A Bit Of Train Confusion
Ávila was a city recommended to me by someone who used to live in Madrid, and after doing a bit of research online I thought ‘yeah, that looks like my kind of place’. After a failed attempt to be ready in time the previous day, I made sure that I was up and at the train station with plenty(ish) of time to catch the train to Ávila. I’d gone for the cheaper ticket which meant the journey was about 20 minutes longer. I didn’t mind as the scenery is just stunning on that route, and I also didn’t actually realise until later that it was possible to get a quicker train…
The train to Ávila was a cercanias train, which is a step between metro and long distance trains. They’re usually commuter trains, but go further out of the city than the metro, have a toilet on board and you can’t walk between carriages. It’s quite a long journey to Ávila, and after a confusing conversation with the ticket inspector I realised I’d have to change trains halfway to continue on. He reassured me he’d let me know where to go when it was time, but as I had to dash between carriages to use the toilet on the other one, when it came to time to change I couldn’t find him.
Faced with no other option than listen to a random person, I climbed on the train they suggested and hoped for the best. A few minutes later the ticket inspector climbed on and reassured me this was indeed the train for Ávila. I settled in for the rest of the journey, just staring out of the window. After pulling into the small train station, it was a short 20-minute walk into the walled old town.
Welcome To Ávila
The first thing that struck me was that this isn’t a super touristy spot. Maybe it’s because it’s quite far out from Madrid, but I saw just a handful of other people milling about, and loved it. Past the impressive stone walls and in to the old town, the first stop was of course to the cathedral. It was so quiet, and after a look round I carried on through the charming streets to find somewhere for a bite to eat and a coffee.
Ham sandwich – check.
Coffee – check.
Enjoyed in the sunshine – check.
Feeling refreshed, I grabbed another bottle of water to keep me going, and made my way to the city walls. Surrounding the old town, the walls stretch for 2.5km. Needless to say I wouldn’t be walking the whole thing. Instead I opted for just a short section near the cathedral. Part of the wall was closed for renovation so after a short way I had to go down and should have gone back up at another point. Let’s just say, it was hot and it’s a lot of up and down. So, the short section I’d wandered was sufficient for me. Plus, there was no-one else up there, so I had uninterrupted views of Ávila and the walls.
Unsure of what else there was to see within the walls, I ventured out to explore another church. It’s just a stone’s throw from the walls, but when I arrived it was closed. With a few more hours to explore before my train back to Madrid, I went back in the old town and ventured further to the centre. Through charming, quiet streets to yet another church, to find it was also closed. The adjacent square had a few people relaxing in the sunshine, but a quick google search told me a nearby museum was open.
It’s strange to wander the streets of somewhere and not really pass any people. As I got to the St Theresa convent I found the museum, and learnt so much about a woman I’d just discovered a short while before. With just one other person in the small museum, I could take my time to read the information plaques without feeling like I was holding anyone up. After a quick tour of the compact museum I sat in the sun next to the statue of St Teresa. Partly contemplating my next move, partly watching cars squeeze through a just-big-enough gap in the city walls.
Home Time Dramas
Summoning the last of my ham sandwich energy, I started walking back to the train station. I passed another church that was sadly closed, and made my way slowly through the town. As I arrived at the station, I saw that my train was delayed. One of the downsides of having a return train booked, I was tied to having to wait for it. It’s quite a small station, and after sitting for a while with nothing to distract me, I really needed to use the toilet. Double checking that yes, my train was still delayed, due in 10 minutes, I thought it’d be safe to quickly nip and use the facilities.
As I pulled the lock closed, I heard a train pull in. As it’s such a small station, there weren’t trains that often, which could only mean one thing: that’s my train. And I’m in the toilet. Thankfully all I’d done was just shut the door, so I was able to run out of there like a crazy lady, leg it under the underpass and jump on the train just as the doors were closing. I’m still not sure now how I managed to make it. As the train started to pull away, I noticed that this train was going to Charmartin. I should have been on the train to Principe Pio. Both are stations in Madrid, so it’s not a massive inconvenience, but I was slightly concerned that I’d be fined for not having a valid ticket.
Turns out, the info screen on the train was wrong and we did actually arrive in Principe Pio. Crazy stuff. Instead of jumping on the metro to get back to the hotel, I instead enjoyed a walk through the palace gardens. From there it’s a short walk past the theatre and into Sol, where I was staying. After so much walking, I spent what was left of the evening grabbing a bite for dinner, relaxing with Netflix and packing to head to Barcelona the next day.