Madrid and Home

July 26, 2018 - Madrid, Spain

(September 17. This is by now so out of date that you'll be wondering why I have, apparently, re-sent it. In fact I have added a paragraph on our visit to the Reina Sofia, which Sarah reminded me I had apparently forgotten. I am currently working on pictures to add.)

David was up early this morning and back to the Mezquita when it opened at 8.30 so he could get some photos in  a different light. The rest of us were not so adventurous, but we all enjoyed our included buffet breakfast at the hotel.

We ordered a taxi to the station, and enjoyed our shortish trip back to Madrid, especially as I had booked Turista Plus (the cheapest at the time; really First Class but without food included) which meant more comfortable seats. Not that there is much difference on these amazing trains between Turista and Turista Plus. I even managed a few reasonable photos from the train using Shutter Priority and a fast shutter speed.

Because we were meeting the Canadians in town, and our hotel was near the airport, we decided to leave our luggage in a locker at Atocha and collect it at the end of the day. All our bags fitted into one locker, and just as we were about to lock the door, Sarah said 'Where is my phone?' Oh dear. It turned out that the last anyone had seen of it was when Lucie had it on the train, so I ran back to the ticket office and jumped the queue looking distraught and declaiming 'emergencia' (goodness knows whether that is a Spanish word, but the message got through and the crowds parted). The woman behind the counter, when I explained the problem, said I would have to show her our tickets before she could ask anyone to search the train, so I ran back to the locker room  and Sarah and Lucie ran back with the tickets. After some time, they came out of the office and told David and me that someone had been detailed to look on the train, now on its way back to Cordoba, but without success. What did we expect, really?

So we left Atocha disconsolate. I was keen to go to the Reine Sofia to show the others 'Guernica', but first we decided to cheer ourselves up with a mojito and some food in the funky Museum Cafe. I said to the others that I had found that if I try to see everything in one of the world's largest and most diverse museums I end up with a seious case of Tourist Burnout. So we decided to choose one piece each, and just concentrate on that. The collection - contemporary, meaning from about the end of the C19 - is  focussed on Spain, its art, history and general creativity, and there are not only paintings but sculptures, weird installations, photos, videos, sketches, cartoons. Everything you can think of, and far too much to see in a lifetime I should think. Of course 'Guernica' was my choice, and we spent some time looking at it, and trying to interpret all its various aspects. Sarah's choice was a gallery devoted to dance with reference to pieces by Lucinda Child in whose company Sarah had danced in New York. I'm ashamed to say I can't remember what David and Lucie chose, but we enjoyed wandering around, and occasionally being distracted by something that particularly appealed to us. Lucie's favourite was an illuminated flower - hard to describe, so I have found a picture of it which I will add to my pictures of the trip.The striking sculpture in the forecourt of the Museum is called 'Brushstroke' and is by the American sculptor Roy Lichtenstein. It was installed in 2004.

We felt happier after our visit, and managed for the most part to put the loss of a modern piece of easily reproducible technology into some sort of perspective.

By now it was mid afternoon, and without much time to do anything else, we set out for the Puerta del Sol where we were to meet the Canadians. We had been here before, and remembered helping the musician to translate his lyrics, but I think it was even hotter this time. We sat on the edge of the fountain for a while, but in the end I had to go and find some shade in one of the little narrow streets leading off the square. Sarah and Lucie joined me after a few minutes, leaving David to wait for the others, and we found a nearby cafe where I had a gin and tonic in a large wine glass, and the others had (I think) lemonade.

It wasn't long before Matt, Rachel, Sophie and Hannah arrived, together with Rachel's parents John and Anne. After a bit of discussion, we decided to stay where we were for dinner, but moved from the pavement inside to a larger table. John and Anne had left their yacht at Santander (I think) and had come to Madrid to collect Sophie and Hannah for a holiday on it. Lucky girls! I had a chance to get to know John and Anne a bit - they are lovely. I can't remember what we had for dinner but it turned out to be a very good choice of places to eat real Spanish food. I do remember that I had my last patatas bravas.

When we were in Madrid a week or so ago, we had met the Canadians near Tribunal metro station, being a reasonable compromise between our hotels, and Lucie had passed some clothes shops to which she was anxious to return. Rachel and the girls said they would like to join the shopping trip (it must have been about 8 o'clock by this time) and they set off in one direction, John, Anne and Matt in another, and David and I went to retrieve our luggage. It was sad saying goodbye, knowing that in a few days we will be half a world away from each other again, but we all agreed that the family week had been a wonderful success, and everyone is keen to have another one in two years' time.

David and I debated the issue of taxi versus metro, and managed without much difficulty to rationalise the metro idea away. It was interesting trundling around Atocha with two of us wrangling luggage for 4, but we managed, and arrived at the Melia Bahaja hotel before Sarah and Lucie. We checked in and left our luggage in our rooms before going back to the foyer for a drink, and to sit in a place which was obvious enough for the others not to miss us when they came back.

By this time it must have been about 10.30 and we were beginning to be a little apprehensive, especially as David received a text from Rachel asking whether Sarah and Lucie had arrived back safely. I suppose we had been there for 20 minutes to half an hour when they turned up, having caught the metro to the nearest station and a taxi to the hotel. Lucie was a little disappointed that the shops she had been captivated by had shut before they could get to them but she enjoyed some extra time with Sophie and Hannah at H&M, which apparently they don't have in Canada.

So we asked about the airport bus, which leaves the hotel every 15 minutes, and went to bed having decided to get the bus at about 7.15, if I remember correctly. Sadly, too early for breakfast, but we knew there would be something to eat at the airport.

The bus turned out to be a shuttle for a number of hotels, and there were no seats left by the time it got to ours. The bus driver seemed to enjoy hurling us around corners so he could see our luggage running down the passageway, and his passengers swinging dangerously from pillars.

Madrid Barajas International Airport is huge, and by the time we had checked in and found the train to take us to the right departure lounge, we only had time to grab croissants and coffee.

I have suppressed memories of the flight, except that I do remember the changeover at Doha. Sarah and I both had colds and ended up with sore ears and, in my case, even deafer than usual - meaning, practically totally deaf. Quite disconcerting. David and Lucie wandered off and Sarah and I had a chai tea and coffee respectively in our usual Doha airport coffee shop before Sarah set off for the departure gate while I raced here and there to get some more cough lozenges. When I got to the gate, the plane was starting to board, and Sarah turned up a few minutes later having also been searching (unsuccessfully in her case) for cough lozenges. And then that awful 15 hours.

We arrived back in Sydney at 5.30 pm on Saturday the 28th and were met by Max (the boys were busy celebrating Rosie's birthday) who dropped David, Sarah and Lucie back home before taking us to Rydges in North Sydney for the night.

David, Sarah and Lucie were excited to see the miracle Rosie had overseen - the house was completely repainted inside, new cupboards had been built in upstairs and the skylight finished off, and new carpet laid everywhere.

Altogether a very successful 3 weeks.



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