Zero Days: Our Journey from Santiago to Bangkok
Our flight reservations had us leaving Santiago on April 30 and arriving in Bangkok on May 3. Even with an 11 hour time jump into the future, that was a long time traveling… Well, except for the fact that we had a massive layover in Madrid!
Don’t worry, it wasn’t all bad, Miguel managed to score us both upgrades to Business Class from Santiago to Madrid! He has a status with LAN, so he can always get free upgrades, but needed to use some of his coupons to upgrade me as well. He had to apply for it 48 hours before the flight and we ended up being #1 and #2 on the list. If I thought that getting to use the business class lounges was amazing..I had no idea about business class.
Those of us flying economy (which, let’s face it..at several thousand dollars for a ticket in business…most of us are flying economy) have all passed by the wonderful looking pod-like seats in business class, sometimes already occupied by passengers sipping champagne (seriously, that’s like rubbing salt in the wound). For me, I always tried to ignore what was happening as I passed by (truthfully, you don’t want to dwell too much on being crammed into economy for 10…11..12 + hours).
The first thing I did..? …Explore all the awesome stuff of course! Let’s forget the fact that the seat reclines 180 degrees and has a built in massage feature…but spots for shoes, magazine rack, pockets for your things, reading lights, ect.
Champagne? Wine? Beer? Nuts? Enjoy the wait and…drink. The last time we were on a plane, Miguel sent me a picture of his menu up front (cruel, but hilarious). It was a great dinner…corn soup with basil, salad with artichokes and sundries tomatoes, steak with mushrooms and flan with pistachio sauce…(and of course, wine). Breakfast was a little disappointing, but only because it was pretty light and I am generally a hungry person.
We didn’t sleep much on the plane (we allowed ourselves about 4 hours), but LAN always has a great selection of movies and it was pretty cozy with the combo of the seat, pillow and amazing duvet.
We arrived in Madrid on the afternoon of May 1 and left around 11 am the next day. So, Miguel had booked a room at the Hilton near the airport for the evening. We had plans to try to start switching over to Thai time with all of our traveling to prevent such intense jet lag when we arrived in Bangkok. Despite that, we figured we had a good part of the afternoon to kill in Madrid.
As you may have read in a previous post, going through immigrations in madrid was cake. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even look at my passport as he stamped it (which we appreciated as we were keen to get out of the airport as quickly as possible). The Hilton provides a shuttle from the airport to the nearby hotel, so we took that as soon as we got our bags.
The hotel was nice, though decorated in a modern, distant and generalized kind of way that you would expect from an airport hotel. The absolute first thing we wanted to do was take a shower. Our toiletry kits were in the good suitcase, so Miguel tried to unlock it. Fortunately or unfortunately, this was one of those suitcases with a built in lock. The zippers locked into an area on the side of the suitcase and prevent unauthorized opening. Somehow, between Santiago and Madrid, our combination stopped working. Great! We spent about 15 minutes struggling with it before we called downstairs at the hotel and asked if they could help us in any way.
A hotel employee arrived at our room. He also tried to get it unlocked for a few minutes before basically saying that it wasn’t going to work. I asked if he could cut it off and, sure…of course he could. We expected him to need to go back downstairs for bolt cutters…Nope! He had them right outside the room (this must not be so uncommon!). So, after our lock was cut off, we showered and headed out!
The metro was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel (although, we should note that the time on the metro from our hotel to where we wanted to go was about 30 minutes).
I have a good friend in Santiago that is originally from Madrid. So, when I asked him what we should do during our limited time there, he had a great list of suggestions. He sent me the following:
“I suggest you take the metro to Callao Station..From there walk St. Preciados down to Sol Square..its very nice…from there ask or nav with a map to Plaza Mayor, is close from there…very nice place….Ask for Mercado de San Miguel, its just a few streets behind Plaza Mayor and is a very nice place to have a beer with tapas…after that, resume walking to Plaza de Oriente. There is the Royal Palace, the Royal Theater and a nice park to have a walk…Actually there are two nice parks, one in front of the palace, this one is little and other medium size but so pretty in the west side of the palace called jardines del moro” (I’ll have to note that my awesome friend even sent screenshots of maps for us!).
While we knew we couldn’t do all of it (mostly because we had been awake since we left Santiago which meant we were exhausted), we decided to pick a few and go with it. However, if you have more time and feel a bit more lively while in Madrid, I suggest following his suggestions as they were pretty amazing!
From the metro station, we asked directions to Plaza Mayor and started walking (it was only about a 10 minute walk from the metro, but we took our time as the area was really bustling). My first impressions of Madrid are great! I’m not sure if there were so many people around because it was a holiday or that is how the downtown area normally is, but it had a great vibe!
As we were walking, we passed by a sneaky pastry shop. I say sneaky because they had some of the most impressive window displays I have ever seen in a pastry shop (so of course we had to go in and check it out…right?). I will say for myself that we hadn’t eaten in a while, so we can’t be blamed! We bought something small to share and then left and kept walking (it was awesome, although I’m not sure what it was exactly!).
Playa Mayor was really beautiful, although full of people! It was a great place to see! Once we walked around a bit and took some pictures, we asked around and got directions to Mercado de San Miguel. On my previous trip to Spain, I had really enjoyed all the tapas and was keen to eat at another tapas restaurant.
Mercado de San Miguel was incredible! Think of a big warehouse (a nice one) filled with tons of booths with pretty much everything you could imagine to try (think of a massive food fair). While it was really cool and we enjoyed walking around, it was sardine style packed and we didn’t feel up to fighting through crowds to eat.
We left the Market and headed out to find a quieter tapas restaurant. After some time, we settled on one that we found on a quiet side street. While there were still plenty of people, it wasn’t as crowded as some of the other areas (plus we got to people watch a group of incredibly drunk tourists at the Irish pub across the street…at 6:00 pm…). The tapas place was so so, but mostly because everything they offered was fried and we really don’t eat anything fried normally.
We chilled for a while, but left not long after eating to make our way back to the hotel (and besides, we were working on a time that was 6 hours ahead of Madrid).
Once back at the hotel, we crashed pretty early… with that being said, we woke up around 5 am for our 11:00 am flight to help adjust to Bangkok time (5 am in Madrid, 11 am in Thailand).
That’s the end of our short lived time in Madrid, next stop…Bangkok.