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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.