Friday, December 30, 2011

On to Madrid!

So, when last we left off, we were at the Barcelona airport. Did I mention what a nice airport it is? And it has some great shopping. I picked up some fun things at the Nartura store, which is described on this website as "A home ware and gift shop offering everything from candles to incense sticks" but I got some jewelry there. Yay!

The flight to Madrid was pretty uneventful. We were on Vueling airlines again which was just lovely. They had a little catalog and you could order a keychain shaped like the airplane seat belt buckle. If they had actually come around and taken orders, I so would have gotten one.

I was surprised by how arid the middle of Spain appeared from the air...then again, they were having a drought. Eventually, I felt as though we were flying in circles. I kept seeing the same building below. Then the pilot came on to inform us that we were indeed flying in circles. So observant, am I.

Eventually we landed in Madrid. Nice airport. We got our bags. We got maps. Yay maps! Then we began our journey to the hotel which shall not be named. We'll just call it Voldemort.

Madrid has this nice airport bus that takes you and drops you at various places around Madrid and would get us quite close to Voldemort. And it was super cheap - like 2 euro or something crazy like that. Almost immediately I understood why. They packed you in so tightly, there was no way you could move. My bag on the rack was out of my view. I was right next to the back door and thus worried the door would fly open and fling me onto the streets of Madrid. To counter this, I laced my arms around the luggage rack and held on for dear life. I was then anxious the entire ride that when we got to our stop, it would take us too long to get our bags and the bus would take off before we had exited. These are the things that make me worry.

Luckily, with a bit of maneuvering and shoving, we were all able to get off the bus at the proper place and begin our short walk to Voldemort. Madrid has a completely different feel than Barcelona. More traffic. The streets are not as neatly laid out as in Barcelona. More people. But, it was beautiful.

Madrid was the only city where we were staying in a hotel (the aforementioned Voldemort). We had found a suite hotel though, where we could have a little kitchenette. Arrangements had been made ahead of time so that we would have a triple and a double suite. The hotel was aware that there were nine in our party (I saw the email correspondence) and assured us this arrangement would work. We were told that the double had two rooms and the triple had three rooms.

This was not so. The double had a bed for two people. The triple had a bed for two people and another bed for one person. Instead of having accommodation for nine, we had accommodation for five. Thus began about an hour of negotiations with the desk clerk who didn't speak much English.

The hotel was full, so no extra rooms were to be had. At first he said we could get some cots. Then he said we couldn't. Then when we showed him the email that clearly said there were nine of us, he said he could find us some cots. Then, and this is the most maddening, he completely changed his tune and said since there was only sleeping space for five, only five of us could stay there. Four of us would have to find someplace else to stay.  So, even though Voldemort knew there were nine of us coming, the hotel absolutely refused to let nine of us stay there.

The wifi was iffy, so a bunch of us were huddled in the tiny lobby. Sure, Mr. Desk Clerk made a half-hearted attempt to find us other lodging, but it was all very expensive. It was Saturday at 6 p.m. in Madrid. Not too easy to find a hotel. By some miracle, Lea found an apartment that could accommodate all nine of us that would be available the next two nights. Then Lea and Amit did one of those, "name your price" hotel websites and we found a place to stay a short cab ride away. So, now all was well, other than being separated for the night. That and the fact that Voldemort had a great locartion in the heart of Madrid and the apartment was further out. Oh well. We were just happy that we would all be able to stay at the same place.

But now we had more important things to think about. Namely, dinner! Kym had read good reviews of La Trucha, and it was within walking distance of Voledemort.

 

We got there right when dinner started, I think around 8, and had a great table outside. It's close to a public plaza so there was a lot of activity.

Happy once more...drinks, food. The unpleasant desk clerk at Voldemort quickly becoming but a bad memory.
 
The guidebook recommended the asparagus so of course I ordered that and it did not disappoint. Grilled, with the right amount of salt. A little crispy on the end, but not too much.

I know this is a horrible picture. But this was the best asparagus I've had in my entire life. Also, I didn't take many photos that first night in Madrid, so you are stuck with poorly lit photos of food.

David ordered some sort of grilled pork kabob that was simply amazing. And the potatoes it came with! OH! Those potatoes. I believe I made a bit of a spectacle of myself enjoying them.

 
Pork and potatoes. If this is all I ever ate for the rest of my life, I'd be one happy girl. Probably tremendously unhealthy, but happy.

Kim had the trout, one of the specialties. And I ordered the garlic chicken, which also came with the potatoes. This was another amazing meal in Spain, and we had the most charming waiter. I would highly reccomend it if you ever find yourself in Madrid.

Another poorly lit food photo, but this was my yummy yummy chicken. Lots of little bones there. Clearly the boneless, skinless chicken craze has not taken over Spain.
 
And last but not least, Kym's yummy trout. I think it was trout. Very good.

Our dinner ended with me pinching the salt shaker. Random restaurant condiments make great souvenirs and are more memorable than a postcard. I'd been talking about wanting to take it and as we got up to leave I think maybe it was Alan who handed it to me and I quickly stuffed it in my purse. I then skipped away whispering, "run run run run run run run".

 The pilfered condiment in question. It now has a place of honor in my home.
 

We headed back to Voldemort, Lea, Amit, David, and I grabbed our bags, shot a cold glance at the desk clerk on our way out, and then made our way to the main street to get a cab. Madrid was alive with activity.  Our new destination was the Melia Castilla, about a ten minute cab ride. Our cab driver was quite nice and pointed out the Real Madrid stadium on the way. That thing is huge.


Finally, we were able to relax. It had been a long day...and the first major hiccup of the trip. But, we had plans to meet the rest of the group at the apartment the next day and then we could begin exploring Madrid. Only two more days left in Spain. Where had the time gone? It seemed like just the day before we'd been in Lisbon!

No comments: