Sevilla Santa Justa – Medira – Badajoz – Madrid Atocha Cercanias
I realised late last night that I’d been out in the sun for way too long on my visit to Gibraltar. It had been fairly breezy so I’d not really noticed it until late afternoon, so when I got up and looked in the mirror it was pretty obvious; when I had a shower even more so – ouch!
I was up and out before 8 as I needed to get to the station to make today’s train reservations. The freedom that Interrail brings is all but eliminated in Spain. You need a reservation for pretty much every journey, even on branch lines. They’re not expensive, typically €6-8, but having to do them in person at the station is a drag. They can be done online, up to an hour before departure for every other country.
The cool of the morning was lovely as I headed over to the Plaza de España. The sun was barely above the roofline, which made for some difficult shadows on the photos, but to see it in person was astonishing. I’d seen photos of it when friends visited it and couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a look.
I was far from the only early morning visitor, and groups of horse-drawn coaches turned up pretty much as I did, and were soon doing brisk business. Just as I was about to leave the fountain was turned on, making a fabulous rainbow in the middle of the Plaza.
I had time to see something of the city and walked first, as I often do, to the river. Oddly the city largely seems to ignore it, all the interest lies well away from there, and I have to say it was the only disappointment of the morning.
The city centre is gorgeous, wonderful vernacular architecture everywhere you look. Definitely a city I’d spend more time in. As I was about to leave I happened across an extremely odd, and very modern construction, Setas de Seville. I’d somehow missed this in my research which is a shame as I would have come to see it last night if I’d known. It is remarkable by day, and from the photos even more so by night. Another reason to revisit this lovely city.
I collected my bags, slapped on a layer of the (very expensive) sunblock that I’d just bought and headed for the station. Needless to say, it never got anywhere near as hot again for the rest of the week, but I wasn’t to know that.
The original plan at this point had two options and I had decided first thing that morning to book the one that felt safer. The one I didn’t take was to jump onto a train down to the coast at Huelva, then cross the border with Portugal by coach, before getting onto another train at Faro, to Lisbon. This had two very tight connections, so there was a significant risk of spending the night in either Huelva or Faro. Annoyingly the connections would have been great if I’d done this part of the journey a day earlier, as had been originally planned.
Instead I boarded the train and headed for the Roman town of Medira. Sadly there was not time to stop here, but as I came into the town, I spotted the remains of one of the Roman aqueducts.
The one on the other side of the station is apparently more complete but as I was changing here and went in and out of the station in the same direction, I never saw it.
What I did spot on the next part of the journey was that the irrigation canals are still important in this very dry area of Spain. You can follow them along the edges of fields for miles, usually only slightly raised above ground level, not like the dramatic structure seen here. Unfortunately they don’t make for good photos, being at the far edge of some very flat fields.
At Badajo, is just short of the Portugese border, our train terminated. Everyone got off and lots of us looked at the departures board to see where our connection was. What we saw was not what we expected at all. There were rail strikes in Portugal and it was unclear what if any trains would be coming over the border to collect us. The RENFE staff were as helpful as they could be but were also perfectly honest that this had just happened and they had no idea if anything at all was going to turn up.
This was point where I realised just how many other people on the train were Interrailing. We all got chatting in groups, trying to work out what we would do. Pretty much everyone was going to Lisbon. A group of German lads decided that they were going to try to hire a car or a taxi. Between 6 of them it shouldn’t be extortionate. Another English couple went looking for a hotel.
I started looking online to find out more about the strike. The expectation was that there would be three days of strikes and no urban services were running around Lisbon or Porto. This was exactly where and when I was planning to spend time in Portugal, so it was not the hardest decision to cut my losses and book onto the next train back to Madrid.
I spent much of the journey looking at maps and timetables, but found time to look out of the window at some lovely scenery and more hilltop towns.
Yet again, my decision not to book hotels until I’m on the last train of the day had paid off. I found a place in Madrid, very close to the station. A new plan was made. I would cut out the whole loop around the north east corner of Spain and pick up at Bilbao. This would now put me a day ahead of the original schedule so I had the option of a more leisurely and new route back to the north of France, and potentially a ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth, which avoided rail problems in the London area over Easter weekend.
On arrival in Madrid, it was after 10pm, so I dumped my bags and headed to my favourite food market from a few days ago (and which I’d checked was open until midnight.) A couple of new tapas-style dishes were tried, so not a bad end to a strange day.