Logo of Royal Site

TO ARANJUEZ IN AN
OLD STEAM TRAIN

Part 1

Credit for the logo above: The Village of Aranjuez
(Latest update: June, 2004)

CLICK ON PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT.

Although I had breakfast in my room before going to the Atocha Station, I wanted to eat a little more before climbing aboard the train; therefore, after arriving at the station about 8:30, I looked for a store where I could buy an orange juice. But after discovering that there was a long line waiting to board the Strawberry Train, I forgot about the orange juice, and, like a real sheep, I added one more soul to the line to get a suitable seat on the train.

Se limpia el AVE It's interesting because about twenty feet or so away was a platform where an AVE (Alta Velocidad Española - Spanish High Velocity) was waiting to leave for Seville at 186 miles per hour (photo to the left, 17K). Meanwhile our steam locomotive was waiting to leave for Aranjuez at a velocity of no more than 30 miles per hour.

We began to board the four passenger cars at about a quarter to ten. After boarding, I found myself inside an old wooden coach - - very nice. If you want to see what the four coaches and, at the same time, the mail car look like, go to the Internet site of the European Railway Picture Gallery. This picture (the fourteenth) was given to the Gallery by Julio Castillo who has his own Internet page.

I selected a window seat so I could put my nose to the glass. I have to confide in you that we had the greatest luck that our train could not go as rapidly as the AVE - - 186 miles an hour - - because the seats were very old of solid wood. It would have required much training to bear such hard seats over such rough rails at such a high speed. But enough of this!

The train left the station, and soon a man dressed like an employee entered the coach and gave an explanation of the trip - - two minutes - - at the speed of a tobacco auctioneer. I expect that all of you senior citizens can remember the advertisements on the radio years ago when the American Tobacco Company used their most rapid auctioneers in their ads. I understood almost nothing, but there was a Madrid woman who could relate any information to her friend (seated at my side) who could in turn tell it to me in English. At least, that was my theory.

Suiza y madrileños Our two seats had the capacity for six persons - - three facing three - - . Our group of five consisted of a young couple from Madrid, the two aforesaid women, who conversed in French, and me. (Picture to the right: The Swiss woman and the Madrid couple, 39K) The Madrid woman spoke Spanish and French and the Swiss spoke French in addition to American English. I asked her, «How did you learn to speak such Yankee English?» she told me that it was no great mystery because she worked for R. J. Reynolds in Switzerland. Actually she said, «You are not going to like the company where I work because it's the branch of R. J. Reynolds in Switzerland!» She probably gets a lot of complaints from Americans whom she meets. I answered her, «The only reason for my not liking Reynolds is that my flavor company never was able to sell anything to R. J. Reynolds even when, in my opinion, our product had the highest quality in the world.»

Dama con fresones We had to stop talking when the pretty hostess dressed in gay 90's attire arrived (left, 44K). As one expected, she had a basket of ripe strawberries. All the strawberries (fresas in Spanish) from Aranjuez are called big-strawberries (fresones in Spanish, an augmentative form) because they are so large. They are called fresones in the supermarkets of Madrid, too. It is almost impossible to buy simply fresas. I selected only one. I had to eat at least one; but, at the same time, I wanted to take a picture of the hostess serving the strawberries. It is impossible to eat a large strawberry (very wet) and take pictures at the same time. I had to get the photo that you see here when she was serving the next group.

After arriving at the train station in Aranjuez, I was disillusioned for the first time - - there was no orchestra on the station platform as there was in my video. Quickly we ran into the hostesses of the tour buses or vice-versa. They wasted no time in explaining at the speed of light how we were to form two groups and that our group (number 1) would be the first to board the three tour buses for a short excursion that would end at the Royal Palace for a guided tour. But after some of us had climbed aboard one, the hostess changed her mind. Therefore, everyone had to get off the bus and climb into another one. It reminded me of my service in our own beloved army. But I am joking with you!

Palacio Real We arrived at the Royal Palace - - the huge edifice to the left (41K). Our hostess wearing the blue dress can be seen in the middle of things. She is wearing a badge that says azafata which means a lady who assists passengers on trains, airplanes or buses or is hostess at a conference, all very honorable employments. My Puerta del Sol audio magazine tells us that, etymologically, this word came from a word in Arabic which meant harem member. Of course, that was an honorable employment, too. I tell you this because it is interesting.

