Day 14 : Thursday 4 May 2000. Madrid - Irun.

Around 8am a couple of guards/policemen came in and asked us for our passports; don't know why, but the train had originated in Algeciras so maybe they were searching for illegal immigrants.

Anyway the train crawled slowly into Madrid Chamartin station, and the first thing we did when we got off was deposit our rucksacks at the left luggage office. It was raining heavily, which was not pleasant at all. The station was some way out of the town, so we got the local metro service into the city centre (Sol). We thought the system was well-indicated, efficient, swift, and comfortable. When we reached Sol it was still raining hard, so we looked out for a place to sit and have breakfast. We very quickly (fortunately) found a small cafe/bar place. Taking tips from the guidebook we both asked for a chocolate con churros. We got a bowl of very thick syrupy chocolate mixture and some long, thin, doughnut-like things. The chocolate was very good, Ian wondered how they made it so thick, and Laure thought she could taste semolina. Ian did find the churros a bit dull, though they improved with dunking them in the chocolate.

It was still raining when we left so we went shopping for books. We ended up in the FNAC department store at one point, and bought a few cheap CDs. We also found a shop near la Plaza Mayor that sold all football things, so we got a Real Madrid tie for our friend Phil! It was now lunchtime and we attempted to buy some food from "El Museo del Jammon". However we got very confused in our attempts to buy 2 croissants with jamon and chips. It seemed to us as if you had to buy the croissant from one part of the shop and take it away, but the chips from the cafeteria part and eat them in, despite them both being advertised on the shop window. By the time everything was ready and we knew what was going on, the cafeteria was full so we had to eat out anyway!! The only place we found to sit was in the bus terminal on Plaza del Sol, a bit wet and smelt of bus fumes, but never mind.

We finished our lunch then decided to head for a museum, a bit of culture at last! The one that seemed the most interesting was the "Centro de Arte Reina Sofia", Madrid's modern art museum, so off we walked. It was on a square with a sculpture in the middle; two metal boxes; which announced what we'd find inside.

Granted an art gallery doesn't normally make an interesting photo, but this is modern art and besides we were running out of film!

We thought it would be quite a relaxing visit but the museum was very big and we kept having to sit down as we became more tired! The paintings and sculptures contained within were both modern (the oldest was from 1894), and 'modern' in the sense of 'modern art'; the most common exhibits were by Mino, Dali, and Picasso, although the first few rooms we went to were holding an exhibition of work by Tapies, very dark and moody but interesting - he tended to use lots of mosses, dirt, and other similar things. There were also a number of exhibits that were half-painting, half-sculpture. Mino's work was more colourful, with obscure representations of women and birds in both paint and sculpture. There were quite a number of people in the gallery, but the only bottleneck was at the only painting in the gallery to be sectioned off and guarded, Picasso's "Guernica", which is just as odd in reality as it is shown in books etc. We didn't go round the whole gallery, by the time we reached the 3rd floor we were completely exhausted, so we sat and had a drink in the cafeteria instead.

After leaving the gallery we had a little wander round the streets of Madrid, past some nice buildings including some government offices. We found somewhere to eat, a small cafe near the Puerto de Toledo, in the south-west of the city centre. We didn't eat much, Laure just had a salad and Ian a bocadillo. Just after 8pm we took the metro back to Chamartin, and waited for our train. We were eating pipas (sunflower seeds) while waiting, and some Italian guy came up to Ian and asked him for *one* sunflower seed!

A series of fountains near Madrid's parliament buildings. Don't worry, it's the last picture! (I decided not to upload one of Hendaye railway station!)

We boarded the train at 10pm, and were initially disappointed with the couchettes, Ian especially given that a) he's 6'3" tall, b) scared of heights, and c) likes to know where he's going (there were no windows). It was also very hot in the couchette itself, especially so high up (we were in the top two beds). There were six beds in each section, in two rows of three, and the compartment was mixed sex. The conductor actually took our tickets off us. After chatting to a Belgian by the doors of the carriage, we both went to bed, expecting a strange night.

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