It was a spur of the moment decision to go away for the Easter break. And I thought that Madrid in Spain might be warm and sunny. And the no frills airline was doing a good deal on fares from our local airport.
There was a scrum forecasted from Thursday onwards. The daily Telegraph reported massive traffic jams and chaos for flyers. So we panicked, took an extra day off and left on Wednesday instead.
We arrived in Madrid around five in the evening. The sun was still quite high and it felt really pleasantly warm. Our hotel was in the middle of city. Walking distance to the city, yards away from the Metro and a bus stop just opposite the entrance.
I felt that we blended in very well with the locals. Though the women are beautiful, their skin and hair colour matched mine. So I presume every one took us to be one of the natives. May be that was the reason that everyone spoke Spanish to me! I was quite surprised that though the country has been a part of the European community, English is not widely spoken or understood.
Our hotel was just a four star job! Compared to the four stars here it was amazingly well provided for. My favourite being the long table lay out in the lobby with fresh fruit, juices, water and wait for it, Champaign. They had a bottle of it opened at breakfast time too. So most people preferred it, to the usual fruit juices.
One evening we came back to find a tray with a bottle of Champaign and a basket of fruit with two glasses in our room. It had a card to wish happy birthday too. I tried to think of all the family birthdates, which will justify us accepting this gift. Alas the only one came close to was, my husbands in end of May! So thinking this must be a mistake, rang the reception to tell them. No, said the girl at the other end. It is for you and it is from us, so enjoy it. WOW, I thought this must be the first and the last time that we will be given such a treat.
The disappointing part was the lack of spoken English. Most restaurants had menus in Spanish. And it was difficult to ask for what we wanted, as the staff spoke rapidly in their own language. Eating was not the enjoyable experience it should have been, as often our choice turned out not to be to our liking.
The hotel dining room at breakfast time, used to be full of people who were Spanish, and spoke it. On Friday morning the breakfast room was full to bursting with families. Grand parents and children who have obviously come to celebrate Easter. What struck me were the thousands of families, who thronged the streets of the city, to line up for the parade, and the long queues for entering the museums and the royal palace. The botanic gardens and the sun drenched Templeo de bode. A fantastic piece of architecture, surrounded with lovely flowers. The only place I have seen where the hotels were populated by the natives. And not the usual foreign tourists.
But the ones I did manage to speak to impressed me with their kindness and friendliness. I was in one of the largest stores. Looking to buy a moisturiser. The lady asked me to wait and went looking for an English speaking assistant. Who spent a long time enquiring, of my needs, Tried various products, gave me samples and when I told her that I was from the UK, she asked me to wait and came with a beautiful book, of Spanish recipes and wine guide. This she said is a present for me, for you to take to your country.
I can’t remember ever being treated this way in any shop.
I came away wondering, if we treat our visitors in this way?
A wonderful impression to bring back home.