We checked out of our Dublin Airport hotel at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday and hopped the shuttle for the airport. Our flight to Madrid departed at 6:15 a.m. * Yawn *
We arrived in Madrid at around 10, and the plan was to meet Maddy, who was flying from Sydney, in Barcelona later that day.
Kate & I had already booked our tickets from Madrid > Barcelona on the high-speed AVE train, and that entitled us to a free train ticket from the airport to the city. I'd printed out all the information about that and how to retrieve those tickets from a ticket vending machine, which really came in handy, except that it wasn't working for some reason and we ended up standing in line at Customer Service, anyway. Turns out, those tickets are only valid 4 hours prior to the main departure time -- and we were too early!
We sat and waited an incredibly long 4 minutes... I took a photo of the airport ceiling... and then it worked perfectly and we were on our way!
The Atocha station in Madrid is beautiful -- and huge! We had a few hours in Madrid before we needed to catch the train, and I had done a little research ahead of time, so we headed toward that sign on the bottom right that reads "CONSIGNAS" to stow our suitcases in a locker and took the short walk from the terminal to Museo Nacional del Prado -- Prado National (Art) Museum.
We walked past the Royal Botanic Garden on the way, but couldn't see much as they were having some work done. On the list for next time!
We rushed through Prado, finding the locations of the most important (to us) pieces/artists -- of course, seeing plenty more as we made our way through -- and leaving enough time for a bite at the cafe and a visit to the museum gift shop.
There was quite the garden/atrium at Atocha station!
We retrieved our bags and then went to catch our train, which turned out to be a little hairy, as we hadn't printed out the actual tickets... I had them on my phone, but they wanted paper! Kate rushed over to a machine to try and figure it out, while I held a spot in line at Customer Service; she was finally successful and we rushed to (successfully) make our connection!
The train ride was very nice, and oh how I wish we had a train system like that here! It was non-stop from Madrid to Barcelona, and I saw top speed of 299 kph (186 mph). Maddy's flight had been late arriving in Doha, but she was able to make her connection, and we found each other within minutes at Barcelona Sants!
Our Airbnb was located in the Gothic Quarter and, according to Google Maps, was about a 40-minute walk from the station. I figured, after all the planes & trains, that we'd like a good walk; called our host and let her know we were on our way.
It took us a bit longer than 40 minutes, as we made our way through unfamiliar territory and took a couple of wrong turns looking for the "pedestrian street" on which our apartment was located. Luckily, our host was patient enough... and offered me her fan when we arrived! She was utterly dismayed that we were staying for only one night, having previously sent me a list of things to do in Barcelona that we'd have trouble completing had we stayed a month!
Gorgeous basilicas & cathedrals everywhere!
We had a wonderful evening together, traipsing around a bit, finding a spot to enjoy some delicious tapas & drinks...
Smiles! (And terrible lighting.) (But SMILES!)
...and went to bed "early" as we had another busy day on tap!