We figured it would be relatively simple to pick up our rental car this morning from the rail station, and it sure would have been if we read, spoke, or understood Spanish. Instead, it took forever in the very busy train station. We got dropped off a level up from the street, and right away I realized there were no car rental signs or familiar Hertz icons anywhere. So we were forced to walk through the entrance and into the train station without a clue about which way to go. With our luggage. Which is getting cumbersome.
When we couldn’t find any signs at all within 20 minutes of searching, we first asked a friendly looking woman, who directed us to go outside; then a cop, who pointed to the parking lot. Finally we put the luggage in one spot, and I waited amid the rushing commuters for Roger to figure things out. He did. The car rental was two floors below and through a long hall- quite a walk but I realized I had a newfound spring in my step.
Lisbon is eight hours from Madrid, and we didn’t plan to drive much more than half of that today. We wanted to first go to Toledo, which is an hour from Madrid. It was the capital of Spain hundreds of years ago, so it’s full of history and beautiful architecture. It is a busy city, with people, cars, and busses all over, so not easy to drive around. We learned that quickly.
Parking is a serious problem and so is not having ample change for the meter when you miraculously do find a space. We gambled that we’d get some more change before the meter ran out, although there were no stores at all to get some in the area where we were parked.
The streets are the original stone in the historic part of the city. They’re uneven and not easy to walk fast on, but the stores and restaurants (owned probably forever by the same shopkeepers) on those streets are worth the exercise. We needed to spend more time in Toledo than we were able to today – there is so much to see. We only had time to walk around a monastery from the 1500s and grab a quick bite to eat. We got back to our car just as it was being ticketed. Luckily, she let us pay the fine there, since if it went through the rental company and back to us, it would’ve multiplied at every point in the process (spoken from experience).
We drove for a few hours and stopped for lunch in a very small town. I had no idea what we were ordering when I simply pointed to two different phrases on the menu.These turned out to be pimentos and bread, and eggs with rice and sausage. Both were good Spanish fare, and the one-room restaurant was full when we left.
We continued to Badajoz, a city near the border of Spain and Portugal. The drive was pretty, with olive trees growing in farms on the side of the road, and a nice landscape. It rained heavily during parts of the drive and we considered stopping early, but that wasn’t an option since the small towns had no hotels. So we pressed on and I am glad we did. We found a nice hotel in the center of Badajoz (“Please have a room…”) and have just had dinner at the restaurant here. There’s a decent pool here and I wish I had a bathing suit! (I realized earlier that this is the first day I haven’t bought any clothes.)
Tomorrow we go across the border and drive to Lisbon, where we will spend four days.