[Previous Chapter Here] Well the air is hot and I am definitely as stale as the Kelsey’s meal they tried to fool me into eating on the flight over but I could care less because this trip is now on. We made it and our feet were on the ground in Madrid Spain. We collect our things for under and above our seats and slowly make our way out of the Airbus. As we made it out onto the jetway it got even hotter with the kind of dry heat that you only find in the desert. I know it may technically not be a desert but flying in it looked dry enough to be one that’s for sure. Making our way down to the baggage carrousel I relize that we are not in the new modern terminal that I had seen in the pictures on line. It is the old terminal that is circa General Franco and, well, quite underwelming to be honest. I have a love for new and modern airports and Madrid has one of the coolest ones on the planet and this wing was not part it!
At the carrousel it was taking forever for the bags to make their way out. “Crap!” we had one transfer in Toronto and that does increase the odds of lost luggage ten fold I thought myself. Suddenly there was a the dull moan of an old engine coming from behind the rubber curtains of where the luggage comes out. I wandered over to check it out and as I peered through I noticed an ancient tractor pulling the carts full of what appeared to be our luggage. Then I heard the sound of Spanish being bantered between the two handlers as they tossed the bags and cases roughly on to the old carrousel. It seemed that every bag from the plane had been past us and here where really only a handful of people still waiting for their bags. I wasn’t to worried because Simple Plan were still short one base guitar as well so we were not alone in the situation. Then our bags started to slowly make their way around the ancient carrousel. All but Noah’s that is…we waited and waited. I even helped the band find their base and still no bag. We where going to be forced to use our freshly minted tourist Spanish to sort out a mild emergency within 1.5 hours of arriving. F’n great. I took one last spin around all the while thinking why us why not the band’s base guitar. I’m sure they had more than one of those bloody things anyway right? Not only that I was not looking forward to telling my five year old that our great vacation was going to begin with the loss of all of his worldly possessions. Seriously can you imagine having to break that news? So I take one last spin around the belt and what do I see but Noah’s little grey suitcase. Ah but there was a glitch…it had fallen off the belt and was on the wrong side of the conveyor. Ok so on first glance I might be able to reach but if I screw it up I will wind up falling and getting pulled into the machine. Mmm ok I guess I have to ask for help. I am not very good at asking for help generally, just ask my wife.[budump bump!] So I wave the security guard over and point and grunt in really shity spanglish that my bag is off the rails and I point to the stop button and gesture a “shall we push this?” kind of thing. The response is a resound “no” to that idea? The tinly little guard just kind of reaches over risking getting pulled into the belt extends her reach magically for the case and gets it. Just like that! Ok so maybe it wasn’t that far of a reach and I was a bit woosy on the matter. Oh well.
We wandered the airport looking for the Metro station. “Metro station?” you are probably asking yourself. “Why the hell would you not take a taxi downtown?”. “You have been travelling for 16 hours why make it worse.” I know I know…Let me explain. Prior to the trip I had been really fixated on global warming and trying to figure out how to keep the carbon footprint down for this trip. The other thing was that Denise had never been to Europe before and I wanted to show her that transit works in other countries etc, etc. So I convinced my family that it would be “cool” and a “local” way to travel. Maybe loco would have been a better term for the idea.
We were tired the and when you are tired things are a lot harder especially when you add a foreign language and a five year old to the mix. Well we got on the metro and it was clean, not too crowded and I had a pretty good idea that we were on the right train to get us to the hotel, pretty sure… So the first drama happened when we had to transfer to another train. [Remember we are carrying everything a family of 3 would need for two months of travel] So we exit the train and make our way over to the elevator to get up to the other line when we realized that there was no elevator. Damn that sucks, I could have sworn that the EU were totally all over that handicapped thing. Well just as a heads up they are not! This was the first of many painful episodes of stairwells al la super heavy luggage that we would endure for the next hour or so of metro train transfers. Trying to get all of your heavy bags off in a timely fashion and not leave your son on the train because the frick’n doors close so fast was the other battle that we faced on each transfer as well. I was trying Denise’s patience with this whole “going local” method of travel that was for sure. So we are on the last train into town and I was counting the stations. “Three more, two more..” Then on the second to last stop the train’s doors opened and at that point the entire train load of people collected their belongings and just got off the train in a matter of fact manner. It was at that point that the security team got on the train and yammered at us to get of the train and pointed to yet another set of stairs. “Great news.” I thought. So we lugged our crap up yet another set of elevator free stairs to the street. Remember I was already stale when I touched down and it was about 33˚ in the metro so ya more stale now.
I was now a bit flustered in our final relay of heavy luggage up the stairs and I completely forgot that Denise had not been to Europe before. I was flailing around stressing, fussing and yammering away about needing a cab etc. when I looked at her and stopped in my tracks. I then looked up to see what she was in awe of and realized that we had popped up out of the gopher hole of the metro station in one of the most beautiful intersections in Madrid. we where surrounded by ornate white stone buildings that were hundreds of years old and there was on of those massive six lane traffic circles that you can’t really believe until you see it first hand. Denise was like “Um hold on a second, this is amazing, wow so this is Europe!” The look on her face was priceless and said to me that she was indeed impressed with what she was going to be immersing herself in for the summer. It was really a magic moment and yes very romantic.
We stood together and soaked in the fantastic cosmopolitan scene for a for a few minutes when the mood was broken by the sounds of Noah expiring. For those who don’t have kids it is hard to describe. It’s not really a sound that they utter as much as a shift in attitude I guess. It is a self defence mechanism that kicks in when they have no more left. Everything they do from that point forward is completely concerned with rectifying what ails them. Be it hunger, heat, cold, tired or any number of other ailments. But when it hits there is little that compares I guess could be compared to a big gulp of sour milk on a very hot day! I knew that I had to get the little tired boy who was not in his native time zone into the cool the hotel room fast. Remember when we left Vancouver it was hovering around 16˚-20˚c and we where now sitting close to 35˚ so it was a bit of a shocker for the little guy. I hailed a cab and we stacked our stuff in the back of the Skoda and informed the cabbie of where we wanted to go. It’s a funny thing in Europe even if you speak the language and have clear instructions more often then not the cabbies do not really know where you want to go and it is always a bit of a cofuffle. Luckily they all have GPS units now and you wind up to you destination eventually. The cab driver dropped us off in the square and grunted in the direction of the hotel. So we unloaded out bags and marched down the street. It gets so hot in Madrid that they hang translucent banners between the buildings to reduce the heat on the pedestrians and yes we had no idea how much we would need them in the coming weeks. On our way down the block we passed a seafood restaurant [Picture] that had the daily catch displayed in the window in the most amazing and ornate fashion. It was a small restaurant but like most things in Europe the was so much care put into the display it was hard to not stop and fantasize about a tasty meal there.
We found the hotel Preciados and relished in the air conditioned lobby. Now I know that Denise it the one that studied Spanish for weeks and was going to be the great communicator during the trip but we where tired and I just pushed my way past her to the counter and started to blunt out the reservation details in slow and careful English. The young Spaniard replied in perfect English that our room was ready for us and we could check in no problem. Well that was easy and pleasant.
Our room was amazingly modern and tasteful [Picture] and would be our retreat from the Madrid heat for the next three days. I had forgotten about my carbon footprint for the time being and cranked the AC so that we could reduce the our overall clamminess a few notches. We settled in for a nap and kind of slept the afternoon away.
To be continued…
Photo copyright JP Holecka0