Tuesday, May 23, 2017


For most of my trip I had the generous services of mi guia, Frank, and did not have to figure things out for myself.
On my first day in Madrid, however, I was on my own. 
I tried the phone with the expensive plan, and the GPS took me around and around and around. I only wanted to find Puerta del Sol. It is one direct walk from my hotel. But the phone GPS did not deliver me there.
I did not care. It was my first day, and I was content to wander and excited by everything. I kept getting sent around and around Plaza Mayor. Well, that is another intended destination, so no big deal.
However, it was the last time I tried the phone GPS.
In the old days we used a map. 
I had two maps this trip, but the printing was too small, so I could not  really read any of them. I did not notice that on the back of the list of Hostals offered at the desk was an easy to read map of just the area of Madrid where I would be exploring.  So that was helpful.
Had I noticed that or asked for a map at the hostal counter, I would have had much less difficulty finding everything.
I also picked up a map in an office advertising various tourist opportunities.
Before I found the better maps, I showed one of the small print maps to a policeman one morning, and he immediately pointed out the direction for the  Prado. 
That was helpful. 
But in giving directions, he did what so many do at home. He gave me too many options. 

In this case one  route was quicker but more complicated. 
The other just a bit longer, but was very simple.
Look, when I ask for directions, I don't need the shortest route. I need the easiest. 
H. Allen Smith says it well in his humorous  essay, "You Can't Help But Miss It."

"The chief fault of the average directions giver is an overabundance of detail."

He also describes a direction giver in England as one who gives just two directions and then suggests another place to stop and ask again.
While he finds that too frustrating, I don't.
In Spanish I can absorb only two directions at a time.
The first is easy. The guy points the  way. The second is one turn to the right or left. 
After that, I'll be asking directions from where I am.

The Prado was easy.  Go down this street and turn left. It is on the right. Only there was a huge turn in the road. Still, I did not get confused and there was some signage, so I found my way to the area.  I recognized the Prado long before I got to it by the long, winding line for tickets.

Now, when I lived in Spain and visited Madrid, I just used the Metro to determine my direction. 
I did that one night  on this trip because it was late, and I had finished a bottle of wine at supper.  I  wandered around Plaza Mayor without taking note of where I had entered it.
Frankly, I did not care.
The nice waitress at Bar Iris had upped my Menu of the day from a glass  to a bottle of wine, and she had reminded me of my hat when I left without it, and she had put aside and saved my glasses which I did not remember until after the flamenco show where I drank yet another glass of wine.
One does not tip much in Spain, but if one does, the people remember you and take care of you. I had tipped 2 euro to the waitress at Bar Riso.
I went to the Flamenco show and another glass of wine came with the ticket to the show.
After the show,

I took the night to wander aimlessly.

I got to the section called La Latina, which I had read and wanted to visit. I could not remember how to get back.
So, I hopped on the Metro. 
The Metro worker said the direction, but to actually get to Sol I had to change.
That is simple. The signage tells me.
Well, I do have to know that the red line goes to Sol if pointed to Las Rosas, but I've learned that on other days.
I got off at Opera, switch to the red line, and went to Sol. Simple, even after a bit of wine. 
And that is the way I used to do it 47 years ago.
And if I had made a mistake, I'd just have to get off and correct it. There would be no new charge as there would on a bus. I could stay in the Metro riding one line or another all night and end up having paid one and only one fare.
47 years ago we'd get off at a Metro exit and then simply explore the area, have some food, see the sights, wander as far as we wanted and then ask directions to the nearest Metro, check the maps, and return.
I remember that Sol used to be central to our explorations, but perhaps that is not the case now. However, the idea is the same.

Unlike being on a street with a map, the Metro has very limited advertisement and it repeats directions so that eventually we get where we are going. We are not overwhelmed with distracting visuals  There is practically nothing down there but schedules, maps and trains.
I was home in no time.
Just don't arrange to meet by a poster of a nearly naked girl.  I did that with Frank and the next day the poster was gone.
I had bought 10 rides on the Metro when I arrived, and I used them all in one way or another. 
Frank helped by giving me directions. 
We had to connect to a particular bus to go to Hervas, and to the fast train for Segovia and Avila.  That took some guidance.  I think I could do it on my own the next time.
One idea is to skip Madrid altogether and have the taxi driver from the airport take me to the fast Segovia train at station Chamartin.
Then I take the bus to the aquaduct.  Bus 11.
Details from a trip advisor post:

Bus From Guiomar Train Station

There is a No. 11 bus from the Guiomar Renfe Train Station that goes to the Roman Aqueduct downtown about 15 minutes after the train from Madrid arrives. The bus is coordinated with the arrival of the train. The bus trip takes 20 minutes. The cost of this bus is 1 euro.
From Monday to Friday, Bus No. 11 leaves the Roman Aqueduct for the Guiomar Train Station starting at 06:30H. There is a bus every 20 minutes. The last bus leaves at 21:40H.
On Saturday this bus leaves starting at 7:35H and the last bus is at 20:00H.
On Sunday this bus leaves starting at 20:40H and the last bus is at 21:40H.
A taxi from the train station to the Roman Aqueduct will cost 8 to 10 euros

So, I think it would be fairly simple to go directly to Segovia.  Also, the flights from Boston to Madrid are overnight flights and arrive early in the morning.  So, it takes a while before I might check in at a hotel.
This trip I paid for an extra night in order to check in as early as possible.  However, I might better have a nice lunch in Segovia while I wait for my room.

Getting around Segovia is very simple.  Free maps and suggested walking routes are available, and if lost I could just aim for the Aquaduct and easily get reoriented.
Avilla is also easy, although the signage for finding how to walk the wall was a bit unclear. Frank was annoyed at that.  We did not notice the entrance to the walkway which was above the wooden model. 
I only took two rides in a taxi the entire trip, from the airport and back.  These were zoned so that the cost was 30 Euros with no chance of being metered and long hauled.  Don't assume that the drive will punch in your destination by name in a GPS.  Have the actual address ready.  I would have been well advised to ask him to go to the nearest Plaza, Tirso de Molina.  He probably would have known where that was. 
I had the address of my hostal in my wallet and just handed it to him.  That worked.  But even then it would have been helpful for me to say, "Circa Tirso de Molina."

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