Madrid – here we come! All of a sudden it is time to make our final preparations. When our boys were small, we used to count forward 5 sleeps until we get on the plane, 3 sleeps until Santa Claus comes. We have 11 sleeps until we head for Madrid for 5 weeks. I’m counting forward because I seem to have an awful lot of things to do before we go.
When we first chose the dates, we had some things that we needed to get done before we went. Our car is due its annual MOT test (UK Road worthiness check) and service. When we bought the car, we got this really great deal where it has a 6 year warranty provided we ensure it has an annual check. We have only had to claim on it once, but, boy, was it worth it. You can read the story here. However there is only a 2-3 week window to get it done, so that restricted when we could leave.
Our coming home date was set by a university meeting I have to go to. I have cut my commitments to the university down this year, but I still have 6 or 8 meetings to go to. (A lot less than the 20+ I had before…) Hence 5 weeks was the longest trip we could squeeze in.
As ever, before we go, there seems to be so many things we need to organise.
My To Do List
I am a list person. When I was working, I had a list for everything, home and work. Now we are retired there is less need, but as soon as I start planning for a trip, I immediately switch back into ‘list’ mode.
- Some friends are staying in our house while we are away, so I need to put up an extra bed in one of our bedrooms that usually doubles as my ‘workroom’
- I am fitting in a 2 hour 1-1 spanish lesson. I’m looking forward to that because despite many hours doing Duolingo, I am far from fluent. However my reading is a lot better than it was.
- I need to set up an appointment in Madrid for the Monday after we arrive to get our monthly bus pass. I’ve done the research, it is such a lot cheaper than paying individual ticket prices, so worth the extra challenge of navigating the spanish website
- When we’re packing for longer, lots of extra things need to get included. We aren’t taking masses of clothes. (There is a washing machine in the apartment) But I want to take small things such as my favourite lemon & ginger teabags.
- I hope to organise a hypnotherapy session before I leave. I am determined to break a few bad habits, and I want to use the trip to help me reinforce good behaviours like lots of walking, not eating rubbish etc
- Chase my son and my sister-in-law. They are intending coming to see us at different times, but haven’t booked their flights yet. I don’t want any overlap, otherwise someone will be sleeping on the couch!
- Check with the rental agency what extra items are in the apartment, such as a hairdryer. No point in carrying one, if there is one available there.
Travel specific items
This my usual list of things that need to be remembered when going abroad
- travel insurance (ours comes free as part of our bank account, but it had a 30 day limit and we’ve had to extend it.)
- power point converters
- EHIC card – the European Health card. While we are covered by insurance, the EHIC card means we don’t have to pay for all our treatment up front and claim it back later.
- Passports! You can laugh but when I came back from New Zealand earlier in the year, the first thing I did was renew my passport as it ran out in September. We wouldn’t have been the first people to have to pay a premium to get a new passport at very short notice. There is a 6 month validity check, so even if it is in date as you go, it has to have 6 months validity on it.
- Foreign currency. We’re old fashioned. I like to use cash. The added advantage is that we had quite a bit left over from last years trip to Barcelona, which means half our spending money was already paid for. (at a far better exchange rate than today.) There are plenty of pre-paid currency cards around, but we prefer not to use them. Using cash focuses the mind. If you haven’t got the money in your pocket, you cant spend it! We do also take the bank cards with us that don’t attract currency conversion charges, just in case.
- Guide books
- Boarding passes. We are travelling with a budget airline – Easyjet, which while it is cheap and cheerful insists that you have your boarding pass printed (or on your phone) before you get to the airport otherwise you have to pay a surcharge. No thank you!
Research – what to see, what to do?
We have 2 guide books on the move. One is the Lonely Planet one which is very detailed, and gives us loads of information. The other is a DK Eye Witness travel book, which is more about the top 10 sites to see. Given we have weeks ahead of us, we don’t feel the need to do everything in 3 days. Both will be useful, in different ways.
By chance a friend dropped by on Saturday, and brought a Spanish student Therese with her. Therese is from Madrid, and kindly spent some time going through the city map with us, pointing out what is good to see, where we will find ‘locals’ restaurants. She will also be back at some stage and will contact us, and meet up.
So far, I have earmarked some museums and galleries. The palace is supposed to be beautiful. There are lots of squares and gardens, just to sit and watch the world go by. We have been told that many galleries don’t charge from 4pm, so as we will have plenty of time, we will be able to visit the same place several times in the early evening, and see different exhibitions.
Friends were there a few weeks ago, and they recommend the free Madrid Walking Tour. It takes 2.5 hours, so I think that will be what we do on our first day
What we have done on previous trips to Nice and Barcelona is to decide to take a bus or a metro to the end of the line and see what is there. Sometimes it has worked out, other times not! We have had some very strange looks particularly on small country buses in Nice.
With this amount of metro lines, there’ll be plenty to explore.
A busy few days coming up
- Monday – I’ll contact the hypnotherapist and see what availability he has. Monday afternoon I go to a jewellery / stone polishing club.
- Tuesday – Car service and MOT. I’ll use the time to do some cleaning up at the club as the club is close to where the car gets serviced, and it is easier than going home and back again.
- Wednesday – Lunch with friends then Pilates in the evening
- Thursday looks like a free day – yippee!
- Friday we are driving up to Perth to meet friends, then I have to be back in town for a meeting at 4:30pm
- Saturday and Sunday I am giving a Silver Casting class / workshop – which is good fun, but also tiring
- Monday afternoon and evening at the club. I have to go over the club accounts with the treasurer. It’s our club AGM the week after we get back, so we need to make sure everything balances.
- Tuesday 2 hours of very necessary Spanish lessons !
- Wednesday – wash everything in sight. I find it easier to pack if everything is folded ready to go, then I just do the final selection, and put the rest away. Then I get to stretch out at Pilates in the evening
- Thursday -final packing!
- Friday – we’re off. We’re getting picked up at 10am. We have a friend coming with us and she is staying over the night before, so a couple of beds to change and a quick tidy up ready for the arrival of our house guests.
What will we forget?
To be honest, I take a pretty relaxed view of ‘we forgot x’. There are plenty of shops in Madrid and it is fun trying to find items in strange shops. As long as we have what we need for the first night, anything else can be got as we find out what is missing.
As long as we have passports, money, phones, overnight stuff & laptops, we’ll be fine. It might be a bit ‘interesting’ as we arrive, because there is due to be an airport strike that day, including baggage handlers. But if we have overnight kit in our hand luggage, it won’t matter. We’ll just go with the flow…
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