From San Sebastián, I hopped on a train and headed back down to Madrid. Sadly that same day also saw one of Spain’s worst rail disasters in almost 70 years, one that saw the lives of 79 people lost and another 140 people seriously injured…
You see another train which was heading from Madrid to Ferrol, derailed at high speed on a bend just outside the Santiago de Compostela train station. The train has been reported to be going at more than twice the speed limit as it was hitting that bend and because of that the train driver has been the centre of most of the investigation since. From online news reports I read last week they say the black box records have shown that the driver received 3 system automated warnings before he finally engaged the emergency brakes. But by then it was too late. He has also reportedly admitted to driving recklessly and the police have formally accused him of manslaughter caused by recklessness. To me, it sounds like the driver is definitely guilty. But I’m not a judge. So we’ll have to see how it all plays out. I just hope there will be justice for those 79 lives which were lost.
I must say, I had a big “that could’ve been me” moment when I heard about the crash upon arrival at my hotel… you never know what’s on the cards for you I guess. That’s why you’ve gotta live every moment to the fullest and never take anything for granted.
I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the developments around this story, but for now, I can at least tell you all about my time in Madrid. As Spain’s largest city (with approx. 3.3 million people), you can imagine it’s quite an exciting one, with lots to see.
My hotel, Hotel Moderno (booked via Booking.com), was right in the thick of things, situated just a few steps away from the bustling Puerta del Sol square, surrounded by packed cobblestone walkways, major shopping and lots of history.
The hotel only cost me 66.67 euros per night, which I thought was pretty good, cause the hotel location was really great and my room was pretty cool too. Lemme show you:
It even came with it’s own kick-ass terrace:
Sure, straight on, this was my view:
BUT, if you turned your head to the right and focused on that area (and that area only), things were pretty damn good I’d say:
Now like I said, I was in a nice busy part of Madrid, pretty much in the heart of their old town. Around me were lots of shopping streets all splitting off from the Puerta del Sol, some of them covered to help with the sun during the day I’m guessing (it gets bloody hot in Madrid – and there’s no beach to help you escape & cool down):
Oh and this is what the Puerta del Sol square looks like:
This square is actually home to Madrid’s most famous symbol – a 20 ton statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree:
The official name is ‘El Oso y El Madroño’. The Madroño part being a tree which is related to the strawberry tree. But what does it all mean? Well apparently the bear, which is a female bear btw, symbolises the fertile soil of Madrid and the tree symbolises the aristocracy… if like for me, it still doesn’t make too much sense, don’t worry, just look at it as a really pretty and interesting statue. 😉
Now the square is also home to various street performers. You’ll spot a lot of these guys and girls doing those human statue vibes, but added to that are these “look I’m floating in the air” stints:
Then there’s also the musical types. Like these guys doing an impromptu piece of opera magic, pretty much right outside my hotel:
As you can see, my hood was quite an exciting one. And it got even better at night when it was all lit up. To me, it was the perfect area to kick off my Madrid exploration.
But stay tuned, there are many more Madrid moments to come…
PS. Forgot to mention – if you catch a taxi from the Chamartin train station in Madrid, they will nail you with a 9.5 euro train station surcharge. Absolutely ridiculous yes, but something to just take note of. My actual taxi fare came to 18.2 euros, then plus the surcharge it came to a whopping 27.7 euros. If I knew that before hand (the taxi driver didn’t explain any of this until we got to the hotel), I would have rather tried to figure out the bus/subway options.