July 2 – Had to get up early this morning to catch our train. Our hotel graciously set out our breakfast buffet a half hour early, so we wouldn’t have to travel without our daily caffeine and jamon allotment. We booked our train ticket to Madrid about five days ago, and were surprised to find all the second class tickets sold out, so we are riding first class in reserved seats. This turns out to be the same as a second class seat, except you are offered a free Spanish newspaper and charged twice the price! Four hours of high speed rail later, we are in Madrid.
To simplify our lives, Jim booked us in at a very nice hotel right at the train station, so we can easily catch the train to the airport in the morning. We did a final day’s worth of laundry, watched some strange but English language tv, and repacked our packs to go on the airplane, stowing our hiking sticks and everything that was in the outer pockets. We had purchased some fragile souvenirs, which I will hand carry, rather than entrust to the baggage handlers. We are ready to go home.
July 3 – Walked back to the train station, and waited on a 20 minute line to purchase a ticket for the 10 minute ride to the airport. The very nice man at check in informed us that he could only see one flight for us in his computer, from Madrid to Chicago, and that we would have to go to American Airlines in Chicago to print our second boarding pass for our flight to Norfolk. Oh well. Air travel!
We were amazed and amused to encounter a singing trans stewardess belting out “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in a husky baritone in the duty-free shop. We slugged the free Jagermeister shot offered, and applauded enthusiastically.
Then we were up and away for our nine hour flight back to the USA. Adios, Spain, we’ll miss you!
After getting through Customs and retrieving our bags, we tried to collect our boarding passes for Norfolk. The not-a-people-person service rep informed us, quite harshly, that we had no reservation, and weren’t going anywhere. Jim produced the paper booking confirmation he had been toting around for three months, and she told us that American no longer had that flight, and so had canceled our reservation. Hadn’t they informed us? Well no, they hadn’t, but as they also hadn’t refunded our fares, I thought we were in a pretty good position to insist that it was incumbent on American Airlines to get us home. Seeing that we weren’t going to go away, the rep eventually relented and put us on the next flight. Peter came and picked us up, and we were home by 11pm eastern, which was 5am the next day as far as our bodies were concerned. A little sleep is all we need. Until next time!