We left my parents house at 10am, heading to London. Once we hit Stanmore (the tube station) we stopped the car and had a final lunch meal goodbye. It was teary and as with most people, I hate goodbyes. We had already had Gemmas family bawling the day before. Missing people is the worst part about travelling.
Before too long, we were £16 lighter (2 day passes) and on our way to the adventure of a lifetime. We got swept up in the usual hordes of folks on the underground, and it was fresh faced excitement for us both. We nipped up around Leicester Square area and stumbled upon the `7 dials` festival. It was good t see so many attendees, and we stayed to watch Ian Stone, a comedian I like. There was another famous guy hosting, but we’re both pants with celebs.
We walked through to Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and even nipped into Hamleys and Harrods. After this it was more tubing, to Westminster this time. It was Gemma’s first time seeing Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the famed Houses of Parliament, so we were buzzing. Add this to the fact the sun was shining and you can imagine it was a perfect start to the trip.
Eventually we knew we had to find our way to the hotel, and a quick train/taxi combo should sort that. No amount of planning can prepare you for a sardine tin train journey that takes 3 times longer than it should though. Alas, the previous train was evacuated so we had rush hour x 2 plus a signal failure = horrible ride. We finally alighted and caught a quick cab to Holiday Inn in Worth, near Gatwick for obvious reasons. We had an executive suite because I’m a Gold Elite member on their reward scheme. The hotel was also free, what a bonus. We ate quickly and retired to bed, well aware of tomorrows travels.
We woke at 7, double checked our bags and left the hotel. Last nights taxi driver had a brother, who kindly offered to pick us up. His tales of backpacking in the 90s gee’d us up no end. Flying to Madrid was sweet, my only pet peeve being Air Europa not clamping down on those that think a double bed sized suitcase is hand luggage. Gemma and I have left the UK for 14 months at least, and we have taken correctly sized hand luggage only. This was soon forgotten as the hot Spanish rays beat down on us. 28 degrees, toasty.
I swapped pounds to euros in the airport (not recommended, I just knew we only had 12 hours here) and we jumped on the first bus to Parque Del Retiro. It was more beautiful than we expected, and more sizeable. We saw Palacio De Cristal, a well kept garden, plenty of wildlife and of course, the sunshine. I think its called Retiro because after you’ve walked around it you have to retire to a pub, we were shattered!
As we walked back into the city, it was clear the ‘siesta’ was well underway. Shops and bars were shut, and the streets seemed quiet. Fortunately a small place serving fresh food called Date Vita was still open, so we indulged. After that we sauntered around Madrid taking in a cathedral, Kings Palace, the Royal Theatre and much more.
On our walk back to the bus stop, we caught El Argentinos show, a street performer. After escaping from chains and putting a spoon so far into his nose I thought he’d lose it, he took a power drill out of his box and began drilling his own eyeball. That was enough for us, and soon we were back at the airport, not so eagerly awaiting a 12 flight to Lima.