Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jan 29 2009

Southwards

I didn’t want any more last-minute rushing around this morning, so I was ready and checked out in the lobby at exactly the time we had agreed upon. Gordon was already conducting business on his mobile, telling someone off about something. The weather out was clear and cold as it has been the past few days.

The high speed train to Madrid is about as fast as the one in Taiwan, speeding along as around 300kph. I got a window seat, but the sun was shining on that side more or less the whole way, making the view difficult to see at points. Still, after all of the messy factories were left behind, amazing scenery began to appear, hills and mountains, scraggly bushes and trees, fields plowed to resemble zen rock gardens, crops of olives. Each little town had a tower or church at its center. We passed a huge, fire-belching oil refinery, painfully beautiful in the sunlight and clouds. The larger cities were industrial and ugly, the smaller towns picturesque. The weather changed many times, going from sunny to cloudy to rain and back again in the space of a few minutes’ time. And the rain definitely does not stay mainly on the plain.

We reached Madrid in about three hours, the train sliding into a long berth under a modern station roof. Freaky giant baby heads at either end of the platform greeted us as we looked for the car rental area. One of the places had a suitable Volkswagen Golf, so we piled our stuff in and were off, though Gordon stalled the car a couple of times in traffic.

We hadn’t eaten yet, though, so we picked a nearby Ecuadorean restaurant at random, sitting in the basement with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised, though; the chicken and potato dishes I had were delicious.

Then we were truly off, finding the A4 south. Gordon was still talking on his mobile, and a police car pulled up beside us, the officer inside flashing his badge at us. Apparently it’s illegal to drive and talk on your phone here. I wanted to write a quick “Gracias!” on a piece of paper to show the officer through the window, as Gordon actually needed all his attention on driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar city.

Not long afterwards, however, Gordon got tired, and I took over the wheel as Ray doesn’t really drive standards. It had been quite a long time since I drove any car, much less a stick shift, but it all came back fairly quickly, and soon I was driving down to southern Spain, seemingly alone as both my traveling companions asleep. I grinned to myself as the scenery floated by at 120kph outside; one of the things I’d missed living in Taiwan were long solitary drives on straight highways that vanish in the distance. This was just the thing to scratch that itch.

The weather was still being capricious, raining one minute and blazing sun the next, forcing me to learn all of the wiper and light controls very quickly. The VW was very pleasant to drive, smooth, quiet, stable at speed and powerful. I drove in silence as the sun began to set over the approaching mountains, casting dramatic shadows and then leaving only massive silhouettes with a frosting of lights showing where small towns were located.

We got to Granada about 9 p.m. or so, managing to get lost and enrage a fair proportion of the driving population with sudden U-turns, stops and other insane maneuvers as we tried to find the hotel. Eventually we managed; parking in their little underground complex required automotive acrobatics on a level I haven’t used in a long time, but I managed to get the car into the stall without any damage.

The Abadia Hotel, where we’re staying, is an old building nestled in the warrens of the older part of town, with a courtyard garden in the center. Our rooms, big with double beds and carved adornments on the (admittedly thin) walls, are on the top floor, in what was the attic, so the ceilings slant and we have skylights for windows. The satellite view shows all the buildings in this district have a similar layout, but you couldn’t tell it from the narrow alleyways. Granada looks like a very old town, but so far I get the feeling that it is a friendly place. We wandered around a bit, having dinner at a restaurant near one of the many squares. Our talkative young waiter had immigrated to Spain from Argentina only a year and a half ago.

Tomorrow we’re planning to look around the city, especially the main feature, Alhambra.

posted by Poagao at 7:58 pm  

1 Comment »

  1. good for you. getting a car/vehicle and driving around is my favorite thing to do on vacation, especially a foreign destination.

    Comment by Prince Roy — January 29, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

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