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Spain: Arrival Madrid

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Rendezvous with a sunrise as our flight approaches Madrid, Spain.

I look upon international coach air travel as slow torture.  Put me on a long enough flight and I’ll tell you anything, promise you anything, simply to disembark.  A large part of my view on this comes from being tall with long legs and the airlines shrinking the spacing between rows to get as many of us “cattle” as possible on a plane.  Such flights are the only times in my life I’ve wanted to be five or six inches shorter.  If I happen to get a person in the row ahead of me determined to throw their seat into the full recline mode I feel like I should buy them flowers at the end of our “intimate” journey.

If there’s a hell, I hope there’s a special place for airline planners those executives who approved the current coach seating.  I certainly know what this special section of hell would consist of — coach!

So, it was with trepidation that I set out on this flight to Madrid, Spain.  If it was just me, honestly, I might not have made this trip, but Bonnie and our friends had been planning and looking forward to it for over a year.  In the end, when the pluses and minus were added up, I was very glad to have gone.

The flight itself wasn’t terrible, mostly because it was an 8-9hr direct US Air flight from Charlotte, NC, to Madrid. There were no delays or problems but if I could make a suggestion to US Air, they need to get some new aircraft. The aircraft we took both over and back were the equivalent of old school buses…none of the amenities expected and showing a lot of inner wear — in some cases broken fixtures/features. I found myself hoping it was mechanically sounder then it looked.  More on to this subject in a follow-on post.

One additional note on air travel and then I’ll move on, if given the chance, pick your seats upon the aircraft carefully. While setting near the head is very convenient, along about hour seven or eight you’ll be getting whiff’s it may have been a mistake.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Curves and motion in design, Terminal 4, Adolfo Suarez Airport, Madrid, Spain

We departed Charlotte late in the afternoon, arriving in Madrid around 7am the next morning (+6 hour time difference.)  Madrid airport was clean, modern and beautiful, I found myself digging my camera out of my carry-on bag almost as soon as I exited the plane. I’m such a tourist!

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Air handlers located at baggage claim, Terminal 4, Adolfo Suarez Airport, Madrid, Spain

There’s one thing I’ll never understand about air travel these days.  How come no matter where you come from or where you’re going to those two points are always the furthest apart and if there is an airport train, bus or shuttle you can be sure you’re going to ride it?  This distance also seems to multiply dependent upon the shorter amount of time you have to make the connection.  A study of this phenomena might just led to some astounding revelations and insights…time  travel, wormholes, and anti-gravity perhaps.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Building across from entrance to Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain

Reasonably priced two day tourist passes purchased at the airport gave us full access to Madrid’s metro and buses and we easily made our way with our luggage to our first nights mid-Madrid hotel.  Our day one plan was exploring Madrid proper, and then the next morning to head back to the airport to pick up a rental car.  Waiting one day and using the excellent metro saved us a day of car rental as well as eliminated the need to drive and park in Madrid…which you’d never want to do if you can avoid it.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

A couple sleeping upon the grass, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

I found myself in an interesting position on this trip.  No one else brought a camera, except for their cell phones.  I was the designated trip photographer. I’m not sure where I was when this nomination and vote took place, but it was what it was.  The interesting element was it made me very aware of taking photos for other people to remember the trip by.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Sculptured Gardens and the city beyond, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

I found myself operating in two modes.  One, taking “vacation photos” trying to capture the scenes and moments of the “vacation trip” to the best of my ability and two, exploring my own interests capturing those visual elements which caught my attention, and perhaps only my attention.  Sometimes these two areas overlapped, at other times I felt myself switching back and forth.  I’m not sure I did either endeavor true justice but I enjoyed the mental and visual exercise.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

A couple in love, or at least in lust, Sculptured Gardens, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

I’m sure our friends and Bonnie oftener wondered what I was taking photos of when they’d see me stop and focus on some obscure object or reflection of light.  Similarly two years ago on our trip to Italy I was getting strange looks when I’d often stop to take a photo of an interesting doorway.  I later published on this blog a series of Italian doorway photos which turned out to be both beautiful and interesting. On this trip, to Spain, Bonnie was pointing out doorways for me to photograph — a shift in vision from previous exposure to the possibilities and their beauty — cool!

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

A bike rider in the Sculptured Gardens, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

So our first day was spent exploring what we could of wonderful, beautiful, historic and culturally rich Madrid.  The weather was warm but not too hot and the humidity was low making it pleasant to walk or set outside enjoying some sangria — yes we did sample sangria from time to time.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Columns along Plaza Maestro Villa, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

After a full day’s adventure we returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading out again for dinner. While there’s 6 hours time difference between Madrid and the East Coast of the U.S.,  there’s another 5 hours difference in social customs.  Dinner doesn’t start in Spain until at least 9pm and that is considered early — don’t expect to eat a dinner before then.  It surprised us how quickly we adjusted to this new schedule and in fact found it preferred to the way we rush meals in the U.S.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Building along Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain

A certain member of our group always had a copy of Fodor’s guide to Spain with him.  I’m shamed to say we laughed about him and Fodor’s guide in Italy until we were taught our lesson with some of the best Italian food we’ve ever experienced from a Fodor’s recommendation.  There was no laughing this Spain trip…we listened to Fodor in Spain and overall was glad we did.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

Overhead colorful sun screens along side street off Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain

Due to the late social schedule it’s not surprising to find many people still making use of the Madrid Metro system late at night…even young teen age girls and boys who in the States would be expected to be home much earlier.

©Meandering Passage - Earl Moore Photography

A panorama view of Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

We returned to our Madrid hotel about 30 hours after we departed Charlotte feeling tired but surprisingly well — sleep would come easy this first night.

Here you have the first adventures of the four amigo’s in Spain.  If there’s interest more will follow.




