¡Madrid! What to do when you arrive
30 Noviembre 2016
I don't who thought it was a good idea to book a flight to Madrid at 9ish in the morning? Probably me. 9am isn't bad. But. You have to be at the airport for an international flight by 6.30am. It was still dark when spilled out of our taxi at Charles De Gaulle Airport. It was fairly quiet. Hardly anyone around. Of course being near the middle of the night I shouldn't have been surprised. There was one attendant at the self check-in made who made it quite clear we were supposed to check-in ourselves. But over sized bags and pram I begged? She did try to help us with the self check-in but eventually it dawned that we had over sized bags and pram that would require someone to, you know, do their job. I, for one, will be very happy the day we can travel sans pram and other assorted baby, toddler or small child paraphernalia.
We've been through a few airport security checks around the world but I am rarely ever asked to do much more than step through the metal detector. For some reason though Georgia, 5 years old, was asked to remove her boots. Because? Security theatre perhaps? We've gone through security before where I have had to stand to the side and watch a very pregnant Michelle, carrying a toddler, go through the entire pat down and residue swipe procedure. The only time it ever happens to me is? Nope, can't recall. It seems their random checks gravitate to children and pregnant women. They should probably look at that. I'm not saying drug mules and terrorists can't be 5 year olds and pregnant women but I would suggest it would be fairly unlikely.
So adieu France and hola España. Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez airport is only 2 hours flying time from Paris. I love Europe and her teeny distances between places. The best thing about flying somewhere reasonably early is you get to your destination in time for lunch. Everything ran pretty smoothly. The post flight ritual of bladder emptying, to picking up the bags at the luggage carousel (pram made it through unscathed), to getting a taxi for the 25 minute ride in to Madrid. Our AirBnB apartment was at Plaza Santa Ana, just a couple of blocks over from Puerta del Sol - the heart of Madrid.
We were mildly concerned to find that our apartment was in a building above a Flamenco bar. In the lobby the stamping and wailing was quite loud but in the end we didn't need to worry about Flamenco noise in our apartment. Unless I started stamping and wailing of course. The neighbours downstairs may not have appreciated that though.
Ramon, our host, showed us through our large second floor apartment. After the tiny box in Paris anything would seem big but this place was huge. A dining room, lounge and a large bedroom - big enough for two beds and the cot. Ah, the cot. Brandy still prefers to sleep in a travel cot. We didn't bring one with us this time so we basically requested one for all the Airbnb apartments we've booked. So far some have promised to provide a cot gratis others not so gratis. Here in Madrid it was an extra €15. A not unreasonable cost. In Paris we were stung for €40. You can buy one for that price.
Once we were settled in the first order of business was lunch. Michelle uses her time productively on plane flights researching decent eateries. She'd already shortlisted a couple of nearby places so all we had to do was go for a stroll and find one. Easier said than done. When a taxi drops you off a new place in a city you haven't been in for 10 years it can be mildly disorienting. That's where modern tools, geeze don't I sound like a geezer, like Google maps are so handy. Back in the old days when mobile internet was young we often, always, relied on printed maps. Usually local complementary hotel maps or in the Lonely Planet. Ah, the good ol' days. Google maps, or Bing or whatever, make it so much easy to get oriented and find stuff. Until the battery runs out. Then you have that oh my god I have to find my Airbnb and I only have 3 percent charge on my phone moment. But that is another story. First we had to eat.
Michelle shortlisted a few local eateries. It was slightly later so the choice was further limited because it was getting close to the time lunch service finished. What we needed was something that had extended lunch hours. Vi Cool fit the bill nicely. They served lunch to 4pm. That makes it sound like it was easy to decide. When I'm fungry (fungry is the step before hangry) I'm all for getting whatever the closest easiest crap is. Michelle is more controlled and will scuttle my arguments with something like "We're only here for a few days. That is 3 or 4 lunches. I'm not going to waste one of my meals in one of the best food places in the world on shit." Or words to that effect. Nearly every time once we get to the place I will finally acknowledge that maybe she had a point.
Vi Cool was one of those places. Modern tapas with a twist. Some traditional tapas but some decidedly modern takes as well. What a way to arrive in Madrid. A few hours earlier we were in Paris. Now we were in Madrid. It is so surreal it makes you brain melt like a Daliesque painting. We were in Spain so all art references from this point will specifically acknowledge Spanish artists. If something is dark and scary it is Goyaesque. Weird - Dali. Confusing - Picasso. I haven't figured out happy joy joy yet. Velasquez or El Greco? Probably not.
Vi Cool serves some funky delicious dishes. As I mentioned some modern things like little black calamares burgers, cerviche, scallops, and foie gras. Spanish foie gras is as good as any you can get in France. And then the one thing that tells us we are definitely back in Spain - Jamon Iberico. If there was one thing that makes the price of admission into Spain worth the expense it is Jamon. Sorry vegans, this is where you lose me.
Sated for the time being we could meander home. Everybody is happier with a full belly. We stopped to watch a film or TV show being filmed. It appeared to be a period drama. Probably set in the 20s or 30s. I have no idea what it was but I did find a Spanish series on Netflix that it could have been - Cable Girls. But like I said, I have no idea.
We also stopped into a convenience store for essentials like milk and beer. Fresh milk for my Milo. I'd brought a kilo or two of Milo from Australia. Some was earmarked as a care package for my brother Ben in Munich. If it lasted that long. It would be another 5 or 6 weeks before we got to Germany. The rest was to hopefully get me through a couple of months in Europe. Finding fresh milk would prove to be a challenge going forward. You can find that long life UHT shelf milk everywhere. But Europe, it tastes like shit. Why do you drink it?
I'd forgotten how cheap beer was in Spain. A couple of cans of Alhambra and Mahou were 54 cents and 65 cents respectively. Obviously the Mahou is a premium beer. Makes 4 or 5 bucks for a beer back home seem a little extravagant. Imported German beers were about a euro each. In Oz the same beers retail for 9 or 10 bucks.