I hate leaving but after two weeks and a lot of packing and unpacking, I also hate staying, It’s a great life being here with no responsibilities, but also wildly impractical. With those mixed emotions we got up this morning, made our last bit of preparation and headed out to Mercado San Miguel for one last coffee and chocolate Magdalena. And it was closed. The barista I’d made pals with over the last week was at the coffee bar getting things ready and looked out the window at me, but we were a full hour early so there was no way an exception was going to be made. We turned around, went back to the apartment, collected our things and headed back up hill towards the taxi stand at La Latina. It wasn’t Rastro day, and it was earlier than any other day we’d been out and the streets were calm, shady and pretty quiet for a work day. I almost nabbed a taxi in front of San Andres Cathedral, but the woman getting out didn’t understand my frantic waving so off the car went. We were lucky though, there were two at the stand and we ended up with a wonderful gal whose cab was unfortunately scented. Her sense of humor and willingness to chat made up for my allergy attack however. We talked about the summer and she said that the hot streets of Madrid are filled with “zombies” in August. Pretty funny.
It took precisely 30 minutes to get to Barajas. Also 30 Euros. Checking in was quick, the VIP security line quicker and only the sullen Immigration Agent put a mild downer on an otherwise perfect morning. We had just been lectured about having our passports and boarding passes ready when it was my turn so I handed her both. She threw the boarding pass back at me, rifled through my passport with extreme indifference, took my pass back and finally stamped my exit visa without even looking at me. We found our way to the lounge, cleverly hidden on the other side of Duty Free and parked ourselves for one last meal of tortilla and garlic mushrooms. Boarding time came and after some entertaining ignorant traveler antics we got on and sat back. The plane left more or less on time, rising up to the northeast over Segovia and the snowcapped Sierra Nevada. I’d hoped to get one shot from the air as we left Portugal for the Atlantic but the coast was clouded over.
Ten hours is a long time on a plane, not matter how you cut it. We ate, we read, we watched movies and we ate some more. Pretty soon it was over, but not without a drama when the man in the seat in front of MLW discovered his iPod was missing. Problem was, he’d sat in at least 3 seats so as we landed, one of the attendants spent the last few minutes pulling cushions out of seats and crawling around on the floor. They never did find it but she promised to send it to him if they did.
It’s a long walk from the jet way to immigration at DFW and normally you get around the corner and discover that the line is 10,000 people long. In the past, we’ve had the extreme misfortune of landing at the same time as multiple jets from the Yucatan so we have spent an hour standing in line with a bunch of sunburned tourists. Today though we got shuffled off to a new self-check station where you scan your passport, confirm where you’ve been, take an unflattering photo of yourself and then head on. It took no more than 2 minutes, and I only panicked once when the timer on the monitor offered me “more time to complete transaction” but it wasn’t necessary. We were on our way instantly once our receipts were printed. Ultimately, you end up handing those receipts to an agent at the far side of bag check but that was it, the only actual interaction with the Border Patrol.
Now we wait while our bodies say “Yo, it’s 1AM what are we still doing up?” Only 3 more hours until the plane to home sweet home.