As we left Portland for our first trip to Spain we had travelitis from the start to boarding the plane. Our flight was a huge bargain when I booked a Travelzoo Top Twenty Alert, $536rt from Seattle to Madrid. We were shocked as the date loomed closer and the reality of a British Airways strike seemed likely. We traveled to Sea-Tac with confidence that it would all work out; you know sort of “the best laid plans”. As we passed through a squall of snow on the drive from Hillsboro, OR to SEA our confidence took a hit and we proceeded with caution thinking at every turn how lucky we would be if things just went as planned.
Departure took place with minimal intrusions and British Airways provided a great choice of entertainment. I actually watched four movies that I had planned to rent (I cannot fall asleep where there are people I do not know. Yeah I go sleepless a lot.)
Landing at Heathrow was a confusing and educational experience all at once. God bless the duty free stores. It was a relief to board the flight to Madrid and just an hour or so later we touched down after receiving a beautiful view of the city as we approached the airport. I have entered my share of foreign countries and one thing that never changes is you never know what will happen when you go through customs. Spain by far one of the easiest, friendlier than Canada, who knew it would be so care free always heard Spain was liberal these days I guess that proves it. The airport was clean, new and user friendly and they had booths for smokers every 100 yards or so.
We knew we were going to be picked up in Madrid by a Hotel shuttle so we would travel directly to the hotel and return a day later to retrieve our rental car. Getting our bearings lay of the land and all that silliness out of the way. Our first hotel choice was so new it had very few reviews but it turned out to be exactly what we needed a new hotel with an airport shuttle on the north side of the city Avant Aeropuerto is in Torrejon de Ardoz a suburban area just north of Madrid. The four star lodging certainly earned it’s designation.
When we landed the sun was beginning to set, casting a light that added excitement to just landing in a country where you have never been. Contemplating all the exciting experiences that lay in front of us was almost as thrilling as our shuttle drivers road skills as he navigated the almost rush hour traffic like someone who has driven the Grand Prix circuit for years.
We were impressed with the contemporary design of the hotel. Room amenities were also great and then we became a lot more impressed with Spain in general when we went to dinner. A buffet that despite the small price the quality of every dish was superior.
Olives, charcuterie, hot entrees were all awesome and the house wine was a Reserva 2004 Tempranillo from Rioja. The breakfast was equally impressive and enjoyed with fantastic chorizo and hams of un-imaginable quality. These fine examples were available along with fresh baked pastries of Parisian quality and Mancheco cheese in various aged forms. They did such a great job of keeping the wine glass full and getting us to and from the airport I say they earned the rating I was so eager earlier to displace.
One of the only drawbacks from this property was the distance to any shopping and restaurants. Pamela and I walked quite a bit before we realized that all shopping and most restaurants were nowhere near our hotel. Mostly truck stops and the same types of business you find in America located on the opposite side of the airport furthest away from the city. It just happened that this was Spain and the city was Madrid. If you are landing in Madrid then heading out for Rioja or Ribera Del Duero this is a great place to rest before you start your trip.
The entire hotel staff were great, most spoke enough English and that was fantastic because my horrible kitchen Spanish did not pass as even close to being understood. All in all we made it from the Pacific Coast to Madrid in one day in one piece had a great dinner and fantastic wine there is really nothing more you could ask for, so how was our first day in Spain? Close to perfection.
This story was originally posted on OregonLive.com