Europe in January 2017 – The First Day

So the intrepid travellers departed Sydney at 1645 on Monday 9th January enroute firstly to Madrid and then Rome. After a fourteen hour flight to Dubai, an eight hour stopover in Dubai International Airport (which thankfully to some pre-planning on the part of one of the travellers included the opportunity to shower!), and then a further eleven hour flight to Madrid, it’s now 1645 on Tuesday 19th January.

Ain’t world travelling a crazy thing?!

As I sit and write this first part of the travelogue, we intrepid travellers are safely ensconced in the tiny apartment that will be our home while here in Madrid. It is good to have ‘stopped’ moving in once sense, and to have reached the destination.

But let me go back in time, dear reader, and share some of the highlights of the last God-alone knows how many hours…

The flight from Sydney to Dubai was the first time I had been aboard the Airbus A380 aircraft, the incredible two-deck machine that seems to defy all the laws of aerodynamics. But it flies, and flies quite comfortably.

I was a little miffed during the flight because the person occupying the seat in front of me seemed determined to recline his seat into my skull as soon as the captain had turned off the fasten seatbelts sign. Trying to eat one’s Mushroom Tortellini would have been a real challenge if the cabin staff hasn’t insisted he put his seat forward during the meal service. Thank goodness for Qantas cabin staff I say. It was a temporary relief however because back the seat reclined just as soon as the food tray had been whisked away by the aforementioned Qantas cabin staff. I guess I should have expected it during what was, after all, a night flight.

The arrival into Dubai was ahead of schedule, always something one wishes to hear in connection with air travel. The downside, of course, is that when you have to wait for a connecting flight it only means an extra hour in the airport terminal. Thankfully, there had been some plotting and planning surrounding our original scheduled seven hour stopover in Dubai, and we had purchased entree into one of the airport lounges (including the aforementioned showers) to while away our time in more luxurious setting. Can I just say: Best. Choice. Ever!

The availability of showers, a buffet breakfast (at 0230, it’s still a goer!), barista-made coffee, and the kind of seating that you just can’t find in your ordinary, run-of-the-mill departure lounge made the stopover not only bearable but downright enjoyable! A personal highlight during the stopover was experiencing the azan (Muslim call to prayer) as the sun was rising over the desert on which the Dubai International Airport sits. A very moving experience I have to say.

The airport itself is both large and architecturally stunning, an amazing use of space, material (including water – a precious resource in a desert country) that is functional as well.

The flight from Dubai to Madrid was also an interesting experience – another Airbus A380, another person sitting in front of me wishing to recline their seat into my forehead (this time during a daytime flight), and some wonderful cabin staff (this time courtesy of Emirates). There were entertaining additions to this flight however: passengers who seemed to think they could ignore the conditions of carriage, and then feel aggrieved to the point of being rude when cabin staff pointed out that the passengers would not be able to do just as they wanted. Go figure! Add in people complaining about not being able to have their choice of food, not having enough choice in the salad (or suggesting that what was advertised as a salad wasn’t in fact a salad – I can’t be sure), and there was plenty of entertainment to go around.

A momentary panic crept into this first ‘day’ when, having arrived in Madrid, I sought to retrieve my carry on bag from the overhead (being the good passenger and putting it there when I left Dubai!) only to discover it had gone MISSING! The momentary panic may have something to do with the said bag contacting both the medication which I have been prescribed to take AND my travel documentation (apart from the Passport which was safely in my hand!). The mystery of its disappearance was solved when the other passenger who took it ‘by mistake’ returned it to the aircraft and the Emirates cabin crew. Crisis averted, and the trip could continue.

Catching a cab from the airport to our little apartment was followed by a quick shopping trip, and then a walk to explore the nearby Puerto del Sol and, more importantly, to find a place for coffee. Which we found and enjoyed before returning to the apartment for an early night.

Stay tuned, dear reader, for further dispatches.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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