15 September 2019
We flew Delta to Boston and Norwegian Air to Madrid which was a six hour flight where they don’t even give you a drink of water. If you desire food on the flight, it must be ordered in advance. Otherwise your option is to order something from the Snack Bar via the entertainment monitor located on each seat. Norwegian Air is like Spirit Airline only you’re on a bigger plane … uncomfortable seats and no food. Lost my toothbrush somewhere between MSP and MAD.
Took the Metro from the airport to Puerto del Sol. A little bit of confusion at airport because Metro was under reconstruction. Found our way to the JQC Rooms. Great location but we had to hike up five flights of stairs. Room is an odd shape but very clean and with a newly remodeled bathroom. Beds with memory foam mattresses were comfortable and we tested them out real quick. Spent most of the afternoon sleeping.
Our JQC Rooms room had all the essentials.
Just to the left of my bed was a weird little hallway that led to nothing but a window that faced a gloomy brick interior courtyard. The weird hallway was useful for organizing.
After a short but restless nap it was time to get moving. We knew of a double-header of a deal … an Irish bar that was a Packer hang out. Don’t want to miss the Packer-Viking game. The James Joyce Irish Pub was our destination.
Terry and I like to check out churches because they are always peaceful, quiet and usually very interesting. We found a good one on our way. From the outside you could hardly tell it was a church. It was not freestanding and blended in with everything else.
This is the Church of Salvador and Nicholas. Inside there was a handful of people, mostly old and mostly women praying the rosary out loud in Spanish.
We like to refer to this as the Church of rubba-dub-dub (3 cherubs in a tub). This is the statuary that is front and center in the church. If you look a little harder you can find the a cross in the photo below.
This congregation gave a nod to Pope John Paul II with a bigger than life portrait over a small chapel.
Enough church, time to get back to our destination. We wandered in the general direction of Madrid’s El Retiro park and Paseo del Prado which runs along the park and Prado museum. It was a beautiful afternoon for some serendipity. Terry spotted a large gathering of people a few blocks away so we headed that direction to see what was happening.
The traffic circle near Atocha station was cordoned off, there were lots of police and many people waiting to see something. We were a little relieved it wasn’t a protest which we knew because we saw a two story carousel and lots of pop-up tents which made us think it was some kind of carnival.
Suddenly an entourage of vehicles blew through the traffic circle. Then a mix of motorcycles and more speeding cars. Was the president of Spain or some other dignitary in town?? Nobody moved. Someone said it was the Tour de Spain which was ending in Madrid. Come to think of it, on a TV monitor at the airport earlier I did see some coverage of a bicycle race and thought maybe it was the Tour de France.
Two story carousel looks like fun but no one was riding it … at least not during the race.
So now we had to wait and see what was coming. More speeding cars and then eventually the peloton arrived.
The “Vuelta a Espana” (Tour de Spain) is a race done in various locations throughout Spain. This afternoon’s 50K segment rolled out from Fuenlabrada. The entire competition is three weeks long.
So we saw the peloton go by followed by countless support cars with racks of bikes on top.
The above photo is one of the support cars. Most had a rack with 10 bikes mounted on top of the car. They were speeding along behind the group.
The intensity of the race picks up as they enter the final loop in Madrid. A Jumbotron screen projects the competition as spectators catch a blurred glimpse of riders as they speed by.
Ok, we saw the group of riders go through. Why isn’t anyone leaving??? It’s because they do nine 5.8K laps around one of the most prestigious venues in Madrid, specifically the one we were walking down to reach our Irish Pub destination.
Well that was all very exciting. I’m not much of a cycling fan but this was exhilarating to watch. We continued plowing through crowds to reach our Irish pub destination. Every so often the peloton would fly by.
We saw this really cool building wall covered with different grasses and vines. What a work of art!
There were many vendors along the race route selling everything imaginable. We finally found our destination bar, the James Joyce Irish pub and it wasn’t crowded either. I initially thought that was because of the race but then I recalled that in Spain, people don’t go out to eat dinner until 9-10 pm. Sure enough, the place was packed by 9:00.
I was giddy with joy — the Pack was winning 21-16. I think jet lag, lack of sleep, beer and Tour de Spain contributed to the giddiness.
This was our first meal since boarding the plane in Minneapolis on Saturday morning. The roast beef dinner hit the spot.
We observed two obvious packer fans watching the game intensely. Like us, they arrived long before the Spanish dinner hour of 9pm. They were sitting about two feet from the extra large screen … had to be Americans. Yep … they were.
David and Jenny joined us at our table for the last bit of the game. This delightful couple is from San Francisco. They moved to Madrid about three weeks ago. Jenny will be teaching English for one year while David works his San Francisco job remotely from Madrid. The conversation drifted in and out of football covering many topics about life in Spain, things to do in Madrid, Tour de Spain traffic, Washington, owls and much more.
After celebrating a Packer victory, Terry and I walked back to our JQV room. We passed a beautiful building lit with red lights. I think it was in honor of the Tour de Spain.
We returned safely to our quiet Puerto del Sol neighborhood. What a wonderful first day in Spain.