Safe on the ground in Madrid before sunrise.
I was surprised to see a dark sky when we touched down at 7:45 a.m. During the more than one mile walk to the immigration counters, the black horizon out past the terminal windows finally started glowing a dull pink. Normally I would stop to appreciate such things, but the trek from the distant Terminal 4S to immigration and then the tram to the exit area was an ordeal. I’ll let you ponder what the I think the “S” stands for.
I thought a Premium Economy seat would assure a restful night. After all, most younger parents with children can’t afford to pay for premium seats for their kids, right?
But a young family with not one but three children, including a very unhappy 2-year old, proved me wrong and ruined my plan. Intermittent but steady crying and whining throughout the entire eight hour flight and maybe 30 minutes of sleep for me.
I tried to tell myself, hey, they’re not having any fun either. It didn’t work.
Unfortunatley, I’d also opted to lug a 40-litre back pack around rather than my nifty Away roller suitcase, and I was relieved to reach my hotel just after 9 a.m. local time. Or, as my body was telling me, 2 a.m.
Hours later, after a 2-hour nap that stretched to five, I found myself in the restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport hotel, trying to shake off the sleep and the 7-hour time difference, just after 5 p.m. on New Years Eve.
I was in that hotel cocoon found in many countries, where there is no distinctive culture, just welcome creature comforts. Experiencing what I call a “muted transistion,” when the move from home to away isn’t immediately clearly demarcated, despite an 8-hour plane ride and other travel.
Looking out at the highway traffic zipping past the windows of the the pleasantly comfortable but non-distinctive hotel restaurant, I felt as if I could be anywhere in America. A brassy American R&B flavored number with English lyrics played at low volume over the speakers, while across the room a big cartoon panda bear was twirling nunchuks or whatever over his head and mugging to the audience.
Meanwhile, the weather outside was barely above freezing, not much different than what I left in Chicago. Only the chatter of several restaurant workers- in Spanish, which is hardly a foreign language anymore in America- and the menu prices in Euros suggested I might be outside the states.
But the transition is over today. This afternoon I fly to Seville for two days, then two days in Granada (the original Granada) two days in the small moutain village of Archidona to visit freinds, and five days in Malaga on the southern coast.
Then off to Morocco for 17 days- Tangier, Casablanca, Marrakech and Essaouira, where I expect it will certainly get more culturally divergent.
And, hopefully, warmer.