Day 1 – Madrid

One of the pluses to my new home in Mill Valley is the ability to walk to the Seminary Drive Marin Airporter stop. No more reliance on taxis or begging for a ride to Larkspur Landing. But after a week of sunny days, on my day of departure, I woke up to pouring rain. I had to call for a ride.

The kind driver helped me get my luggage over the freeway exit and into the flooded bus shelter. I started out my trip with wet feet and thoughts of catching a cold. Still, all went well until my flight from London to Madrid was delayed three hours. In all, it was 27 hours in transit, with just a bit of dozing, no real sleep.

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On arrival in Madrid, I made endless rounds through the crowds at the airport looking for my ride to the hotel. Finally a kind lady at an info booth led me to the young driver, whom I had passed many times in my rounds. He had no sign with my name. It turns out his iPad had run out of battery juice, and he had not thought to make a paper sign. I began to think, like many others, that the horrendous long flight experience makes travel not worth the pain and aggravation.

After a couple of hours sleep at the hotel, I met with the group of 20 or so tourists with whom I would be spending the next couple of weeks touring Spain and Portugal. I was pleased to find that all but two of of them are Aussies and Kiwis. The other two are from Michigan. Aussies are great travelers, some spending months on the road while making it great fun. This kind of group is not my usual mode of travel, but I signed up for expediency. It will be another kind of experience.

At the orientation, I could look down at the Plaza de Espagna across the way. Something was going on there that looked worth exploring.

The plaza is dominated by an enormous monument to Miguel de Cervantes. The back side is a fountain with each cascade of water flowing over the coat of arms of countries in South America.

Surrounding the plaza, small shacks offered a large variety of food and crafts. Each food booth sold the specialties of a country in “Hispanic America:” Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and so on. People ate and drank while standing at tables throughout the plaza.

The drizzle did not stop the crowds from enjoying the event.

Most of the food did not appeal to me, especially given my sleep-deprived state. Potatoes, cheeses, sausages, and fatty, fried concoctions I did not recognize.

People were gobbling up the offerings, but this woman first took a photo to share the essence of her snack with friends.

I walked through several times, unable to make a decision. Finally, Argentina called to me, and I ordered a very tasty beef sandwich.

This event in the plaza right across the street from the hotel was a good start to my Madrid stay, and I could not pass it up. After the sandwich, I headed for bed to catch up on some of those hours I missed in transit. Tomorrow the tour begins.

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