Valderribas Escapades – Time Off In Madrid (Part I)

Barely a fortnight into the new year, and here I was jetting off again to some far-away overseas land. This is the fantastic thing about England: pretty much everything, save Wales and Scotland, is over a murky body of sea conveying excitement and mystery to any trip no matter how close, business-like, and uninteresting it may be. Yes, an escapade to a remote Walloon town can suddenly sound like a trek to an unchartered land all thanks to the Channel.
This time though, I was off to Madrid to visit my father who’d been dwelling in the eastern parts of the Spanish capital for the past 8 months or so. My mother still being in France, I decided I’d pay ‘my old man’ a visit and show him a good old time in Madrid’s many joints, bars, and restaurants.
Much like most travel from Eastern England these days, it all started with a Ryanair flight from Stansted Airport on route to Madrid’s 4-strip airport. And suddenly the excitement and thrills of overseas travel had been dwindled down to a bland necessity to fly on board Europe’s cheapest – in all senses of the vocable – airline. But to complain would be like shooting oneself in the foot. We, consumers, have brought Ryanair unto ourselves by begging for ever cheaper fares and complying with the airline’s whimsical regulations in order to achieve such ridiculous prices. And to be quite honest, if the wary traveller fully plays along (i.e. doesn’t bring luggage along other than a small carry-on bag; checks in online; lets other passengers fight for vital space in the long queue reminiscent of long-gone post-war rationning eras; take it easy and not care about flight delay), then the airline delivers perfectly.
I was surprised to note there were a few fellow Frenchmen flying out to Spain: in the queue, I eavesdropped on a very interesting conversation between two 20-odd French passengers ignorant that others may well understand their language. At least, time flew by for me as I listened to their banter. Once inside the aircraft, I grabbed a seat in the very last row and was shortly joined by a pretty girl and a male friend of hers. They too chatted away like there is no tomorrow. The girl seemed fidgety. She was merely nervous to be flying and surely soon enough she snapped at me in French thinking I wouldn’t understand. All this because I had my HTC contraption turned on (in flight mode of course). I replied that (a) I’d understood her every last word, thank you very much and that (b) my phone was turned off. It’s a shame we hit it off that way because apart from her nervousness, she seemed like a very nice girl in all proportions indeed.
The reason I’d left my smartphone turned on (in flight phone I stress again) was to be able to trace the plane’s route using a GPS receiver I’d recently bought. I had cached Google Map images of the route in my phone before the flight and so, I was able to plot my route and follow the progression of the flight as it went up north of Stansted and Stevenage to then circle round London, past Reading, Heathrow, then finally south to Southampton, the Channel, Britanny, and at least some 200km well off the French coast (past Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux) into Spanish mainland over Santander, close to Burgos, Segovia, and lastly Madrid.
Once the Ryanair bird (I mean by that the plane, not any of those calendar pin-up girls) touched down at Barajas, I hastily made my way to the underground and some 40 minutes later, both my Dad and I were enjoying a famous fizzy Dutch beverage in the apartment kitchen while chewing on some delicious local chorizo y morcilla (de Burgos por supuesto). We caught up on family chit chat and gossip which was thin indeed. That’s the problem with permanent ubiquitous communication means. Family members update each other in near-real time nowadays which means that by the time you get to see family facef-to-face, everyone already knows everything and there is little point in rambling on about Auntie Emma’s latest amorous conquest (no I don’t have such an aunt).
The hour being well into the night by French standards, we called it a night and went off to sleep to doze off.