Monday, August 31, 2015

The Layover

When choosing my flight to and from Morocco I was forced to choose an overnight layover, if I wanted to get the price I could afford. I was both happy and nervous by this, but more excited to get a chance to see a new place. I had never had an overnight layover before so I wasn't 100% sure what to expect, but my experience turned out to be exactly what I could have hoped for. I arrived in Madrid at 6:30 p.m. local time and bought a one day metro pass in order to ride the metro to the city center from the airport. After a wee bit of confusion I was on my way to navigating the Madrid metro. I live traveling in large cites for this reason. I love navigating and traveling by metro systems. I find it a fun and interesting challenge that leaves me feeling accomplished. 

I made my way to the city center, called Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun). I emerged from below into a sea of city live. I could be far from correct but with the few hours I had in Madrid it seemed like a good way to spend it. I walked the interesting streets branching off in all directions from the large center square. I browsed the many restaurants with menus and I couldn't understand and foods I couldn't identify. I shopped some sales and when I finally decided to gift myself something my card was declined. I was bummed, but it also showed me what little money I had left. I exchanged my last 300 Moroccan dirhams for 30 euro for my night in Madrid. I only had 17 euro to find dinner and later breakfast. Once I realized this and started to feel increased hunger I decided to resort to a no frills dinner. This ended up being an all you can eat buffet for 9.95 euro, which got me a buffet, a drink, and ice cream. What a deal?! 

Afterward I wanted to find a coffee shop to park myself for a while. I also was looking for free wi-fi. Sadly, I ended up in a McDonalds, not too much of a cultural stretch. I bought a 1 euro espresso and then later for 1.50 euro two macaroons, for which I was .10 short. The young man was super nice as I felt like a dumb tourist. At this time it was around 11 p.m and the city was still alive. I reentered the metro to ride a sequence of 3 trains in reverse as I did on the way out to the city center. On my last train a worldly looking "Spanish" man entered who caught my eye. He became the most attractive man I saw in Madrid. I minded my own business until we both got off going in the same direction toward the airport. On the upward escalator this man attempted to speak to me in a language unable to be understood. Then he tried English. He asked me about my tattoos. We spent the last few minutes of the ride getting to know each others  basic back stories. He had to depart at terminal one and me at four but we exchanged contact info. He suggest we meet back up to pass the several hours we each had before our flight. Once we figured out there was a free bus between terminals we met in a quiet place where we could relax in the early hours of the morning. Between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. we discussed everything from Latin last names to American women as president and at least a dozen other topics. 

Samir is 22 and comes from Mexico. His mother is of Lebanese decent. He is currently living with his Dutch girlfriend in the Netherlands whom he met in a hostel in Madrid. He has more travel stories at 22 than most people have in a lifetime. This was my first experience making an airport friend let alone an overnight buddy. Neither one of us wanted to sleep and there was actually seemingly important about staying up all night. Like I wasn't going to miss any moment of this experience. After we departed ways as hew want on his flight I parked at, yes another McDonald's. Now with four hours left of this layover it was 6 a.m.  

The rest isn't as interesting. I explored the now, beginning to bustle, terminal four. I saw what most people do on layovers, pick some random spot and lay themselves out to sleep. For my first experience this layover was certainly a fun and eventful one.  I'm sure they're not all that great. But it was a great way to get to see a country I might not otherwise have wanted to travel to.