

I hate circulars. You can’t just cross at a corner, Madrid has got the most gigantic ‘placa’ I’ve ever seen, so you end up crossing three corners to get across the street and I mean across the street. Nothing is simple. But I didn’t see signs, I tried my GPS and it worked ok, after a few misdirections. Why do GPS always assume you can just walk through a building?

I got to the Prado, it was beautiful, I got lost in the museum in a good way, until I ended up walking up and down the stairs because I couldn’t remember if I entered on the 0 floor or the 1 floor. I don’t understand and they had these circular ‘salas’ that drove me mad. No photographs were allowed and for once I complied, but there were so many great paintings and I had such great ideas, that I had to take notes. Unfortunately, I was told to leave my backpack at the entrance which held my notebook. Instead, I used my phone to take notes. To the detriment of my sanity later in the day.

I’ll leave my musings about the Prado for another day, it was magnificent and it was definitely worth going. I really didn’t want to spend as much time as I did, but oh well. I have to add though, why did all these religious painting have so much nudity? A fig leaf?

Then I wanted to catch the Madrid hop on/off bus, which had a stand right on the corner of the Prado. I got on the first route, some extended route which was supposed to take 2hours. Ok, I hadn’t made plans to stop since the Prado was my main priority. So I figured I’d just ride around.

Route 1 was the modern Madrid, there were some nice things, but the bus was crowded and the sun was a scorcher. At one point, the driver pulled the roof cover over us, only to take it off 15minutes later, I didn’t understand that. Was it not  because of the sun? Was it because we were going to pass under a bunch of trees with a lot of birds? I don’t know, no one said anything.

I didn’t like route 1, so I hopped off in front of the Ministry of Agriculture because a woman at the Prado told me that the post office was by that building. Of course, she didn’t explain where and I walked the wrong way. I brought some postcards asked the woman who didn’t speak one word of English, but I asked about ‘correos’ which was on their mailboxes and she spoke rapidly in Spanish and waved me away. She actually came out of her stall and pointed me in the direction. It was a mail box, I asked for ‘postal officina’ you know, post office?

So I tried my GPS which directed me to a 20min walk, I got there, found a mail box. So I walked back, I’d try the Ministry again. But I did stop in the train station and there was a woman in the ‘information’ box for the metro. I said ‘Hola, habla Ingles?” She shook her head, no. I had a deep sigh and she said “Lo siento.” I thanked her with a gracias and I even threw in the lisp.

But after walking in the hot sun for over 40mins, I decided I was going to stop and get something to eat before I lost my mind. I found a place with pretty pictures of different paella, I thought I’d try it, I love seafood paella. This is was in the main strip, near several museums, a major train station and the waiters couldn’t speak English, so it was a lot of pointing.

I do know enough Spanish to know some numbers, the waiter said it was a 25min wait to make paella. Ok, I get it, it’s a dish. So pantomined small, “no grande” I said, so he gave me another menu. There I ordered a sandwich. Then he came back and I figured out, he wanted to make sure I didn’t want the paella, no I didn’t want the paella. I got some sandwich with tomatoes, bacon and and egg. It was great, I was so hungry.

When he gave me the bill for  9.50, I felt bad because all I had was a  10 bill, so I just left that, the guy was so happy that I gave him a  €0.50 tip! That was the first smile I had gotten from anyone today.

I walked the corners to make my way to the ministry building, it was now 2:30pm and I wanted to get back on the tourist bus for Route 2 which went to historical Madrid. So I walked over to the Ministry, I figured SOMEONE has to know SOME English. I mean seriously, they had on suits!

One guy said he knew a little, so I explained I was looking for the post office, he asked the other guys standing around and the policeman in the funny hat shook his head. Further Spanish discussion but the cop kept shaking his head. I didn’t understand, the impression I got was maybe the branch was closed. But the guy with a little bit of English told me where to go. He actually made sense to go to the next ‘calle’ and turn left (he committed with his hand signs too).

Sure enough, at the corner, I took a left and there was the bright yellow “CORREOS” sign. I walked in the first door, walked down some stairs and ended up in a mail sorting area. I don’t think I was supposed to be there so I walked out and went into the next door which also said “CORREOS”. It was a long empty corridor but then a woman stepped out as I continued to walk in. Again she spoke in Spanish, I spoke in my halting Spanish which was taking leaps and bounds at this point. She asked me a question and after twice repeating herself, she was asking if I was trying to mail something or if I was looking for mail for myself.

So I pulled open my back pack and pulled out the little package I had and said “pacquet para Unis Estados”. She got a look on her face that told me I was totally in the wrong place. Then another woman came out and they talked excitedly and in Spanish, as if I looked like I understood everything they said, they explained (thank you God for giving me a brain that works) that I can only mail stuff out at the Plaza Cibeles (I knew the place, we passed it on the tour bus). They told me to walk down Paseo de Prado, go past the Prado Museum, it would be easy because it was only 10-15mins away, look for the old palace and it was there.

“Si, palacio” I aped what words they said that I could understand. “Muy grande.”
She nodded and explained more in Spanish. I said “passado de Prado?”

Yes, I was to keep walking until I found it. Then as I walked, I got so frustrated because of the heat, I was dehydrated and how does a major cosmopolitan city like Madrid have such a problem with English? Then I realized that the tour buses go to Plaza Cibeles, I can just hop on that and save myself walking. My ankle was starting to throb.

I was just about at the Prado when the tour bus arrived at the stop. I ran for it since it was letting people off and on. I was at the back of the bus, my arms waving and he just closed the door and drove away. I was so pissed. An under the breath F word exploded from my lips.

I held my temper, what was I going to do? Kick the fountain? So I kept walking because I knew the main waiting area was in front of the Prado and I caught up with the same stupid bus that blew me off.

Later as I waited for the airport express bus at the train terminal, I noticed that the bus drivers do that, they ignore anyone running for the bus, they close the door and just drive on. So at least I couldn’t take it personally.

When I finally go to Plaza Cibeles, the tour guide in the bus told me it was easy to get to the post office, she waved in a vague direction, “It’s very easy, just cross the street here.” I guess I should have stood and asked for more, but she made it sound like it was just there and I’d see it and angels would sing, clouds would part and God would put a spot light on it.


I crossed the street as she told me, remembering the old ladies, I saw the magnificent building that could have been a palace so I crossed the street there. More men in suits and ties, whatever. So I walked in and a security guard stopped me again, I asked “correos? Postal officina?” He shook his head and said in halting English. “No, you want post office?” I could have hugged him. Then he did what everyone in this city does, he waved to the left, go around and it will be there. I thanked him, hopeful, walked around the building and suddenly, Angels sang, clouds parted and God put a spotlight on the big sign “CORREOS” then I tripped on the the little step up. But I found the post office.

I walked in, it was so nice and airconditioned, from Italy, I learned how to take a number and waited. Then I practiced what I would say to them and turned on my phone’s internet and looked for the google translate.

When it was my turn, I was very good.

An older man indicated he was waiting for my number, so I walked up and smiled.

“Hola Senor, lo siento. No habla espanol pero…” I pulled out my phone and showed him the translation:

“Necisito una caja para enviar un paquete a lost Estados Unidos”

He read it out loud as he read and said, “Muy bien.”

He got me a box and we put my package together, all the while he chatted away in Spanish and I just kept smiling and nodding. Then when he weighed it, it was 2.026 kilos, he shook his head and said something. I guess if it stayed under 2kg, it was processed one way, if not it needed a separate process. He handed me a piece of paper, told me what to write(thank God the sheet was translated in English!). I wrote and then he started asking me what was in the package, he had seen it but he wanted more, I’m so glad my Filipino dialect has a lot of Spanish words.

“papeles, periodica, libro, mapas” I explained, he nodded and typed. Then he asked something about the book, then I realized that he had to write up a duty form because it was heavy and he needed to put a price on them! So I told him the book was ‘dix’ he nodded, then he said the periodicas were 9 cents.

He chatted away with me in Spanish and I was so glad to just get this off my back, figuratively and literally that I thoroughly enjoyed his chatter. After he typed, he put a label on it carefully then when he finished he said “Ok, tres bien, muy  bien.” He was covering his bases!

I was so happy, I got my words messed up and told him “Muy gracias!”

Then I continued with my bus tour. And I enjoyed this route much better. I love the architecture and continue to be fascinated by the wrought iron balconies.

Then I got off at the Plaza Mayor when the  tour guide mentioned the famous Mercado de San Miguel. Food? Of course I'll look!
That's when I realized they had tapas, so I decided to snack.

They had gazpacho! I was happy again!

Before I knew it, it was past 530p, so I headed for the bus terminal to catch the airport express, only to see it pull away. No sweat, they were supposed to be every 30mins. Of course, that was optimistic of me, it was more like 45mins but then two of them showed up at the same time. I got to the airport at 645p, the reason I remember is that I was told by the hotel that the shuttle runs every hour. So I thought, yippee, I can get the 7pm shuttle. She said ok, she would send the shuttle.

The shuttle didn’t show up until 735pm, almost an hour of waiting. I actually called the hotel and said ‘senorita, sobra quarenta minutos aqui Terminos dos.” She thought I spoke spanish and rattled off something in Spanish and ended with “Ok.” So I said ‘ok’, she hung up on me and I muttered to myself “I have no idea what she just said.” Someone who understood me, laughed. I’m glad I made someone laugh.

I told them that I needed at shuttle at 5am tomorrow, I just hope it arrives on time or I’m screwed. Then I stepped out to see what the restaurant was serving, it was closed. So dinner would be coke zero, then as a final insult. My room card wouldn't work, so I knocked on the door since there were a bunch of Asians standing around. The old man wouldn't open the door for me! He pointed me to go around. I don't know if I had a look but I kept signaling for him to open the damn door! He finally did, I slid past with an annoyed "gracias" and realized I probably should have said "xie xie" instead. They were Chinese.

I walked up to the desk, with my room card in my hand and the woman asked me "It's not working?" I shook my head and she had to reset my card.

I really just want to leave Madrid, twice I’ve heard Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” and I’m convinced it’s the theme song for my Madrid experience.

Now it's loudly thundering, what a lovely denouement.

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