Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Adventure of EuroBall Season #6 Begins!


On Monday, December 15, 2014, at noon, Laurie and I drove to Los Angeles International Airport to start my long journey to Madrid, Spain via Moscow, Russia.

The team that I will be coaching, the Murcia Cobras, took advantage of Russian Airline Aeroflot's really cheap prices on flights to the continent. The only hitch is that you have to fly to Moscow first and then board another Aeroflot plane to your final European destination.

The airport was busy and after cruising the parking lot for 20 minutes looking for a nonexistent parking space, we decided to double park. We did this just long enough to unload the car and say our goodbyes.

Definitely not the way that I wanted to say farewell to the love of my life.

The Aeroflot plane to Moscow departed 25 minutes late, well below their 40 minute average LAX delay as was touted on the internet.

Interestingly, there was a whole lot of Russian being spoken by the passengers. Aeroflot gave good service with solid food choices and individual entertainment monitors for each customer.

Watching a documentary on Italy's Palio in Russian with English sub-titles was unique. I also watched three Big Bang episodes, a Mentalist and, of course, Dr. Zhivago to while away the 12 hour and 25 minute flight.

There was no leg room in economy class, no surprise, but the skinny, female seat mate that shared our two seat row allowed me a bit more lateral comfort when she pulled up the adjoining arm rest. That was unique!

About half way through the flight a passenger a few rows away was thought to have died due to a heart attack or stroke according to fellow passengers. Some emergency oxygen tanks aboard did the trick avoiding the Grim Reaper and allowing the flight to continue.

Or maybe they gave her Russian Mineral Water.

Powerful stuff!

We had an extremely LOUD, young Russian woman who talked to her much quieter male companion for the whole flight in both English and Russian so that we could all keep up with her life's version of The Jersey Shore. At one point she started babbling about how she could not make it all the way to Mother Russia without smoking.

About 30 minutes later the smoke detector in one of the bathroom's informed the crew that someone had indeed lit up on the flight. You don't suppose . . .

I loved it when the passengers erupted with clapping and cheers as we touched down in Moscow.

Now for a four hour layover in the modern and efficient Moscow airport before my Aeroflot five hour and 20 minute flight to Madrid.

This flight left an hour late. 

The mood in the Gate's waiting area was volatile, reminiscent of the Russian Revolution scenes that I had just watched in Dr. Zhivago.

I SCORED AN AISLE SEAT IN THE EXIT ROW WITH NOBODY SITTING NEXT TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

More clapping and cheering as we landed in Madrid.

I sailed through customs easily and was glad that 26 1/2 hours after leaving Casa Contreras in Camarillo, California, USA . . .


I HAD FINALLY ARRIVED!!!

It was the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

I got a taxi ride into the Centro de Madrid that took no time at all, given the lack of traffic at midnight, to drop me off near my humble accommodations near the . . .

One of Europe's great meeting squares

Love that sign on Puerta del Sol

Although it has moved to a different Puerta del Sol building since the last time that I was here.

It was late, I was hungry so I had to go to . . .

One of Madrid's Best Ham Stores

Croissant Mixto Por Favor

The late night crowd at el
Museo del Jamon

Lots of ham but of course

The ham and cheese croissant, a caña (beer) and some chorizo cost me a whopping 2.80 Euros, i.e., about $4.25 USD.

I can do this!

Time for some late night strolling . . .

The Bear on Puerta del Sol

Actually, this bear trying to score some fruit from this tree is the symbol for the Spanish capital.

Light the buildings!

Sunny and nice on Wednesday

Madrileños love their tile work

Indeed they do

Mysterious Woman

Real Madrid

Great team, but not my favorite in La Liga.

I was getting weary but I had one more place to visit before crashing . . .

Oh, YES!!!

Opened in 1894 and open 24/7 for my dining convenience.

The Chocolateria San Gines
may be humble inside . . .

But their mud thick hot chocolate
and dipping churros are RICH!!!

Time to crash, it had been a long day (or two) traveling half way around the globe.

Breakfast

Right across the street from my hotel, it hit the spot after I slept in until 9:30, about four hours later than normal.

