Thoughts in Madrid

It’s a funny thing, being on an Iberia flight to Madrid. Why Madrid, you ask? Because my delightful student budget allows me to have a nice 5 hour layover before continuing on to Marseille. Anyway, we’re in Madrid now. And the flight was eventful, to say the least.

All is well, another flight is taxing to the runway when, BZZZZZ WOMP, all the lights go out. It’s 11 PM: dark outside and dark inside. Silence. Scary. The emergency lights flick on and everyone starts talking. In Spanish.

Oh, Spanish. Duh. Spanish. Madrid is in Spain so everyone on the flight would speak Spanish. Except yours truly. My Spanish is remarkably horrendous. I fumble with the most basic sentence of “I don’t speak Spanish” and mix and match verbs and nouns like its my job. Suddenly I realized that almost everyone on my flight was a native Spanish speaker and I was probably the only person on the entire flight who couldn’t speak a word. How lonely!

So what do I do? What anyone in my position would: I began to write in French. That’s right, I took out my notebook and wrote about how funny it felt to be on a plane full of Spaniards, but I wrote it out in French. I figured that if everyone else was going to speak another language, I would too. Plus, my French could use some dusting off.

I dozed off before I knew if the lights ever got fixed or not. When I woke up, it was now 12 AM – midnight. We hadn’t taken off yet. Well, at least I got a nice nap in. A few muffled announcements came from the captain (who also spoke Spanish) along with a two sentence version of that announcement in broken English. I had no idea what was going on. Until just twenty minutes later, we were finally lifting off the ground, the lights were on (blinding, after my nap), and we hadn’t even needed to change planes. Whew!

I slept the majority of the flight, waking only for meals and when the kid in front of me lowered his seat allllllll the way back. Before I knew it, sunlight was bursting through the window shades, announcing that we were only an hour away from our destination. After a light breakfast, more announcements in Spanish, and another inadequate English translation, we were getting lower to the ground! Out the window I could see Spanish countryside. Bright gold and yellow land speckled with dark tree clusters. The movie screen (had a movie even shown?) was now displaying a live feed from a camera that seemed to be mounted to the tail of the plane. We could see everything from the plane’s perspective! Definitely one of the coolest in-flight features I’ve ever seen. When the pilot swerved, we watched the horizon slide into a drastic diagonal, and then straighten out. (For a moment, I thought it would actually be cool to fly planes. Then I remembered that it took me long enough to even get my driver’s license and maybe we should just see how that plays out first.) From that view, Spain looked even more amazing.

If you have never been to the Madrid-Barajas Aeropuerto, you are missing out. It must be very new (within the past 10-15 years) and it is a fantastic structure. The roof reminds me of Denver International Airport because of its wavy, tentlike shape. But it is so much more. The support beams fade ombre-style from deep blue to bright red along the length of the airport. The waves are formed by long wooden slats, giving the place a more earthy feel and not just a big industrial glass structure. There is plenty of seating, and nowhere is without a view outside. Shops aren’t just in one location, so you can’t get bored. Even the unused stairways have a beautiful curve design to them. Everything is so simple, I love it!

Watching a 757 dump out the contents of its flight from Indonesia is very interesting. All walks of life are on that plane. Western businessmen, Asian businessmen, families, students, young travelers with backpacks and sandals, older travelers in groups – every kind of person seems to come in from Indonesia (or the surrounding areas).

It’s almost boarding time now for my flight to Marseilles – FINALLY!

This is really it. The first, less exciting leg of my journey is complete and now comes the real stuff, the big one, the closer. France!

More from the other side…

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