Friday, 10 September 2010

Stage 7 - Madrid

I was up fairly early, but was delayed by having to get the landlady out of bed. I'd have left the money out but she had my passport. I knew that today's stage would be a fairly ong one, but I didn't know quite how long as I'd had to make up the route myself again using Google Maps, given that the road used in the book has since been converted to a motorway.

I was on the road for 9 o'clock, and had intended to stop at a cafe on the road out of Cercadilla, but there wa only one cafe open with no food, and with only a single customer drinking what looked like sherry! I would have to stop at the next village.

There was a lovely fast descent out of Cercadilla, along a new road and with next to no traffic. There were a few bends so I wasn't likely to beat my new record of 45mph, but I was able to build up some good speed by using the full width of the road given that there were very few cars about. I stopped off at the next village for breakfast - a coffee and a cake.

I carried on my way, making good time. Using the road signs, I reckoned I should comfortably make it to the Madrid office for 2 o'clock, in time for a late lunch. I took the bypass around El Escorial. It was a shame that I didn't have the time to stop a it looked like a lovely old town. I'll just have to come back another time!

There was a fantastic descent from El Escorial, again along a new road, but this time there was lots of traffic running both ways, with lots of bends in the road, and I was conscious that the drivers behind me couldn't wait to overtake me so I had to be careful. Fortunately I was only overtaken where it was safe to do so, and I was soon at the bottom of the descent. I could now see the Cuatro Torres and the leaning towers of the Caja Madrid buildings in the distance, so it felt like I was coming into the home straight.

I continued with my route with no problems, until I reached Majadahonda... maybe the road layouts had changed since the Google Maps and Street View images were updated - there were certainly roadworks going on - or perhaps I'd not written the instructions down correctly. Whatever, I missed a turning and got lost for the first time on the tour. The 1:200,000 map wasn't much use at all, and the Google Maps on my phone wasn't great as it wa so bright that I couldn't see the screen very well, even in the shade, so I decided to follow the white road signs (as opposed to the blue motorway ones). However, these led me to motorways twice, so they clearly hadn't changd the road signs when upgrading the roads.

It was clear that I wouldn't make it to the Madrid office for 2 o'clock, so I sent an e-mail to the office to tell them I'd be running late, and they kindly said that they'd wait for me. I then headed up a promising looking road, the M-503 (M for Madrid, not Motorway!). This road was very busy and went through the inevitable roadworks. I pulled off at the next junction to get by bearings and also buy some water.

I was also running low on cash, and the only nearby ATM was out of order. Fortunately I had enough cash to buy some water, and a tortilla and small cana in a bar. As I was inside, I was able to use my phone, and it was Google Maps and GPS to the rescue again. I e-mailed the office again with a new ETA, and headed off along the same road, onto the M-502, and dropped off into Casa de Campo, through Plaza de Espana, along the Gran Vía to Cibeles, before cycling up La Castellana to the Torre Picasso, where our Madrid office is based.

My colleagues were waiting for me under the shade of a big parasol outside one of the terraza bars. They bought me a large beer and some tapas (croquetas de jamón and jamón tostadas) which were gratefully received. We took some photos - the first of the day - and spent a while catching up on things. I was conscious that the standard of my Spanish has lapsed somewhat - I haven't spent much time learning or practicing Spanish recently because I've been so busy in and out of work, so I will definitely have to concentrate more. All too soon, my colleagues had to go back to work, and I had to get to Barajas to box my bike up, so we said our goodbyes and I set off for the airport.

Outside the Torre Picasso

The traffic was mental, but as at home, you're OK if you assert yourself. I did a left at the Nuevos Ministerios, following the road round to Calle de Alcalá, careful to avoid the underpass and then the overpass. I passed the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas and before I knew it I was pulling up outside the left luggage office at Barajas.

It seemed like a lot longer than a week since I was there last. I retrieved my bike box, and it was in a lot worse a state than I remembered, so I spend a good half hour taping it back together as best I could, thankful that I'd had the foresight to buy another roll of tape the day before. I dismantled my bike, and noticed that one of bolts holding the rear mech in place had come away, which could explain why the gears had been jumping about a bit (I'd put this down to the chain having two quick links). I was fortunate that the other bolt had held out, otherwise I'd have been in big trouble. Once my bike was boxed up, I checked it back into left luggage and took the metro back to Gran Vía. I was really looking to checking into the premium room at the hotel (especially is it was free!) and I wasn't disappointed. The room was a good size, with a big bed and a balcony. I had a quick shower and changed, then went out to 'ir de tapas' for one last time along the Gran Vía, and via fnac, Puerta del Sol, with its unmistakeable Tio Pepe sign, and the Plaza Mayor.

Gran Vía (Obviously!)

At Puerta del Sol

I found a nice run of tapas bars on Calle Cava Baja, and started off with pata negra de bellota in Toma Jamón, with its distinctive beer pumps in the shape of jamón, before moving to another for chorizo al vino, and then more food in another.

I love the road name signs in Madrid

Jamón beer pumps in Toma Jamón

I then went over to Plaza de Santa Ana, which was heaving. There were no free tables outside, so I sat inside one of the bars and spent a while chatting to a German guy in Spanish, which was rather amusing. By now it was after midnight, and it had been a hectic day. I'd cycled just under 70 miles and was feeling very tired, so I headed back to the hotel, taking a few photos along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment