After a second night of wrestling with a beastly case of jetlag, I pried myself out of bed on Friday morning just in time to have a proper breakfast with Gonzalo before he left for work. I was determined to stay awake after breakfast and take the first train to Segovia for a day of exploring, but the siren song of sleep got the better of me and I fell back into bed for another two hours.
Miraculously, I woke up from my snoozle feeling fresh as snow, and calculated that I might just make the second train to Segovia if I could get out the door and down to the station fast enough. I managed to get there and buy my ticket with just ten minutes to spare, but discovered an unexpected setback in that I couldn’t figure out where in the station to catch the train once I had my ticket in hand.
I thought I heard the announcer say Segovia on track number six, so I ran down the stairs to the sixth platform, only to realize there was no train. I dashed back up the stairs into the station, thought I heard the announcer say track ten, ran down another flight of stairs, but it looked like the wrong train was waiting at platform ten. Up again I ran into the station, and paced back and forth several times in front of the announcement boards looking for Segovia, until I was almost ready to give up.
Just as I was losing hope, a man walked over to me and asked me what train I was trying to catch. After looking at my ticket he explained that I needed the train heading to Valladolid; Segovia is a stop along the way. Things only Spanish people can be expected to know! He started walk me to platform sixteen (turns out I was half right both times), but by the time we reached the top of the stairs he said, “You know what, I am going to go with you.”
With just minutes to spare before the train left the station, we dashed back to the ticket sales counter and got into the shortest line. Of course by the time we got to the counter the train was leaving the station, and so he exchanged my ticket for the next train as well as buying his own.
With more than an hour to spare before catching the next train, my new friend Santiago (or Santi for short) took me on a short walk through the city, where we started to get acquainted with each other. It turns out, just that morning Santi had gone into work to discover that he had lost one of his two jobs, working as a journalist at a Madrid radio station. He was sorely disappointed and said that before he saw me in the train station, he was feeling desperate and angry. He decided to join me in Segovia for the day just to take his mind off things.
Santi turned out to be the perfect travel partner, because (like me) he is a huge fan of history, which made him a great tour guide in Segovia. We lunched on traditional Spanish cuisine under a two thousand year old Roman aqueduct, took a turn through a beautiful cathedral and viewed the not-so-lovely Inquisition court attached to the church, and also visited a castle that I could have sworn was straight out of Harry Potter. I wanted to visit a little Visigothic chapel on the outskirts of town, but unfortunately we couldn’t make it there and back in time to catch the train back to Madrid.
Santi asked me to come and visit him the next day in Guadalajara, where he was dog sitting for his brother who was out of town for the weekend. It’s an incredibly boring one hour ride through industrial looking suburbs to get to Guadalajara, but Santi and Lola the dog were waiting for me at the station, which made it all worth it. Santi took me on a walking tour through Alcalá de Henares, a cute suburb of Madrid that happens to be the birthplace of Cervantes. We took a peek at the local cathedral, toured the Cervantes museum, had lunch and an ice cream cone, and found our way to a Moroccan market where Santi bought most of the ingredients we needed for dinner with less than three Euros. Unbelievable!
While Santi was whipping up a delicious dinner, I was slowly succumbing to a bad case of the flu. By early evening, I was completely incapacitated, and Santi very kindly wrapped me up in a blanket on his couch and brought me medicine. He let me stay overnight rather than make the hour long trip back to Gonzalo’s apartment (which is empty right now anyway, since he is spending the weekend in La Rioja, Spanish wine country), and he has basically allowed me to sleep on his couch like a lump all day today as well, as I am still halfway delirious with this flu. Lola the dog has stretched herself on the floor right in front of the couch like she is keeping watch over me, too.
Although it seems like a bit of bad luck to end up getting sick after finally making it back to Europe, at least I have these two kind souls looking after me, which makes the situation so much nicer.