Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Adios, España

The old Hispanic-Olivetti in our flat in Madrid
It is always sad to leave a place to 
which one knows one will never return.
 Such are the melancolies du voyage
perhaps they are one of the most 
rewarding things about traveling.” 
~ Gustave Flaubert,

(Note: Since I couldn't take photos related to today's post, I'm including others.)

Mike and I had a very long day yesterday (30 September).  We had not slept well the entire time we were in Barcelona and Madrid, and Monday night was no different. I woke up almost every hour from 3:15 am on, and Mike was usually awake, too. We finally got up around 6:30 and got ready to leave.

The antique elevator shaft in Hotel Continental (Genova)

At 8:30, we walked to the Atocha Train Station to catch the AeroBus to the airport.  Easy (especially since the walk was downhill).  The bus was there on time. Double easy.  The fare was €5/each, a lot less than what a taxi would have charged for the 35-minute drive to the airport. Good deal.

Once we were under way, I noticed that the bus had stops at Terminals 1, 2, and 4.

"Oh, crap," I said to Mike. "I don't know which terminal is the right one."

"Do you want to ask the lady behind us?" he wanted to know.  No, I didn't want to ask the lady behind us. I really wanted to figure it out myself. Given that the bus noted only the terminal numbers and not the airlines each housed, I knew I was going to have to ask the lady behind me.

Mike in front of the elevator...I have no idea what I was doing.
 "Excuse me," I said to her, "but are you flying internationally?"

"Yes," she told me. "I'm going to New York. Where are you going?"

"Filadelfia. Which terminal will you go to?"

"What country is Filadelfia in?" she asked me. If I had not been looking at her, I would have rolled my eyes. She's never heard of Philadelphia?  At any rate, I told her it was in the United States. She perked up.  "I'm going to the United States, too! New York is in the United States!"  No lie. I had no idea.

"Which terminal?" I asked her again.

"One," she said.  "I'm flying Delta, are you?"  I told her we were flying US Airways. "I just don't know then."

"We'll just get off at Terminal 1, and if it's the wrong terminal, we can take the shuttle to the next terminal," Mike decided. He had gone up to the bus driver and asked him if he knew which terminal we should go to, and the guy knew nothing.

We got off at Terminal 1 and stepped right into a sea of chaos. We flew US Airways out of Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas International Airport, and airport that is as honking big as its name is. We found the arrival/departure screen several doors (and 4 million people) down from where the bus dropped us off.

"There is no US Airways flight on this screen." I checked my email to make sure I hadn't screwed up the airport somehow.

"Maybe we need to go to Terminal 2," Mike thought. "Maybe this just lists the departures for this terminal."

"It lists departures for Terminals 1 and 2," I told him.  "We need information."  Information, it turns out, was back near where we entered the building. We fought our way back through the 4 million people between us and it.

Mike's real eggs in Barcelona
 There were two agents at the information desk, and the one who was not talking to another customer was staring into space while picking at his teeth with the little finger on his right hand.

"Excuse me," I apologized.  I didn't want to interrupt his very important business, and he apparently wasn't too happy that I had, either. He glared at me. "We have a US AIrways flight, and I don't . . . "

"Terminal 4," he snapped and turned his head back in the direction he had been staring.

"Ok. Thank you, but how do I get to Terminal 4?" He turned toward me again.

"Bus. Five minutes. Outside." He pointed in one direction and turned his head back to the other and started picking at his teeth again.

We found the bus, and after it dropped off people at Terminal 2, it seemed to head away from the airport grounds. After six or seven minutes, we pulled into the middle of nowhere where Terminal 4 stood in all its humongous glory.

"Holy crap. This one's bigger than the first terminal," I exclaimed.

"This is what Las Vegas should do," Mike said. Since that statement had nothing to do with what I said, I just looked at him.  "They should put the airport 30 miles outside of town. There's plenty of land out there."  While I agreed, I was more interested in getting to the gate.

Gelato with fudge and raspberries

We walked into the terminal and into the middle of even more chaos than we found in Terminal 1.  Iberia, the national airline of Spain, had dozens of ticket counters and backage drops.  US Airways was, of course, at the far end of the terminal past Iberia and the 6 million people flying on it and other airlines.  We got in the relatively short US Airways line to get our boarding passes.  The first person to approach us was a security/customs person.

I'm not going to go through the entire process of getting out of Spain, but let me tell you that security procedures in the United States pale in comparison to those in other countries. When I left the States two months ago, I went through the regular TSA bit, and the gate agent checked my passport as I boarded the flight to London.  To get out of Spain, we went through four separate security checks, with the first and fourth being pretty minor questions: "Who packed your bag?" "Who has handled your bags?" "Are you carrying a weapon?"

When you put your carry-ons through the scanner, you have to take out *every* electronic device—laptop, tablet, iPod, phone, and camera. You can keep your shoes and belts on, but any bit of metal comes out of your pockets.

"Whose bag this is?" The behemoth behind the scanner pointed at my backpack.

"Mine." I couldn't figure out what I had left in it.

"Take out tablet," she demanded.

"It's already out," I said as I pointed to my iPad in the purple pan.

"You have other," she insisted.

"I don't.  Look."  I opened the backpack, and she stuck her big hands in.  There was nothing electronic in it except the cords for the laptop.

"This.  Out." She yanked out the cords. "These go through."  She put them in a separate pan and sent them and the backpack back through.  I passed.

Honking big espresso machine
 Mike, having seen my problem with the cords, pulled his out before his bag went through the scanner.

"Whose bag this is?" She pointed to Mike's backpack.  "Take out camera."

"My camera is here," he said as he pointed to his camera in the pan.

"You have other," she insisted again. Is this sounding familiar?  She shoved her hands in and pulled out his video camera. Oops.

Once we finished with her, we headed to the terminal's M, R, S, and U gates. Hanging near the tram was a sign  advising how long it would take to get to each group of gates.  M—10 minutes. R—22 minutes. S—10 minutes. U—20 minutes.

When we finally got to the "R" gates, we had to go through passport exit control. Before the agent stamped our passports, we had to tell him how long we had been in Europe, where we'd gone, and why we were there. STAMP!  We were on to yet another security stop and the gate.

Madrid cafe and bookstore
Four hours after we left the apartment, we were rolling down the runway. Two months down. Seven hours and 54 minutes to go.

Tomorrow: Philadelphia International Airport is not your friend.

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