The Big Mistake…or not

April 7, 2024

The 03112 to Madrid 

  We stopped for coffee and croissants just around the corner from our apartment the morning of our departure from Barcelona. Then we walked the five minutes or so to the city’s main train station, where we sauntered through baggage check, and then immediately onto our first class carriage for our two-hour plus ride to Madrid. This is European train travel at its finest: no waiting, no lines and drinks served upon departure. 

  Later, lunch with wine was served. It was not the same hot, gourmet lunch I remember enjoying on my previous solo (and pre-covid) trip from Barcelona to Madrid back in 2018. This time they handed out box lunches of cold ham and cheese sandwiches and a dessert square. But at least they retained the haute-cuisine touch of cutting off the crusts of the white bread. Civilization is preserved!

  We’d taken up a Rick Steves recommendation for the Hotel Europa located at the beating heart center of Madrid, Puerta del Sol (there’s a marker in the square designating kilometer zero as the mythical center of Madrid). Four stops on the metro from the Atocha train station, and we were able to drop our bags and head downstairs into the middle of Madrid’s nightlife. Which we were able to sustain until sunset, when we headed back to the room and crashed to the sounds of Puerta de Sol just getting cranked up.

Madrid’s beating heart: Puerta del Sol

  Full of swagger over our sweet ride to Madrid, and scoring a great hotel and location, Carol set about the task of putting the exclamation point on this trip, and booking our home for the coming two weeks in the historic (Phoenicians founded It in 1100 BCE) Atlantic coastal city of Cadiz. 

  We envisioned this as another live-like-the-locals experience. We’d spend a couple of weeks in an apartment, cooking our meals, washing our clothes and finishing out our evenings on a couch eating popcorn and watching Netflix. Just like the Cadizians do, right?

Carol’s daughter thought it would require quite a swim!

  But it wouldn’t turn out to be the Cadizians precisely. While Carol located what seemed like a real gem of an apartment in a neighborhood (she thought) of Cadiz named Rota, it turned out to be a whole town of its own named Rota, and located on the complete opposite of the bay that separates these two towns, by approximately 30 kilometers as the bus rumbles. By the time an ashened-face Carol confirmed both her fear of where Rota was actually located, and that her fear was also non-refundable (remember it was for two weeks), I set about finding a paper bag for her hyperventilation, while secretly thinking, romantically, this could be one of those travel fears that could be both surprising and special. If we could work out the logistics of arriving in Cadiz by train at 6:30 in the evening, and making it over the bay to our apartment before, say midnight, we’d be fine. (I’d also carved out an unsigned agreement that if this did turn out to be a disaster, I would earn some frequent FUBAR points of my own to cash in when needed in the most certain future of our journeys together.)

Our street

  In what would be our first indication that we had Magoo-like stumbled into Spain’s version of Shangri-la, however, our host mapped out an itinerary that had us getting off the train two stops before Cadiz and taking a taxi from there to the apartment in Rota. We arrived at the door at 6:30 p.m, the same time as our originally planned arrival in Cadiz.

The Madigan/Champagne castle entrance
The great, arched wooden door protecting the entrance to our apartment, off a narrow, auto prohibited, cobblestone alley, lay in the shadow of a medieval castle, a lighthouse warning off Atlantic Ocean mariners and an American-owned bar that features a Sunday dinner special of fried chicken and homemade mac and cheese. 

Feet firmly planted in beautiful Rota.

 I say: Welcome home, weary travelers. (And I’m earning zero frequent FUBAR points, it goes without saying.)

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