Monday, January 14, 2008

Madrid - Mediterranean Backpacking Trip - Day 1 (Part 1)

Taking my seat on the plane, I can hardly contain my excitement. I scanned the area for other backpackers and people to talk to. Across the aisle from where I was sitting, there were three people that looked about my age, taking very excitedly. I struck up a conversation with them, and found out that they were a group of two seniors and one sophomore, on their first backpacking trip to Europe. One one of them had visited Europe before, but had only spent a short time in Paris. They asked me to take a photo of the in their seats and returned to excitedly talking among themselves. They still seemed a bit shy talking to strangers, but I knew that their attitude will change after their experience. I was excited for them, how much fun they are going to have, and discovering the liberating world of backpacking. I missed my first backpacking trip, how excited and anxious we were, plunging into something that we were unfamiliar with, having no idea what awaited us. It was a great bonding experience with friends.

I can almost never fall asleep while sitting up, so I knew it was going to be a long flight through the night ahead of me. Luckily, I was on a Boeing 777, with a personal TV, so I could entertain myself with movies all night long. It also enjoy being up all night, as I feel nighttime is like a completely different world than during the day. Breaking routine and the lack of sleep also helps to intensify the feeling that I was on my way to something special. At one point during the flight, I felt sleepy and dozed off with some difficulty. Waking up to the hum of the airplane around me, I checked the time and was very disappointed to find out I had only dozed off for about half an hour. Not being able to go back to sleep, I decided to watch some more movies. Seeing that I had about three hours left in the flight, I started Pam's Labyrinth. I enjoyed the movie very much but near the end of the movie, all of a sudden the entertainment systems turned off, and we were told to prepare for landing! They had cut off the movie about 40 minutes before we actually started the final approach! Well, I guess I'll just have to finish up the movie at a later point in time.

After what seemed like forever circling, we finally landed at Madrid Barajas Airport early in the morning just after sunrise. After standing in a very long line at customs and chatting with the three I met on the plane, I passed customs with no questions asked. I just gave my passport to the customs agent, and without a single word spoken other than hello and good-bye, my passport was stamped and motioned to move along. I split up with the first people I met on the trip as they went to collect their luggage. Heading out to the lobby, I called my parents to tell them I have safely arrived, and acquired a map of the city at the tourist information booth. I had arranged to stay at a local's apartment through, but seeing that they were at work, I needed a place to store my luggage and spend the day before going to their apartment at "7pm or after." After chatting with a friendly and pretty female tourist information agent, I had a new destination, a place in town where I can store my luggage for the day: Atocha Renfe Train Station.