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There was a dream. I'm sure there was a dream. My recollection, 13 or so hours later, is that I woke up from a dream, but that's as far as it goes. Perhaps at the time I could and should have written down what it was, but all I can remember now is how my first properly conscious thoughts were: wow, a single bed feels very small. And goddamn it I'm warm. Shouldn't I go back to sleep?

Actually that's not quite true. I don't have good sleep hygiene, so actually my first thoughts were "must check headforpoints.com! Must check flyertalk! Must see how many people, if any, have clicked 'like' or its equivalent on anything I posted last night!" And then I thought, I should get some more sleep.

Of course, I didn't. Wifi in the hotel was good enough that watching the WWE Network was perfectly feasible, so I caught (and enjoyed) NXT while chatting to Helen and others back home. There was some more sleep, and some podcasts, and then finally I set out for the day, though not before discovering my room had a balcony.

The woman at reception was very very friendly and told me exactly how to walk to the alt-stadt: out, right, left, halfway across the bridge, down the stairs, right. I was indeed just one block from the river Main. It's a grim, bleak, grey, cold day, not quite raining but threatening to do so. The first things which catch my eyes are a large chimney belching fumes and a regular stream of aircraft landing at the airport (it is, after all, only 4 stops away on the tube) plus helicopters. No-one would really say it looks pretty, even me, but I am very happy with everything.

Underneath the bridge is a skate park, entirely occupied by small kids and their parents using it as a covered playground in preference to the actual playground next door. Mostly that means 4 year olds rolling down quarter pipes. Along the riverside park paths there are runners, few other people, and a slow police van. As I get closer to the good stuff my tinnitus goes absolutely crazy until I realise there's someone with an angle grinder carving metal and everyone else can hear it too.

This is underneath a bridge, the third or fourth I've come across, but the first that's pedestrian only. I ascend and cross, discovering it's one of those bridges where people attach padlocks with messages on to all the iron. There's one busker and about 4 other pedestrians. About a third of the way across is an archway with Russian wording - well, cyrillic script - and I have no idea what it means.

On the other side is Sacshenhausen, the south part of Frankfurt which I have a vague memory of reading about as benign somewhere worth visiting. Immediately as I descend I turn left, walk past a huge cathedral I am way too close to get a decent photo of, and then go inland. There's a sign to an 'alt Sachsenhausen' car park but I'm not interested in a car park, and the force is telling me to turn left, so I do. Suddenly I'm in a regular shopping district but stumbling across a record store - loads of vinyl in the window and some excellent Slayer wooden merchandise. It's called Sick Records (possibly Wreckords?), it isn't open, and I can't get even an approximation of a decent photo of anything because it's all too reflective.

Further up the road I find a square with a park and loads of leaves on the ground but nothing particularly old. I don't think I've found where I'm looking for, and I head right. After a few random turns, I stumble across a large railway station which looks pretty but has no viewing angles and anyway fully half of it appears to be a McDonald's.

A couple of turns later and there's a prettier platz, and I'm back amongst lots of shops. The whole area seems cosmopolitan, somewhat well to do though not without character or a slight edge, and basically just a pretty damn nice place to spend some time. The weather isn't helping at all, so nothing really looks photogenic, but that doesn't stop me dicking around with my real camera - brought on this trip specifically in the hope that I can make my blog look prettier. The nicest thing in the vicinity is a gated residential block's garden.

Eventually it starts to rain - just as I stop to write down a brain dump of the previous hour, hilariously - so I decide I should head back towards the Frankfurt side of the river. The rain is not heavy but I fear it may become so. As I reach the nearest bridge I glance right and, oh, hang on, have I just walked a big square all around the actual good stuff? Back along the riverfront and I find a bunch of museums and a garden and promenade - Museumsufer, it's called - and while I'm not going to actually dive into any culture, it's nice to take some photos of the international hat surrounded by it.

Back across the padlock bridge and straight into the old town and, whoa, it's great here. The first thing past the museum is a brewery established in 1479 and then a town square with some fantastic architecture. The centrepiece is, I think, city hall but I can't get a pic because the front is entirely obstructed by cranes and men assembling the christmas tree lights.

Further up and there's still plenty of old architecture, but it is contributing a lower percentage in general. Pretty soon I am at Hauptwache, a U-Bahn station plus large pedestrianised area with many many shops in all directions but an old church and restaurant as well. This is useful, I have my bearings, and begin to head east until I spot super aggressive chuggers. I have no patience for them in England let alone Germany, so I look purposeful and duck away only to rejoin the main thoroughfare a bit further along.

There are buskers and street artists, mimes and stuff. Some of them are clowns doing bird calls and other silly noises (seriously, there's more than one of those guys) and then a trio of accordion players giving a rendition of la Macarena. There's really no need for this.

There's nothing of real interest here and I'm on the verge of giving up and going back to the brewery until, oh, look, a huge square with a giant market. It reminds me of Helsinki last year, except without the sunshine or fish or water. Most of the stalls seem to be fruit, veg, or flowers until I venture further in and it turns into meat and alcohol. Wunderbar.

I can't pick a stall until I do, ordering a bratwurst mit bro and some apfelwein. There are 3 Frankfurt-y culinary experiences I had on my mind (not including a Frankfurter): handkåse mit musik, grune soße, and apfelwein/ebbelwoi. Handkåse mit musik means "hand cheese with music": it's cheese rolled by hand until it's translucent, and "the music comes later" - a reference to the fact it'll make you fart aterwards. I had been massively looking forward to trying this, but sadly did not do so.

Grune soße is some weird green sauce, I put almost negative research into that one. And apfelwein is the local alcohol of choice, "apple wine" aka some kind of cider. I hate cider, but screw it, I'll give it a go. The men at the bratwurst stand both ask if I want it hot or cold and I ask, what's best? "Have you had it before?" "No" "Then cold" goes the rest of the conversation, and I go sit down with my sausage and cider.

It's really not awful. It should be, in fact I kind of want it to be, but it's not. I'm surprised. The bratwurst is lovely but perhaps that's because it's my first solids of the day. As I leave I notice that I've been sitting at a table reserved for local OAPs - in fact, all of the food and drink stalls here are occupied by hordes of pensioners getting shitfaced on some kind of -wein or beer and eating sausage. I approve.

Optical zoom works OK on my non-phone camera.

Back up to Hauptwache and down to the brewery, via Paulskirche and Ratskeller - more excellent architecture I missed first time round. A very closely grouped huddle of Chinese tourists walk along in one moving circle, with cameras pointing out from all angles, and it's very funny. Back near city hall there is a plaque on the ground I later learn is a memorial for Nazi book burning in 1933. They really were twats, eh? Thank goodness the world no longer has all that racism and bigotry and anti-intellectualism 'n that. Oh.

Once I reach the brewery, I decide it actually looks a bit too restauranty for my liking and carry on walking, towards the new innenstadt with all the high rise offices and other fancy new shit. Once again I'm on the verge of giving up and diving into somewhere random until, wait, what? Here's a giant park and an even bigger Euro symbol. Seriously, this is one giant €.

Turns out I'm at the European central bank. Who knew that was in central Frankfurt? Probably an awful lot of people, to be honest. Certainly the authors of the anti-ECB/money graffiti around the place.

Up past what from a distance looks like art, but up close looks just like someone left a load of tubing around, I reach a statue of some guy but don't get close enough to see who. I'm not that bothered, to be honest.

The sun makes the weakest threat possible to come out, but I'm hungry and thirsty and needing the loo. On Wednesday night an acquaintance I've never knowingly met had suggested I go for a drink in a pub called the Fox and Hound (singular) and it's not too far away, so I wander there, past the edges of the red light district. It doesn't look open but it is, and covered in Guinness paraphernalia. So I ask for a Guinness and he says they don't serve it, but they've got Murphy's, and that's the same. Er, no mate, it's not.

I opt for a dark Czech lager and it's lovely. It's nice to have a sit down and some more calories and alcohol and honestly I'm bored with Frankfurt anyway. There's a chance it's quite a pretty place if it's sunny, but with relentless grey and white cloud it's even out-bleaking my disposition. So screw it, I'll have a second pint and get to know the house dog. Poor thing is almost blind and getting on a bit.

The music is fantastic. Since I have the pub to myself - even the barman is spending a lot of time outside - I'm virtually singing along to Carry On My Wayward Son and then am very excited when it changes to Alphabet Aerobics by Blackalicious, though persons unseen and unknown stop that within seconds and put on Fleetwood Mac. Then there's Queen and Metallica and, oh, AC/DC. That should be good but Celine Dion has ruined it for me.

The barman tells me worst case scenario from the pub to the airport is around 35 minutes. Did I not mention yet that I was heading to the airport? Yes, I'd checked out of my hotel this morning because I have somewhere else to be this evening. So, I leave, walk to the Hbf, get a ticket and board an S-Bahn to FRA. It's nothing like as traumatic as the previous night. Germany does train stations well, mostly.

