Kicking things off in Madrid – Leaving Malta

Madrid wasn’t the first city I had in mind when starting my European travels. I guess it’s partly due to my affinity with Germany and Northern European culture that I’ve often skipped potential visits to one of the more positive parts of Europe, preferring a cold pint in a miserable pub than a fiesta and subsequent siesta. I was feeling brave though, knowing that maybe it was time for a bit of fun, so in the blink of an eye, I was off to Madrid.

Jetting off from Malta

Malta is a relatively simple airport to navigate. Waltz your way through the all too laid-back airport security and swiftly you end up in the only departure lounge, after you’ve been funneled through a long-winding duty free shop — of course. After surviving the irresistable urge to buy a litre of whisky, 200 hundred cigarettes and huge tubes of sweets you’ll enter the lobby to find there is a grand total of one restaurant at your disposal; a Hard Rock Cafe which is remarkably cheaper than their real-world brothers. If you’re hankering for a coffee hit there is a Starbucks, a WHSmiths for overpriced neck cushions and some random eatery and that’s tremendously expensive. Ultimately, nothing thrilling and certainly not enough to kill the two hours before my flight. In the end, as I was peckish, I opted for a Pulled Pork burger and a glass of coke — truly living the high life.

Sooner rather than later boarding had started and as I hunted down my seat I was completely not shocked to find a Spaniard, of course, occupying my seat with I presume the rest of his family. One downside of Ryanair’s seating policy is that people want to sit together, but they don’t want to pay for it. Being someone who travels alone often I get this quite and bit. As I was in a jovial mood I generously agreed to switch seats to 8A. At least I could get out of the plane quicker I thought. This was a mistake.

My new seat was in fact occupied by a bag, next to another bag, next to a man who must have caught deafness on the way up as he seemingly couldn’t hear me. In the end it took a firm prod and a point for him to say the seats were occupied. After explaining to him I had switched with another person he muttered and let me past, only for his wife and daughter to approach shortly after (arising mysteriously from two other seats) claiming the seats were in fact theirs and that I should sit where they had come from. I had no further interest in playing this game and insisted they speak with the stewards. From there I put my earphones in and spent at least an hour being glared at by a middle-aged Spanish man who couldn’t bear being away from his wife for more than an hour — I thought he’d have been pleased. What I witnessed shortly after take-off was genuinely impressive — he negotiated a remarkable exchange of seats which resulted me sitting next to an elderly woman, a middle aged woman and eventually after 40 minutes of solid swapping having the aisle to myself. I’m not sure how that happened, but I wasn’t arguing.

Arriving at Madrid

We touched down at around 4pm with the temperature a solid six degrees and no rain. The airport is huge. We spent at least 20 minutes driving to the terminal building before exiting the plane efficiently and in an organised and calm manner — or not. As always people scrambled off the plane as if there was a bomb on board and had been piloted by Sandra Bullock. Flying Ryanair for a while now, I sat down and waited for the majority of people to leave.

Being part of the Schengen group — something the British government foolishly declined to join — leaving was remarkably swift. No passport checks, just grab your bags and leave. Amusingly the ‘items to declare’ aisle was blocked off. So as I wandered through with my bag full of contraband I jumped into a cab and headed to Hotel Nuevo, which turned out to be a solid 4km out of the city centre. Being New Years Day and most of the city was presumably shutdown I decided to grab some food, have a pint and get some kip.

Easiest ways to get into central Madrid

  • By taxi: It’s around €25 – €30 in an Uber, while regular taxis cost up to €50. My hotel being half way cost me €14.
  • Public transport: There are regular links between the airport and Nuevos Minesteros via the T1-T2-T3 line. From there catch the tube to Metro Cuatro Caminos, Tirso di Molina and then finally walk to Madrid Centro.
  • By car: It’s around a 20 minute drive. Jump on the M-14, continue until you hit the M-40, then the A-3 and then follow the signs for the centre.

Note, if you’re ever going to use Uber in Madrid (or Spain) then you need to have your passport number handy — it’s a legal requirement to supply this. All of it is regulated by the government, so perfectly safe.

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