MADRID…GREDOS…MADRID…GALICIA.

       I arrived in Heathrow at 11:30am the following day with little sleep and made Madrid around 1:30pm exhausted.  I had to take a bus to another terminal to visit Air Comet to see about getting a replacement ticket for Rome.  I lost mine and to replace it I had to make out a police report and then pay a fine so bought another ticket instead.  I then walked about 2 miles to the Metro and arrived at the Puerto del Sol and checked right in to my room around 3pm. Though I was tired I stayed up until 8pm.  I sat in a café sipping wine for an hour and watching the world go by then went to my favorite Irish Pub for happy hour.  4 Euros for a Imperial Pint of Heineken (Hiagain) and a short of Cutty Sark….best deal in Madrid.  I ordered a Ham and Cheese sandwich which was huge with fries. I ate half then packed the other half to go and gave the fries to a large group of Englishmen that were in Madrid to have a stag party for their buddy who was getting married. 8pm to bed and up at 11am!


          I walked around Madrid getting adapters for my computer then took the Metro to the Tapas meeting at 7 pm and drank a lot of Sangria.  9 pm I went to a café near my Hostel for 3 Rioja wines at the Cebulla and more Tapas but it started to rain….and rain…I put up the umbrella but it leaked and it was rivers of water.  My shoes, socks and pants were completely soaked when I arrived at the Irish Pub for a couple of Jack Daniels with Alan from Colorado…Pagosa Springs.   He legally teaches English and gets paid for it. Some young people were in traveling from Florida.  They had just arrived from Bologna, Italy.  We had a great time.  Alan told me where I could get Hash but I forgot then left only to get lost in the rain.  Arrived at the Hostel around 11 pm and took off the wet clothes and crashed.
It was raining when I left the Hostel at 7:30 to make the bus to Gredos.  I was early and the coffee shop was closed so we waited a half hour then had breakfast and got on the bus with only 4 Spanish people…I was last on so got to sit with them and entertain them the whole 3 hour trip while everyone else slept. Met Ellen from Washington , DC.  She was a writer and in Phoenix last week to get research on our Serial Killer for her book. I think she was planning a story on Vaughntown too.  All Spaniards got a through question and answer session from what kind of different Paellas there were and which was best to their every thought on every subject.  She did bribe us all with Ghirardelli Chocolate (70% Cacao) from San Francisco , Hershey’s Kisses from Hershey, Pa. and some really good exotic chocolate from Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) in Chicago.  This was all noted on a pad she carried wherever she went. Also met Beatriz from Puerto Rico that graduated from Syracuse University and has been working in Washington, D.C. for 11 years…and doing some work for FEMA. I think she was the only one that spoke fluent Spanish. Very beautiful and a great smile.
The first day there was a football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona so everyone went into town that evening and all the Anglos got the evening off.  Real Madrid won.

Orientation , Lunch and to the room …now siesta. Now FREE TIME…back to bed.  The room is beautiful as is the resort.  I wish I had brought a swim suit to use the pool and sauna.  The room has a Jacuzzi, Bidet, Mini Bar, Free internet access, Cable, etc. What can I say?

The group was around 12 Spaniards and 16 Anglos. Generally speaking the Spaniards tend to be a bit conservative. They aren’t afraid to get up and dance but aren’t gamblers and won’t try staying at Hostels when they travel.  They don’t really vacation far from home and when they do vacation, prefer nice hotel accommodations.  If and when they do travel abroad, they tend toward Spanish speaking countries like Mexico, Central and  South America.  Here they tend to display an air of superiority…kind like Americans traveling abroad. The younger Spaniards are more adventurous and like the idea of being a traveler not a tourist and do tend to take more risks.  

        Some general observations about the Spanish: They start work at 9am until 2pm when they have a two hour lunch.  This is more substantial than any other meal. This is the time they might have Paella. All meals usually consist of two entrees, one accompanied by a vegetable, and a dessert with wine, water and bread.  Olive oil is always put on the bread, sometimes with salt. Olive oil and vinegar are the only things they put on salad. No butter is served. If you order a mixed drink, after dinner drink or a wine, the waiter mixes or serves it with the bottle at the table. Sandwiches, croissants, toast or donuts are served with a knife and fork.  Lunch is usually two hours, then they break for a siesta, nap, or to run errands. Five O’clock they return to work until 7pm.  When work is finished they commute home or stop for beer and tapas with friends.  Then around 9 or 10 pm they eat dinner or go out for dinner until around 1am or 3-4pm on weekends.  When they don’t have to go to work they rise around 9 am or 10 am rather than the usual 8 am.  If you go out in the morning for coffee…forget it.  Weekdays nothing is open until around 9am and on weekends until 10 am.  This lifestyle reminds me of Larry Fanning’s.
           It is changing as Spain is becoming a huge economic success. They feed half of Europe from their hot houses in southern Spain with immigrants from Africa doing all the labor.  These hot houses are all made of wood and plastic and called the Sea of Plastic visible from satellite like the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall of China. Summer time in Spain is a change for corporations to change the Monday – Friday routine to 8:30am-4pm then send the employees home.  The Spaniards like this and believe it will eventually become the norm as Spain moves into the 21st century and the old ways end.   Shoes in Spain are very expensive.  A pair of Jap Flaps  could cost around $15 with more stylish ones going up to $50.  Shoes for men start on average of $150 to $300…average.  These are good leather and well made.
This is a socialistic society and come tax time the Spanish are asked to contribute to the Catholic Church.  They can opt to give their money to support social institutions if they prefer.  The Mormons have a very large church just outside of Madrid.  The Spaniards don’t take them too seriously but wonder why they trace EVERYBODY’S genetic origins, as if they will take over the world then slaughter all those they aren’t on their list.

