Saturday December 27, 2014
We sailed into London Heathrow a bit early so had no worries about making my connection to Madrid. Upon arrival, I was pleased to discover free Wi-Fi in the terminal so I was able to make connections with Daniel and Nathan to let them know I was on track. I had an hour to kill so I grabbed a sandwich and chips from the WH Smith. I had difficulty using my pound notes from 2007, but I didn’t know if it was my user error or if the notes were no longer accepted. I’ll have to check with Nathan when we meet up tomorrow. I contemplated buying a London magnet, but since I didn’t have any usable pounds I decided to pass.
En route to Madrid I was so exhausted that I passed out only to be awoken by my own snoring (D’oh!) or by this one nasty patch of turbulence that shook us for a bit. Other than that, it was a nice smooth flight.
I finally arrived in Madrid and boy was I glad I changed my flight! It took over 30 minutes for my bags to arrive so I would have never made the connection to the other terminal. By the way, Terminal 4 at Barajas is just stunning – such a beautiful terminal. It was unfortunate that during my bag wait time I couldn’t get their Wi-Fi to work for the life of me. After collecting my bags and clearing customs (a joy due to the lateness of my flight no queues at all), I then wandered around looking for my hotel bus (the Spanish Super Shuttle- a company called Aero City). It took me wandering for 20 minutes and being accosted by an Irishman who needed money to get his bags (??) before I found it. It was almost an hour after my flight landed before I left the airport on my Aero City shuttle. There were two other people in the coach with me. I got a good laugh because they were talking about how much they like to be out of their comfort zones when they travel and like to meet new people, but made no effort to talk to me. After dropping them off, we finally made it to my hotel.
The Room Mate Hotel Oscar is one of a chain of Room Mate hotels – each has a different name and a different personality. I picked this hotel based on Nathan’s recommendation plus it was near the city center and not a dull airport hotel. After checking in, the guy behind the counter gave me a view room since I was only there for a few hours. It was a nice look out over a square just below my room, but honestly I looked at it for a few minutes then shut the curtain. I loved the decor of my room and that was better than any view. The bed was nice and comfortable and I was tempted to just go to bed.
I wanted to make sure I got a chance to walk the streets of Madrid before I left since I did not know if I would have any time in Madrid on my way back at the end of my trip. That portion is still in flux. Before heading out, I went to the roof terrace, which has a very trendy bar in it. Not much was happening since it was only 1030pm but it was worth seeing the skyline lit up. I managed to try out my new camera and get some decent shots of the Telefónica Building Clock Tower.
I decided to walk around the small area called Chueca (where my hotel was located) first then head down to the Main Street aka The Grand Via, which had a bunch of lit up fountains and Christmas decorations I spied as we drove to the hotel. There were so many people out walking at night it was nice to be with my fellow night owls. I passed some interesting shops and restaurants I’d love to try, but no time this trip for more than just a quick peek. By the time I reached the La Grand Via all the Christmas lights were off and when I reached Palacio de Cibeles they had just shut off their lights too. By this point, it was after midnight so I decided to head back and crash. My extra walking felt good, but also meant now I only had a 6-hour turnaround before first alarm went off – but still worth it despite the lack of lights. Glad I was able to take photos with my camera from the roof before they were turned off.