My history with the Prado is storied. I visited on the first day of my first trip to Madrid and loved it. Such an impressive building and magnificent collection of art. On the last night of that trip, I had gone to a restaurant where for my main course I ate fish. The main selected by my travel companion was pig’s foot. For starters we both had tortilla – potato omelette. I blame the tortilla. Later that evening we were both violently ill and spent the night vomiting. The next morning my friend continued on his journey to the south of Spain while I had to wait until the evening for my return flight to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, my inners were still in ruins. Any food or liquid (other than lukewarm water sipped at a very sedate pace) was violently expunged from my body (and the exit chosen wasn’t really up to me). As it was a Sunday, it meant that on that day only, the Prado had free entrance. I remember how plush and comfortable the toilet facilities were at that grand museum. I chose my destination wisely. I could rub my chin learnedly looked at the Velasquez in the Prado before sprinting to the gents to hurl. A bit of Goya? Why not? Followed by a gallop to the tastefully appointed toilets.
Now it was 2022. This time it would be different.
Two days before travel an alarm bell rang. Ireland was to face a sub-zero winter cold spell starting on Thursday night. What luck. While the nation struggled to stay warm, I would be gallivanting in Spain. Such perfect timing.
On Friday morning I inched my way to work along the icy roads. Snow had fallen and as it was so wet, the snow and ice had frozen. It had reached minus four in places the night before. The news from my friend on the 9.30am Ryanair flight was grim. Stranded on the plane until lunchtime, there were insufficient de-icing machines to cope with the demand. Her flight eventually departed at 1pm. I wasn’t worried – what else could you expect from Ryanair. I was flying Aer Lingus – they weren’t as haphazard as their budget counterpart. The backlog of planes waiting to depart would by be processed by our departure time.
At the airport all seemed calm. It was crowded for sure but the horror stories from earlier that day of people imprisoned on board aircraft for five hours waiting for the de-icing machine seemed to have been resolved. We were debating whether we’d have a glass of wine on a terrace upon arrival in Madrid or whether we should have an early night to prepare for Toledo.
Staring at the departures screen my heart sank. The flight to Madrid was delayed until 20.00. Upon closer inspection my heart soared once again. That was aRyanair flight. The 17.40 Aer Lingus was bravely holding on.
At Gate 409 the crowds were gathering. It was 5pm. We waited for the signal to start queuing. A huge new crowd of German speakers joined our throng. It must have been an IT glitch as suddenly the 17.00 flight to Dusseldorf was also departing from gate 409. That was cutting it tight. Two flights within thirty minutes from the same gate?
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the flight to Dusseldorf has been cancelled due to weather conditions. You will receive a text or email with the next half hour for rebooking options. Please source a hotel for accommodation and keep receipt to allow Aer Lingus process possible reimbursement. Please exit via Gate 408’. The gate beside ours.
‘Poor them’ I thought smugly. it was 17.30. We’d only be a little bit delayed thanks to the cancelled German flight.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the flight to Madrid has been cancelled due to weather conditions. You will receive a text or email with the next half hour for rebooking options. Please source a hotel for accommodation and keep receipt to allow Aer Lingus process possible reimbursement. Please exit via Gate 408’.
How could this be? I was meant to be travelling to Madrid that night. I didn’t budge. I would wait for the email to rebook – a 10am flight would be an unwelcome but acceptable alternative. After fifteen minutes we decided to make our way to town. We could rebook outside the airport.
In the stabbing, icy cold we waited for a taxi, alongside dozens of other abandoned passengers. The email from Aer Lingus arrived. ‘We want to help. Please contact us’. No contact number of course. I went online and got talking to a Bot. My options were a 7.40am flight to Heathrow on Sunday, and then onward to Madrid for an 18.00 arrival. The weather forecast remained grim.
Feeling a little forlorn we decided that this was not our time for Madrid. On the last train back to Limerick I sat on the unmoving train for thirty minutes outside Limerick Junction, I felt a little deflated. I promised myself that I will see Madrid once again.
The next time I will not be booking at Céntrico Apartamento Estilo Pop-Art by Batuecas, at Calle de San Nicolás Bajo, Madrid. I have been charged full whack for the weekend. I know the cancellation policy is strict, but just seems a little bit extreme. Caveat emptor.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the weather has improved enough for my trip to Faro in Portugal next weekend.