View Larger Map
Mean: 18°c Max: 26°c Min: 14°c

Antipodal part 2

Madrid, Spain
Thursday, October 17, 2013

The start of the end

We boarded the 'Train Hotel' for the comfortable overnight journey to Madrid. We travelled in tourist class which consists of 4 berth compartments complete with a hand basin and bedding. It was the first time we had stayed in a 4 berth since way back in Vietnam and were impressed with the standard of the accommodation compared to those sticky, loud carriages where we spent hour after hour trying to catch up on some sleep. The only strange thing about the tourist class is male and females have to occupy separate compartments, unless you stump up the cost and purchase all 4 berths. If you are prepared to do that it's probably worth upgrading to preference class which is 2 berth and has other mod cons and includes breakfast. We were in adjacent compartments but Sonya shared with 2 Korean women and Ross had to share with 3 men. Nevertheless the journey went smoothly and we rolled into Madrid just after 8:00am giving us the whole day to get out and do some sightseeing.

Day 1 - Palace

After dropping our bags at the hostel we headed out to see the sights of Madrid. We started at the Palace but after seeing the humongous queue to get in we decided to return later. We then had a look at the Almudena Cathedral which is just near the palace and we were absolutely blown away by its beauty. On this trip we have visited many temples and find them beautiful, mainly because they are completely different to anything you find in Europe. Almudena Cathedral can't be compared to the colourful temples we visited in Asia but it was stunning in its own right. Having just travelled through America and its characterless cities with church's which resemble office blocks the architecture of the Cathedral was so European it made us feel so close to home.

After taking a walk through the palace gardens we then decided to join the queue to get in. Typically it was about the same length as earlier when we decided to give it a miss but true to form when we joined the queue only a handful of people joined behind us. We seem to have an uncanny knack of joining a queue which nobody else joins until we get to the front, and then people just walk up, pay and go in!

The palace cost 11EUR to get in with an optional audio guide costing an additional 4EUR. However during the last 2 hours of opening it is free to get in. But a word of warning it is one of the main tourist draws in Madrid and it was busy when we visited so we can only imagine that it would be overcrowded when it is free.

The Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid) is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family but is only used for state ceremonies. The Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest palace on the outskirts of Madrid. Probably because the palace is so vast they would never be able to find one another with a staggering 135,000 square metres of floor space and 3,418 rooms, it is the largest palace in Europe by floor area.

As you can probably imagine the interior is full of extravagant items ranging from the beautiful to the plain hideous. Unfortunately for some unknown reason photography is completely banned and enforced by a least one security guard in each room so we have no photos to prove it. Maybe it was in case a debt collector from the IMF comes on a visit as some of the items must be worth a fortune!

Day 2 - European Antipodal

Madrid is full of beautiful extravagant buildings and you don't have to walk far before you see a building or monument which is worthy of snapping, and on route to the Parque del Retiro we couldn't help but stop and snap away.

But today wasn't about Madrid's beautiful buildings it was all about finding the antipodal of -40.4110°S, 176.3175°E, a remote location just off Route 52 in New Zealand which we passed through on 21st August. Just as we did for New Zealand we carefully researched the antipodal in Madrid to make sure when we turned up we could actually reach the exact point and it wasn't in the middle of a road or under an office block, as we can't easily return to New Zealand to find a different location.

So when we finally walked towards the Fuente del Angel Caido (Fountain of the Fallen Angel) it was a really surreal moment for both of us and it really felt like we had visited before except for one little annoyance.... there was a huddle of landscape gardeners working on the monument and you guessed it they had parked a van right where we needed to stand! D'oh!

A little while later....

We managed to get to the monument and find 40.4110°W, -3.6824°N. Ta Da!

Antipodal points of the world!

Back in New Zealand we were watched by inquisitive cows and this time we were watched by inquisitive locals and tourists who looked equally confused by us and our signs. They probably just thought we were Kiwis on holiday but we are sure some were going away to Google the co-ordinates to see what it was all about.

Reaching the antipodal was the culmination of our trip as it was our last big milestone. It is now a reality the trip is nearly over with only one full day left in Madrid before we start the long, long trip home. We can't complain as we have been away for so long but we wish we could have one more city stop on the final leg to break up the journey as we have 5 trains, which is the most connections we have had in the entire trip, an overnighter and another 30 hours on the rails before we finally finish our adventure. Looking on the bright side after another mammoth trip neither of us will want to be going anywhere again for a while!

Railway Museum

In the afternoon we visited the National Railway Museum located in the former station of Delicias. The museum has a comprehensive collection of vintage loco's and rolling stock as well as 3 great model railways. Unfortunately the outside area was shut off for no apparent reason but there was only a handful of loco's outside which we couldn't visit. We have become very complacent on our travels that everywhere has English descriptions but unfortunately the museum was one of the few places that didn't even have a single word of English, which is very strange as their website has a great English section. As we couldn't understand any of the information boards we only spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but as seeing the vintage loco's and rolling stock is the main point of coming it was still a worth a visit.

We had a great day, but unfortunately it was marred by some idiot pilfering our change purse from our backpack. Although we only lost a small amount of EUR's we are more annoyed that we lost the purse which we brought at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington. It was one of the very few things we have bought on our travels as we just can't carry mementos from everywhere we have been so we have been extremely selective about what we have brought. Having travelled through the Far East in particular Vietnam where we heard many stories of people losing everything, we never witnessed anything of the sort, never felt threatened or felt our personal possessions were at risk so it is a shame in the last few days of the trip that some idiot has marred our memories of Madrid. Welcome back to Europe Team Chip!

