not THIS hotel.. THAT hotel!!
29.04.2014 - 02.06.2014 32 °C
Wednesday 30th April: Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport, IBERIA Lounge
Yes, the freshly renamed Madrid Airport has new signs going up everywhere. (Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Renamed in honour of the recently-deceased first PM post-Franco who was instrumental, with Juan Carlos, in establishing the current democracy/monarchy).
From the train, we were surprised to see that there was still snow on the mountains north of the capital:-
We arrived early at Chamartin station. If you ever come to Madrid by train and don't need to make a particular connection at Atocha, Chamartin is much more tranquil and organised than Atocha which is big and chaotic with platforms and facilities scattered all over the shop. At Chamartin you come up the escalator from the platforms, which are all next to each other, and there there are shops restaurants and taxis. It is also possible to get a train direct to the airport.
There were at least 4 restaurants offering a Menu del Dia from 10€ to 12.50€. If you ever wondered what office/shop workers did with themselves during Siesta, it seems that many of them come to Chamartin for a Menu and spend the time sorting out the problems of the World, and Spain!
No rush, so we decided to have our lunch there and then. A good Menu for 12.50€ and Stan was excited to see we had a good view over the platforms while Arthur mispronounced the destinations. ("Burgess, Stan, Cordobermann, Stan, Mal-Lager, Stan..." etc).
Continued 2/3 of the way to Miami:-
Outside the station, hoards of taxis were waiting and the one at the head of the queue had a nice large boot (we have suffered before from drivers slamming boot lids down on cases which won't fit). John wondered why a bevy of other taxi drivers were shouting what sounded like the wrong hotel name to our driver, so we told him "'ilton Barajas", several times, ensuring he understood with a nod, smile and big grin. We got concerned when we went sailing past the Hilton and down some side streets around the airport, eventually pulling up outside the Hotel Osso, or something like that. Aah... that's what those men were shouting at our driver. A lot more shouting ensued between us and our driver and we assumed he had got rather angry with us and our pronunciation.
After much more misunderstanding, he drove us to the Hilton and it was then that we realised that the poor guy was profoundly deaf and that was why they had all be shouting the wrong hotel name at him at the station. Far from ripping us off, this lovely man deducted 2€ from our fare.
It was good to be back at the Hilton here. A really nice, modern hotel but with old fashioned standards and generous policies. Bob's Hilton Diamond card had, as ever, expired just prior to our trip. Pleading to "Hilton Honors" for another Gold card fell on deaf ears. But we found a wrinkle whereby Bob got a year's Gold status by signing up for premium membership of some online frequent travellers site.
The cost of getting Bob's card was $45 and we have already got that back from "freebies" on our first night here. The stay had been paid for anyway with Hilton points from our last trip (as will be our stay here on the way home), but with Bob's Gold card we got free Wifi (15€?), room upgrade to "Executive Floor" where the "Executive Lounge" provided free “Executive” drinks and food (saving us a few Euros in soft drinks), plus free breakfast, which has to rank as one of the best… to you 28€ (so our 2 free breakfasts more than covered the cost of getting the card). Smashing hotel, smashing staff, smashing food. Shame it's not nearer the centre of Madrid or at least nearer a Metro station.
Health warning: If all our food pictures make you nauseous or hungry, please skip through the rest of this! However, we can guarantee no flash photography.
A painless trip on the hotel shuttle bus, check in and security in the priority lines then shuttle-train to the T4 Satellite terminal soon saw us in the enormous and truly great Iberia Velazquez Lounge.
Bob managed a celebratory glass of bubbly
but the only food we could force down was a cooling tub of
…a comfortable and enjoyable hour or so before the flight was being called.
We were amongst the first to “board” when business class was called, but we were sent down the left side of the airbridge and were waiting for a security door to be opened. Meanwhile, other passengers started to board down the right sight and straight on the plane. “Serves us right for travelling business class” some wag (called John) quipped. Which. surprisingly caused a smile from many trapped in the line!
Soon in our seats, though, and a "pre-departure beverage" (another fizzy for Bob, OJ for John) before we are over the mountains, which is the last of the ground or ocean we have seen as most of the Atlantic has thick cloud cover. (Just looked out of the window and it’s clearing). Hopefully the terrible tornados and storms in USA will not affect our flight to LA tomorrow.
Though we have all of this space, the junk you get given soon fills it up and things start disappearing into the workings of the “lie flat” seats. We have quilt, pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, a Samsung tablet each for the films and other entertainment, which have to be handed back, I’m afraid, amenity bag (mask, moisturisers and other merry c..p), newspapers, magazines, bottles of water etc.
Meanwhile, John’s own tablet disappeared down the back of a slot and we feared it would never be seen again, though it was eventually retrieved by scrabbling on the floor and messing about with the seat controls. However, we then managed to crush John’s shoes under Bob’s motorised foot rest. The woes of “Executive” travel.
No idea what the young woman in front thought John was up to. She is about 25 and her companion about 75. He looks like an ex- Central American dictator with a comb-over that starts at the nape of his neck. Luckily cannot see it from here. It would have put us of our food.
We digress. Onto the more important matters in hand:-
Excellent smoked salmon with blinis, and leaves with fresh, non-chewy asparagus and mozzarella cheese balls. The mustard dressing was hhhot. One criticism, the butter was rock hard. Aaaaahh!
For those of you who chose the fish cakes, you made the right decision. Bob said they were delicious.
John’s Chateaubriand was good but not great. Rather than the expected juicy steak it was more a couple of very tender pieces of beef. The potatoes au gratin were more like a tortilla.
John was wrongly given the chicken at first but maybe he should have kept it rather than hand it back for the beef.
No complaints about the Ben and Jerry’s. This one is Bob’s with berry topping and chopped pecans
Served by the equally delicious Jacqueline
After a brief respite, during which John watched the excellent film “Nebraska”, we just had a mid-flight snack:-
And on the horizon is the threat of our pre-landing light meal of pizza or chicken. Help! It may be a heavy landing at Miami!
Hangon, the trolley is out again. Here we go…
STOP PRESS from Room 426, Hilton, Miami Airport
We made it to South Beach! Great.. Loved it. Wonderful, outrageous, camp. Another early start for flight to Los Angeles in the morning. Night night.