I wonder why? 

Cafe Iris was the scene of the
trip's first Cafe con Leche

The tortilla de patata was downright good as well.

There's That Bear Again

A bit more official looking this time.

Time to hit Madrid's Christmas Market
located in the . . .

Plaza Mayor

Keeping an eye on the Plaza Mayor
at all times is King Philip III

Lots of stalls selling . . .

Nativity Scene Statues of all sizes,

Christmas Ornaments and,
of course, . . .

TOYS!!!

Bullfight Scene
on a Plaza Mayor Bench

A Spanish Inquisition
Torture Scene Too

At one time or another, both of these events unfolded in the Plaza Mayor. 

Want to pose for a picture?

This was more to my taste!

Speaking of the Spanish Inquistion . . .

We were tortured in Catholic elementary schools back in the 1950s by women in get-ups just like these.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs . . .

I love Madrid's street signs posted on buildings but not when I'm driving.

Por ejemplo . . .







Historic Signs Too . . .



Meanwhile, near the Opera Building . . .

A Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause Sighting

Santiago Sighting too

Temptation EVERYWHERE on
this fine Wednesday morning

Dried Fruits

Looked healthy, so I passed.

More Signs

Street Musicians all over the place

They were all good today, more on them at the end of the blog.

Christmas Tree at Puerta del Sol

Inside same said tree

Madrid still likes bull fighting

Me too

How Cheeky

Speaking of Cheeky

One of my favorites but it was too early

I'd look good in Flamenco pants

Don't you agree?

Vino

I walked into a church . . .

The BVM

A Nativity Scene

I hear that the Madrid Zoo is nice

I've never been there though.

More Dried Fruits

I was still strong!

I was now at the Atocha Train Station to purchase my Senior Citizen Tarjeta Dorado discount card for all of the train trips that I plan to take in the next few months.

I used it to buy my train ticket to Murcia on Thursday morning. The only drawback was having to wait for an hour in the queue before being able to help bolster the sagging Spanish economy.

Standing Guard

Another Christmas Tree

I here this Goya guy is good

Tell me your story . . .

Winter in the Botanical Gardens

I liked the colors

Hola Juan!

Stanford graduate, I presume

As noted, he's BIG in España

This guy's fingers are even better
when he is strumming the guitar

Iglesia de los Jerónimos


It overlooks one of the world's greatest art museums . . .

The Prado

In order to get David Lassen into heaven, I offered up my sacrifice honoring the "No Pictures" signs during my 2 1/2 hours touring only a small portion of the Prado's truly overwhelming collection.

The Spanish Inquisition torture thing had me on edge too I must add.

As it turns out Goya is good.

Cabbage Art

If Tomás de Torquemada
only knew . . .

Nothing says Christmas like a Gecko

I like blue

And I like vino tinto too

Laurie loves fans

El Corte de Inglés department store

The Christmas Loteria
is HUGE in España

Vendors were everywhere and there were long lines of buyers trying to win the big prize known as "El Gordo."

I was not offended.

The flag of Asturias

That was the home province of my grandparent's on my Mother's side of the family.

Plaza Mayor at Night
  
Plaza Mayor's Bull Fight Bar
La Torre del Oro Bar Andalú
Service Staff full of yuletide cheer

I agree!

Golden Tree on Puerta del Sol

Coaching shoes for the 2015 season?

Light up the Wreaths

No, gracias

Otra vez, no gracias!

She played an angelic harp

"Chestnuts roasting . . ."

A Blue Chrisatmas

This one is for Brian FitzGerald

This one is for Laurie Contreras

I need more greens in my diet

But I'll settle for more jamon!

The Catedral de la Almudena


It was an action packed day with a lot of walking and I was tired so it was back to my hotel.

Great no frills hotel in a
GREAT location

At 27 Euros a night, it fit my needs. I have stayed here three previous times if memory serves me correctly.

Ah, what the heck, I'm good for another "chocolate y churro" run before nodding off!

Now, enjoy some of Madrid's street musicians . . .

video
Singers on Plaza Mayor

video
Glass Music Magic


video
Angelic Harp Music