Saturday, March 14, 2009

Madrid and home sweet home

Many of us were up early to catch the first shuttle trip to Madrid city centre at 9.30am though we did not have many hours of sleep. I almost did not make it since the shuttle could only take 18 passengers and standing was not allowed inside the shuttle. After we were dropped off, everybody made their own way in the city. I have decided to get a tourist day pass for unlimited travel on the Metro and local bus as I wanted to see as much as Madrid as possible. My wife and I were having breakfast at the Metro station when three lady members of our tour bumped into us. With four ladies, anyone can guess what would be the next agenda. Shopping! Thus I had to delay my sight-seeing so as to bring the ladies to where they wanted to go first. (We men are always scarifying for our wives, including our pockets.) First stop was at Hard Rock Café and I left them at Gran Via where they could shop there and also around Plaza Callao and the pedestrian Calle Carmen nearby with the ubiquitous branches of Zara and El Corte Ingles. I then went on my tour of Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Almudena Cathedral, and Palacio Real.

We met up again for dinner and we found a place called FrescCo where you can eat (and drink) all you can for only 10 euro, a real bargain even though it was all vegetarian. We were back at our hotel after dinner to rest our tired feet and pack for the last time before leaving for home the next day.

While we were busy enjoying ourselves shopping and taking in the sights of Madrid, Rome and two of our tour members visited the airline office to confirm our seats back home and they also went to the Malaysian Embassy to inform them of our plight and to seek protection from the local tour operator in case we needed it. The embassy official assured us that we should be able to fly out from Madrid without any problem and they would step in to assist when necessary.

The hotel that we stayed, the Auditorium Madrid, looks very simple from the outside but inside it is well decorated with many art pieces and is more like a museum than a hotel.

When we awoke the next day, it was our last day in Spain. Everybody was up early to catch the shuttle to the airport. The check-in at the airport went smoothly though rather slowly. The last hurdle was the immigration. When we breezed through the passport formality, everybody breathed a sigh of relief and we happily did our customary last minute shopping at the airport shops. The plane left on time at 1.50pm and we were finally on our way home. Thus our memorable and unforgettable (though a little expensive) tour came to an end. And to sum up the tour in one word? Excellent.

So if you are in the MATTA fair, just be careful if someone makes you an offer that is too good to be true. Happy travelling.

Ronald Kwok

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