A bit different to Frankfurt, that. So come 1030 I was out and following a walking route I'd downloaded off that there internet, courtesy of National Geographic. Apparently - and honestly by total accident - I'd picked a really nice hotel very close to the starting point of an itinerary around loads of old town Madrid big hitters.
Within moments I'm in a little corner store buying diet coke and a pre-packaged sandwich. This is not part of the tour. Seconds later, however, I'm at Puerta del Sol., the centre of Madrid. Literally. In this square is a statue of a horse, roughly a million tourists and a hundred thousand people offering "free" walking tours, a whole bunch of people dressed as statues or Mario or chickens or dinosaurs or soldiers, but most importantly there is kilometre zero: the point to/from which all distances to Madrid are measured. Like the bit in front of Charing Cross station in London. I try and find the actual zero point but fail, and hanging around with so many people vying for my custom and attention is already wearing me down. Best get on with the walk.
Just down the way is, apparently, the actual world's actual oldest actual restaurant. It's quite hard to take a pic of because of the walking tours playing tag in front of it. If this is how busy it is on a cold November Friday I hate to think what it's like around here on a high season weekend.
Further down and more statues, then right and right again into another square. So far I am very much enjoying Madrid: lots of twisty turns, narrow streets and wide plazas, really pretty architecture and an insanely high number of places to eat and drink. The weather is great, which helps. Wish I had some headphones though.
Past a flamenco restaurant and round the outside of an old convent where your an apparently order sweets direct from the nuns through a weird little kiosk thing - I didn't try - and then another square with a bunch of buildings from the 1500s all connected to each other. It looks vaguely military. There's a statue of a dude not on a horse.
Apparently it is. Cathedral de la Almudena is Madrid's main cathedral and, er, well that's basically all I know about it. I'm certain no-one reads my blog in the expectation that I'll say anything useful about what I see - there's a whole rest of the internet for that stuff. Me, I just take a bunch of photos from random angles and stumble across the Muralla Islamica.
Some people are crossing themselves in front of some figure on the outside of the cathedral, and lots of people are going in. I can't be bothered.
The local busker is playing a table full of wine glasses and goblets filled to slightly different levels. He is excellent. In front of the palace is some garden - oriente, I think? I dunno. There are more buskers and walking groups and a whole bunch of statues of, I think, old monarchs and consorts. They all look quite full of themselves.
There's also a statue of a horse. Come on, Madrid, this is getting silly now.
I'm done with the Nat Geo walk now and am just making it up. There's a square called Opera, so I go on facebook and faux complain about Madrid being a secret and end up checking in from Opera in Paris, like an idiot.
I want to go back to Sol and try again to find kilometre zero, and without using a map I just pick a direction which feels right - up a shopping street called Arenal, past some buskers playing Elvis and some more playing hold music. There's some more excellent architecture, a church, and a fantastic religious iconography shop.
Right. I'm done with this now. I descend to the metro and start keeping time, because I want to know for the future how long it takes to get to the airport. On the platform at 1253, there's a couple of guys with musical instruments waiting, and very few other people. A train arrives and I go 4 stops to Nuevo Ministerios, and when I leave I see that those guys are busking in the last carriage. One of the instruments is a double bass! I find this hilarious. Such a crazily unwieldy instrument to cart around on a tube train, ha!
At the platform for the train to the airport I peer into the sidings, and am bemused by a ban on metallic balloons.
I think, should I start blogging? And decide against it. Instead, I go for a wander up the other end, thinking perhaps there's champagne. There is a "wine bar" which is just this area with tons of bottles, but nothing looks fizzy. So I take a photo of the LAN plane - like the one I arrived on yesterday - and go to get a beer, when I spot some 25cl bottles of Cava. Aha! I'll have one of those, ta. Back at my seat I try and enjoy the drinking and the view, but apparently the loudest woman in the lounge has decided to perch next to me and take a conf call with her office back home. She totally loses her ability to control volume when shouting "OH, AND HAYLEY!" so loud I have a physical reaction.
While I was standing up I saw the monitors say my flight was boarding. This was confusing on numerous levels. For a start, it was over an hour until departure (at least, I thought it was; half the monitors said the flight was at 1545, half at 1550, the latter being what my ticket said). What's more, no gate number was showing - so how can it be boarding already? And lastly, it said it was from gate area H, which is back in main T4 and not the satellite. This is a whole host of fail.
If it is back at T4 then I need to shift, really, so I neck my drinks and go back to the desk to ask what's happening... by which point the monitor now said it was at gate S23. That's just around the corner from the lounge. Oh, well that's OK then. Sure enough, my phone lights up as numerous apps tell me my flight will "take place" at gate S23 too. I up and leave before the lounge announcement, which I hear is made just as I'm through the door.
The gate looks moderately chaotic. I walk around in circles and then they announce priority boarding, so I weave through the crowd and am directed into the left hand side of the segregated airbridge, and stop. We're all just queueing up in this corridor, and a very angry American man drags his noisy wheely case back towards the gate. A member of staff stops him because, well, just hang on mate, and he shouts WHY DON'T YOU TELL US WHAT'S GOING ON, PEOPLES! at them. I'll tell you what's going on mate: we're queueing to get on a plane, pretty much on time.
I think perhaps his mood was so bad because the airbridge stank really badly. Someone had dropped a very large air biscuit. Whew.
Every airbridge at Madrid I've ever used is REALLY LONG.
The seat is wide and comfortable.
Obligatory legroom shot is obligatory. Lots of space. I will enjoy this on a longer flight one of these days.
The animated guy on the safety video is permanently happy, and breaks into a huge smile when the oxygen masks come down. Really mate?
The inflight entertainment system and other seat amenities are all great and responsive. Headphones are distributed before take off and I start watching Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters is hilarious. I love it. Apart from the fact they're all women, which is fucking outrageous and ruins everything. What is Hollywood thinking? Etc.
Service starts. It's not hugely salubrious - do I want pasta or chicken? I opt for chicken, and get a tray with everything except the main still wrapped in cling film. And a sparkling wine please, thank you.
It's very nice though, honestly. And in the battle of leaves, Iberia win hands down: the salad is gorgeous, helped enormously by the lovely balsamic vinegar. The only real downside is the bread roll I get separately, which is hard as a rock and totally inedible.
Ghostbusters makes me laugh even more with what seems to be badly dubbed anti-swearing measures. "Forget this!" "Burning hell!". Then I'm offered some tea or coffee, which I decline in lieu of some more sparkling wine. Then, before I've even finished the first let alone started on the second, the says "would you also like some spirits? Gin, vodka, whisky?". Go on then, I'll try a whisky, why not.
Moments later - I've finished the first wine, not started the second, am about halfway through the whisky - she offers me a top-up. I mean this is getting silly now. Have they had a bet on whether they can make me refuse some alcohol? Because they succeed. Who saw that coming?
I get online for a while, just because I can, because they've given me a free coupon for 4mb of data. Four whole megabytes! This is enough to send a few messages on facebook and one tweet before the rest is all used up by emails arriving and other stuff I thought I'd turned off before connecting. Ah well.
The mega-reflective windows stay mega-reflective, such that all my photos - which don't tend to be great anyway - are mostly of my knuckles. Grr. The Isle of Wight looks exactly like the Isle of Wight does on a map.