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Howdy. We've moved from Cayce, but St. Elizabeth of South Rose Hill or Lizette de Waccamaw de Sud just don't do it for me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Rome Trip - July 12: The Day of Seven Conveyances

Up at 5:30, downstairs by 6. Izzy went to call a taxi while I waited by the bags. It was a pretty fast ride out to Ciampino airport; our driver's job seem to consist of disapproving of many other people’s driving skills.

EasyJet check-in was very easy. Based on what we saw people keeping with them for their flights, it appears that the many pages of baggage regulations we had read and printed were essentially suggestions. No shoes off at security; no packing questions. (Come to think of it, there weren’t any packing questions in the US, either.) EasyJet veterans sat on the floor by the gate; we sat in chairs. Their line-up got them the 5-6 seats on the shuttle bus out to the plane.

Before we left the terminal, we looked at the duty free shop. “Real” prices for scarves and purses were much higher than on the street in Rome. (Should have shopped more at the street vendors.)

We found seats together on an exit row when we boarded the plane. The friendly flight crew appeared to be having lots of fun, even occasionally changing the content of the announcements when repeating them in another language (everything was said in Italian, Spanish, and English).

After we landed in Madrid, I had a tough time with the smoke. The smoking area in the airport was right next to the main baggage claim area. The taxi to the train station was smoke free, but Atocha station was only partially smoke free; there were lots of “No Smoking” signs, and most of them were right next to ash trays, so those signs more or less announced smoking areas.

Atocha Station, interior "rain forest"

We didn’t have printed train tickets, just Internet purchase confirmation numbers, so we went to the ticket purchasing area. It was a bit confusing until Izzy found the broken kiosk where an employee was handing out “now serving” numbers. There were different sets of numbers for different kinds of transactions (buying, pickingup, Internet sales, etc.) The ticket agent said that "someone else" had picked up our tickets already, and then went to check on something. It turns out that our tickets had been printed and given to the “train master” (conductor) at the start of our train’s trip in Barcelona. All we had to do was show up 1/2 hour before departure time , check the board to see which platform we needed, and show our reservation number to board the train. We now had several hours to kill, and it was time for lunch.

We’d passed a vegetarian café on the way to the station, so we stowed our bags in a locker (the woman at security was NOT looking at the scanner’s screen!) and headed out. It was 1:30 when we arrived at the café. A sign said that they were open for lunch until 2 PM, but the door was already locked. We headed to the next place and saw the first of many, many signs saying “se permitte fumar.” I asked folks in a couple of places; no one knew of a restaurant without smoking. Most of the places were laid out like bars, so there really wasn’t anywhere possible to eat (quite a change from Italy).

We headed back to the station, stopping to check out a cross between a memorial and a church, the Panteon de Hombres Ilustres. It was labelled as part of Spain’s cultural patrimony. Lots of monuments to significant dead folks, some with more pathos than pietas.

Pantheon de Hombres Ilustres

War Memorial, either defending or aiming at the playground

Back to the station and downstairs to the eating area, sign say that this is a "Ticket Restaurant." Neither of us knows what a “ticket restaurant” is, so we just motion to a waitress who then seats us. I can not seem to figure out the menu and am quite unhelpful to Izzy and the waitress as they try to figure out what I should order. It turns out to be a combination of heat, dehydration, and hypoglycemia (should have recognized it, but didn’t). I ended up with a tortilla con queso, which in Spain is an omelet made to order with cheese. It came with fries, the first I’d had since the diabetes diagnosis. I ate them.

After sitting long enough to feel civil again, we retrieved our luggage and went upstairs to wait on the train. The train’s platform number still hadn’t been posted, but after about fifteen minutes we opted to wait inside the air-conditioned waiting area instead of outside in the heat with the smokers. A line formed at one of the gates; it turns out that the locals knew whence this train typically departs.

We boarded our 1st Class, non-smoking car. TV screens showed the time, where we were, and ETA’s for upcoming stops. Service began with orange juice and dried fruit; it continued frequently. Izzy read some, then watched Hollywoodland in Spanish; I caught up on some of these entries and napped a bit.

Izzy's reading
Reassuring Display

We had a couple of mysterious stops. One was next to a rabbit warren where I tried to get a picture. The second one may have been when we switched from high-speed tracks; we did notice a guy with a badge that read “Vigilantes de Seguridad.”

View outside our window during exended stop.

We’re hearing the Castilian lisp everywhere.

We arrived in Jerez de la Frontera close to 10 PM, and it was still very light out. We were met by friends of many years, who had driven from Algeciras to get us. Jerez (kher eth') is where sherry comes from (The word "sherry", I am told, comes from the name of the city during the Moorish occupation: Xerez or Xeres.) We passed Cadiz, said to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, going back to an 1100 BC Phoenician settlement, when it was called Gadir. [1]

In Algeciras we drove around the port and saw many, many cars from lots of different countries with families heading back home to Morocco for summer holidays. The clue to their destination was lots of people and baggage piled high inside and on top of the vehicles.

We had sandwiches with our hosts ~11:30 PM on their back terrace, where most of their summer meals are taken. We started a load of laundry, opting for the 30 minute quick wash rather than European energy-efficient 2.5 hour wash. We hung the clothes on the lines before heading to our part of the house / guest house for showers and bed.

For Izzy, who keeps finding groups of seven: This was a seven segment/conveyance trip: taxi, shuttle bus, plane, taxi, walk, train, car.

[1] To answer questions raised on the car ride about antiquity of cities, Wikipedia sez that Cadiz is the 2nd oldest continuously-inhabited city in western Europe, then sez Cádiz is regarded as the most ancient city still standing in western Europe. Founding dates to 1104 BC. Athens has a recorded history of at least 3000 years. A Google search for "oldest city in Europe" gets you articles on Cadiz AND on Athens. was no help at all.

Today's cool bike sightings:


Flickr sets for today:

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