Last train to Lisbon 

June 11, 2023

The 12:00 to Badajoz 

The 14:09 to Extremadura 

The 17:27 to Lisbon 

   Rick Blaine had an easier time getting on the last plane to Lisbon out of Casablanca than it would seem Carol and I had in getting there from Seville. Say goodbye to the train-is-the-destination guiding principle for this trip. From here on in it would be, are we there yet? and “will that millennial ever shut up on her three-way phone call?” in the seat in front of us. I just wanted the train to get us there.

“There was no number anywhere, but we surmised that was track 5. It might as well have been numbered 9 ¾ for all the good the lack of identification did us.”

the picturesque side of town…

   But there were four trains between Seville and Lisbon. In Seville the ticket agent told us he could only sell us tickets to Badajoz on the Spanish/Portuguese border. Then in Badajoz, the ticket agent said we’d have to buy the ticket to Lisbon on the Portuguese train. “We have nothing to do with the Portuguese railway. Plus, they’re on strike. They didn’t show up today, and we don’t know if the train will be running tomorrow.”

…and the side I booked us on

   In announcing his plans to visit the town of Badajoz, James Michener had written in his travel memoir Iberia, “when I told my Spanish friends they grimaced because they had [been there]. ‘For the love of Jesus, why Badajoz? It has absolutely nothing.’”

   Badajoz is bisected by the Guadiana River with all the interesting Roman and Moorish sights on one side, and the featureless, uninteresting, commercial side, which was where I’d found an inexpensive hotel for the evening. At least Carol was satisfied with the accommodations. The Hotel Lisboa was clean, good smelling and cheap, that last feature being the one that had left Carol suspicious of my choice. However, It also turned out to be a short walk to a true hidden gem of an eatery,  the family owned and run Lugaris Restaurant, which provided a feast of prawns and steak that had matched anything we’d had in the rest of Spain. That dinner had put us in a good frame of mind for the minor ordeal of getting to Lisbon the following day.

Dinner made up for it, though

   In the morning we walked to the train station, as we had almost three hours to kill before our scheduled departure. A lively café in the station would also help kill some time. The train to Extremadura, where we’d change for the final leg into Lisbon, was listed as departing on track five. We found tracks 1-4, but no 5. When we asked, the station agent repeated “track 5.” Now, just down from the station itself, was a lone set of tracks that ended abruptly before a concrete abutment. There was no number anywhere, but we surmised that was track 5. It might as well have been numbered 9 ¾ for all the good the lack of identification did us. When the self-propelled single-car “train” chuffed into “track 5,” it looked like it could be taking us to Hogwarts after all. I think we could have walked to Extremadura in the time it took that Tooterville Trolley to limp its way there. Happily, we were entertained by two garrulous German kids, who adopted Carol and me, and we passed the time with them playing show and tell with all their toys and books. It also gave me a chance to brush off the rust on my four-year-old level German.

Home for the next 3 1/2 hours

   On the final leg into Lisbon, Carol found a moderately priced hotel for the evening that featured a rooftop terrace overlooking the Tagus River and a glittering nighttime cityscape. We were going to book there for the rest of our stay, until Carol saw the rates practically triple for the weekend. We enjoyed the view over a couple bottles of rosé, and left the search for affordable accommodations for the morning.

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