Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Weekend in Madrid

Booking with Easyjet usually gets you two things, a cheap flight and a bumpy ride. For the price, it's well worth a little high flying stress as the plane shifts and jolts and drops - in fact it adds an element of roller-coaster excitement. Apparantly it was too much for some poor person on our outbound flight. The plane hurried an emergency landing into Madrid airport so they could be taken away by the awaiting paramedics.

We made a few errors, and a few good decisions. Our first good decision was the three-day transit passes we bought for nine Euros each. The passes got us on subways, trains and busses for the entire stay.

My first error was booking a cheap hotel through Easyjet hotels. The Travelodge might have been the lowest cost, however it was nowhere near the airport or the downtown. It took us an hour to get from the airport to our hotel, and forty minutes from the centre of Madrid. As a result of our obscure location, we spent an extra sixty Euros in taxis. Twenty the first night trying to find the hotel from a nearby trainstation. The second night, we missed the last train by a few minutes and ended up wasting two hours searching for an alternate route. In the end, we coughed up forty Euros for a taxi. Point being, do some research and be willing to pay an extra twenty euros per night if it means a more convenient location.
My other mistake was the Sunday shopping conundrum. Living in Morocco, a big reason for going to Spain is to get things that are either not available, or very expensive here. We spent most of Saturday doing the tourist bit, giving ourselves only an hour before 10pm closing to do our shopping between Carrefour and Decathlon. On Sunday, Spanish shops and supermarkets shut down completely - which meant the little things I wanted to hunt for - a camping stove, climbing equipment, and a few other knickknacks were left for another day.

It was predominately a tourism weekend, with a trek around the historic quarter of Madrid and lunches in big Spanish Plazas. We took a tour through the massive rooms of Madrid's Palacio Real (Royal Palace.) It's most amazing feature being its sheer size - 2800 rooms, of which the tour shows around fifty.

Spanish stereotypes: Blah food. In my opinion, Spain has the most below average food in Europe. The Spanish Paella Siham and I ordered was oily and filled with thin crab legs, shrimp hairs and other not-so-delectable bits. A tuna sandwich Siham ordered on our last night was dripping with oil, as though they didn't bother draining the oil out of the tin before spreading it on the bread.

More Stereotypes - People making out in public came as a bit of a surprise, especially coming from Morocco. The two gay lovers in McDonalds had to take the prize for the biggest double-take moment - are they really doing that?

I don't know if this counts as a Spanish stereotype; it may just be the latest thing on the fashion front. Girls with big guts and low-cut shirts. Maybe some Spanish men find a fat drooping belly on a girl attractive. If not, with all the different Latin and African cultures emerging in Spain, I'm sure there must be some culture who supports the big-burgeoning-belly fashion.

My previous trips to Madrid were as a single guy. With a baby in tow, Siham and I missed out on the Madrid nightlife. There were also many an Irish pub that made me sigh nostagically in passing.

"Siham, can you wait outside while I..."
"Yeah right!"

Live and learn. Next time, I'll book a more convenient central hotel. I'll still buy the transit pass, and we'll dedicate all Saturday evening to do shopping and Sunday to tourism. If I'm lucky, I may even get a chance to sneak out to the Irish pub for a pint.

The flight back was even more turbulent than the flight there. Fortunately, no emergency landings or parmedics were required.

I heard a rumour Easyjet might start transatlantic flights? Seventy Euros instead of seven hundred sounds good to me, even if I have to pack my own meals, and barfbag.

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