Return to Madrid, Spain

Sydney to Dubai April 7, 2015

Smoke! The last thing you would ever want to smell when over 30,000 feet above the earth. Two stewards with small extinguishers walked up the plane towards first class. Didn’t see them come back and can no longer smell smoke. An issue with a toaster in the galley? Some fool smoking? What? A small mercy that I don’t know the cause and the problem was solved quickly.

Lying on a bed in an aircraft last night as we flew over a quarter of the world, from Sydney Australia to Dubai, reminded me how miraculous flying is. A thin metallic skin separates the few hundred of us souls onboard from the earth and from the freezing air outside at 30,000+ feet. Meanwhile we receive oxygen and warmth and can watch movies, listen to music, eat or drink and clean our teeth etc. 

I’ve had some great flights this past year. The most memorable was in a 6 seater flying back from the more northern part of the Simpson Desert (central Australia) one afternoon.  Was easy to believe our wonderful pilot, Kate, used the plane for mustering. The trip was a little rough but her control was never in doubt. 

A flight from Sydney to Spain is necessarily on a very big plane, and so different. Quieter than a long distance train, better services than on most transport and it flies above most of the turbulence affecting smaller planes. And hopefully any trigger happy people on the earth below or oddly behaving staff in the cockpit!

Dubai soon, if all continues to go well. And then one more leg, to Madrid. I’m staying with an AirBNB host for the next few days. First time. Then another in Granada for the next month. And then a different one for another two weeks in Madrid. And one more, with Jane, after she arrives and we walk to Santiago de Compostela in a few weeks time. Fingers crossed the accomodation is all ok. Arranging access is a bit more troublesome than just walking into a hotel. You can, however, find self contained options in places where a short term rental may not be an option.

I’m watching landing preparations via the tail camera on the plane, 16 minutes to go. Still dark with more and more lights of Dubai showing as we pass over it. How navigators get us reliably over such a long distance to a specific runway in such a short time always amazes me. Not like the Vikings, as shown in an episode of a TV series I just watched. They guessed which way to go to get to England, tossed out a pigeon at one stage to check their guesses as to the direction to land and then ended up in a place previously completely unknown to them. I am still impressed by the miracle of modern navigation. 

And then the lights on the runway and we are landing in Dubai.  Not long before the Madrid flight takes off.

Upgraded for Dubai to Madrid 

Yes. Upgraded to first class! To a small, private room that has doors, more accessible drinks, snacks and interesting goodies for fixing faces and smelly bodies. And a writing kit. An unexpected anachronism given modern e-devices.πŸ˜‰ 

We haven’t left the ground yet and I’ve been visited and helped by more staff than for the whole trip back further in the plane. More help setting me up, offering magazines and papers and now Arabic coffee and lovely dates with almonds. Oh, and slippers and the hot towel was hot, unlike a little further back in the plane.πŸ˜„

 How embarrassing. Finally found a movie to watch and I can’t find a socket for the rather nice noise cancelling headset. So, no movie until we are under way and I can get someone to show me the socket and to help me adjust my chair. A short leg this one to Madrid, only a bit over 7 hours.  Unlike the leg from Sydney, about 13 hours. 

Meals are available in first class almost whenever you want.  And it’s the first time I’ve seen caviar on a flight menu. And eaten it while flying. Hmmmm. Along with named cheeses. Not the usual unnamables. 


Looks the same as on the last day I was here, last year. Using Airbnb means I have to sit and wait in the street until Alfredo arrives with keys. That took only a few minutes in the end. I admit I had to check the website after he left as the real bedroom looked dark and dingy compared to the website photograph but the place was fine. Just a lot better lit for the photograph on the AirBNB website!  Great wifi. The only drawback will seem trivial to most people: it has no kettle.  To heat water for coffee there is an old electrical stove with slow heating solid plates.  I manage! πŸ˜’ Yes, a first world problem. Especially in Spain where every second place sells coffee. Maybe every third place as I forgot how many shoe shops there are here. 

Weather: cold. Snow on mountains to the ?north of here. Rain on and off. Have discovered my wonderful new brooks cascadias have soles that slip on the cobblestones on some parts of the city. I proved this with a dramatic glide onto the road at the traffic lights. The cars were still stationary but it was a 10/10 score, unless you have to have a fracture to get that! Totally unedifying. Did confirm how quickly drying my pants are: very. Thankfully as I ignored my wet side.  Pretending nothing had happened. Why is it so embarrassing when you fall in the street that you have to quickly check all your bits are intact while pretending nothing untoward has happened? Hmm, why? Date back to pre-history when physical weakness could equal death? Who knows. 

Two days of walking, drinking cafe con leche in interesting cafes and again checking the wonderful bread and jamon that is so prevalent in Madrid. Yeah, tough. 

Still getting my biological clock reset. I want to sleep early evening and am wide awake at 3am. Will help me catch the 8.30 flight to Granada on Saturday as I will be very awake at 6.30, when I plan to leave. 

I have a Spanish language test in Granada on Monday at 0800.  I have forgotten too much, have lost the tenuous ‘ear’ I was developing last year and don’t want to be put back into level A1. If it’s like last time I caught up fairly quickly. Again I’ll silently vow to limit my english reading and speaking. Maybe this time I’ll do better. ☺️ Last time I didn’t have enough usable Spanish to make conversation worthwhile most of the time.  And got into a very bad habit. Yes, speaking a lot of english. 

In the meantime….

More coffee – to access the rather nice toilets as public ones are very scarce. A sensible arrangements for cafes as most exclude use by non customers. So, buy another coffee. 

And lunch. Luckily Le Pan Quotiian on Gran Via is flexible and toast and tomato is still available after 12. The waiter gave me an english language menu.  I asked why and he said that in this location they can identify tourists. I’ve just seen him do it again but they looked like tourists to me even. So how do I look? 

Spring is coming. The wisteria is beautiful in places with luxurious flowers and early leaves showing. 


 Some scenes from around the nearby streets: 


And street views both ways from the balcony of my apartment: 


The above shot is to the Opera subway, to the side of the Opera House itself.


And this shows a fairly typical street scene from higher up. 

Tomorrow: first look at Granada and my home for the next month. 

One thought on “Return to Madrid, Spain

  1. Can’t wait! But Have many more km of trudging my backpack around the streets to do first. I wonder if I will ever see inside first class……


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