Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Saturday, July 16, 2011

finally coming home

The next day we were all packed and ready to go, but dreading the time to leave.  We walked over and had breakfast with Paco y Teresa one last time.  They asked us what we wanted for lunch.  I said, please, no more food.  They agreed it was a late breakfast and we needed to leave around lunch to head to the airport.  So as soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared away, Paco started bringing out lunch.  I know he knew what I said about no more food, but they just can't help it, they love to take care of us.  So after we had spent the morning eating we loaded up in Paco's car and headed to the airport.    Again, we drove past the fields of olives, sunflowers, tomatoes, oaks and grapes.  We got to the airport and talked Paco into leaving us there.  It is a small airport, and the Iberia Airlines office wasn't even open.  It would be a few hours wait, but every minute putting off saying good by to this dear man was getting harder and harder.  It was a small flight, and the same service guy that had rushed Dad to the medic to get his hand taken care of, was one of the service people to take dad up the stairs into the plane.  As soon as he saw us, he asked about Dad's hand.  He was so sweet, and loading dad up and into the plane went on with out a hitch.  The flight was very pleasant and we landed in Madrid and were met by some nice service people who whisked us through the airport, got our luggage and then out to a cab. 

We stayed in the Wellington, which always makes me laugh, it just doesn't sound Spanish, but it is a Madrid standard.  It is the most popular hotel for the matadors and toreadors.  In fact, now in front of the hotel is a giant fiberglass bull dressed as a matador.  A little ironic don't you think?

I called the concierge as soon as we were checked into our room to see if we could get into Botine's.  The earliest they could get us a reservation was 11:30 pm.  I said, no, I couldn't take another night that late again.  So reservations were made to have lunch there the next day instead.  Instead, we made reservations at the main restaurant at the hotel.

Europe is not like the US in that there are no requirements for ramps or accessibility issues.  So we can take the elevator down to the lobby, but there are stairs to get to just about anywhere from the elevators.  And even if this country does not have accessibility, it makes up for that with lots of manly men who would just show up in force, grab the wheel chair and off they would go.  No warning, and it would shock dad to all of a sudden being swooped up and swept away.  They were efficient, but not gentle.  

The restaurant is nuevo traditional cuisine.   You know the type, everything looks like a magazine photo.  The cold poatato soup was served in a shot glass garnished with tiny strips of dried seaweed.  Dad was not impressed.  I thought it was delicious, and so rich, that it was very filling.  I then had cod two ways, one with peppers and saffron sauce.  The other piece was served in a chili, lime, and butter sauce.  The fish was perfect and the sauces amazing.    Dad had the most amazing insalda mixa.  The white asparagus was the most ginormous asparagus I had ever seen.  Dad was very pleased with the salad, and I think that might have been enough for an entire meal.  But he had a fried shrimp dish that was fabulous.  They use butter and flour to bread the shrimp, so when you bit into it it just melts in your mouth.  Desert was a cookie kind of thing.  It was caramel and hazel nut flavor it was about 8 inches long and was thin and crispy and looked like it had been baked on a 4-inch diameter pipe.  Really wonderful.  The olives were meaty and salty and perfect with the hot fresh baked bread.  Traditional white bread, pan, then another white bread that similar, but not quite, and a whole grain rustic bread and then a nut and raisin rolls.  When the cheque came, it was amazingly affordable and we were once again stuffed to overflowing.  The manly men showed up again and whisked dad back up to the elevators.  

These were the first American style mattress we had slept on for the entire trip.  Most of the mattresses our friends sleep on are nothing like we have here.  No pillow tops, just a few inches of stuffing, lumpy and adequate.  But these beds had glorious Egyptian cotton sheeting, thick luxurious firm but pillow topped mattresses.  And we slept well.  

We had breakfast in the breakfast room of the hotel.  They have a buffet, that is not the best I have had, but was the same as when we had eaten there in 2004.  First is a table with salmon and everything you would want to put on your salmon, cream cheese, capers, finely minced onions, lemons, thin fresh baked bagels and so on.  Then there is the salad area, the fruit area, the sweet area, the bread area, the hot bar with eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, potatoes.  Then the drink area with several kinds of juices, champagne and waters.  Coffee and tea are served directly to the table.  The staff is professional and competent does not give them full credit.  The food was hot and fresh and wonderful.

After breakfast, we caught a cab over to the Prado and Mother's favorite store next door.  We bought presents for our beloveds at home and then headed over to Botine's for lunch.  Some people claim it has been owned by the same family in the same location for 600 years, hmmmm.  Maybe, but I know it was rebuilt in the 1700s and has been in that location and run by the same family at least since that point.  Which is pretty amazing in its self.  

We grabbed a cab back to the Wellington to take a little siesta.  I tried lying down, and I was tired, but I didn't want to lie down.  I wanted to walk in the park.  So I told Dad I was going to the park and would be back in about an hour.  I walked over to the park, just a couple of blocks away and even in the triple digit temperatures in the park under the green canopy with the fountains splashing and the little lake filled with paddle boats it was cool and one of my favorite places in Spain.  The park was filled with families, kids attending camps, tourists, lovers, artists, entertainers and sellers of every kind of item imaginable.  I walked the familiar paths, and saw completed buildings where when I was last there they had been under construction.  They were still working on the crystal palace, but it was beautiful and I believe will be a conservatory when it is finished. 

I was being so careful keeping track of where I was and how I had gotten there, but then I got distracted by a bed of white petunias and then the agapantha's and the next thing I knew, I was lost.  I tried to retrace my steps, but under the chemo, my mind does not work as well as it used to.  I had completely lost my sense of direction and this park is huge.  And not a simple 4-sided park, but a green space that covers several blocks and is shaped with  5 or 6 sides.  I ended up coming out as far away, from where I needed to be as possible.  I was not worried about myself, but I knew dad was going to worry.  Finally my brain started to work again and I saw a cab, jumped it, and he took me to the Wellington.  I was 30 minutes late, and yes, Dad was getting worried and trying to figure out who to call.  

