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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
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This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Friday, 14 December 2001
--> Madrid (E) 3rd day

This morning I had a real generous sleep in. The temperature in Madrid has gone down from 11 degrees Celsius to near the freezing point of 0 degrees and that is aware everywhere.
With Juan and Anna both working the whole day, I spent most of the day on their computer and I managed to find myself a place to stay for tomorrow. Itís very generous of Juan and Anna, but I just canít stay here forever, the project goes on and on.

Thanks to Wenche Berger, the PR and Communication manager at the Norwegian train company NSB (who sponsored me out with the Scanrail Pass while I was in Scandinavia), a lady in Madrid, who works at the Spanish transport company Renfe contacted me when I was in South Africa. She offered to sponsor me with a free Interrail Ticket, so I can travel around Spain for free the coming three weeks.

Yeeha! Of course I am happy with that, it just takes a bit less time that just to hitchhike along the cold Spanish motorways and Iíll evently get to my destinations fast and without spending any money!

Today I had to pick up this ticket at the Chamartin train station in the north of Madrid, where the Renfe public relation office is located.

I took the underground metro from Anton Martin to Atoche Renfe and jumped on a train that took me directly to Chamartin. The lady who had offered me the ticket wasnít there anymore at this Friday afternoon, but I was very delighted when I received the Interrail Ticket from one of her Spanish colleagues.

The only thing I could not figure out was how I could use this ticket the most.
The ticket contained a Spanish publicity flyer about the ticket, but not the necessary information I was also looking for. I went to the information booth at the station and asked where I can go with this ticket and to find out if there was a map of the Spanish railways.

Of course, I didnít know that Spain had four different trains. All with different names, speeds and destinations. Finding one map seemed to be impossible for the man who helped me out in his Spanish English. I received hands full of little booklets with all departures from Madrid to another place and found out that I only had to pay reservation fees for certain trains. I just hope that some hosts of mine can help me out with those small fees, as I no tengo dinero (have no money).

Back home, later the afternoon, I found Anna under a warm blanket reading a book about raising children with two languages, and explained her my situation of not knowing how things really work out.

But with all the material I had collected, I managed to schedule my way out of Madrid this coming weekend. It would be with a night train, leaving around 10pm, arriving at my next destination the next day at 6am. MmmÖ Where would that be?

And with a host to stay for a day with tomorrow, things had come to ease in my mind again. I only had to find myself a host for that day in that other city, where eleven people had officially invited me, but nobody could have been reached today... Oops.

When the evening passed by, Anna and Juan talked with me about the phenomenon called Reality TV and how it has been going on on the Spanish television.

And with a dinner party coming up tonight, they were also both pretty busy preparing all the meals. At 10pm the first guests arrived, one Italian man with his Spanish wife. Next was an Spanish man with his British wife and soon the room filled up with another three people (which were the most remarkable of them all, as one lady had red hair, one man had a screw in his ear and the third person was the perfect look-a-like of John Travolta).

And during dinner, that started around 11pm, I enjoyed this atmosphere where I could not always understand everything that was said in Spanish, but I could easily read the much-used body language of everybody and sometimes got certain snaps of Spanish words I know.

And the food was delicious. From the beginning until the Japanese styled spinach with sesame seeds and bavarois pudding as aperitif.

A few of the guests, Anna once met in an online cuisine group on the Internet and some others became coincidental friends because of Annaís relation with Italy and Italian people. It was interesting to see this group of people and to have received their ability of sharing their dinner with me.

It was around one hour after midnight when the bottles of wine and strong 45% alcohol bottles ran empty and the guests slowly returned to their homes. It was time for me to get to bed, as I had to move on again tomorrow.

Good night Madrid!

Ramon.




UPDATE DEC 16:
Well, that is what I thought about that interrail ticket, why else give me it for free? It ended up that I am expected to pay half the price of any train trip in Spain and that my ticket only gives the right of free travel outside of Spain. Mmm, I don't have ANY money and I am not going to expect that every host of mine is going to pay parts of my travels...
It was a big embarrassment for me when I was ready to depart to my next destination, when I couldn't get on that train without the financial help of my Sunday evening host Fran...
More to come on December 16th report...


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