Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Sketches of Spain part 1 (With apologies to Miles Davis)

soundtrack by Mr Miles Davis

Getting There
I got a message from Little Miss Manuel one afternoon that read "CHK SVLLE HTL WBSTE". I replied with "Yup, no problem" and then just carried on with what I was doing. Then an hour or so later I got a phone call from a more than upset Little Miss Manuel. She was insisting that I "do what I'm fucking told" and check the hotel in Seville's web-site. And there it was a message in red reading "Please note that the hotel remains closed from 01/07/2007 due to refurbishment". You mean the hotel I have had booked from Christmas is closed with no proper warning? The hotel that has already been paid for? That hotel?

I'm sorry what? Closed? Is that pain in my chest? Is my left arm all stiff? Who am I talking to? Oh there was shouting, screaming, and threats of violence, and I was in the house on my own. I calmed myself down then called LMM to calm her down. Some job seeing as I was fit to fucking burst. And burst I did all, over the phone to the travel agent. My opening line was something like "Hotel in Seville....Closed...Christmas!!...Crying Girlfriend...What's going on?...." To which the nice young lady on the other end replied "Ewwww I've got a heavy breather on the phone..."

Three days of frantic phone calls and face to face shout off.'s and we had established a list of hotels that were unacceptable including one that wasn't even in Seville, one that was beside a football stadium, and another that was actually just an old factory were they used to make plastic Flamenco dolls, and another that may just have been a car on the side of the road. Now let me tell you there were more than a few sleepless nights, this was happening just days before we were due to travel. Then we found a boutique hotel in the old Jewish quarter of Seville. I wondered if Seville has as many quarters as Belfast which at the last count has at least 32 quarters including The Cathedral quarter, The Irish Quarter, The Linen Quarter, The Mugging Quarter, The Rent Boy Quarter, The We are so rich we wish we could build a wall round ourselves to keep the rest of you out Quarter.

Las Casas del Rey de Baeza Hotel Seville. And it looked jolly nice. I had to suck up that it was a 4 star and not a 5 star but what you gonna do. Better than a sleeping bag in a cracker factory. It took a few days more to get them to refund the difference back into my account but we all got there in the end. Saying that, Shirley from the travel agents and I will probably not be doing Christmas cards this year. Pre holiday trauma before I had even packed wasn't what you would call a good omen...

We were flying from Dublin Airport at silly o'clock on the Monday morning so I had booked us a room in Bewleys Airport Hotel for the Sunday night. Whilst the "hotel" (more an extension of the airport's departure lounge than an hotel) was nice to look at it was soulless and without any real warmth or even genuine hospitality. It made you want to get your flight even more. The food is terrible as is the coffee, but the rooms were okay and sleep was easy. But I was relieved as 4 am arrived and it was time to go. You will rarely find me with a grin from ear to ear at 4am but today was different....

Madrid
Spanish capital city. One of the fashion capitals of the world. A city of magnificent architecture. A city full of the most beautiful people. A city of history. A city of economic and cultural importance. A mature city of sophistication but with youth and energy. The sun shone bright and hot, the air was dry and arid. When the wind blew it was gentle and warm. The streets, though busy, were easy to navigate. The strange hubbub of a hundred different languages being spoken at once swirled round my head making me dizzy. The street vendors hustled their wares with a lackadaisical force. The shop windows glistened and sparkled radiating the sun and camouflaging the trinkets behind. I walked hand in hand with my love who was as content as she was excited. She moved with ease through the crowds as if she had lived there all her life. Spanish words rolled of her tongue with all the passion of a local. Life couldn't have been any easier or sweeter.

But you know what? I didn't care for it at all. I didn't care for Madrid. I probably wouldn't go back.