So long, Frankfurt proper. Helen's international hat has certainly had quite the time of it.

At the airport, the first thing I notice at terminal 1 is just how many last minute ticket counters there are. I estimate there's at least 80, possibly more - not tied to any airline, just lots of random travel agents selling tickets for immediate departure. How is this a thing? The second thing I notice is the giant hoofing great departure board.

The check-in desks for my airline are in area C. I already have a boarding pass on my phone but since each area has its own security I figure that would be a sensible place to head regardless. Initially I'm gobsmacked by how simple everything is - no security (I assume that'll be at the gate), just oyster-style gates for both boarding passes and identity. I'm through in no time, and there's a sign to some Lufthansa lounges.

I start following them but turn back pretty quickly; a check on the internet says I should actually be going to the B gates, and that's behind me. It's a long way behind me. The corridor goes on and on and on and at the end of it is, um, some security gates. Apparently I'm in some kind of airside connections area, and now have to get X-rayed and stuff. Weird. The queue I'm in is gestured to that we split in half, so I head to another machine which is manned by 9 people who are all sharing some in-joke none of us passengers get. My coat is singled out for extra attention because oh god damn it I've left my spring-loaded selfie-holster hidden from view again. When will I learn?

But anyway, then I'm through and now there are more signs to Lufthansa lounges, plus the Air Canada lounge. Good. Nearest to where I've emerged is a Lufthansa first class lounge up to whose entrance I stroll, and am told by 3 friendly women that no, not a chance, no way, hop it son. I thought at the time this was a mistake but later see signs to "business lounge" and "senator lounge" - I'd thought "first class" was a synonym for the latter, but clearly it's not. Right then.

At the nearest business lounge, I'm told I should go to the business lounge much nearer my gate. OK. Near that is a senator lounge, the guardian of which tells me I'm not allowed access but should go to that other business lounge, and once I reach there I'm told no, not unless I'm flying to São Paulo. Get me to the Air Canada lounge.

I'm totally confused by this. I know I have access to the Air Canada lounge, but the oneworld alliance website combined with recent anecdotal evidence from Flyertalkers taking the same flight as me (and holding the same shiny card) led me to believe I was totally allowed access to at least 2 of the 4 lounges I'd tried, if not 3. But no dice. As it goes, while in this lounge I posted my experience to a relevant thread on Flyertalk and have subsequently learnt all my attempts were a waste of time; airline mergers create confusion, and the previously reported success was likely down to luck. D'oh! Haha.

The Canadian woman at the Air Canada lounge lets me in and I calm down. I've walked way further than should be necessary in any airport and am a bit aggravated by the whole experience. Rejection can get to a man. But, there's self serve faux champagne and a wave of relaxation arrives.

I totally fill my boots in this place. A glass of fizzy wine. A seat in the quiet area near the private booths with personal TVs. A plate full of pasta and cabbage and sandwiches and potatoes. Another plate full of sugary pastries and doughnuts. Another glass of fizzy wine - it's really nice - just as a new bottle arrives in the bucket. A huge pretzel and self-poured glass of Franziskaner. This is what it's all about.

Boarding time is apparently one hour before departure, so I wander down at about T-45 or so. The gate is close and priority boarding is working very well - I just go straight to the desk, hand over my phone, and a loud alarm sounds repeatedly when they scan it. Um. What? While a man taps at a computer with his brow furrowed, another asks me how I'm doing. Well, I was doing fine...

More tapping and I'm through. Seat 3A in business class. Hello, LAN Chile airlines flight to Santiago, Chile. This flight is the centrepiece of this trip, the pinnacle of my whole November travels: a new airline, a new business class, a long haul plane (Boeing 787) for a short haul flight. No, I'm not going to Chile, I'm only on this for a couple of hours - there's a stop in Madrid. Without any shenanigans - mistakes, miles, etc - this single flight cost about £100 and I'm sure I've already drunk and eaten that much in the lounge.

Doesn't mean I'm stopping there, of course. An exuberant member of cabin crew introduces himself to me and offers me a pre-flight drink. I've heard great things about the LAN "pisco sour", so I tell him I've heard great things about the pisco sour and he looks delighted and fucks off to get me one. A minute or so later he returns telling me he's so sorry but they don't have any, but they'll refill in Madrid. Not much use to me... so I guess I'll slum it with champagne.

He pours me a very small glass. It's nice, but very small. Come on man.

