Tag Archives: Madrid

Is it me or Spain?

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Madrid

Kelly E. Carter and Lucy Carter in Madrid

Spain is one of those places that I can’t quite figure out. Most people love the country but I don’t. Someone tell me what I am for I know it is something.

My first trip to Spain was in 2004 when I was dispatched to Madrid by US Weekly magazine. Ben Affleck was in Madrid and happened to be in the midst of ending his inexplicable relationship with Jennifer Lopez. I was asked to get a comment from him and gladly obliged since it meant going to Spain, a country that everyone just seems to love.

I packed a change of clothes and off Lucy and I went in search of Ben. The assignment was only for one day and after I finished I decided, since it was a Friday, to go to Barcelona for the weekend. I had heard so much about Barna, as the locals call it, that I just had to experience it for myself. Although I enjoyed the tour around the city from atop a double decker bus and the popular tapas joint Cal Pep and drinking Claras, I wasn’t impressed.

Hoping for a different experience this time, I arranged for a three-day stay in Madrid before heading south for my spa assignment on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. My mission: to fall in love with Madrid. I was blown away by the elegance of the Hotel Villa Magna, where Lucy and I stayed in a luxurious Villa Magna Suite suite that I could live in forever. And the neighborhood had every designer store imaginable. A shopper’s dream! A visit to the Prado museum with a friend and her beau, who coincidentally were visiting from Germany, was educational and enjoyable. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandarin restaurant Tse Tang in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Magna so much that I ate there twice.

Yet there was still something missing. What could it be? Warmth, perhaps? Spaniards are wonderful people once you get to know them but as strangers I find that they keep their distance, don’t make eye contact and certainly don’t say “Buenos dias,” in the way that Italians greet people they don’t know with “buon giorno” when you pass them on the street. Catch a Parisian on a good day and even those snooty, chic folks will even say “Bon jour,” to a stranger.

But not the Spaniards. I discussed this topic with an American family that I met my final night in Madrid. I struck up a conversation first with the husband as we all hung out in the hotel bar watching a soccer game none of us cared about. While the patrons in the jam-packed bar rooted for Real Madrid to beat Barcelona and sang after their team won, I couldn’t help but note how the Spanish expressed tremendous passion when it came to futbol. Then why can’t they treat strangers the same way?

Or maybe it’s just me they don’t. I’m not going to give up on you Spain. I know there’s a chance for us to have a relationship at some point. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll be back.

Hotel Villa Magna Madrid

Villa Magna Suite at the Hotel Villa Magna Suite in Madrid.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Travel

The trip that almost wasn’t

It’s a miracle that my 21-day European adventure began on time considering I couldn’t find my passport when I went to check in for my Iberia flight at LAX. I knew I had put it in the front pocket in my massive BET tote bag, where I could retrieve it easily. Yet it wasn’t there.

I took everything out of the tote bag (laptop, iPad, still camera, Flip video camera, BlackBerry, electrical cords, datebook, folders and more) couldn’t find it! Then I took everything out of a raggedy BCBG tote I am so attached to and still, it wasn’t there.

“Can I check in without my passport,” I sheepishly asked the lady at the counter.

“No,” she said sweetly.

She let me know that the flight was delayed about 30 minutes and for once I was grateful for a delay. I hadn’t arrived the recommended two hours early for international flights because it never takes long to check in.

My beau Bill suggested I go through my luggage. To appease him, I opened my humongous suitcase and pretended to look. He asked if there was any chance I put it in my dog Lucy’s carrier. No, I said.

I knew exactly where the passport was — in the taxi we had taken to LAX.

“Try to reach the taxi driver,” I said to Bill, as if the cabbie was a neighbor whose number he had.

I’ve left a lot of things in taxis. Sometimes I’ve managed to get them back, such as my favorite jacket in Athens and a tote bag in New York, and some I haven’t, such as a darling mink scarf in New York and on another occasion, a winter hat in New York.

But a passport? I flashed back to 30 minutes earlier when the cabbie opened the trunk at LAX. My BET tote bag was upside down. As my luggage was unloaded, I saw that the front flap of the pocket wasn’t shut and made a mental note to make sure all pockets were always closed in the future. I thought I quickly glanced around the trunk to make sure nothing had fallen out. Obviously I was wrong.

As Bill talked to the taxi company on his cell phone, I replayed the day in my head. I had packed my belongings and moved them into storage. Had I mistakenly put my passport in my computer bag that was now in storage? Was there time to jump in a cab, rush to the storage unit and find out? Or worse yet, maybe I had put my passport, which I keep in a holder, with things for the movers to pack. It could be in any of a number of boxes that were stacked so perfectly in the storage unit. Yikes!

I thought about my options. How long would it take the U.S. government to issue me another passport? A day? Two days? A week? I had flexibility so if I had to push the trip back then I could but everything had been so neatly arrange.

“Come to San Francisco,” Bill said when I told him I didn’t really have to go to Madrid. It was just a stop en route to my final destination.

That wasn’t an option. I knew in my heart that the passport was in the taxi. It was just a matter of finding that damn taxi! Bill called back and explained the urgency in the situation. He had his own flight to catch and had sweetly accompanied me to the international terminal after checking his luggage.

Finally, the cab driver was located and he confirmed to dispatch that he had my passport. I passed along my mobile number to the dispatcher for the cab driver to call me and waited patiently. Bill marveled at his accomplishment.

The man never keeps receipts and I’ve been on him to do so for months. Despite all of the advancements in technology, errors still occur on credit card bills. I save every receipt (yes, I’m a hoarder) until my statement arrives and then shred them, or keep them even longer. It amazed me that Bill never, ever, ever bothered to take his receipts. Until this day.

I literally thanked God that Bill, for the first time in his life, saved a receipt. Without it, we never would have tracked down the cab.

With the assurance that the cab driver would call me, Bill gave me $40 to give to the cabbie and scurried to make his flight. He now realizes the importance of saving receipt the same as I realize the importance of making sure every zipper is zipped and every fastener is fastened on my tote.

Eventually the cab driver called me. “Hey Clipper fan,” I said when I answered the phone after seeing an unrecognizable number on Caller ID. Bill had the cab first from his hotel and they had talked sports before they picked me up. The three of us continued talking sports to the airport and while Bill waited in line to check his luggage, the cabbie and I chatted about life in New York, where he is from and where I spent four years. By now, he was like an old friend.

The cabbie let me know he was in Culver City and it would take him about 15 minutes to return to LAX. “Hurry please!” I said. When he arrived, he handed me my powder blue passport holder and I gave him the $40. I’ll never forget the appreciative look on his face. It truly made his day.

I know I should have told him the $40 was from Bill but since black women have a reputation for under tipping (it’s why Oprah over tips but she can afford to do so) I decided not to divulge that information. Sidebar: Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode about someone always taking credit for something someone else did?

When we spoke after I landed in Madrid, Bill and I applauded ourselves at how well both of us handled our first minor crisis. Neither of us panicked, freaked out or shouted.

“I still can’t believe we pulled it off,” he said, as if it was a heist.

And in a way, I guess it was.

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Iberia

Kelly E. Carter holds Lucy Carter on their Iberia flight from LAX to Madrid

Leave a comment

Filed under Lucy, Travel