Madrid Mayhem

Sometimes the best laid plans…..

This weekend, the High School went on Music Tour in Madrid, Segovia and Toledo.  The choir, band, and orchestra were all on this Spanish road trip, performing in different venues in each city.  I couldn’t resist the chance to join them as it all seemed so simple.  No plans to make.  Just get there and follow the established itinerary.

The cities were beautiful, and the concerts were lovely.  Yet it is not the sights and sounds, but rather the snafus, that will be remembered.

It all started innocently enough with me making the plane reservations on line.  Everyone else seems to use all the travel websites with such ease.  I dove in, found cheap fares on Iberia Airlines, and booked everything with the click of a mouse.  Easy.  Jeff, Jackie, and I would leave Friday morning and return Sunday afternoon.

Moments after I pressed SUBMIT and purchased our tickets, an email popped up from school.  It reminded me that Jackie had a class trip on Friday to Hampton Court to wrap up her study of Tudor England.  So much for that cheap airfare.  The cost to change our flights was twice the round trip bargain price.  I opted to go as planned and send Jeff later with Jackie, cutting our losses somewhat.

All was going according to plan, when a panicked text come through from Jackie:  Dad’s blackberry just died.  Call his assistant and try to fix it.  But, alas there is no way to provide long distance resuscitation to a dead phone.  Jeff was officially out of touch.  No contacts.  No emails.  No calls.  Nada.  Not good.

Travel weary and hungry, Jeff and Jackie arrived late Friday night.  The evening was spent figuring out how to get internet connection on Jeff’s ipad and watching him descend into a state of frazzled frenzy.  A tempest was brewing at work, and the tension was palpable.

Then came the freezing sub-zero temperatures.  Saturday was spent sight-seeing and trying to ward off the numbing cold.  Wicked winds gusted with such force that we feared we’d be blown off the top of the Madrid cathedral cupola veranda.  We sought refuge in a train ride to Segovia only to find the town blanketed in snow and gripped by even colder temperatures.  We opted to climb the 192 steps to the top of an ancient castle less to look over the barren landscape and more to try to get feeling back in our numb toes.  The concert that evening was held in a Romanesque Medieval church built in the 12th century.  The damp stone walls seemed to capture and intensify the cold.  It was like listening to music in a freezer, albeit a very beautiful one.  Watching Katie sing with her group melted by heart but did nothing to thaw my frozen extremities!

And then it snowed in London.  Three inches of white powder absolutely paralyzed the city.  Taxis came to a standstill.  The airport shut down.  As one newspaper reported, “As snow falls in Britain, Heathrow upholds its reputation as a travelers’ black hole.”  It made me think of that saying that London is merely a third world village masquerading as an international city.  Turns out that in Britain a snowflake really packs a knock-out punch.

On the bus back from Segovia, the silence was interrupted by phones beeping and blinking with texts notifying everyone of the cancelled flights.

At this point, there was a force field of stress around poor Jeff.  Out of touch all day.  Phoneless.  Freezing.  Snow.  Now stranded.  Are we having fun yet?

Sunday morning brought hope.  Heathrow was open, and I had not received a text that my flight was cancelled. Could our luck be changing?

We left  Jeff camped out in the hotel lobby, attached to the umbilical cord of the communal computer and stewing under the cloud of free internet.

The morning did not get off to a good start.  We decided to board the city tour bus as a quick way to see the remaining sites in Madrid.  There were two routes offered.  We hopped on the first bus that stopped and embarked on route # 2.  Turns out this was the route highlighting condominium complexes, ugly post-60s architecture, and not much else.  All this while listening to bad Spanish muzak on headphones.  We cut our losses and headed to see Picasso’s Guernica at the Reine Sofia museum only to find that its trapped hot air, sterile white walls, and claustrophobic maze of rooms made us feel like we were in a mental institution.  Clearly we were suffering from sight-seeing syndrome.

We ate a quick lunch and decided to head for the airport.  I marveled that my flight was still not cancelled.  Our friends asked to see my ticket confirmation.  They glanced at the receipt, did a double-take, and told me they had good news and bad news.  The good news was that my flight had not been cancelled.  The bad news is that I had booked a return for  August 5th not February 5th. Oops!  Apparently, I am a terrible travel agent.

At this point, I think I saw steam come out of Jeff”s ears.  The mood inside the taxi ride to the airport was grim.

In the end, we flew to Paris (delayed), raced for the last Eurostar to London (delayed), and struggled to find a taxi at St. Pancreas Station in the middle of the night.  I crawled into bed at 1:00 a.m.  The journey took a total of 12 hours and cost about 12 times what I had estimated.

Literally, planes, trains, and automobiles:  without John Hughes’ direction and John Candy’s + Steve Martin’s good humor.

This trip can best be described as a Comedy of Errors…one we may laugh about someday!

At least we can still smile in the meantime:





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