The seat is great. I've only been on a 787 before with Qatar Airways, whose business class cabin is 4 abreast - 1-2-1 - whereas this is 6 abreast, 2-2-2. If there was someone sat in 3C I would have had to clamber over them, but no-one ever did. The seats are still very roomy and comfortable and there's a nice big TV screen, with very responsive touchscreen controls which is handy because my remote is almost entirely broken but for the volume control.

Being a 787 there are electronic blinds, but it's already dark outside so that doesn't really matter. I watch an episode of Futurama and finish it before we even push back; the safety announcements come on, with no video, and only in English and Spanish despite our German departure point (BA had German subtitles on the video yesterday). I start a second Futurama just as we are taxiing properly, and fall asleep. Next thing I know we're airborne, the episode is just about to finish and the seatbelt signs are just about to go off. Huh.

The entertainment system is operationally impressive but content, at least in English, is severely lacking. "Box sets" only have 2 or 3 episodes, there's barely any movies, and so on. I can find basically nothing I really want to watch, so decide to give Sons of Anarchy a go. It's alright. Nothing special. And the sound seems slightly out of sync with the video.

Food arrives. It's a plate of salmon and mozzarella salad (with a LOT of salad), plus some boring fruit as dessert. The salad is really nice, and the guy offers to recommend wines but I just want the fizzy stuff. It's not a problem, and a glass arrives, with another following once he comes to clear up the plate.

After eating, and during a second episode of Sons of Anarchy, I write the first half of this blog post. But then we're about to start our descent and all electronics have to disappear. Fair enough. It's not a long enough flight or my liking, but I'm impressed and would love to do it again, all the way to Chile. There's no privacy at all, mind, but I assume Helen wouldn't mind coming with me, especially since if we started in Frankfurt she could happily smoke right up until departure.

We landed on time, a second ~1930-2200 flight in two days. Odd. In front of me on the airbridge, one man is escorted through a mystery door down some stairs to a waiting car. He must be very important. The rest of us walk up a gradual incline with two switch backs until the terminal building. More corridors, and the automatic gates are broken so some bored looking men wave passports through.

Then, a monorail. Unlike at Heathrow, immigration is done near the plane. At the other end, lots more walking and I follow the signs to the metro station despite originally planning to get the bus. I attempt to buy a diet coke but the machine won't take my damn money, so screw that. Google has lied to me about the cost of a 10-ride metro+ ticket but whatever, I can make good use of it for the money anyway.

Onto the platform, I miss a train by seconds but the next one isn't far behind. Citymapper gives me numerous routes to my hotel, none of which are the one which seems to me the most obvious having looked at a map. And then I get angry because I've lost my headphones. Bloody hell. I had them with me on the plane, but then didn't use them, opting instead to use the supplied ones. I presume then that I let them drop down the side of the seat, or just didn't notice them, and have now lost them. They're not expensive or fancy but they are great and I am gutted. Grr.

Hmm. Thinking about it, I have a photo of my seat... and the headphones are nowhere to be seen. Where they hell are they?

Anyway. The tube is mental - well, Madrid airport is mental - in so far as there's a stop in a residential area between the stops for Terminal 4 and Terminals 123. I know the airport code is MAD but, c'mon, behave. Surely it's two airports, really?

The train goes to Nuevos Ministerios ("New Minister"?) at which I change onto another line to Plaza de Espana. I know nothing about Madrid; the only times I've been here in the past are twice to spend time only in the airport on my stupid Johannesburg day trip weekends, and then during the Great Circular European Railway Challenge when we got the metro from one Renfe terminus to another. But now, here I am above ground at Gran Via and, whoa, this is one big road.

The force works perfectly and I instantly walk the correct direction. Gran Via looks great - kinda like Haymarket and the like, with loads of theatres and comedy venues and stuff, combined with any number of huge city shopping boulevards in the world. There's loads of people around, nothing is shady, everyone is happy. It's about 6ºc but feels much warmer than Frankfurt. Many boozers and tapas bars are open but I just want to get to my hotel.

It's only a ten minute walk, and is a big surprise. It's way more upmarket than it seemed online. I mean, it has 4 stars, but that doesn't always seem to mean the same thing from city to city let alone country to country. This place is mad though. Not hyper luxury, but there's a doorman and a man offering to carry my bag and help me with the lift and etc. The receptionist is very fast and not friendly but whatever. I reach my room and almost boil to death immediately - aircon seems broken, and I go to open the window only to discover it's already open as wide as it'll go. I guess there's nothing for it but to hydrate via the minibar. Buenos noches.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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