Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dinner in Spain

Madrid Aeropuerto
London was freezing, airports were closed, flights cancelled, trains off the rails, but I was clearly in for a charmed 24 hours as I sailed with minimal problems over to Madrid for the night. The Tube to Paddington was running, the Heathrow Express was running, the BA flight was only an hour late leaving (packed to the gills with passengers from earlier cancelled flights). Madrid itself was around 6 degrees C, not warm, but considerably warmer than London. I found myself shedding the hat and gloves, and even the overcoat. (It seems I've acclimatised to the London freeze very quickly!)

I fetched up with no trouble at the charming Hotel Orfila, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places. It's just a little bit eccentric, and the staff are very friendly. Most of them speak excellent English. I might be better off if they didn't, so that I would be forced to practise my Spanish, but that's another issue. The Hotel Orfila had remembered my last visit, and gave me the same lovely big room looking over their delightful courtyard. It's a little more wintery now - there was a heat wave when I was last here in September. Then a complementary bottle of cava bubbly was delivered and - as Philosopher Leibnitz would have put it - 'all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds'.

Hotel Orfila

I indulged in a late lunch - well, 3 pm is just the average lunchtime in Madrid, as you may remember. Crab croquettas and beef. And champagne. Ah, yes. Then I made a half-hearted attempt to read some philosophy, and opted instead for a siesta. When in Spain, etc. I had been up early after all; then there was the champagne  in the middle of the afternoon, and the fact that dinner was not to commence until 9.30 pm (a little earlier than usual, to take account of my Australian ways).

Refreshed, I set out for Alex's office - yes, he was till working at 9 pm. It is a very good thing I came for dinner, because otherwise he may just have winged it on chocolate as he so frequently does. 'Ah!', he said, when I arrived. 'You have come at a very good time! I need a trade marks attorney!' An eccentric welcome, but anyway....we spent some time comparing the trade marks in dispute in a couple of cases he is advising on, and I sharpened my trade mark lawyer side of the brain, considered the matter, and concluded (like a good attorney) that the chances of success were 'fifty-fifty'. Ah, the old days.

On the way to dinner, we  came across a car - in fact, a whole fleet of them - marked 'El Cobrador del Frac'. This, Alex explained (it being beyond my Spanish skills - I use the term loosely - to understand it) means something like 'The Debt Collectors in Tuxedos', and indeed the words were accompanied by a logo of a man in a tuxedo. We paused to consider the thought of this army of debt collectors driving their little black and white cars around to strong-arm the debtors, dressed in tuxedos. It's moments like these.

Restaurante Piñero

Dinner was at a the Restaurante Piñero This is their web site. where I had croqettas again (I like croquettas), this time made with Iberian ham (huge legs of cured ham decorated the restaurant foyer), followed by sea bass in lime (I am becoming a convert to sea bass). The sommelier was consulted, an excellent Catalonian red selected and consumed, the night wound on....Madrid has its Christmas lights on and looks very pretty. No snow!

Madrid's Christmas lights

The next day I remained in the charmed zone and managed another uneventful trip back to England. This time I flew on the budget airline EasyJet, an experience I don't plan to repeat  - no assigned seating, everyone trying to stuff too many bags in too small overhead bins to avoid bag charges, the narrowest aisles I've ever come across, only one carry-on allowed including handbag, etc. etc. You get what you pay for, as the saying goes. I think I paid less for the flight than I did for the train fares to and from the airports. EasyJet flew in to Luton, which is about 50 miles north of London. It is in a rather god-forsaken spot, and blanketed with snow at the moment, but the immigration queues were a breeze (the Border inspector was interested in St Pancras - said he'd worked in the building 20 years ago).

Luton at midday today: bleak. 1 degree C

I've now used four of the London airports

I caught a bus to the train station and a train (only 10 minutes late) straight into St Pancras - 35 minutes. When I arrived there, the concourse was bedlam, as the snow had disrupted the Eurostar. People were queued for miles and announcements were encouraging them to travel another day. Brigitta was in amongst it all somewhere, trying to get home to Luxembourg City by train, since Gatwick was closed. She made on to a train eventually.

I sailed blithely by, my charmed trip a great success all round.

Map from:

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