Sunday, November 09, 2008

a bon voyage ...

Exactly 24 hours after leaving Marrakech we made it to Madrid.

Prado, Medrid

It doesn't actually take so much travel time, but train connections and an hours time difference working against us and we had a few extra hours to kill taking a leisurely breakfast in Tarifa.

After spending an obligatory couple of hours each day on "cultural duties" we would commence lunch and wine sampling at around 2pm. Even so we only managed to visit a miniscule proportion of the bars in Madrid - reputedly the most in any city worldwide - a staggering 6 for every 100 people.

I don't know if the sherry bars (imagine a glass of Tio Pepe served straight from the barrel) will ever be my cup of tea, but in every other respect I found the Madrileno lifestyle most agreeable - it reminded me of our month in Buenos Aires.

Shopfront, Madrid

With the trip almost complete we boarded the Trenhotel to Paris and spent the evening dining a la carte in the restaurant watching the world pass by. The bumpy line meant the primary entertainment was watching the waitress attempting to pour wine, beer, water and coffee with increasingly comical results.

When I ordered my fourth refill of coffee Mel spotted what was going on and put an end to what she described as a "cruel sport".

After two weeks off almost seamless transport connections we found ourselves in Paris at Gare du Nord to the news of major dispruption to Eurostar due to an accident and power failure just North of Paris. I guess it serves us right for being so cocky after dodging September's tunnel fire by a week.

Our trip was at serious risk of ending with a day (or longer) of total frustration, and we were on the verge of trying to book a flight home when the first trains started rolling into the station and things started looking up.

We managed to get reassigned to an earlier train leaving just 2 hours after our intended departure (work that out if you can), but it wasn't until we boarded that we realised we'd been upgraded to first class.

The delay and slower journey time sufficiently balanced by complimentary champagne, wine and food, we were even more delighted when everyone on the train was given a free return journey on Eurostar by way of compensation for the problems.

We spent the journey sat across from a middle-aged, stereotypically French couple who were chattering away, clearly excited at the prospect of their weekend in London.

"hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw, Kate Moss, hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw, Feesh and Chips, hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw, Welsh Rarebit"

No matter where you travel it can be just as interesting to hear what people from other cultures find fascinating about your own ...

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