It was the end of 2006 - and quite a few thoughts starting flowing through my head :
1. Man - I need a break
2. Man - I need a holiday
3. Damn - The CAT exam is tomorrow
4. How much is Lufthansa - Che - Mad - Che ??
A quick sms to dad - " I've decided to go to Spain. Be good and sponsor my airfare", met with the affirmative and that was it. Some quick online ticketing and I was packing my bags. I was quite obviously going for the art, culture and architecture of Spain. Two days of reading up on the internet and I had my dad convinced. Picasso, Raul and Morientes; I said to him, so what if the last 2 sounded suspiciously like soccer players. My dad doesn't seem to know the difference. :)
The office excuse was simple - "Off to Spain to get drunk; spend new years and party". Hang on that wouldn't work - "Off to Spain to meet my old school mate " . I tried that with a colleague - and from the reaction I got; I knew it had to be changed immediately. Finally, I settled for " Off to Spain for my school mates wedding". This fitted in quite alright; I was instantly perceived to be this great devoted friend who was willing to travel miles for a friends wedding. Perfect !
The visa remained the only minor detail - and the usual desi trick of applying for a French visa regardless of where you are going in Europe worked perfectly. I was now well on my way. Madrid - Barcelona and Tenerife - 13 days and nights (mainly nights) of venting all that built up frustration through the year. Finally :)
On the way... ( Frankfurt Airport)
Our first destination - Madrid. We had quite a tough time convincing a few of our mates that the name of the city was just 'Madrid' and not ' Real Madrid' as they vehemently believed. But then that's a different story altogether.
Madrid - Spain's most beautiful city and its capital has architecture which could so easily take your breath away. And the first sight of it; as we found after an arduous tube journey is simply mind blowing.
Well planned layout, beautiful architecture, great character and the finest looking women. The city has a number of cultural and historic attractions - museums, gardens , sculptures and so on or at least that's what I heard when I returned.
Its probably about the right time now to introduce my travelling companion - the blighter standing to my right. Yup, veteran traveller, frequent flier and online air ticketer extrordinaire - A. Keerti Prasad. ( 680? Gaurav? Lets just settle with KP). KP belongs to that category of the new age metro-sexual. Well bred, well groomed, well organized and well in time . In short everything that I am not.
That was us - just before we embarked to one of the best night clubs one could ever ever go to. 'Pacca' - no connection with Chennai's 'Pasha' - not even by a long shot.
Here is testimony to that :
To say that the women in Spain are just beautiful would be a lie ; almost as much as a lie as saying they are easy to communicate with. The women in Spain are extremely patriotic about their land and its culture, so much so that seem to know only 2 words in English. Had those words been the 2 English equivalents of the 2 spanish words I had learnt - ' Si' and 'Bonito' the synergy would have been perfect. Instead the 2 English words, they decided to learn were "NO ENGLISH". To add to that a mean looking face and you knew that you had committed a grave error by not investing in a " Learn Spanish in 12 days" course before you embarked.
The next day was the josh day ; and we managed to do quite a bit. Amongst them was visiting the Institute De Empressa - one of the World's leading business schools . Next on the list was the Santiago Burnabeau - the home of the hallowed Real Madrid. The guided tour costed us a mere 10 Euros and as you can see; was worth every single penny.
The rest of our touring group had now arrived; making us 8 in all - 'Madrasis in Madrid'. And in true - Madarasi style the first thing we did was search for some food. Very soon we located an authentic Spanish restaraunt and made ourselves comfortable with some Spanish Paella and Sangrilla. Paella is a most delightful dish made up of sea food, chicken, vegetables all mixed with a delicious saffron flavored rice. My love affair with Paella had begun and from then on; every tour member in the group was forced to have a bite with me at every Paella opportunity.
The night that presented itself was another crazy one ending in day - leaving us very little time the next day to do any sight seeing. In that time, we visited amongst other areas of interest, the Royal Palace - the Plaza Espana , Puerta Del sol - and the Anna flyover. Of which everything ( except the last one) was distinctly Spanish - each having its own characteristic charm.
The magic fountains at the Plaza de Espana.
Legend has it that, this fountain like many others in cities across the world has little or no historical significance and is present only to add aesthetic value.
Right in front is the statue of Miguel De Cervantes. Miguel De Cervantes is the author of 'Don Quixante '- the popular book about 8 travelling Indians who tried to impress the Spanish women using just the 2 words 'Si' and ' Benito'. It truly is a great read.
And then it was time to leave. We had to get to Barcelona - and 3 options were available to us. Train, renting a car or hopping onto a bus. We had dragged ourselves to the station, a really beautiful one ( Just compare it with our Chennai central)
And were informed , that there were no options by train. We then surveyed the option of renting a car but for some reason were shooed out of the rental store with the store owner mumbling and closing the door behind us. What on earth was happening ? Must have been time for the famous Spanish siesta , I thought. My phone then rang ; and my buddy on the line was screaming 'patas', 'patas' . I hung up. This siesta fever had struck him as well, I thought.
We then saw it on the news - there apparently had been a bomb blast in the Madrid Airport. This meant our chances of getting out of there further diminished..
Helter, skelter and we somehow managed to book a bus to Barcelona. Maybe the bomb blast , the wild-goose chase and the strange behavior of Miguel De Cervantes had all been subtle signs of things to come.
Madrid had been magnificient, but as you would probably find out soon - not even half as eventful as Barcelona.