Monday, July 2, 2018

Madrid

It was a short day today. We lost 6 hours flying over from Miami. Good thing too, because we're both pretty beat. The flight went on time and our passage through customs was smooth. We even managed to get the customs person to stamp the correct page of our passports (the ones with our visas) without too much fuss.

I'm sure we looked like your average overwhelmed tourists as we wandered around looking for our hotel shuttle, but that too went relatively easily. The shuttle showed up pretty promptly and took us to our hotel very near the airport:
It's pretty isolated out near the hotel. Laura and I went on a couple of walks trying to find anything useful--a grocery store, an ATM, but kept running into dead ends where pedestrians were clearly not meant to go. That said, the room is lovely, clean and well-appointed. Also, the international electric outlet adapters that Emily got me for my birthday work like a charm. Thanks Emily!
We exchanged a $20 at the hotel desk at the very noncompetitive rate of 0.62 euro/dollar instead of the going rate of 0.86 euro/dollar. Upside, the hotel clerk told us how much the bus to downtown cost and gave us our euros in coins that were appropriate for the bus. Consulting google maps, we were able to get downtown to the Royal Palace of Madrid using the public transportation, bus to metro to city center about 45 mins. We had no particular yearning to see the palace, but it was a goal for us as we figured out how to get about. We have a full day here tomorrow before flying to Seville on Wed. Today was just to get familiar and get something to eat. Tomorrow we'll head down there again and perhaps take a tour or visit a museum. I actually didn't get a picture of the palace, but the view out the front was typical beautiful old European cityscape (pardon me while I squint into the sun, haha):
There were also a lot of statues of famous Spaniards presumably. Like this guy:
He looks a bit like he's been hitchhiking and without luck for so long that some birds have roosted on him. There were a lot of other statues. I didn't see any women which is probably one reason why these women were protesting the patriarchy on one of the nearby squares:
Neither of us was terribly hungry, so we stopped and grabbed some empanadas at this place in the palace district:
 A few technical things. Our T-Mobile One phones work pretty well. Unlimited texting and data (albeit throttled back from US rates) with nothing to do and no extra fees.

We hit a cash machine with our Capital One debit card and after ATM fees etc, pulled about a 0.83 euro/dollar exchange rate. We also made a few credit card transactions using a Capital One Quicksilver card and pulled a 0.86 euro/dollar exchange rate (the going rate according to google). We'll try to use the Quicksilver card as much as possible. Also, if you have one of these cards and logon to your Capital One account and set up a "cash advance" PIN number, it allows the card to work with the "chip & PIN" systems ubiquitous here in Europe. The ticket machine at the metro station asked for the PIN, we used the aforementioned cash advance PIN, and the transaction completed successfully. We researched the heck out of credit cards before this trip and Capital One seems to be the best in terms of exchange rates, no foreign transaction fees, and now the chip & PIN technology.

Tomorrow we hope to be Madrid tourists for a day, then Wed fly to Seville to settle down for a while.



A España!

I'm sitting at the gate with Laura here at the Miami International Airport. We sailed through bag check and security. We were a bit worried about the weight of our checked bags and they did come in a kilo high (both), but the person checking us in let it slide. He even checked our carry-on rollers through to Madrid for free.

We've had a great time these past three weeks or so, seeing the country, visiting friends and relatives and finally hanging with Emily and Rachel down at the beach for a few days. They just dropped us off about an hour ago and we already miss them a bunch. Somehow it's a bit harder this time than when they leave Walla Walla or when we go back to Walla Walla, but I know that we're never more than a day away from them.
Rachel now has the car for the year. (I keep freaking out thinking I've left my keys somewhere, but then remember, I don't have any keys now.)

We closed out the airbnb condo this morning and drove to Rachel's new neighborhood. She has recently moved to one of the ubiquitous duplexes on the south side of the University of Miami campus.
We met her new roommate briefly. She seems like a good fit.

We went to Taste Buds of India for lunch. They had a buffet that was good, but not nearly as extensive as Walla Walla's Indian Cuisine restaurant on Main St. In particular, I was seriously missing the mango lassi.

After a bit of suitcase reorganization that involved annexing most of Rachel's living room,
We went to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. I actually showed my Whitman ID and got in free! It's definitely geared to kids, but they had a lot of interesting stuff for adults too. I particularly liked the aquariums. Also, the view of downtown Miami was beautiful.
The Schueller women, in particular Emily, got fixated on this puzzle in the "Design Lab".
They eventually solved it, but needed a hint. I saw first hand the persistence that Emily has developed working at MRL these past couple of years, haha. There was a fun touch sensitive dance floor upon which Emily and Rachel demonstrated their prodigious dance skills.

Our visit to the museum closed with a wonderful, immersive, planetarium show. If you're ever in the area, this museum is worth the price of admission (even if it ended up being free for me, haha).

On a tight schedule, we hit La Sandwicherie for dinner. I had the "exotic salad" which was  mix of greens, avacado, mango and diced turkey. With the vinaigrette dressing, it was a nice mix of flavors. Laura and I tried to keep it light since we're on an overnight flight to Madrid and are hoping to sleep for most of it.

As I write this final post from the US for a while, there are some sad football fans in the gate area in the wake of Spain's upset loss to Russia in the round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup. This is a bit rushed, so pardon the errors. I'm going to pull the trigger on this and then change the timezone on the blog to central European summer time (+6 hrs from the east coast, +9 hrs from the west coast). See you on the other side!