I was glad I went. I enjoyed it to a point. The various Plazas are all very sexy and all that, the food was amongst some of the best I had on holiday, my first experience of a Michelin Starred Restaurant. The tour of the Santiago Bernabéu, home of Real Madrid, was another highlight (it's no Stade del Gigg all the same). But for some reason I felt a little short changed or uncomfortable in Madrid.

real Manuel

Maybe it was my normally left of centre attitude picking up on some left over Fascism from Mr Franco's reign. Like at any moment we could be rounded up and forced to march in line or something similar. Hardly likely but you know what these foreign types are like.
The hotel in Madrid was certainly a left over from Franco's fun times. The Emperador Hotel on Madrid's Gran Via left me seething a bit. Our room was a shoe box with a toilet. Now I know you don't go on holiday for the hotel rooms but sweet baby Jesus when you lash out the green I had you expect something more. The staff were all rude and pushy save for one particular Manuel who couldn't have done enough for us. Although he did spook me out a touch we he informed me very sternly that he was "there for me at any time, any time". Little Miss Manuel said it was nice that I had found a holiday romance. Ha!

I felt relieved to be on the train a few days later to
Andalucía.

Andalucía, Andalucía couldn't you just say it over and over again...?

More to follow tomorrow, including bull fighting did or didn't we go? And Manuel meets his future self with hilarious consequences....

19 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Manuel Estimulo said...

I do not understand, Other Manuel. You do not go to Madrid to enjoy yourself: You go there for worship!

Enda P said...

A cheeky little semi-flirt with semi-attentive staff in the service industry can work wonders, M. But you know all this already.....

Manuel said...

other other Manuel: I know that now, but maybe I shall try the Catalans next time. They seem like a peaceful people..

Enda p: Ah it is true, well placed flirting earns me all sorts of lovely lolly. But when he stared right into my eyes and in his finest broken English promised to be there for me it sounded all a bit too much like the Police's Every breathe you take!

Medbh said...

Your post put "Spanish Bombs" in my head, Manuel. Love that song.

The rooms always seem bigger when you're booking. Sorry to hear that Madrid's so aggressive.
I look forward to Part the Second.

Sassy Sundry said...

OK, I keep having these moments with your blog. I'm listening to Miles Davis right now.

Sorry to hear that about Madrid. I have my heart set on Barcelona.

Manuel said...

medbh: I had the Guns of Brixton in mine earlier. Madrid wasn't exactly aggressive, it's hard to put my finger on it. Just too quick, to "city" for my liking. It was only when I got to Sevilla that I realised what I had been looking for...

Sassy: Sketches of Spain is such a piece of work. It feels like a hot day on the plain. Amazing work. Barca maybe next year for us.

Ms Robinson said...

Welcome back Manuel: I personally felt short-changed in Barcelona. It was so talked up to me but it never lived up to expectations.

Airport hotels are a no man's land aren't they? You've left the real world behind and you're waiting to get to your fantasy one....spooky.

ellie said...

Welcome back. Jezzz some people are never happy. ;)
You get Madrid I was lucky to get as far as Madrid St!

Manuel said...

Ms Robinson: I fear that may happen to me...

Ellie: I know I know, LMM pointed this out to me as we watched the news in our hotel room. A grim little story of the displaced in Iraq. Spoilt brat....

Old Knudsen said...

A fine piece of man meat like yerself must get offers like that all the time, I hope you gave him a good tip and I don't mean money.

savannah said...

i loved madrid, sugar! sitting & drinking tinto de veranos...watching the people...my son & his wife live there, she's a flamenco dancer! can't wait to hear part 2! *hugs*

Conortje said...

I also loved Madrid - I think it's a place where you need a few days to get a proper feel. And you also have to go out partying, at about 3am when everything kicks off :-) Looking forward to the next instalment - did you or didn't you with the your not so secret admirer hehe

Manuel said...

old k: man meat eh, haven't been called that since the summer of 88. God that wasn't an easy time....
'
Savannah: part 2, that's were the love is...

Manuel said...

Conortje: I can give you a sneak preview of the answer to that particular issue, no!

fatmammycat said...

Come on! I want to hear how drunk you got down south! They're the only people I've ever met you like drinking as much as Irish folk!

Manuel said...

FMC: Drunk? In that heat? Settle, I had bigger problems to be dealing with.....

Mike said...

To which the nice young lady on the other end replied "Ewwww I've got a heavy breather on the phone..."

Hilarious!

Manuel said...

Mike: not my first time either....

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