No builders this morning. I have no idea why. The last time I saw Paul (Wednesday) he said he’d see me today. Carole picked us up in the taxi at 11am and there was no sign of the builders. I know that Dave (the boss) has gone skiing for a few days so maybe they’re bunking off.
I slept for most of the journey to Terminal 5. This is because I didn’t get an awful lot of sleep last night. I was busy with last minute preparations. Strange when I’m only going for a weekend…really. Still, I managed some sleep in the taxi.
Of course, we arrived at Heathrow half an hour before we needed to be there. Still, it meant a lovely lunch at Carluccios (gnocchi & gorgonzola for me, spaghetti carbonara for Mirinda) and an easy, chilled wander through security…well, for me. Mirinda was not so lucky.
Interestingly, she has not had a lot of luck with queues today. At the bag drop, the first desk we stopped at had a chap who she declared was a bit odd. I decided we should move when he undid his suitcase and started moving things out of it and into a cabin bag. Everything in his suitcase appeared to have it’s own little plastic bag. It was a bit strange.
At security, the Fast Track queue that Mirinda found herself in had stopped because of a woman who had to have the security wand waved over her many times. During this she lost her shoes, her belt, most of her dignity…worst of all, it took a long time and Mirinda had to wait.
Then, as if some divine power of three had decided my wife’s life was not complete unless she had to have yet one more horrid queue experience, she chose the wrong customs line at Madrid. I sailed through (mainly because I’m one of the priviledged EU citizens) but Mirinda’s queue was stalled by a young girl telling the border guard her life history.
When Mirinda finally reached the official, he asked her where she was going.
“To a hotel,” She said.
“And after that?” He pressed.
“I don’t know. Dinner, I suppose.”
He waved her through and we headed off for the luggage.
Madrid airport is massive and cavernous. Mirinda noted the tiles – because of the extension, she’s doing a lot of this at the moment – as we walked the 36 miles to luggage belt 8. (And, for Nicktor’s benefit, belt 8 was, actually, belt 8.) Our bag was one of the first off and we headed out to the arrivals hall.
While the interior of Madrid airport is big and empty, the arrivals hall is narrow and small. Excellent for getting you moving. We were in a taxi before we knew it and heading into central Madrid.
The hotel is very nice, apart from one thing: wi-fi is not free! Odd, isn’t it? This is a Marriott hotel, a huge international chain and yet they feel the need to charge for wi-fi while the Hotel Islane in Marrakesh, which costs very little and is hardly a single hotel let alone a chain, has all the wi-fi you can eat. Okay, it’s not reliable but, hell, it’s free.
After a bit of a rest, we went for a wander. Our hotel is in the Recoletos area of Madrid and it’s all a bit well shod and trendy. Even so, our wander led us, naturally enough, to a Starbucks. Today marked the first time I have walked into a foreign Starbucks and they didn’t understand my order. Though, to be fair, the woman who served me didn’t actually speak English.
From Starbucks we wandered over to Plaza de Colon, presided over by a big statue of Christopher Columbus, traffic whizzing all around him. Just across from the plaza is a small garden with four very big sculptures in it. Had we not known that they represented Columbus’s ships, we’d have had no idea what they were. They looked like big blocks with strange, yet haunting carvings in them. Knowing they represented the ships, the rest of the artwork falls into place and it’s easy to see what it’s all about.
The big Puerta de Alcala looked stunning, all lit up in the middle of the Plaza de la Independencia so we headed for it. I was quite pleased with the photo, taken using my phone.
We then just wandered about until close to 10pm. This is the proper time to have dinner in Madrid. We tried a few restaurants but they were all booked out and we were turned away by sorrowful but resigned Spanish waiters. But then we found a delightful looking place (the name of which escapes us at the moment) and we were welcomed in like old friends.
There were a few empty chairs when we arrived but these steadily filled up as the night wore on. We left close to 11pm and people were still arriving for dinner. They also arrived in dribs and drabs. One person would be sitting at a table set for eight then another person would turn up then a couple then the rest, all over a period of an hour. A very different dining experience.
We had three dishes of tapas. Some squid, a Spanish version of ham, egg and chips and, finally, the most delicious crocquettes I have ever tasted. They were prawn but didn’t taste like prawn. They were like heaven on the palate. I could go on waxing lyrically about dinner but, suffice it to say, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We did feel a little under dressed though as everyone else was in their party frocks and suits. Still, no-one else was bothered and we didn’t feel at all uncomfortable.
After dinner it was just a short walk back to the hotel. Our fingers are crossed for the weather tomorrow. The forecast is not good.