After each of us recovering from my little adventure, we went down to the bar and had dinner.  Just sandwiches, olives, chips and soda water for me, nestea for dad.  We just sat out in the lounge area and listened to the piano player and ate our light meal and reminisced about our trip.    It was one of the nicest moments of the entire trip.  No schedule, no rushing, just a lovely place familiar to both of us.  We laughed and talked and then headed back up stairs to sleep before taking our big trip back across the pond.  

The trip back was long.  Nine hours where we could not move our legs and turbulence so that they kept us all in our seats with our seat belts on.  It was really hard physically on dad having to sit in the cramped space for so long a time.  We landed in Atlanta and were met by a very nice service guy who took us through the airport to our luggage.  As we waited for our luggage to show up on the baggage area, out comes the customs people with beagles.  I had never seen this before.  I asked our guy who were these people.  He explained that the beagles sniff through the luggage as it comes over the belt and report when food is noted.  

Ok, I am not one of these people who break laws, but if you state that, you have food products on your custom sheet then you get put in the long line.  We had less then 2 hours to make our next flight.  There used to be a place to list dairy products, but not any longer, so I took a chance and did not list the cheese I bought in the Netherlands.  The cheese I bought is legal and you can bring it in the US, but if I listed it, it would take us so long to get through all the lines, so I cheated.  I lied by omission.  My heart was racing, my pulse pounding, my eyes dilated.  The beagle cop was not a pleasant person.  His gait was similar to John Wayne, he followed the beagle glaring at all of the tourists.  I know he kept walking past me.  I have taken classes on how to tell when someone is using deception.  I ran down the list in my head, I fit every detail.  I don't know how the beagle could smell anything with the stench of fear dripping off of me.  But the beagle didn't seem to give me any notice.  The beagle's man, I know was watching me.  I was holding my custom's form.  I looked at it to see if I could simply add the cheese in and not be obvious.  I know having to go through the longer lines would drive dad crazy.  He was already a little grumpy.  Understandably after that nine hour prison.  I could see how much pain he was experiencing.  

There was no way to change my form with out it being very obvious, and there wasn't a place for cheese, so I wasn't sure how to list it now.  I thought about quantum physics, every possibility is out there.  I tried visualizing what I needed.  I needed an opportunity for beagle guy to be distracted and for our luggage to appear and escape.  Just at that moment, the luggage started coming up, and at the same time the beagle detected food in a back pack of a 20 something girl who was in a group of college age students who were just returning from back packing across Europe.  They had all made ham and cheese sandwiches at their last hostel, and had not declared them.  Homemade ham and cheese sandwiches are not legal.  My cheese was, but neither of us had claimed our "food" products.  Of course, on their part, who would think that you would have to list a ham and cheese sandwiches?  I on the other hand, knew that I should probably list the cheese.  But as the beagle cop along with his partner and her beagle, they went through all the luggage of these kids.  The problem was that the kids had laughed when the cop got upset over their sandwiches.  This was exactly what I was hoping to have happen.  Now, can I take advantage of this turn of events, and I looked sweating and heart pounding to see my luggage come out of the gate and onto the belt.  Our Service guy grabbed it, a few more suitcases and here came dad's.  I was keeping one eye on the luggage, one eye on beagle boy.   We threw the luggage on a cart and took off.  We had made it.  The beagle guy had been so busy yelling at the kids with the sandwiches.  So around the corner and there was the agriculture customs X-ray lines.  Oh no, I have not beat any system, but I had made it past the angry beagle guy.   So I took a deep breath and figured, well, it can't be as bad as beagle boy.  We moved through our line and the luggage ran through the X-ray machines.  Our luggage went in, came out, went back in, out, in and out.  The Customs man, a kind looking person said, "What are the heart shaped things in your suitcase?"

I can lie, of course, we all do it all the time.  "Don't you look good today!" "You have aged a day...” and so on.  But lying about real things, I am not so good.  In fact I will spill every bean I have if confronted for the truth.  So when he asked me about the heart shaped things, I actually was relieved and blurted out "Cheese!  I bought cheese our first week on the trip and I had not remembered to put it on the form, and I didn't see where to put in on the form."  He looked at me and smiled and said that this happened often these days since they took dairy products off of the form.  How much cheese did I have and where did I get it?  I gave him all the information, truthfully, completely and maybe even confessed to things I did when I was in grade school.  I am not sure.  Again, he smiled, marked my customs sheet and let us go on our way.

Getting through customs took us every minute we had, the ride thing that takes you to the different terminals quit working when we were on it, they saw dad's back brace and had to take him around the corner to some private area and go over him with a fine toothed comb so to speak.  He was not pleasant about it.  They had separated us, and he was worried over me and making our connection and he was tired and hurting and just generally not at his best.  I asked our new service guy to please take me to the TSA so dad could see me and know I was ok.  I could hear arguing getting louder and louder.  I knew Dad would be in the middle of the maylee, and he was.  When TSA saw me, they moved me right in with dad and as they swabbed and checked for ammunitions, I explained to dad what they were doing.   The security people thanked me for my assistance, and we made our connection with no problems.  

A comfortable flight home to Tampa where JongAe and Jessica met us at the airport and a quick drive across the skyway and we were home.  Home

We gave JongAe and Jessica their presents.  They had made us dinner and bought juice and milk and breakfast things the next day.  The girls loved their presents we appreciated the kindness.

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