Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The 23rd Capital

Madrid do not do their championship chances much good by closing the key central section of the underground line from Atocha to Chamartin. We have to do a circuitous route involving two changes. Outside Chamartin we find a restaurant where they take one look/sniff and shunt us off to an annexe. We plunder their electricity and order a few kebabs until the raciones (tapas) become available. There is a short but impressive thunderstorm which stops just in time for us to cross over to the station without getting soaked.  For once we are in the first coach and do not have trek the length of the platform.

This Trenhotel compartment is slightly different with the berths set at an angle in a bid to create some extra space. For those who have not been paying attention we are on our way to Lisbon. Four of us squeeze ourselves and our kit into the cabin, confirm that there are no showers on this train and head for the bar. The hour's time change helps us as regards sleep but we all feel pretty grubby. Consideration is given to booking hotel rooms for the day but in the end we opt for the local swimming baths where, after a bit of negotiating we are able to buy showers. Bliss. This is then followed by a swift beer in the Piscina bar just to stop us becoming too self righteous.

We arm ourselves with 6 euro day passes and take a couple of short metro rides to the 28 tram stop where we pile aboard for the ride around the old town. We are slightly short changed here as the tram takes the shorter circuit normally used by the 12. We got off in Estrella for a beer and pasty then head back towards town to try out one of the funiculars. The Bica line is run using a pair of tiny cars and runs down a street steep enough to need steps on the pavement and just wide enough for the two cars to pass at the halfway point. This gives the team a taste for funiculars and we go for the Gloria next. This is a larger car and both DD and John take advantage of the opportunity to ring the floor bell. What fun!
We break for lunch in the Barro Alto -kebabs, salt cod, red wine, almond tart - that sort of stuff. By one of those freaky coincidences we realise that we are eating at a restaurant with the street number 23 in our 23rd capital city. I think that you had to be there to get it. We walked down the hill to check out the Santa Justa Elevador. It was working but must be one of the world's least efficient mass transport methods as a huge lift has a capacity limit of 15 persons. Inevitably 2 of the group do not make the cut and we have to wait an age for the next descent. Some of us head out to Belem while others opt for the beer museum. For fun we get a train back to the city and then a tram to the beer museum to discover that the other guys have not made it past the bar. This is air conditioned and a welcome refuge from the sun and over the course of  a couple of pints all of the stragglers home in on this point.

We decide on a curry for our last supper together and Daren pins down a Goan place with excellent reviews. We walk up to discover that it is closed but a place describing itself as a Pakistani restaurant is open for business and it does beers. We are in!  The samosas and onion bhajis were excellent although the main courses were not spicy enough for some tastes.  This may be a blessing in disguise as we are on yet another Trenhotel tonight, woth cramped cabins and no opening windows.


  1. You might want to clarify this post by saying it refers to Lisbon. I don't think you mention that.

  2. Well spotted sir. Sadly no prize available.

  3. Just as well you made it safely through Spain when you did.