29.04.2016 - 30.04.2016 7 °C
Started in Iberia Lounge, T4S Madrid Airport
8.50am Saturday 30th April
Completed Room 1605, Doubletree Downtown, Omaha NE
8.30pm, Sunday 1st May
"He who is outside the door has already a good part of his journey behind him" Old Dutch Proverb
I forgot to mention how much longer it takes to leave home nowadays compared to when were young, spring chickens. Mainly because the checklist is so much longer. eg "Passport (in my shoulder bag). Tickets (where are the tickets? On the table). Cameras (do we really need to take three plus our phones?). Keys (a bunch that looks like it could unlock The Tower of London. Why do we need to take our keys?). Corn Pads (Have I got enough to see me through?). Haemorrhoid Cream (where did I put that. Aah.. it's in the bathroom." After 20 minutes comes back from bathroom without cream). "Where's my passport?" And so it goes on.
Where were we a few thousand miles ago?
Oh yes, on the train. We now take the train to the station after Atocha (the concrete spaghetti they call a station) to Chamartin, the 'end of the line'. Much more user-friendly and like a proper station. There we paused for a 12.50€ Menu del Dia then piled into a taxi to the hotel. All the months of planning this trip and we forgot that this would be a Friday afternoon as Madrid emptied for the long Mayday weekend. It was gridlock and what usually takes about 15 minutes took us 40. Well, it killed some of the time we had on our hands.
At the airport hotel, Bob's magic Gold card got us breakfasts included and access to the "Executive" lounge. The room was booked on Hilton points (left over from last time) plu 34€. We took an optional upgrade so the suite we got cost us the same as a standard room.
Next morning, Madrid airport was as efficient and friendly as ever. Really! We now do like this airport a lot and would always use it, whenever possible. The Iberia 'Velazquez' lounge is one of the best and the breakfast laid out there was almost as good as the hotel's.
When we had boarded the train to the Terminal 4 satellite, we were suddenly engulfed by about 15 prams with their young, unsavoury and noisy contents, pushed by 15 young mothers (and a few fathers), all accompanied by a priest who looked like a young Pavarotti. We tried very hard but failed to come up with any scenario that fitted those circumstances. Where could they be going? Why a priest? Why us?? We quite expected them to turn up in Business class on our Dallas flight but somehow we were spared that pleasure.
The flight was a little late coming in, but we got off almost on time with a hardworking and friendly yet somewhat harassed cabin crew. But they looked after us well. The lunch really was very good. We were speculating that American Airlines had declined after its effective takeover by US Airways but we were pleased to be proved wrong.
The salad (Spinach with walnuts, strawberries and blue cheese) was excellent, with the Prosciutto (why not Serrano!) and Mozzarella, provided a nice starter, though I never understood the fascination with Mozzarella. Somewhat tasteless balls of goo. Then, Bob's halibut could not be faulted and John's unusual Beef Cheeks were like an excellent, tender, beef stew. Ice cream sundae to finish. Excellent!
5 hours into the flight we realised we had another 6 to go. Daunting But after a doze and a few episodes of Paul Temple, then a "light snack" of Croque Monsieur (Bob) and Thai Beef Salad (John, the beef slices were delicious) and we were soon descending through the cloud into the enormous airport at Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas. A bit earlier, the clouds had parted to give us a good view of the Virginia Coast.
Major US airports are now fitted with Automated Passport Control terminals. These were brilliant and saved those interminable queues to get through Immigration. It scanned our passports, knew who we were, took our pictures and finger prints and printed out a ticket to allow us in. The only time we had to be "grilled" was by the customs officer after we had retrieved our bags.
We then had to get back through security. And that is where the magic words above - "TSA Precheck" - came into their own. We have no idea why we both got this as the rules had changed and it was only available to US citizens. Well that was wrong as we both got it. Somehow. It means a much faster line through security. No shoes off. No laptops out. No belts off or trousers falling down. No emptying of pockets and losing the contents. We were through and into the AA lounge in about 5 minutes.
A three hour wait for our flight to Omaha and we were taking off in the dark. Very exciting! Then up into the clouds, landing in Omaha in the rain. A surprisingly busy and large airport and there was a long wait for our bags.
We had been in touch with Hertz here expecting to be late picking up our car. The manager had Emailed us and told us Barbara would be waiting with our car. She was and kindly went and fetched it for us from the garage. A short drive to the Best Western at Omaha airport and we got into bed some 26 hours after getting up in Madrid. We sank into bed tired and happy!
The story of Omaha will be continued in the next episode. Meanwhile, thank you all so much for your comments. It provides so much encouragement when sitting down and typing in the evening is not always the most appealing thing to be doing!
Night night from Nebraska.