Day 3 - Last day in Madrid

Glass half empty - This is the last proper day of the holiday
Glass half full - Day 278! And still 2 days left albeit they are both days on the rails

We started the day with a leisurely walking tour around Mayor Square and onto Pueta De Sol Square. In Mayor Square Sonya bumped into a work colleague who also decided to take a sabbatical and is living in Madrid for 3 months. It's a small world!

Having enjoyed our time at the magnificent Parque del Retiro yesterday we decided to have lunch in the park and explore more of the beautifully manicured gardens.

Hard Rock Café 55!

There is only one place we could end our epic trip, you guessed it at HRC. Madrid is number 55 and as we have mentioned on our blog on many occasions we strongly feel that the HRC experience is going downhill rapidly. It is now more about selling the brand than the food, drinks and experience in the restaurant. Admittedly we have to put our hand up as we buy the shot glasses but it's a great easy to carry personalised memento to add to our growing collection. If we could find something else with global coverage we would change our allegiance. Having said all that Madrid did help to redeem things a bit and the service and atmosphere was more akin to what we expect from HRC and it was one of the best café's we have recently visited.

The final pack

So the time has come to pack up for one last time. We have packed up many, many times and we now have it down to military precision knowing exactly what goes where. We left the UK with 2 backpacks and our beloved mule. Initially we thought after the Trans-Siberian when we shed our cold weather gear the mule would become a burden and we considered sending it home or letting it loose to find greener pastures. But we changed things around and instead retired Sonya's backpack packing it inside the mule, we then created our very own 'train' that has become something of a talking point with many a passerby. Neither of us have carried our big backpacks on our backs for any length of time since way back in Asia, and we now connect Ross's backpack to the mule creating a train. Having read many reviews of backpacks before leaving, we nearly went away from anything with wheels as people said they are false economy and you rarely wheel them and just end up carrying the extra weight of the wheelie mechanism on your back. We would have to disagree as getting wheels was the best thing we did and has made our journey so much easier. Our bags are still in amazingly good condition considering what they have been through and we couldn't recommend them highly enough. For more information on our backpacks check out our special blog Quick Link

Even though we have packed many times before, this time was different as next time we unpack we will be back in good old Blighty.

So are we upset our travels are coming to an end?

Strangely neither of us have an opinion. It is so odd to say this but neither of us are bothered about going home but equally we could both stay on the road/rail for a few more months. We have planned our route down to the finest detail and the next thing on the plan is to go home, so that is what we will do. It seems like the right thing to do, but if the next thing on the itinerary was to go somewhere else, we would. We are fully into the swing of the travelling way of life and we are travellers at heart. We have had an amazing opportunity to do something we have wanted to do for a long, long time and know not many people get to do what we have done. We acknowledge that many people have made our trip possible from work giving us both the opportunity to take sabbaticals, the UK support office for being there for anything we needed and of course our friends and family who we have visited and offered us a bed. We wouldn't change the last 10 months for anything but it is coming to an end and we must get back to reality and start the next chapter of our lives.

This blog has taken many different directions and we know it has been written in different ways for many difference audiences. We set it up for two main reasons firstly to be a memory of our travels and secondly to give something back to the travelling community who helped us when we were doing hours upon hours of planning. But it evolved over time and has also been an outlet for us to have a political rant and a few other things along the way. Although it has been time consuming to write and update we are glad we kept at it, thanks for following us, it has made it worthwhile and the few times we couldn't be bothered to sit down and write anything as something else was more appealing such as the beach or an ice cold beer it made us get on with it.... and now we have a great journal of our big adventure to look back on in years to come. We can honestly say if you didn't take such an interest in what we having been doing this would have never been so comprehensive and we wouldn't have achieved our 2 aims. Thanks to all of you, and yes Jimmy that means you too matey, it's been good to catch up with you along the way and we look forward to seeing you soon. We are not saying goodbye just yet, we will be back with a blog on our journey home and a final blog on our overall thoughts with hints and tips. But we will be offline for a little while, as when we get home we have a mass of things to do and prepare for the next chapter of our lives.

Ta Ta for now.

Team Chip

Hotel Review

We stayed at Casa Espana in a double private with shared bathroom facilities. Let's start with the only good thing about the hostel.... its location. The hostel is only a 5-10 minute walk from the Palace which is the only time the word palace will ever be used in connection with the hostel. It is clearly not a palace in any shape or form. The outside of the hostel is uninspiring and inside isn't much better. The check in area was more like a bank having to talk through a glass window, is the area really that rough? The kitchen area and bathroom facilities were in a poor state of repair and seriously need an upgrade. Now if this hasn't already put you off and you still decide to book read the small print as it states 'Casa Espana has several locations around Plaza Espana-Gran Via within 3 minutes walking distance from each other. Please note when you make a reservation with Casa Espana your bed can be in any of our buildings' Do NOT pay for anything until you have seen your room as we were only told after paying, our room was in another building. Which was a 5 minute walk away and only had 1 shower, 1 toilet and no kitchen facilities. The accommodation was in a terrible condition and the security of the room and building was dodgy to say the least. After a heated discussion we were told absolutely no refunds but we got moved back to the main building. We nearly upped and left but we haven't done this anywhere on our entire trip and we were determined not to lose our money. The reception only opens at 9am so if you want to check out earlier than that you need to book it in advance otherwise you forfeit your security deposit. A complete and utter joke and another way to try and keep your money, but in fairness somebody was on duty at the time we requested to check out to give us our money back. Apart from the location the hostel has nothing going for it and is one of the worst places we have stayed in 10 months on the road, we strongly recommend you look elsewhere.


© 2014-2021 All rights reserved.
All images and logo's are licenced. Please contact us before copying any content or linking to our blog - Thanks! :-)