The Spanish fly

Trip Start May 27, 2011
1
5
10
Trip End Jun 19, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Thursday, June 2, 2011

DAY 1

We didn’t get the beauty sleep we had hoped for last night. Norwegian pubs mustn’t have those signs that say “When leaving the premises please respect our neighbours and go quietly” because there were plenty of yahoos in the streets last night. When our alarm went off at 3.15am, we dressed, gathered our belongings and headed off towards the airport bus stop. Even at this hour the sun was already out. There were still plenty of party goers in the streets so I don’t know whether it was Saint Olav’s birthday or something, but they were certainly celebrating something.
 
Upon arrival at Bergen airport, the charming check-in agent advised us we wouldn’t need to collect our baggage at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as we were flying KLM all the way to Madrid. That was a relief as this gave us an opportunity to connect with a 9.30am flight. We went and sat up in the (closed) airport café and ate our makeshift breakfast of yoghurt and boiled eggs before going through security.
 
When we reached the boarding gate, the same check in agent advised us we had seats and he was going to put us in Business Class as well. We were so relieved to get on this first flight straight away that we were totally understanding when the cabin crew said there weren’t enough business class meals available for us. Personally we would have been happy with just a lifejacket!

The KLM crew were great and, although I'd never flown them before, would certainly recommend them. When we arrived at Schiphol, we went straight to our boarding gate and handed the staff our boarding cards. Even though we stood around looking desperate and with sad faces, there weren't enough seats for ourselves and about five other stand-by passengers so we missed out.The next flight was in about 2.5 hours so we went and re-listed and went to get lunch.

After lunch, we made our way to the next boarding gate and the number of stand-by passengers was now about 12. Fortunately this time everyone got on...except Ted and I! We couldn't believe how we'd just missed again, but the KLM staff were very helpful and re-listed us again for the next flight three hours later. We were so exhausted by this stage that we dragged our weary bones off to the next boarding gate area.

On the way we saw something helpful - Schiphol Airport has a relaxation area complete with bean bags and the sounds of birds chirping being played. That was just what we needed so we lay down with other weary travellers and got some well deserved shut-eye. After a power nap we headed off to the next gate. When we arrived at the next boarding gate and gave our cards to the lady behind the counter she said "Oh yes, we've all heard about you two". We weren't sure if that was a good or bad thing but then, we finally got seats! Ted got business class, I got economy.

When we boarded, the purser looked at our boarding cards and said "Oh yes, we've all heard about you two", so clearly we had a reputation at KLM by this stage. I went and sat in my cattle class seat when the purser then returned and said he had saved me a seat in Business, so again we are singing praises about the Dutch people!

During the flight, we spoke with the purser who has been with KLM for 22 years and it was interesting to see the similarities between our companies. Before leaving the flight, he handed us a plastic bag as a gift from KLM, which had eight mini bottles of alcohol in it, including Baileys, Champagne and Cognac. It certainly brightened our very long day.

Before coming on this holiday I tried to learn some Spanish to be (moderately) prepared for Spain so when we landed in Madrid, I was trying to read every sign in the airport with limited success. We bought tickets for the metro which ended up being a lot easier than expected and suddenly, we were in downtown Madrid! The neighbourhoods aren't anything I expected - really narrow streets and a lot of shops. Despite originally heading in the wrong direction, we finally found our hostel.

The hostel is pretty nice and is catered to people like Ted and I. Even though we were both dog tired, we still were keen to see the nightlife. After showering and dressing up, we headed out for a fun night out. We then returned to the hostel five minutes later because we couldn't figure out where we were going. We left more confidently another five minutes later with the decision that Ted would no longer be the map reader.

Ted was really keen to have tapas for dinner so, after looking at several outdoor menus, we decided to eat at the restaurant where we could understand what half of the items listed were. We ordered a big dish of tapas but I suspect the place was a tourist trap! I wimped out a bit about speaking the language but surprisingly, after several sangrias I was speaking almost fluently (or so I thought).

We were both keen to see some nightlife so after finding a good area to start, we went inside a few venues to find that attendance was quite poor! We could have waited until things got busier but then we remembered how old we are and that we can't live on three hours sleep every night :-)

DAY 2

Our intended sleep-in didn't go to plan as Ted forgot to silence his phone and a text message woke us up. This morning before heading out we checked the flight loads from Madrid to Istanbul and are quite distressed as they aren't looking very promising! We don't have a lot of options with this one so let's hope it goes okay.

Our time here in Madrid is bittersweet as we actually had two days planned here but unfortunately the World's Most Hated Airline (RyanAir, not Jetstar), changed their itinerary severely so we now only have one. I'm curious to see how much of this huge city we can see in just over 24 hours.

We saw a brochure yesterday about a free city tour so we decided to give it a try. Firstly we found a nearby cafe for breakfast and, despite asking for a glass of bacon instead of a glass of orange juice, the waiter was still impressed that I was trying Spanish.

We caught the metro to Plaza Mayor where the tour started. Plaza Mayor wasn't as nice as I'd hoped - the square is beautiful but they always use the open space as a display area for some exhibition or car show. It's almost like hanging a Coca Cola sign across the Statue of Liberty. Also there were some weird characters you could be photographed with such as Minnie Mouse and, as Ted described him "Bob the Sponge".

The tour http://www.newmadrid-tours.com/ was an interesting concept - the guides work solely on tips and, if you didn't like the tour you could easily leave. We weren't unimpressed as we really enjoyed it. Even though the guide Colin was a Pom, he knew a lot of Spanish history which Ted and I certainly knew little about. The guide even did a role play to help explain the different monarchs, and Ted was cast in the role of Felipe the Handsome.

Some of the places we visited included the Royal Palace (just the outside - the King and Queen weren't there anyway), the Royal Opera House and Plaza de la Villa. Ted and I were show-offs as he was able to name Spain's most famous dish, whereas I could name the most popular Spaniard as voted by the Spanish people. I'm sure the others on the tour were in awe of our trivial knowledge :-)

For lunch we went to a place called "The Museum of Ham", where you could get a bocadillo and beer for only 2 Euro, if you didn't mind standing at the counter to eat whilst being elbowed by other cheapskates. When we went to Sol, there were hundreds of people camped out in tents in a silent protest against the government. Whilst I admire their stance, it doesn't exactly create a Kodak moment.

The guide gave a quick overview of night life, explaining that Spaniards don't generally go out until 2am, so clearly Ted and I are still on Sydney time. And we thought it was just a quiet night last night. After the tour ended we went to photograph the Prado museum (unfortunately no time to go inside - lousy RyanAir) and walk through El Retiro Park before getting an early dinner.

Ted was keen to try paella so we chose a restaurant in a backstreet neighbourhood mainly because the maître d’ attacked us with a menu as we walked past. The tapas I ordered was about ten times bigger than expected but I wasn't complaining.

We've been pretty wary of pickpockets since arriving in Madrid but we still came back with all our belongings! We have another horrible early flight tomorrow, so we're going to try and be well slept before dealing with tomorrow's riff-raff. Good night!
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Comments

Rachael on

My very first flight was with KLM from Sydney to Amsterdam when I was 7. I'm glad to hear that my fellow dutch men/women were nice to you. R

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