I am no stranger to early morning flights out of Tel Aviv, but this time I made sure I was prepared. Even though I had to check out of my hotel at 2 am, I made sure that I kept a hotel room for that time. I have done the "sleep in the airport overnight" thing and after 5 weeks of travel, that just didn't sound appealing at all. So I went to bed around 10 pm and made sure I was up and ready to head to the airport at 2 am. Security leaving Israel is no joke, so it is a smart idea to get there 3 hours in advance to get through security and relax a little on the other side by the gates.
After going through security, I realized I was hungry. This wasn't surprising because by then I had been awake for nearly 3 hours without eating anything. It may not have been a usual meal time, but I was definitely feeling the need for food. I decided to grab a coffee and one of these cream cheese and smoked salmon (AKA lox) sandwiches.
Alright, flights on time! I was headed to Madrid for one last night of European fun before heading back to Asia.
I am sure you are wondering why on earth I flew all the way in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go. Here is why: For the price I was looking to pay I had just a few options (most other flights were about $1000 more and I just wasn't willing to pay that, even for convenience), and of these, Madrid was the most stable. What do I mean by stable? My other two options were airlines from Greece and Turkey, and while I didn't think it would be an issue, there was always the chance for a cancelled flight. First, I am sure Greece would have been fine, but given their financial issues and the possibility of strikes (I know this is a somewhat exaggerated fear), I decided against this. Then comes Turkey, which is always a concern leaving Israel. Again, it may be an exaggerated concern, but there is always a risk of a cancelled flight when it comes to Israel and any country that they potentially could have a conflict with. So, in the essence of knowing my flight was "stable", I went with Madrid. Well, there is that, and then of course I just love Spain! Plus, this made it easier for me to know what to do with my 24 hour layover.
Here is the meal I was served on the flight to Madrid.
The omelets are usually pretty good.
Like I said, going to Madrid made it easy to know what to do during my 24 hour layover. I picked a hotel in an area that I knew would be convenient to what I wanted to do- shop and eat.
It was a small room, but the price was right, the location was superb, the internet was free, and it was only for 1 night.
First on my agenda was the Hard Rock. I have a HR Madrid shirt, but it was from 2001 and just worn out. It was definitely time for a new one.
I took the subway here, but then enjoyed the city sights as I walked back to the hotel along the Gran Via, which is one of the main streets in Madrid, especially for shopping.
So the plan was to eat and shop, right? Well, here is some of the food I started with since I needed some fuel before shopping. I stopped at 100 Montaditos, which serves small sandwiches and cheap beer.
Did someone say cheap beer? Let me clarify. The beer itself is quality beer, it is just sold at an extremely cheap price. This nice sized beer cost me just 1 Euro.
Then for my snack I had this little shrimp and pineapple sandwich and some potato chips.
It was just enough for a snack before shopping. Just across the way I spotted a Dunkin's, so I stopped in for a coffee since I felt some caffeine was in order for shopping too.
After my shopping adventures at stores like Mango and H&M, I rested in the hotel before heading out for dinner.
Actually, I had one more very cool surprise while in Madrid. Keri, who was my roommie on the Contiki trip, was in Madrid that night for her birthday, and she was with some of her friends that were visiting her from South Africa. Her plan was to go to a Flamenco show at a restaurant and have dinner there, but that was later on, and I wasn't sure what they would have for me to eat, so I made sure when I was hungry to grab a little something.
I was really surprised to discover that the place we were going for the show was just behind the hotel where I stayed the month before with my family. This meant I was familiar with the area, which was helpful, and it also meant it was really close to my current hotel.
It gave me a chance to see how well this little market had developed over the last 4 weeks. We happened to be there the first day they were getting things set up.
I decided to grab a bite to eat here at O'Faro Finisterre, which I believe was one of the places I tried with my family. It was directly across from the hotel we stayed at last month, so I am almost certain we ate here, but I think we sat on the other side of the place, and this is why I am not 100% sure.
I definitely ordered some sangria.
They brought me some bread, which is to be expected at a tapas bar.
I ordered some olives. I needed to make sure to get them in one last time before heading back to Japan.
I also got some patatas bravas.
This is shrimp and mushrooms in olive oil.
That did it for me! I was stuffed, but thankfully to have gotten in some tapas before it was time to go.
Then the time came to meet up with Keri and her friends at Cafe Chinitas.
Sorry, some pictures are blurry. At this place they put on a Flamenco show during dinner and have 2 showings a night. While Flamenco is traditional to the southern regions, you can pretty much see a Flamenco show anywhere in Spain (ok, maybe not Basque country or Barcelona). Since Madrid is the capital of Spain, you can imagine that there are plenty of tourist spots to catch a show.
More sangria? Don't mind if I do!
Happy Birthday Keri!
Then we watched a little more of the show.
More bread and olives? Of course!
I ended up ordering a goat cheese appetizer, but when it came it was presented with ham on top, so I sent it back. Pretty much the entire staff had poor English and my Spanish was not good enough to explain exactly what I wanted (remake the dish without meat), so I passed and didn't order anything else. No problem at all because I had eaten a little before hand just in case something like this happened. At least Keri and her friends (no of whom had ever been to Spain) got to try the paella.
The dancing and singing continued throughout the meal. Overall, it was a pretty good show that they put on here. The food is certainly overpriced and not top quality, but the experience is great for tourists.
Here I am with Keri and one of the Flamenco dancers after the show.
After the show ended we walked around the shopping area and looked at all of the excitement going on since it was a Friday night and just before midnight. This is definitely a busy time in Spain.
One last food item for me:
Frozen yogurt with strawberries, kiwi and chocolate. The perfect end to my time in Spain and my evening with friends.
I was sad my time in Europe was coming to a close, but boy was I happy to know that after 5 weeks away I was finally on my way back home to see my husband. Obviously I would have liked for him to go with me, but because of his work schedule and not knowing if he can get off until the last minute (or just about), it was difficult to plan for him to join me, and it just didn't work out this time. Maybe next time! Actually, we do have a trip planned together coming up. Nothing major, but certainly fun, so hopefully nothing changes with his days off. Cross you fingers!
QUESTIONS: Have you ever been to a Flamenco performance? What foreign city (or city other than your hometown/where you live) have you visited the most? What is your favorite city for shopping?