Maybe not in that order.
Fitur – the International Tourism Trade Fair – was in Madrid this past weekend, open to the public on Saturday and Sunday (open to exhibitors and travel industry people the week prior), so we decided to go thinking it would be interesting for C and perhaps even a networking opportunity.
We found a cheap flight on RyanAir, or what I like to call Europe’s school bus in the sky. It is budget travel to an extreme, and if you know how to do it, you can do it very well. But if you don’t, they will get you for every single penny. For example, you must check in and print your boarding passes at home before you get to the airport. If you don’t, they’ll charge you something like 30 euro. You may carry on a bag…BUT, it has to be regulation size, which it just so happens is slightly smaller than your regular 22″ roller carry-on (you can find them easily throughout Europe, but still). It has to fit in the size-measurer thing, which they do check as you’re getting on board, and it says it has to weigh less than 10 kilos (which is about 22 pounds). I’ve been in places where they’ve checked that, but sometimes they don’t. Anyhoo. THEN, they file you on a really tight plane (if you’re tall you get to sit with your chin on your knees the whole way) cattle call style since there are no assigned seats (well, there ARE but you have to pay for them, of course), where the seats don’t have seat pockets, and they try to sell you stuff the whole time like smokeless cigarettes. If you know what you’re doing, you’re fine. If you don’t, you’re mush meat. BUT. They fly (for example) from Santander to Rome for like $60 round trip. So you can’t pass up fares like that, you just gotta prepare yourself. ANYhoo.
We got to Madrid on Saturday early afternoon and went right to the fair, via metro from the airport. It was HUGE. Like a dozen football fields huge. For the public, if you are considering a trip somewhere specific or somewhere undetermined, this is a great place to be. Here, half of it was Spain – I mean, Andalucia alone had a whole football field. And they all had great big exhibition spaces and fancy setups, and some places were giving things away (Spanish people LOVE free things, you should have seen the lines for a dixie cup of free margarita). There were performances too like a mariachi band, flamenco singers, African dancers, etc.
I imagine it might have been more interesting if we were industry people and could have gone during the first part, but in the end, we managed to pick up 10 kilos of pamphlets/books/etc. – many of which were specific to Spanish wine regions, some others were – amazingly, because I swore he had them all – Cantabria related guides that C says (says) he didn’t have. Oh, and I found a few fabulous things about Tanzania and Botswana. Le sigh.
That night we stayed with our friend in the city. I feel about Madrid the way I feel about New York. I LOVE going to visit. Love, love, love it. But I don’t think I could live there full time. But I LOVE it. If that make sense. We did a very, very cool bar hopping tour in a neighborhood in the city that I hadn’t ever been in – it had a little bit of everything. We went from sort of swanky hotel bar to a “heavy” bar (that plays rock) to some sort of loungy funky place with a groovy DJ and a bartender who must have been doing a little sumpn-sumpn because her eyes were nearly popping out of her head.
ANYhoo. That was that. Super fun weekend.