The kings constructed it as their summer house using the riches of the empire - - silver from Mexico (called New Spain in that period), gold from everywhere, emeralds from Colombia (called New Granada in that period), etcetera.

In the line, I met a man and his daughter on vacation. They had begun in Barcelona and were going to finish up visiting Lisbon, Portugal. They desired to see especially the architecture of Spain because the daughter was an architecture student at the University of California, Berkeley. This family had lived in San Francisco since 1970. I found out all this while we were waiting to enter the Royal Palace.

I was wondering why it required such a long time until I myself entered. Soon I found out that everyone had to pass through a security check like in an airport - - one by one. There was a metal detector and an x-ray machine.

Nuestra guía But it was worth the trouble to wait because the palace was stupendous, and our group had a fabulous guide (Picture at right, 26K: in the rear near the curtain). She gave her commentary in a loud, clear voice at a moderate rate. It was very exciting for me because I was able to understand almost everything, and I was able to give short translations for my new friends from San Francisco because they didn't understand anything in Spanish.

It is difficult to describe the chambers of the palace because whatever I may say is not enough. To say that it is opulent is to disparage it. Piano Real Una bóveda Here I give you some pictures taken carefully - - no flash because use of flash is prohibited. For example, there is one chamber with walls of exquisite porcelain. There are several rooms with elegant old pianos (example to left, 60K) or with elaborately-painted vaulted ceilings such as in the Throne Room (right, 41K).

Possibly there may be persons who complain about the immense cost to construct this opulent palace, but, on reflection, have you seen a better long-term investment. Note that these days the palace earns much money from the tourists who assemble there from everywhere in the world to see those treasures.

Before the tour bus arrived, I had to avail myself of the gentlemen's room (to use dental floss, of course.) Caramba (I figure everyone knows what this means!), it was necessary to go through security (x-rays, etcetera) again because the rest rooms were inside the palace. I had to walk across the large palace patio - - but what a rough patio! Afterward I entered a hallway as modern as the palace was old. I passed through another door to another hallway that was dark. As soon as I stepped on the floor, the hallway was bathed in light turned on by my presence. Soon I entered the men's room. When I had finished (with the dental floss), I reentered the hallway, and again my presence turned on the lights. Magic!

Patio Real I was so happy that I tripped in the patio and fell to the ground. Miraculously my body rolled softly on the cobblestones as I was able to do years ago when I was young. I was more surprised than anyone. See the comic figure who fell exactly where I fell (Picture to right, 48K). Also see how the people look at their feet.

We boarded the tour buses that carried us, on a circuitous route to show us the scenes, to the center of Aranjuez where we got off 200 yards from the Royal Palace. Then the hostesses explained to us that we had to be in this same spot at a quarter to five to go to the Museo de Reales Falúas (Royal Barge Musuum). I lost the part about the museum because she talked too fast for me, and I didn't have a suitable translator nearby to tell me about it. I didn't know that I had missed something important.

Un volante It's easy to find a restaurant in Aranjuez because flyers are distributed to the passengers. See the sample flyer given here (40K).

I decided to eat at La Rana Verde (The Green Frog) Restaurant because of the euphonious name. I got a table at a window facing the Tajo (Tagus) River. I ordered the special of the day but perhaps it could have been the special every day. Who knows? The special of the day consisted of asparagus with mayonnaise for first course, local fish for the second course and giant strawberries with whipped cream for the dessert. Also I asked for a tónica to drink. You don't know what a tónica is? It's what the English call a tonic water. The giant strawberries and whipped cream were especially good. The strawberries, the asparagus and the fish were fresh because they are specialties of the region: cost - - 2500 pesetas ($16.67 U.S.)

After looking at my map, I chose to use the Chíquitren (a tram looking like a small train) to see the sights. I walked to the palace and climbed aboard the train which was stopped before the Royal Palace (See below, 28K). Chíquitren espera. At first I thought that this train made many stops, but I discovered that it makes only three: at the Royal Palace, at the Museo de Reales Falúas (Royal Barge Museum) and at the Casa del Labrador (literally: worker's house but really a royal cottage). The Casa del Labrador was a part of the tour in my video (1988) about this excursion, but presently it is not. They substituted it with the Museo de Reales Falúas.
 
Jardín de la Isla. Because the Chíquitren doesn't go through the island gardens of Jardín de la Isla, I give you one view (left, 101K) of this tranquil spot that I got from another source (Todo Madrid, Editorial Escudo de Oro, S. A., 1997).

TO CONCLUSION