August 7-8 Miami - Madrid

Our European vacation began right on time. We were picked up at 2:00 pm, drove to Jacob's house and then on to the Miami International Airport. We walked to the ticket counter for Iberia airlines. To our dismay, there was an enormous line of people moving at a snail's pace. This is not a poetic exaggeration. We were in this line for an hour and forty minutes! Nevertheless, we made the flight with time to spare. The 747 was impressive, if only from the outside. Economy class was like any other airplane inside - crowded! Fortunately, it turned out that an entire connecting flight missed their connection, so we were able to spread out somewhat. Our dinner was quite good for airline food: beef stew with potatoes and sugar snap peas, dinner roll and cherry cheesecake. After dinner, all but Jacob took a sleeping pill and tried to beat the jet lag. Only Nancy and Elliot really slept; Marcus and Harvey only had catnaps.

We arrived at Madrid airport only 15 minutes behind schedule at 9:00 am, and breezed through immigration. Our driver was waiting for us outside baggage claim and we loaded into his passenger van for the 20-minute ride to the hotel. Marcus chatted with the driver in Spanish and we were dropped off - at the wrong hotel! We thought the name of our hotel was Plaza d'España, but that's the square that it's on. It's called the Apartementos de Plaza d'España - not the Crowne Plaza Hotel! No problem; it was a short walk, maybe 2 blocks, across the square. Jacob wasn't too thrilled, but he finally acquiesced.

We checked into the hotel and the rooms were small but comfortable. It took awhile but Nancy and Harvey finally figured out that the strange smell in their room was stale cigar or cigarette smoke. We decided to nap, and woke up around 3:15 Madrid time. We walked to the Plaza d'Oriente past the magnificent Palacio Réal and several small parks and had lunch at the Café de Oriente. The salad and chicken sandwiches were wonderful. We walked to the Plaza de Major, one of the major city attractions. We window shopped, had ice cream, had a 10 minute "Chinese" massage and watched local artists. Did I mention that it was incredibly HOT? 40º Celsius? That's 104º to you and me! Felt like the desert! We wandered the quaint streets back to our hotel. We ran into a couple from Israel who asked us for directions.

Back at the hotel we all showered and got ready for a night of flamenco and dinner. Great shower - much better than expected. One impression of the day is that we've all taken non-smoking for granted. They seem to chain smoke here, and there's no such thing as a no smoking section. In the Café de Oriente, there was a man chugging on this fat cigar, and we could barely breathe. Also, the mineral water was served without ice, but was served cold; no need to ask for ice. Again, better than we were led to believe.

The flamenco dancing was wonderful - a much better show than we'd imagined. The cab rides both ways - we got to see a central Post office that looked like a palace, and the original gate to the city of Madrid. The sun didn't set until about 10 pm. The ride home gave us the view of the city at night, and it is magnificent. Reminded us all of New York City with many more palatial buildings. The nightlife is bustling here. We planned our tour to Toledo for tomorrow and we'll meet downstairs for breakfast at 8:30 am.


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