The Convenience of Being Near the Madrid Airport – Not Very Convenient

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JonWritten by:

Unable to make the flight connections we wanted at the end of a trip to northern Spain in early May, we decided to stay near the Madrid air port for one night. I picked the Sol Meliá’s Tryp chain’s Diana hotel for two reasons: it advertised a free shuttle back and forth (1 km) to Barajas airport and a swimming pool. While neither is false advertising, both were very disappointing.

It may be that we were at the new terminal (#4) and that pickups from the old three are more reliable, but we waited for more than an hour and then, searching for a phone (there are none anywhere near the pickup point, and our cell phones don’t work in Europe), met someone else who had been waiting who told us he had spoken to the hotel and that a van would be there shortly. It was–with a very surly driver, who did nothing to assist putting bags on, let alone putting any on himslef.

If the hotel is one kilometer from the airport, that is either as the crow flies or from the old three terminals. The drive when a van finally picked us up took about ten minutes.

Checking in was impersonally efficient (check-in and check-out time are both noon). Between our flight having been rescheduled two hours later and the frustration of waiting for the shuttle, we decided not to shuttle back to the airport to get the Metro into the city.

Instead, I thought I’d repair to the swimming pool. There was one, though a rather small one for a quite large hotel, but it was brackish and covered with algae. So in any practical sense 0 for two with 18 hours to go. (The temperature was 25C, which is not wintry IMO!)

We walked around the neighborhood, which had one not particularly promising restaurant. It opened as Spanish restaurants are wont to, at 21:00. The ritziest restaurant in the hotel opened at the same hour, but a “grill”/bar in the hotel opened at 20:00. The food was not terrible, but over-salted. (Based on a previous trip to Madrid, and two to Andalucía, and two to Barcelona, I thought that all food in Spain was over-salted but going along the northern border (the Pyrennes and the Bay of Biscaye), had not had any over-salted dishes on the trip before then.) And it served really bad French Fries! There is a reason they are not called “Spanish fries,” generally being not good in Spain, but these were particularly thick, undercooked at too low a temperature, thus greasy. I should have known better, and hope that such a mistake will not undercut my claim to travel expertise!

There was also a smoke-filled coffee shop. (As of the start of 2006, smoking was banned in restaurants and other public spaces in Spain, but bars may choose to allow smoking—alas!) And a karaoke-disco that opened at 23:00.

Being a 4-star hotel, there are many services, including shops that were not open during siesta hours or after them (on a weekday).

I am always tempted to have a cup of coffee and later go for a jig in the disco bar the moment it opens up but I feel it is wise that it won’t be convenient when I have an early morning flight to catch. Madrid Airport is quite spacious enough so I was not surprised at its ambience as I had already witnessed it when I was wonderstruck at how big is the Seattle Airport when I first saw it with my own eyes, which was the first time I came across an airport in my life.  

The lobby had a pair of computer terminals. One could buy Internet access at 3E an hour or 2E a half hour.

The room itself was fine. The bed lamps were stationary but provided adequate illumination and there was light over the desk (unlike in some other Spanish hotels in which we stayed). There was a minibar, a luggage rack, and a television with a dozen stations (including CNN in English, one French, and one Italian channel).

In addition to the desk and padded desk chair, there was one plush chair, 6 dresser drawers, a coffee table, and a balcony with no furniture (overlooking a city park with some backless concrete benches). There was not hotel stationery

Compared to London and Barcelona hotel rooms I’ve inhabited, this one was roomy. The bathroom was positively palatial, with rose-colored marble, a detail mirror, one container of shampoo-gel, one bar of face soap.

Although it was a national holiday, we probably should have bestirred ourselves to go into the city instead of vegetating in the sterile hotel, though at the end of two weeks and many cathedrals, our tourist energy was low.

I think that if we had called immediately upon arrival, the long wait for the shuttle could have been avoided (getting back to the airport in the morning was no problem), and perhaps the swimming pool is cleaned and opened by now. But even if our experiences were untypical, this is the only large hotel I can ever remember staying in within the European community that does not include breakfast. Breakfast was available for 9E and we decided to skip it and go to the airport to get something before our flight home.

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