Naxos to Madrid

July 16, 2018 - Madrid, Spain

For some reason we all woke up rather late this morning (except for Sue and Jackie) so it was a bit of a rush to pack and get breakfast. With blinds and shutters closed, our rooms in 'the apartment' are quite dark in the mornings - and anyway the sun doesn't rise until after 7 - so perhaps that explains it.

We had ordered the hotel shuttle to the airport for 9.30, and I was the last to get to breakfast (being, I believe, the most obsessive packer), and I was just beaten to it by what looked like about two coachloads of students, and not enough time to stand in the long queue. So I had an orange juice and a bit of a nibble at Sarah's left-over watermelon. Of course we were in plenty of time for the bus, and much too early for the plane, but better than being a nano-second too late.

We were sad to leave our quaint little hotel which we had really grown to love, despite earlier misgivings.

Naxos airport is not really big enough to cater for the two planes which were leaving within 20 minutes of each other, so moving from the minuscule shaded breezeeway outside to the cluttered check-in and waiting area was something of a challenge. I failed it, I'm afraid, and snapped twice at a woman who tried to push into the midst of the 6 of us. Twice.

After David had checked us all in, Sarah and Lucie managed to find a seat inside but the rest of us went outside. There were no seats, but there were a few gum trees on whose shedded leaves we made ourselves - well, perhaps not comfortable, but at least relatively cool in the breezy shade. Sue managed to talk to Kirsten and the girls, and was tickled by Charlotte's question as to whether Naxos airport was nearly as big as Sydney's. Sue posed me in front of it for a photo so she could show Charlotte the difference.

The Olympic Airlines plane was about 20 minutes late, but at least after it had left we were able to go into the tiny annexe to the checkin area to wait for our Sky Express, which, necessarily, was also late. Another lovely flight over the Aegean.

Our flight schedule gave us a four hour wait in Athens for the Iberian Airlines plane to Madrid but by the time we arrived and collected our luggage, about an hour had already gone. When we eventually found the check-in counter, we were too early - it opened only 2 hours ahead - and while we were trying to make up our minds what to do, the handle of David's suitcase snapped and became unretractable. Obviously a new suitcase was a necessity. Funnily enough, at Doha airport I had been scornful of sellers of suitcases at airports - how could you sell suitcases to people who had to arrive at an airport with a suitcase? Well, now we know. We were standing nearly outside a shop called 'Bags' with an extensive range of same, so David made a choice of a smaller one than his original, and a cabin-sized one and left his large dead one behind with the willing seller. Sarah was impressed by the fact that the cabin bag has a strip of material across the back which allows it to fit neatly down onto the handle of the suitcase. Having marvelled at this ingenious piece of design, I looked at my own backpack and found it had exactly the same thing! For THREE YEARS I have been struggling with the straps to drag the backpack, kicking and screaming, over the handle of my suitcase. And actually it just pops over, easy as anything!

We then went to find food. There was a nice hot food bar, and a help-yourself salad bar, as well as cafes with croissants and coffee, so we all chose differently. By the time we got back to the check-in counter, there was a monstrously long queue, and just in front of us was a group of perhaps 20 school students who had been on an exchange programme, some from Miami, some from Colombia. Jackie, who is very good at that sort of thing, soon had them in conversation, and found out some of the details. But they soon lost interest in us, and reverted to whatever it was that kept them amused for the half hour or so we all stood in the queue.

Because we hadn't checked in online early we weren't able to sit together. Sarah had a window seat just in front of us, David had one in the very back row, Lucie and Sue were together, window and centre seat in the Emergency Exit row, Jackie and I window and aisle in the same row on the other side. A nice looking man with whom Jackie soon became friends sat between us, explaining that his wife had been upgraded as economy was overbooked, but he hadn't and they wouldn't change it at the last minute. That sorted itself out in a few minutes, and off he went to Business. Then there was some drama because Lucie was too young to sit beside the Emergency Exit. Two flight attendants hovered about, suggesting various solutions, like the man sitting beside Sue taking the window seat, which he refused, or Lucie swapping with me. I said 'Why can't Lucie just swap with Sue?' a solution which apparently hadn't occurred to them but which they seized on with cries of joy. Just as Jackie and I were congratulating ourselves on having a spare seat between us, a young woman, possibly a stand-by, was popped in. She had headphones and apparently no English, so that solved that one.

The Emergency Exit row was good, with extra knee room, although we had to put all bags, including handbags, into the overhead lockers for take-off and landing. The flight was uneventful except for a cup of tea which Jackie bought for me (3 euros! 3!) because when I eventually got her bag down for her I couldn't be bothered getting my own. The flight took 5 hours, landing in Madrid at 7.45 local time. Immigration was easy, customs non-existent, and Madrid taxis as efficient as ever. We managed to get one which took all six of us to Room Mate Oscar, the hotel I booked from home months ago. David and Sarah had a double room and were a bit disappointed because it just looked out onto a brick wall, but because Jackie and Sue, and Lucie and I,  wanted twin rooms, we were each offered an upgrade for 20 euros a room. This gave us a large room looking over the square, Lucie's and mine having green decor which reminded her of her school which she says is very up-to date and stylish. We also had a large curved lounge, and lovely wide beds an acceptable distance apart.

We asked the receptionist for recommendations for dinner, and he gave us three names. We went out into the square and around a few blocks, and found the Taberna de la Reina. Downstairs was quite busy and noisy but we were given a table upstairs and a challenging menu which we managed to translate to our satisfaction. Octopus, cheese croquettes, patatas but not bravas (i.e. no chilli), and a couple of other plates I now forget. We also had a bottle of rose and Lucie had a creme brulee. It was all really nice.

We came out the back way onto the Gran Via and found the hotel quite easily. Lucie, Sue and Jackie went straight to bed, but David, Sarah and I went for a drink on the rooftop terrace where there is also a small pool. I had a Bailey's coffee, Sarah had a New York Cheesecake Sour (yes, really) and David stuck to beer. We didn't stay long, but the atmosphere and the view were great.



1 Comment

Judy Crewe:
July 23, 2018
I am envious reading about Naxos, an Island I’ve not been to. I would love a swim right now, a heat wave again in London. Enjoy everything!
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