Last night, Hilda and I packed our bags. We had to be ready to leave the Home Backpackers hostel early enough to make it to our 8 am bus to Madrid, and we didn’t want packing to slow us down. Plus, we figured it would be kind of rude to the four other people in our room if we were clanging through the lockers and zipping all our zippers while they were trying to sleep. When the alarm went off at 6, we were up and moving as quietly as we could. We had to wait until the kitchen opened up at 7 so we could eat breakfast, which we scarfed down in record time, then we were out like a shot, hitting the road at 7:30. We booked it to the bus station and had to laugh at ourselves when we realized we got there in 15 minutes – the first night, when we were trying to get from that selfsame bus station to the train station to go to La Tomatina, we got pretty lost, and we were so close!
I read the last of The Man in the Iron Mask during the bus ride. Didn’t realize it would be so touching. I was weeping over the emotional end of Porthos, Athos, and Raul, with my eyes brimming so full at times that I couldn’t see the page. And then I began to sniff. I couldn’t help it, it was just so darned well written and powerful. I felt kind of sheepish though, as I sneaked sidelong glances at Hilda and the girl across the aisle, hoping they wouldn’t notice the tears dripping from my chin or the occasional swipe of my arm across my nose. Luckily, Hilda was asleep. I thought I might wake her up, but when I asked her later, she told me she hadn’t noticed and then laughed at me for crying over a book. Ah well, it was so sad!
There are some really extensive sunflower fields between Valencia and Madrid. I mean really, it was like an endless army covering the land as far as the eye could see. It would have been an enchanted army though, because nearly every head was bowed as in sleep - they could no longer keep their eyes open in their pitiless watch of the sun, and their chins were sunk upon their chests, as that of a sentry sleeping at his post is wont to do. The magician sun had cast his spell. There were a courageous few still with their heads held high, but it was obvious that they couldn’t hold out much longer. Even their stiffly starched petals were beginning to bend, to turn away in magical sleep.
This is where I fall asleep. Or at least I get sort of close. There’s only so much sleeping one can do when sitting in a bus seat, you know? So I dozed, and it was lovely. Quite lovely and refreshing. Then I woke up, and the landscape was completely different. Well, it still had a rather arid look to it, but gone were the masses of sleeping sunflowers. Instead, I found myself amidst olive trees, scrubby bushes, and hardy brown grasses that formed the skin of the oh-so-sweetly rolling hills. It reminded me of home in its aridity, in the apparent rough-and-tumble sturdiness of the vegetation. This however soon gave way again to the closing of my eyelids – time to doze.
So we had given ourselves two hours to get from the bus station to the hotel where our program was meeting up, but when we got off the metro that had taken us from the bus station to the airport, where we had to pick up the luggage we had left in Madrid, it was only to realize that we had gotten off at the stop going to the wrong terminals. Then we had to figure out how the crazy tickets worked, get back on the metro, go back to the other terminals, and figure out where in the world we had stashed our luggage. You see, we had, with great foresight, rented two lockers in the airport to keep our suitcases safe while we were out and about in Valencia. We just forgot to remember which locker area we had chosen as the repository for our delightful stash of worldly goods. Yup, there are more than one. Bother. At last we found our luggage…..then we had to figure out the best way to take the metro with heavy suitcases. And as we discovered, it’s best just not to. There are lots of people. And stairs. It’s kind of a mess. But we eventually made it to the hotel where we were supposed to meet up with all the people from our program, and we weren’t even the latest ones! It was a rough road, but we made it :)