Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Cheapest Hotel Room in Madrid

[describing Sunday night through Tuesday morning]

I should preface this story by saying that the end result is exactly what happened last year on my way home from Fuerteventura and exactly what I tried everything in my power to avoid this year on my way home from Fuertventura.

Murphy's Law calls BS.

The crux of the problem: the first flight out of Fuerte to Madrid each day is not early enough to catch each airline's daily flight from Madrid to the major East Coast of the United States.  The last flight out of Fuerte to Madrid the night before the daily flight to the East Coast means a considerable lay-over in Madrid, mostly during the wee hours of the night (or morning, depending on your definition).

Slumber party in Terminal 4.

Last year my lay-over was 13 - count 'em, 13 - hours.  11:00 pm to 12 noon.

Last year I had to claim my luggage during my Ironman race-length lay-over.  Passengers with lay-overs less than 12 hours are allowed to leave their luggage in the care of their airline.

Last year this is where I ended up spending a good portion of my "night" getting some "sleep" because it allowed me to lay flat, asleep, and still protect my belongings.

The view of Madrid was spectacular; the city lights are especially beautiful after midnight.

This year I cut my 13-hour lay-over in half by connecting to Paris from Madrid before turning left to cross the Atlantic.  My thought was less travel time sleeping on a conveyor belt and more travel time in the air, during which someone is providing me free drinks, a padded seat, and maybe a movie or three.  Go figure, each itinerary cost the same and meant the same number of hours between leaving Fuerte and falling into the arms of my parents on the other end.

However, this year I was told that despite having a less-than-12-hour lay-over, claiming my luggage was highly recommended.  Because this is Spain.  And despite being a major transportation hub, the Madrid airport does not guard luggage after midnight.  And the contents of my bike box could finance a down payment on a house in many American communities.  Great.

So this year, it's midnight in Madrid and this is where I am set up to nap before Air France opens for business at 4 am.  Fail safe alarm: the ticket agent turning on the conveyor belt.

I am as tired and out-of-it as I look

If you ever need a cheap and easy place to stay in Madrid, I highly recommend conveyor belt 431 in Aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas.  It has a ne sais quoi.  Which I think I identified as an intoxicating mixture of fluorescent lighting hum and l'eau de floor cleaning fluid and conveyor belt grease.

28 hours and 4 flights later I am in Indiana.  But my luggage and bike are not, despite having claimed them at customs in Chicago and returned them to United myself for the last - and shortest - flight.  I can't leave to drive south until I have my belongings and am no longer wearing my mother's clothes.  I'll get to Texas...eventually.

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