The only real screwup in the three weeks of travel happened when we arrived at the Prague airport. Our flight booked and paid for months in advance had somehow been cancelled. If we had been travelling free form we could have just gone anywhere but we had a place waiting for us in Madrid. When you are not quite speaking the same language, its hard to deal with these sorts of things so I just said fine because I didn’t want to waste time and miss the only flight going out. I had visions of overnight hunkering on the seats. Managed to book flights to Barcelona and then to Madrid which only cost about $300 more each than the original plan. (I followed this up when we got back and though we are getting the original amount back, the $600 is gone; if this were all domestic I’d take a shot at getting recompensed for the unneccessary expenses (part of the problem is that the extra flights had to be taken with another carrier). Anyway, we were lucky and it only ended up being a matter of money and not time or aggravation.
Waiting for flights, it was odd to see how many people were plugged in. I still don’t believe that people really have that much to talk about but my eyes tell me I am mistaken. Though in general Europe seemed more layback, the airports told a story of no wasted time (laptops and phones; more than once a flight was slightly delayed because someone didn’t shut off their phone). My complaint is to some degree the proverbial throwing of stones from the glass house. I used to always have a book with me just in case I had to wait anywhere. And then a couple of years ago I went through a six month period where I read very little. Til then I had averaged about a book a day and all of a sudden it took a month to get through one if that. (I am back to reading again but not anything like I was; probably about a book every four days or so). But during that time, I felt like a different person. When I had to wait, I didn’t pick up a magazine but just looked around at everything, watched people and was generally entertained by whatever was in my field of vision. In these airports I read slowly from a book (DeNiro’s Game -highly recommended), did Sodukus but mostly looked around. I must admit that I envied laptoppers on the airplane being able to watch interesting movies rather than our being exposed to Music and Lyrics three times. (Trust me, it doesn’t get better with repeated viewings).
Barcelona airport was the first sight of Spanish footwear. Almost everyone wore leather shoes and not uncommon were shoes that came to a point so that it seemed like they all had really long and narrow feet. Another men’s fashion in vogue was kind of a bad old polo shirt affair with the collar turned half way up (and an undershirt under that). The first and lasting impression was of somebody very uncool but given that this dorkiness is happening in Spain we might just see it here in a year or so.
When we got to Madrid it was a fairly straightforward affair to catch the metro to within a block of our place. On arrival, there was such a downpour that people were waiting for it to end. (The next few days parts of the metro were rerouted due to the effects of the rain). I went out ahead to find out where exactly our place was and luckily it was in the first direction I tried. Though soaked we made it there and found it was a nice old art nouveau like structure with a iron cage elevator.
The room was comfortable but small. And damp. And was to remain damp for the week. Though it didn’t cramp our style too much we found that when we washed things it took four days for them to dry. The other major side effect of the rain was dodging umbrellas. These horrid things extrude little spikes at exactly eye level and in these umbrella friendly countries its not one or two but a veritable phalanx of the buggers coming at you.