If past posts haven’t alluded enough to the fact that I really didn’t like my time in Madrid, let me make it clear: I really didn’t like my time in Madrid. My Madrid experience was so bad that it took me about a year to rehabilitate the entire country in my head. Let’s just make it plain – I don’t ever recommend international 10 hour layovers.
It was all a grand plan. I’d get to see an entire other country in a 10 hour layover on my way to France. I had an itinerary, I’d been abroad before. I was going to take the metro. I was going to eat churros. I was going to visit the literary quarter.
I didn’t consider a lot of things. One, that arrows might possibly be utilized differently in other countries. Two, Castilian Spanish pronounces the “c” in the middle of words as a “th” sound, so understanding their English accent was…complex. Three, I might possibly be tired after an 8 hour flight across the ocean. Four, I don’t speak Spanish at all. I took French, which was why I was on this little trip in the first place. And finally, five, the Spanish sense of time is…loose at best.
Let’s go over this.
Upon arrival there was next to zero direction. Everything was blank. I wandered around for a bit before practically stumbling upon the immigration booths, unsure if I was even in the right place. The officer fiddled with my passport, barely looked at me, didn’t speak a word and…away I stumbled. Finding my way out of the stupid airport proved a surprising struggle because:
One: Arrows are utilized differently in different countries.
In every place I had ever been, a down arrow meant down and an up arrow meant keep going. Apparently this is not universal. In Europe, it would appear that a down arrow means keep going, whilst an up arrow means go up. Dear god. I went through TSA three times. The third time they literally let me through with a water bottle. I finally made it out of the airport, completely giving up on the metro as I was too tired anddddddd….
Two: Castilian Spanish is…Different
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what my taxi driver was saying. I was highly paranoid (I hadn’t tried to find a locker in that godforsaken airport for my backpack), tired beyond belief, but way too determined to see this all through. Deciphering my taxi driver (who was very nice, don’t get me wrong) only added to the many problems that were building up. My Madrid Experience wasn’t going swimmingly even outside the airport.
Three: It was either the churros or the jet lag
I was incredibly worried about someone stealing my backpack. In retrospect this was highly unlikely – I’m pretty fast, it weighed about 9 million pounds, they probably wouldn’t have gotten very far but my brain was on high alert. I practically crabbed down sidewalks, probably looking incredibly suspicious. There was no free wifi so I had no idea where I was. I did make it to the famous market, I seem to recall now, looking at the photo that’s featured for this post.
But I was so tired I decided to stop for food. I wanted those churros, damnit.
They tasted horrible. Now I know your taste buds are supposed to partially stop working on planes but these were truly the worst. I had to force them down out of politeness. Ugh.
I gave up. I got another taxi back to the airport.
Four: I Don’t Speak Spanish
The fourth time going through security was where things began going seriously wrong. The first reason is I literally left my computer at the security checkpoint. Cue frantically running back, out of breath after climbing stairs. They were all very lovely but now my nerves were absolutely and completely frazzled. I just wanted to find my gate number and get the hell out of there. I hung out at Starbucks for an hour or two, skyped my mom and learned how to say “donde esta.” About an hour and a half before my flight was due to leave I began to be concerned about my gate number not showing up. After all, if I wasn’t in the right terminal I’d likely struggle for a half hour to try to get around.
Five: The Spanish Sense of Time
I like being on time. It’s one of my many quirks. I would rather be somewhere a half hour early than even a minute late. “On time” for me, is about 5 minutes beforehand or I’m late. I’m pretty bad as I also expect other people to be early. Sorry in advance.
As such, the Spanish attitude of “when it happens it happens” wasn’t great for me. I asked everyone as best I could (I swear no one spoke English in this entire airport and while I’m generally against such language expectations, I did kind of assume an airport would have some English speaking people). Finally they announced the gate. Five minutes before the plane left. All Spanish people lifted their hats where they were passed out on the floor, saw they had five minutes, and immediately went back to sleep. My god.
I kindof wish I had that ability.
At last we boarded the plane and took the short flight to Paris. I told myself I had no interest in ever visiting Madrid ever, ever again.
In my defense I was very tired, and I disagree with my less than charitable assessment from the year-later perspective 😛
Long story short, don’t do this to yourself.