Last Monday I went to Madrid for work. I was meant to get there at 13:30 on Monday and leave at 15:00 on Tuesday. I had five meetings and one dinner planned for the period.
I went via Air Europa, a Spanish airline, flying out from Gatwick airport (South). It was the first time I was travelling with them (they fly to Brazil) and thought it was just another budget airline. Another colleague went via Easyjet from Luton airport (North).
I love Madrid, I think the city is beautiful and has loads to offer, every corner you walk there’s something to see. It is a lively city and it has that “beach” feel – people are laid back, you feel… at home. It’s funny because I am always expecting to see the sea somewhere. In case you don’t know, Madrid is located in the middle of the country, nowhere near the sea.
I started this trip with my left foot. To start with, I left the house at 7:00, less than 24 hours after landing from Barbados in that same airport. Got to Gatwick feeling awfully tired and sick, but managed to sort myself out and at the check in, I learned that the flight was delayed. How lucky. My flight from Barbados was delayed by 4 hours, this flight was delayed as well, but I didn’t know for how long until I passed security – it was meant to leave at 10:10, the estimate time was 12:30. Both flights had engine problems. A sign?
Air Europa was totally rubbish, they didn’t let us know what was going on, wouldn’t keep us informed, no explanation at all. To cut a long story short, the plan finally took off at 15:00, after what seemed to be the slowest boarding in history (they had to bring a new airplane from Spain, a smaller one, who wouldn’t fit everybody in and the seat configuration was different, so they had to change the boarding cards as well). I must remind you that during the five hours we were waiting to board, not even a glass of (free) water was served. I bought a sandwich, a coke and a toblerone on the flight that cost me £9!
I got to Madrid at 18:00, missed three meetings, one was rescheduled to 19:00 (!) and dinner was at 21:00 (!!). It was definitely a long day.
Second annoying thing that happened: I got a cab at the Bajaras airport to go to my meeting. The driver was, as all Spanish I know (except Fernando Alonso, who I find extremely arrogant, but then again, I don’t know him personally), really nice and friendly. Chatty, told me he spoke a bit of Portuguese because of his Brazilian wife from Goiania. At the end of the journey, he charged me €70!!!!! I thought it was very expensive, but he turned the meter off before I could check. I didn’t argue because I was late, tired and pissed off and it is a business trip at the end of the day. But I found out that the journey shouldn’t have cost more than €40! Bastard. Our host said that unfortunately this is happening quite often since the financial crisis in Spain.
We went for dinner at the Entre Suspiro y Suspiro, a mexican restaurant in the centre, not too far from our hotel(*). The place is small, but very charming. The food is yummy, but unfortunately I didn’t take my camera with me to show you some photos. The presentation was really nice. We had a “menu”, which included starters, mains and dessert. I was told that they weren’t doing this anymore but with the crisis… Everything I ate was really yummy – my main was prawns in some delicious coconut sauce with coriander rice (Lagoustinos a la Diabla), so tasty. The desert was some orangey cake with dulce de leche, also nice. I was very full at the end of dinner. Oh, and let me tell you that I am not even a big fan of Mexican food – this was the best I ever had. The restaurante is very close to Plaza Isabel II, near the Teatro Opera (Opera Metro). The whole bill, for three, including tip was €100 (we had the same “menu”, just changing the mains, I had juice, the guy had two margaritas and my colleague and one mojito, plus bottled water).
We got to our hotel around 23:00. I was very tired, but slightly jet lagged from the trip to Barbados so couldn’t go to sleep until almost 1:00. We stayed at the Petit Palace, at the Plaza del Carmen. As the name suggests, it is petit, quite small, but new and very clean and very well located (10 minutes walking from the Royal Palace, 5 minutes from Puerta del Sol, 5 minutes by car to El Prado Museum, millions of shops around). The rate is €90/night (including taxes), which is quite alright, I think, but I was told that Madrid is not an expensive place (well…). It doesn’t include breakfast, which was buffet (simple, but good and enough, with fruits, yogurt, bread, cheese/ham, jams, juices, cakes and pastries) and cost €7.70 per person including taxes. I had a side bedroom, with view to a wall but silent, and my colleague had a front room and she said the square was quite noisy until 2:00. We both were quite cold – I didn’t have a blanked in my room and was lazy to ask for one (so turned the heat up), my colleague had two and was still cold. Each room has an old laptop with free wifi, a double bed, cupboard/wardrobe, TV and a small modern bathroom with shower massage.
The way back was much better – the airport was packed (I’ve never seen so many taxis gathered in my whole life, I think there are more taxis at the airport than passengers). Loads of passengers going to Havana, Cuba, and somewhere else in the Caribbean. Everybody looking to go to the sunshine. The flight was only 30 minutes late and I got home before 18:00.
And this ends my last trip of this pregnancy.
Here are some photos of my room: