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Madrid's Atocha Station: Where Gumbo Was (#43)


No, not a king's arboretum, or the Budapest palm house. And not in the Mid-Atlantic region. PortMoresby came closest when she suggested an airport, possibly in southern Spain. It's actually the main long-distance waiting room of Madrid's Atocha station, which might have been more obvious if I had shown you the whole picture, above, in which the railway notice boards can be seen.


Atocha is the most central of Madrid's important stations, supporting both commuter and long-distance trains including the high-speed AVE network. We were there on an August morning, near the end of a 3-week vacation, and headed for a train to Toledo. We were exhausted, and in a way relieved to learn that a heavy storm the night before had weakened a section of the track and there would be no trains until the next day, when we were scheduled to fly home.


So exhausted, in fact, that we spent a couple of hours enjoying the station, which is filled with the tropical garden you see, as well as pleasant seats, reasonably interesting food choices for a rail station...and a pool and sand areaa with over 400 small turtles!


The present "old" Atocha, site of the 4000 sq meter (43,000 sq ft) tropical garden was built about 1890 after the original was destroyed in a fire. The "new" station adjoins it; in the 1980s all the tracks were moved underground. Here's what it looks like from the outside.


On our way out, on the roof of the older part of the station, we spotted this wonderful old lettering, reflecting the main cities the station was built to serve in the 1850s.



The Atocha garden is not the only "could fool you" space in Madrid: the picture below is not an airport's the entrance lobby of the Prado Museum!




Check in tomorrow...Gumbo's on the way to another destination and you'll be asked: Where in the World is TravelGumbo? (#44)


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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