I had plenty of free time but spent it on the internet or siestas.  I was asked to participate in a play but declined.  I did agree to do a presentation .  It was about SERVAS and I received a good response.  Not only did people say they would use SERVAS but  the MC Rob from Britain, wrote a song that night and presented it as a result of my inspiration.  Others made comments on a sheet of paper we all put on our backs…a final goodbye ..about how much they thought of me and the presentation. The Spanish had to do presentations also. It was required for them.  Rosa ( the married beauty that I fell in love with) did one on her pet Iguana her husband bought her and how to take care of them.  David K from Ireland got 8 Spaniards to do a River Dance production that he organized.

        We did a day tour of the town. 

Vivienne from near Cardiff, Wales had lost her luggage on one of her few trips outside of Wales and didn’t have any clothes but the ones she had on until the day before we left.  We had no problem recognizing her. She didn’t want to leave her passport at the desk when we checked in.  A little shy but not when it came to talking. Lovely person who collected all the tips for the service staff in a very efficient manor after she was volunteered by Rob.  She was a secretary or administrative something in real life.
         One evening we enjoyed an outdoor Spanish BBQ.

Christine, during one of our one on one sessions in which she spent the first 15 minutes complaining the Vaughnvillage main office on her cell phone about how her window wouldn’t shut and she felt she was getting shoddy service from the school for her $2200 dollars.  They hotel had fixed it, as she was afraid one of the wild cats on the grounds would enter her room in the night. The next day she was upset because it wouldn’t open and she couldn’t get any air.  She later called her friend in Galicia (Halithitha was the pronunciation I interpreted), to talk to me and invite me to meet with her on my trip there after school was over. Then she promptly left me on the cell phone with this women that spoke little English and me stumbling with my little Spanish while my hearing aide was screaming with feedback.  I was running around trying to find her while telling Kelem, the lady on the phone…uno memento por favor.  We had another one to one the day of departure at 10 am, the same time we were to be checked out of the hotel. Christine showed up to tell me she had to pack and would be right back…at 10:55!  

The morning we left, there was a ceremony to present the Certifications.  Christine was last one there for that too.  When Rob presented Tom Hancock from England his certificate, instead of hugging Rob, Tom forced a lip lock on him then turned to the audience after and pulled some gum from his mouth with an expression as if Rob had put it there.  It was set up I think but cute. Tom invited me, and I accepted to be a member of a great web site called “Face Book”.  When I signed up, it scans your email addresses and if there is a member in your address book it immediately identifies the person as your friend.  I had a SERVAS member listed from New Orleans that took me to lunch and taught me to dance Zydeco and my cousin’s son Eric who I just saw before leaving NYC.  
We returned to Madrid on Friday and a group was going to Rob’s apartment for a party but I wasn’t invited. I left with David K from Ireland.  He invited me to Dublin to stay with him. He recently bought a flat in Dresden of about 150 Sq meters or 450 Sq ft…like a Park Model. He was 70 and we took the Metro together but I got off first…found my Hostel and went out to the Dubliners for my usual shot and a beer.  The bartender from Romania remembered me. 

        I then went to the Plaza Major for last call but they were holding a food and drink festival so I settled down at a table and ordered some Tapas and beer.  I took up a table of four so kept inviting everyone, young and old to  join me.  Finally David and Javier did. They were in town for the big match between Madrid Real and my team…the Glasgow Celtics. While we were talking Fred showed up from San Zoila.  I met him at the first Tapas gathering when I arrived, so invited him to join my Spanish friends but he was looking for his group that just arrived and was supposed to meet up in Plaza Mayor.
         I joined him later and saw Christine from New Zealand …the Oncology Nurse.  Then James joined us.  I noticed him earlier because he had and Amsterdam shirt on but didn’t know he was from Vaughnvillage.  He had been to four or five and was from England.  I think he was Pakistani but said he had Fuji blood. He was an IT man and traveled over the world on his vacations.  We exchanged addresses while Fred kept buying us beer , wine and Tapas.  We walked around the square a while but I had to retire. 
        The next morning I arose too early as it was Saturday and nothing is open until 9 or 10.  I wanted to check the email but that was closed and finally found some coffee and light breakfast at the Café Roma. On the way back I recognized Alexander from Australia and said hello. She invited me to join the group so I had a coffee with them. Alex, Luke, and Haley invited me to visit them in Australia.  I then returned for a nap since I couldn’t do anything until I checked out and picked up the car.  

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