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Chatted with a gentleman near me on the plane. He's English, wife is American, kids were born in US but they've lived in Amsterdam for 6 years. Nice for kids, not too big or busy, so bicycle friendly. He calls UK trains a disaster, chopped up and privatized, not like dirt cheap Dutch or Italian trains. He pointed out the view to me, so flat and low (I'm not sure if one can *see* it's below sea level but he implied that) and lots of glasshouses. I looked at the Easyjet destination map, and noted how Spain seemed to have Madrid by itself in the center and everything else on one coast or another; he said in between is mostly mountains. I can see them now -- we've gone from rather odd cloud texture to none, save for low ones filling some valleys -- and they're dry and lifeless seeming. Though now with what loo like reddish agricultural patches, then grey ones. Quite odd.

Obviously Spanish made it to some rather tropical areas, but so far my experience -- LA, Baja, Chile, Spain so far -- seems amazingly uniform in climate and geology.

His 9 year old daughter is a "reading fiend" and asked him to load Tom Sawyer onto his iPad. Aww. Also he has preloaded Google maps on the thing. Just PDFs? I tried doing that once for the phone, but the result wasn't usable.

Some of the mountains have trees now. And some of the other mountains are much higher and steeper than the rolling topography I was taking for granted.

Madrid airport signs: English on top, but Spanish bigger. Spanish takes precedence outside the security zone.

Ah right, this is why checked luggage sucks; long wait for it. And I need something distinctive to put on my bag, to distinguish it easily from all the other oversized black duffle bags.

Got my overkill tourist pass. 7 days, all zones, including Toledo. Let's see if I justify it.

I was told 50 minutes by transit. Actual train ride is more like 20, though I spent another 20 getting out of the station and finding my street. Building mounted signs again, and also again, signs are scarce at the really complicated multi-street intersections. Or possibly hidden by construction.

Odd system: the lights don't work unless the hotel keycard is in a special slot. But a table lamp, the TV, and the hair dryer do, so it's not a total electricity lock.

I was told there'd be a laundry price list in here; there is not. Nor wifi code, though I was told that at the guest. And it's WEP! My computer will work!


Time for food, and once again being intimidated by the language barrier. I wouldn't mind guessing at ingredients and pointing, but with the first few places I was unsure of the whole style of delivery, not wanting a fixe prix multi-course meal just now. Ended up at a Chinese restaurant of all things. Not that great, but their table menu was bilingual; after ordering I held onto the menu and started learning.

Google Translate had suggested something for tap water, and it worked!

Restaurant had ashtrays, a shocking regression.

I've already decided that the Spanish dictionary that's been weighing me down for 3 months can finally earn its keep. Pack it, or even walk around with it, translating words as I see them. Demand driven learning, like my Latin poetry ordeal.

Hmm, laundromats seem very rare in Spain. How interesting.


Damien Sullivan

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July 2019


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