Spain - No Where to Go


There are advantages to taking an overnight train, bus or plane.  You can save money by sleeping while you travel instead of paying for a hotel.  It also lets you maximize your time by traveling at night so you have more free time during the day.   But there is no guarantee.  If you are in a lousy seat or a crowed train compartment you may get no sleep and spend the entire trip awake.

That's what happened in 1985 when I decided to take an overnight train from Paris to Madrid.   I was on a budget.  I arrived in Madrid early in the morning, still jet lagged from my trans-Atlantic flight the previous day.   I quickly found a hotel and the woman at the front desk told me I could leave my bags and check in "later."   I was exhausted but I had nowhere to sleep so I set out to explore the city.  That's how I ended up outside the beautiful Royal Palace of Madrid where this photo was taken.

Royal Palace of Madrid in 1985

I wandered around some more, exchanged some money and eventually headed back to my hotel.   I was hungry but I wanted sleep more than I wanted food.  The hotel finally let me check in and I went to my room and took a nap.   I woke up a couple of hours later. My stomach reminded me that I hadn't had anything to eat since I got off the train.

I left the hotel in search of a restaurant.   At the time of my visit, Madrid was a city of more than 4 million people.   It should be easy to find a place to eat.   But what I didn't know, or at least didn't remember, is that EVERYTHING shuts down in Spain for a siesta.   I looked everywhere trying to find a place to eat.  Nothing and I mean nothing was open.  No stores, no restaurants, no fast-food places, nothing.   

I was still tired and decided I would go back to the hotel to take a nap until things opened up.   At the hotel, the front door was locked and a sign said they would reopen later.  They were also having a siesta.

I couldn't get in the hotel so I really had no place to go.   I was tired and frustrated and didn't really have the energy to keep walking around.   I found a bench and waited at least an hour, maybe longer.

Finally, I saw a restaurant that was opening.  I was the first customer of the evening.    At this point in my life, I didn't know a word of Spanish.   The waitress handed me a menu that was all in Spanish.  I just pointed at something.  I was so hungry, I didn't care.   She brought out a dish that was meat and rice.   It was delicious, or at least, that is what I thought.  It might have terrible, but I was so hungry, it didn't matter.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel and went to sleep.  I would explore Madrid more the next day.

I haven't been back to Madrid, other than an overnight stay at a airport hotel in 2017.  However, I would love to visit again.  Next time, I won't take an overnight train.

Dates of Travel

  • March, 1985
  • August, 2007
  • August, 2017
  • May and June, 2022

Places Visited

  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Ibiza
  • Granollers



This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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