From Hull to London to Madrid - the Adventure Begins ...
Whew! What a day! It all started at 7 a.m. when I woke and gathered my wares for a full day's journey to Madrid, Espana. At 10 to 8, I caught a local bus into town, but of course I caught one that was not going directly to the station (first time for that, of course.) So I got off the bus at the closest stop and walked about 200 yards with my large duffel bag to the bus station.
At first I had trouble finding the right bus, but I was able to figure it out in time, and climbed aboard for the journey to London. I got my first opportunity to cross the Humber Bridge... the largest suspension bridge in the world, and it felt like the bus was going to be blown over the edge, the wind was that strong.
During the ride I ate a sandwich, read some more of "The Satanic Verses," and enjoyed the scenery of the journey. The bus arrived in London, on schedule at 1.05 p.m. It was such a nice day I wished I had allowed myself a few hours - heck, a few days - here in London. But I couldn't, so I hopped on a shuttle that took me to Victoria Station, where I caught the Gatwick Express train down to Gatwick Airport. During this ride we passed by the site of the rail disaster at Purley - the crash that nine days ago killed 9 people. (Seems like lately I happen to pass by every British disaster site within a few weeks of the incidents.)
At Gatwick I checked in, had my baggage searched, and bought a sandwich before waiting an hour for my flight. At 3.55 p.m. the gate opened and a short while after I were on board the British Airways 737 bound for Madrid. It was a nice flight, and since the plane never really went too high in the sky, I was able to get a panoramic view of the South Coast of England, the English Channel, Northern France and Brittany, the Bay of Biscay and the Northern Spain landscape.
The flight arrived on time at 7.30 p.m. - a 1.45 flight (Spain is an hour ahead of Britain). After breezing through customs and getting my luggage without having to utter a word of Spanish, I met Viv, who was waiting for me at the gate. It was the first time I had seen her in three weeks. It was also comforting to know that I wouldn't have to worry about the fact that I speak practically zero Spanish.
After relaxing and chatting for a few minutes, Viv and I caught a bus back into the city, and I was able to catch my first glimpses of Madrid. The traffic was terrible, but at first glance it looked similar to many big cities I have visited before.
When we got off the bus, we were immediately challenged by the aggressive Madrid drivers as we made our way to the Metro station. We caught this train back to Viv's residence, which is located right next door to the Iraqi Embassy (and me with my copy of the evil "Satanic Verses" in my backpack. Oh no!)
When we got into the residence, I said my hellos (excuse me, holas) to my friends from back in Hull. They included Liz Ortega (Viv's old roommate), Kurt Dross, and Kurt's girlfriend Angie. Afterward we ate some dinner, then Kurt, Viv and I caught the Metro to try and find a cheap hostel where I could stay. Kurt said he knew of a cheap one, so we went there... the Hotel Garcia. It was cheap, and it looked a bit dodgy on the outside, but it was a nice room, and it was quiet.
After I settled in, Kurt and Viv left and I played some solitaire, listening to Neil Young, relaxing in a country that no hablo ingles. Following a busy day like this, I had no problem whatsoever getting to sleep.