15 Comments on Spain: Arrival Madrid

  1. Rather than wishing you were 5 or 6 inches shorter, wish for 5 or 6 zeros to be added to your bank balance and travel first class ;)

    I’m with you about coach travel, it’s not an enjoyable experience but I’ll put up with it when the destination is as promising as your trip to Spain.

    It sounds like you had a great time Earl. I was interested in reading about your mode of operation as a photographer. On my recent trip to the US, both my kids had cameras with them and both are competent photographers. They were so amazed by their experience that they took a lot of photos and so I decided to take a back seat this time and just enjoy it all without a camera (with the odd exception). It was wonderful.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing the rest of your adventure.
    Cedric Canard recently posted… Tempted by lightness

    • Cedric, the odds are probably more in favor of my shrinking 5-6 inches rather then my bank account growing by 5-6 zeros. :-)

      I can well understand your wonderful experience of relaxing and being “an observer” and I’m glad you had that opportunity.

      On this recent Spain trip there were times when taking photos almost seemed like a duty or chore. I didn’t feel I could just observe and let something go by without making an attempt to capture it. But that was probably more about me then about anyone else’s expectations.

  2. Your first paragraphs about seat space hit immediately home for me Earl as I am in the same place when it comes to air travel. At 5’19” , my trips to Europe for business have been dreaded experiences where most of my trip planning just goes into what airline has what seat spacing available.

    Some now have premium economy sections for a bit more money, not even close to first class fares, but for people that need it, worth every penny. Exit rows and bulkheads also now come with extra charges, but I will pay them.

    Anyway, thanks for showing the first part of your trip. I understand Spain has quite a large unemployment problem for their young people.

    • Mark, I didn’t know you were that tall. I’m 5’14.5″ so my hats off to you my friend for even daring to travel coach. I can just imagine…and it makes me cringe.

      Yes, Spain’s unemployment rate is about 26% and it’s not just the young. We saw many panhandlers on the streets of Madrid, many of them the elderly.

      In Madrid, there also seemed to be a problem with roving groups of peddlers and pushy beggars which without better identification I’d have to call gypsies. They were clearly dodging the police and operating in groups selling counterfeit handbags, electronics, etc. The beggars were dressed up outlandishly in some cases and were very loud. I think their tactic was to get you to pay for them to go away.

  3. Earl, Unlike you, I am not particularly tall but also experience “the sardine in a can” when flying coach.
    Steve Skinner recently posted… A Moody Sunrise

    • Steve, we Americans are more comfortable with a fairly large free personal space around us — perhaps more then most of the rest of the world. It’s for sure that personal space is violated by the Airlines coach seating arrangements making us uncomfortable both physically and mentally.


  4. It’s good to see another photographer who sees the journey as a photographic opportunity. With all the security issues around flying it always surprises me how freely I can use a camera in an airport. A lovely photo essay, Earl
    LensScaper recently posted… Geraniums

    • Thanks, Andy. I often see interesting shots while in the process of traveling often without have the time, opportunity or will to get to my camera and capture them. In this case we were at our final destination so I said, “What the heck, I’ll set down my bags and take a few moments.”

      If they tried to restrict photography in an airport they’d almost have to take everyone’s cell phone…what a riot that would be.

  5. Paul Maxim // 21 Jul ’14 at 7:20 am // Reply

    First, while I like all of these images, the one I like most is the picture of the red sun screens. For one thing, I’m a sucker for “red”. More importantly, there’s a strong sense of a vanishing line as you follow the sun screens toward the back of the frame. It’s not often you see a “red path” in a photograph.

    Like you and Mark, having to fly coach for any distance is a little bit like slow torture. The longer the flight, the more torturous it is. If I had to fly overseas again, I’d probably sell my grandchildren so that we could go first class! Damn. I must be getting really old – I remember when flying was fun and adventurous. Now it’s like getting on a dirty bus. A bus that just happens to have wings.

    • Paul, you picked my favorite image of this batch as well — the red and green sun screens. As much as I do like this photo, I have to say there was an additional element to it in person — the live energy of the hundreds of people slowly moving beneath. That memory is more potent to me at the moment then my attempt to capture it in this still image.

      I must be getting really old too — I remember when everyone use to dress up to fly. :-)

  6. I hate air travel! There were many times I felt I was herding cattle and that is not the way people should feel when going on vacation, nor do I want to feel that way. Some flight attendants will work to move larger passengers to more comfortable seats but that is not always possible. I did. That looks like a very modern airport in Spain.

    With your abilities as a photographer I have no doubt you did a good job and the above images show that. Looking forward to more images.
    Monte Stevens recently posted… A Good Week

    • Monte, I was thinking of you and your experiences as a flight attendant as I was writing this post. Thinking how you might have a different perspective on the whole air travel thing, but it sounds like your thoughts align pretty closely with my own.

      I think there’s an opportunity here for an airline which offers more room for everyone, less fee’s and top-notch service at a reasonable price (higher then coach but not the ransom of current first class.) I would certainly pay a reasonable amount to travel with less pain.

  7. Well, I’m “only” 5’11”, but it’s pretty uncomfortable. That 5 hour haul to San Francisco followed by another 15 hours to Sydney … well, I was willing to tell everything, without being asked! :) I don’t think that I’d do it again, unless I got those extra zeros in the bank account and could get First Class.

    Looks like a great time. I love the sculpted trees.
    Paul recently posted… The devil is beating his wife!

    • Paul, I’m not sure how small/short you’d have to be for the standard coach airline seats not to feel cramped…under 5′ I’m thinking! When I was working I did a couple of 18 hour flights to Japan, thankfully on the second one I refused to go unless they paid for business class, and they did. Even then it was a miserable flight. I can only imagine to Sydney! :-)

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