Oct 26, 2012: Madrid, SpainAs before, Eric will narrate our experiences in Madrid with my comments interjected in italics.
As we left off before, we entered Madrid late the night before. We came back to Madrid for a couple of reasons. The first reason was so that Sam could check out IE's Business School in Madrid. The second reason was so that we could fly to London for the NFL Pats-Rams game,
along with hang out with our friends Lauren and Ryan who planned to meet us there in London. We woke up on Friday, showered, and went out the door. Our first stop was the train station to store our luggage for the day. We loaded up the day pack and hopped on the Metro to go towards IE Business School. The IE Open Day invites potential or current applicants to come tour the graduate business school campus, meet some current students and professors, and answer your questions, and overall give you a feel of the school. As some of you may know, I am very interested in going back to school to obtain my MBA, and ideally would love to attend a program abroad. Ever since I visited Spain a few years back I have loved the country and culture and love the idea of getting my MBA while getting to live in Spain. So Eric and I organized our travel path to be in Madrid during an IE Open Day.
We grabbed our morning coffee and walked over towards IE. It was a little difficult to find out which building it was, but we eventually made it there. After checking in with security, we were led to the area where the information session was meeting. It was pretty interesting as we were the only Americans there. We met people from all over the world, from countries such as India, Russia, Sweden, Argentina, etc. While Sam was fully interested in the school and what it offers, I was more interested in finding out how the school would potentially help with a move, what they offer spouses, etc. I wasn’t planning on staying the full day, only a short time. I wasn’t the only partner there, as another guy brought his wife as well. I won’t bore you with the information sessions, but it sounded pretty good. We heard about the school, we took a tour, then we were led back to cafeteria type of area where we were given free food and drinks. Any school that wants to give me shrimp, Spanish tapas, and booze for lunch is okay by me. At this point we met an American girl from Washington DC who was a student there. She was very cool, gave us some insight into Madrid, what the school was like, etc.
After our conversation, I took off while Sam continued onto the second part of the day.My day turned into another exploration, as I was trying to find an ATM that wouldn’t charge us a fee, as well as send out some postcards. I went to a couple of Deutsche Banks that were under construction, so I couldn’t get money out of there. After that I went to the post office, but apparently Madrid post offices aren’t open past 2 pm on Fridays. It must be nice to work those types of hours. Finally, after that entire process I was annoyed and looking to just relax. I found a Starbucks to sit down, and catch up on sports news. I couldn’t get on the internet right away and some Spanish lady saw that I was having a little difficulty, and gave me the PIN to login. She just added to my belief that Spanish people are extremely friendly. During this second part of the open house, the attendees attended a mock lecture class (obviously Eric was not interested in sticking around for this), which turned out to be a generic class about Negotiation strategies and tactics, which also included a live negotiation based around a case-study. It’s one of those I’ve seen before in undergrad where one person/team gets the insight and background of one of the negotiating parties, while the other person/team gets the same about the other party. Put together you are supposed to strike a deal that hopefully offers a win-win agreement between the parties. The class was divided up into two teams and each team strategized together separately then selected a spokesperson to carry out the negotiation with a spokesperson from the other team in front of the class. Guess who my team chose. Yep, that would be me. Some of you are probably not surprised that. Anyway, by the end of the exercise my counterpart and I each achieved our initial goals of the deal and both teams walked away happy.
Sam wrapped up her tour and me up with me at Starbucks. She told me that some of the current students were taking people out for drinks, and wanted us to join them. Our flight from Madrid to London left at 8:45 that night, and since it was only 5:00 pm now and we weren’t that far away on the Metro from the main train station, we figured it should not be too much of a problem. I agreed, said we could have a drink then leave. We grabbed a beer and started talking to a few of the students, one of which was a guy from India, but had been living in Ireland the past several years. Sam peppered him with questions about India and he gave us a lot of insight on where we should go, what should do, etc.
We finally left the bar around 5:30. We hopped on the Metro back to the main train station, where our luggage was stored, which seemed to take forever. We grabbed our bags, and went back to get on the Metro to continue on towards the airport. There were several delays along the way, and what should have been a 20 minute ride turned into an hour. As the clock keeps ticking Eric, who gets anxious about always being on time anyway, is pacing the metro car like a caged animal. Once we finally get there we frantically run from the train to the check-in counter, only to find it closed. It was 8:00pm at this point, 45 minutes before our flight.
Once we were there, we were told we were too late and wouldn’t be able to get on our flight. That really took the wind out of my sails, so we started asking about flights later that night or the next morning. We had to go to another ticket desk to discuss that, which ended up being a hassle. They originally told us it would be 170 Euros per person for a flight the next morning. We decided to go online and find out what flights we could find, which we ended up finding for about 125 Euros per person.Unlike most modern airports, the Madrid airport, while pretty, had the worst wi-fi system we have ever seen. We had to pay to use wi-fi on our laptop, and even then it was absurdly slow, not even pulling up basic flight webpages. The airport main lobby had archaic computer kiosks that you had to deposit Euros into to use the internet. This internet service was not much better, so after frustrating attempt after attempt between trying to find a new flight ourselves online, calling the flight carrier directly, and trying to charm/cry our way with the ticket counter staff we realized we needed to just suck it up and buy new tickets. Even my tears of frustration didn't get the ticket counter rep to budge. By the way, we do NOT recommend Iberia Air. When we originally booked our tickets through British Airways, but since it was serviced by Iberia, BA passed off any responsibility of helping us and Iberia customer service is a joke.
It wasn’t my favorite way to spend the money, but what could we do. We tried to plead our case to the ticket desk on how we should get some sort of credit for our ticket, since we were technically there in time, but they didn’t let us check-in. That didn’t end up working so we pulled the trigger on tickets for the next morning for a 7:00am flight.
At this point it was after 10:00pm, and there wasn’t a hostel nearby. All the hotels were extremely expensive, so we decided to sleep in the airport. This airport is not well set up for overnight guests. All the benches were hard metal, each seat having fixed metal armrests so we couldn’t lay down on them. There were a handful of restaurants in the main lobby of the airport, though only one was even open by the time we finished with our ticket ordeal. Good ol’ McDonanlds. You know you’ve really become a budget backpacker when you are spending the night at the airport McDonald’s.
Our good friend McDonald’s had huge booths, so we were able to claim some space, have a little McDonald’s dinner, and pass out for the night. It made us feel better to see other people also staking out at McDonald’s for the night also.
Sam fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit her pillow. I ended up reading as I couldn’t
sleep, due to the terrible airport announcements (literally every 5 minutes a rotation of generic recorded messages would, very loudly, start with "May I have your attention please…")
along with the cheesy pop music McDonald’s was playing. If I heard one more Rihanna song I was going to rip the speakers out of the wall. I ended up sleeping for about three hours before we had to wake up. For breakfast, what else, than McDonalds. I have eaten more McDonald’s in the past few weeks than I have across the previous 5 years. I may vomit next time I see those golden arches.
We made our way through security, and eventually got on our plane. The plane was empty for the most part, so we were able to really spread out and catch some sleep.