Spain Days 13 and 14 – the trip back home

Dateline London – October 26th, 2010

The last  two days of our vacation were pretty much in transit back to Madrid, then London, then Seattle. The first leg was from Granada to Madrid, a four and a half hour ride. We took the bus from the hotel to the train station and even got off the bus at the right stop, a block and a half away from the train station. Being cautious, we’d left the hotel about an hour before we really needed to, to allow ourselves time to “get lost,” but we didn’t need it, so we had about an hour’s wait in the station.

On the way to Madrid, we decided that we should see if we could change our flight itinerary. Our original schedule was a 7AM flight out of Madrid to London, then a seven hour layover in London for the flight back to Seattle. Neither the prospect of getting up at about 4AM to ensure we were at the airport in time, or sitting around Heathrow for seven hours was particularly appealing (the free booze would have helped me cope, but wasn’t going to do much for Jen), so as soon as the train pulled into the Madrid station, we took the underground metro to Barajas airport.

Getting to Barajas was easy since we’d already figured out the underground system (which, again was designed very well and so was easy to figure out), but we were surprised at how packed the cars were. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon, and we hadn’t expected too many other riders, but every train was standing room only, to the point where some people couldn’t even get onto a car. So the hour long trip was a bit warm and uncomfortable, but once we decided to head to the airport, we were pretty much committed.

At the airport, getting on a flight to London that day turned out to be a herculean effort. It’s not worth going into the details, but we ended up getting pointed back and forth to various customer “service” locations six times. Three of them were to the same woman who, fortunately, despite the fact that it was not, apparently, her job to handle our request, finally started making some calls and got us on to the last flight out. Because it had taken so long, we ended up having to run to the terminal since we were told the flight was leaving in ten minutes. Once we got to the terminal, we were told it was late and wouldn’t be leaving for another thirty minutes or so. Of course, if we hadn’t run, it would have taken off on time and we would have missed it.

In London, we went through customs, where we asked if there was an Internet cafe or center where we could search for a hotel, and were told that there was an information desk that was specifically for that. We headed in the direction in which we’d been told the desk was located, 0nly to find that it was in fact a commercial service, which meant that we’d be paying premium rates for whatever they found. After about fifteen minutes, we decided on a hotel that was pretty close by and was only mildly overpriced through the service, and also bought tickets for their drop-off and pick up transport service. Once that was done, we headed out to wait for our ride.

About twenty minutes later our shuttle arrived, and we headed off to our hotel. We settled in and went down to the hotel bar to grab some dinner, the restaurant being closed. I was surprised to find that the beer selection was very small and not at all impressive, and ended up settling for a Newcastle Brown (which I like, but wasn’t really the kind of beer for which I was in the mood). After we ate and had a couple of drinks, we went back to the room, and Jen decided to go down to the business center to see about printing up our plane tickets for the London to Seattle flight ahead of time.

When she came back to the room, she had been unable to print the tickets because of the way the business center was set up, but had found that if we’d been able to book the same hotel over the Internet, we would have paid about €30 less, and would have had breakfast and a spa session included in the price as part of an Internet special – today’s travel tip was don’t change your transit plans in the middle of the trip but if you do, do it yourself through the Internet. Of course, there was nothing we could do, so we shrugged our shoulders and went to bed. 

Dateline Seattle – October 27th, 2010

The next morning we got up and showered, and packed up our stuff. Once we were ready we headed out and waited for the shuttle back to the airport. The information that the guy at the “service desk” had printed on our tickets was not what we had asked for, so we were a little concerned that we would get dropped off in the wrong terminal at Heathrow, and have to walk a mile or so, but when we told him where we wanted to go, he said okay, marked our tickets, and we were on our way.

It took us a little while to get through security at Heathrow, but as we were standing in line waiting for the crowd to get through, I did see two other people that were carrying Les Pauls, so that was pretty cool. Even with the wait, we were still very early for our flight, so we headed over to the British Airways lounge and grabbed something to eat and drink. We hung out there for a while, and discovered that the other BA lounge, which was near our gate, wasn’t going to be open for about an hour, so that worked out well. After about an hour we headed over to that lounge, and while Jen got on the Internet and did some stuff, I had another couple of drinks and grabbed some magazines to read.

Finally we heard the announcement that our flight was boarding, so we left the lounge and went over to our gate. The routine to board is pretty much the same every time, and after a while we were in our seats waiting to take off. Once again, business class was the way to go. Roomy, comfortable seats that you could recline and sleep in, free movies and other video entertainment, free drinks and food, are really the way to fly, especially for such a long flight. But I’ve already covered that, so to cut to the chase, while we were a little bit late, about nine hours and forty-five minutes later we were back in Seattle (yay.).

Our friend Matt was there to pick us up (thanks Matt – very appreciated), and we were supposed to meet another friend, Tiffany, who was flying in as well. Her flight was supposed to land about thirty minutes after ours but it ended up getting delayed about two hours, so we had some time to kill until she got in. We decided to go get some dinner, and made the mistake of choosing Thirteen Coins. Don’t ever go there. They used to have decent food, but all three of us said the same thing about our meals – that they were unappetizing and ridiculously overpriced. None of us even came close to finishing them. They were crowded, however, so rather than keep our table when we were done, we went to the bar and had a drink until Tiffany’s flight was supposed to land. We hung out there until the time came, and then drove back to the airport, picked her up, and headed home – and so ended our trip to Spain.