Across the pond

The bus journey from Oporto to Madrid is unremarkable, except that it is 50% cheaper than the train and doesn’t involve three changes. Despite what they say, it is not comfortable for sleeping on though. If you’re going to take it, get crunk or get Valium.

Arrived in Madrid at 5am and hung around with the bus station freaks until a reasonable hour arrived to go find Tricky Senior’s digs. Changed scenery at 7am for a local caff with a bunch of weary-looking businessmen trying to fire themselves up for a day at the office.

Woke Ian at a civilised 8am and made myself at home in his apartment, which has not a number…but a name. BoB. Brilliant. Explored the city for a long, foot-sore day and then headed out in the evening with his crowd for a few beverages and some deliiiicious tapas at Lateral. So delicious that Senor Trickett has called me six-bellied. Question: How many MBA students with how many credit cards do you think it takes to settle a small bar bill?

Nipped into the tourist office to ask about day trips, basically how to get to Segovia. ‘There’s a bus, but you could also go to Toledo.’ Ok. I could. ‘Yes, Toledo is very nice for a day trip.’ That’s nice. But what about Segovia? ‘Do you want to take the bus or the train? Or do you want to got to Toledo?’ Will you quit it with Toledo! I want to go to Segovia. Why? Honestly?

Cos I’d read that it was the other contender for the ‘Disney inspiration’ claim and I wanted to see which was true.

It’s not Segovia. I think at best we could say that Disney borrowed the blue pointy roofs from here.

Disney?

Nar, it's not this one.

Segovia. The coach only adds to the photo.

It's got a nice aqueduct though.

Elsewhere in Madrid proper, I cruised the tourist sights and gardens and generally stomped around. Hit up the river on part of the explore which is a lovely part of the world but it ain’t South Bank. C’mon Madders – chuck a few cafes and street artists down there. Could be blinding!

Food. You gotta do the food in Madrid, right? Chocolate con churros – check (in the city’s most over-rated café cum tourist factory, San Gines. Don’t bother.). Jamon iberico – check. Paella – check. Rioja – check. Chorizo – check. Loved roaming around the Chueca neighbour sampling the markets and one-off bars. Culinary Spain in the bag. Oh, pulpo. Rats. No, octopus. Next time.

Chocolate con churros

Pig shop. Mmmm!

One of the many marvellous markets. And a lady auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Pretty, ain't she?

Reluctantly, so reluctantly you won’t believe, I had booked a Ryanair flight up from Madrid to Brussels to catch my cross-pond connection. Have you ever seen the Hitler Ryanair rant? OMG, if you haven’t, watch it immediately here. This is exactly how I feel about the robbing pikeys but sometimes, just sometimes, they are the best option. If you can’t walk or snatch a milk float or grind crushed glass into your eyes.

Despite an attempt at crowd profiling to choose a suitable neighbour, I failed miserably. It was 6am without sleep. Sure, I avoided the baby, but I plumped for a seat next to a respectable looking businessman. Who turned out to have a penchant for making loud, glottal, nose-clearing noises approximately every five minutes. This is my nails-down-a-blackboard noise. This is not ok. How do you tell them to: ‘Stop that! It’s disgusting’? Why can’t people just sit quietly without making vile and constant bodily noises. Don’t expect to dine with me more than once if you make loud masticating or smacking noises as you eat. A curse upon you if you approach me chewing gum. Do you know it makes you look like a moronic ruminant? I’m talking to you, Alex Ferguson. Consider yourself informed and buy in some mint humbugs like your nan did.

Regardless, I survived and silently promised myself never to fly Ryanair again. It wasn’t just this cochon, it was the whole flying experience. The being bombarded with sales pitches the whole way, the being dropped 50km from Brussels, the being made to rearrange the bags for the sake of a kilo (it’s all going on the plane anyway – so what?), the being forced to sign some sort of ‘we’re not responsible if we fuck your bag cos it’s a backpack not a suitcase’ waiver… Hateful.

From Brussels, there was time to stop in, hang out in ‘Les gens qui j’aime’ cafe (gorgeous; chocs with every coffee), say a quick hello to Norbert and partake in a Congolese feast before heading across the Atlantic. I’d got a bit poorly sick from Scabby Air so he offered to make one of his miracle fix infusions. Ooooh goodie! I thought. Ginger, lemon and honey, ja? No. *Onion*, lemon and honey. Disgusting.

Forwards, to the land of pancakes, steaks the size of my head and forests in the fall… This time, business class. That’s more like it.

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