This adventure marks our first time traveling international in exactly two years. (Click for Dijbouti Adventure). All the angst leading up to the date of departure multiplies by ten times with yet the latest known mutation of Covid-19. Thousands of cancelled flights due to crew shortages, new travel restrictions and requirements daily, along with newscasts from all networks over-exaggerating every headline add to the battle within the inner mind. The struggle between thinking this is not a suitable time to travel, versus the positive energy and enlightenment we know and crave that comes with exposure to diverse cultures around the world. Departure date finally arrives.

A deserted Sky Harbor Airport

Our flights from Phoenix, AZ to Madrid, Spain all depart on time. We have worn face masks for approximately fifteen-hours straight, with minor exceptions of brief eating and drinking. During the long, eight and one-half-hour overnight flight, one short, skinny dude sitting next to me acted out on the plane, barking, and whining like a shaky chihuahua. He wants to sit next to his wife and child, but an obese woman was sitting there, in her correct assigned seat. He kept calling her names aloud, yapping, and I was close to…, but Marilynn kept telling me to stay out of it. The woman relented to him. Considering that this was the only incident on an entirely booked long flight during pandemic goes down as not so bad, I suppose.

So, she moves into the aisle seat next to me. I always wondered how large people fit in airplane seats, so I watched as she sat first on top of both arm rests, and in a slow manner eventually sunk down into the seat, gracefully I might add. My entire side touched plum against hers. Ever try sleeping in the middle seat while wearing a face mask on a plane with a huge person sitting next to you? Lucky for me, she smelled excellent, exceptionally clean. “I’m sorry,” she said to me. I responded, “No worries. At least I don’t have to listen to his crying anymore.” Then, it occurred to me that I should have peed long before she sat down. I shall hold it for now, but certainly cannot for the next eight something hours. Marilynn trades her window seat with me, as she has a much smaller body frame making it easier to sit next to the large person.

Voila! Enter the grand city of Madrid. Also enter this aging couple, who speak Spanish like Tarzan, into a different environment and culture. At least it is a culture that has not built more hate than love over the past five or so years. Refreshing.

Our hotel, the “Petit Palace Chueca” serves a tremendous breakfast, has a balcony, and the rooms portray a fine sense of humor, from the welcome card to all the marked items in the bathroom.

Even in this crowded city full of walkers, despite face mask mandates whenever outside of your habitation, folks treat each other with politeness, dignity, and respect. Madrid is an easy place to enjoy travel, even for an aging couple who speak Tarzan Spanish.

We stand in line at a twenty-four-hour Iberian ham sandwich shop, when the woman behind the counter asks if we are together with the man standing next to us. “No,” he responds, and then looks at us. “I’m from Luxembourg. Where are you from?” I say, “The United States.” He lights up. “Welcome! It’s great to start seeing more Americans coming to Europe again!” This is the refreshing stuff about which I am talking. Plus, this is no White Castle all night joint. All places serve the finest, thin sliced Iberian ham you will ever find. They would get run out of town if not. Nothing against those thick slices of salty ham that we all love back in the states, but these thin, prosciutto-like strips of ham come from pigs raised special, like acorn fed, or truffle fed highbrow sophisticated oinkers who understand more Spanish than I.

All we want to do during our four nights in Madrid entails walking and stopping at the plethora of places that serve drinks and a variety of tapas. Every round of beers comes with bowls of olives, chips, salty snacks, and you can purchase a variety of plate sizes of ham, anchovies, shrimp, more ham, mussels, and then wine, and well, let you mouths water along with ours, courtesy of Marilynn’s photos.

Our future travel plan includes renting a cliff house in Spain’s Canary Islands, on the island of Tenerife. As we look forward to that adventure, we have also booked a strenuous trek to spot gorilla families in Uganda and Rwanda, where this aging couple speak Swahili worse than Cheeta. The itinerary remains fluid, changing daily. We also remain flexible and will see where the world condition allows us to explore.

Thank you, Abundant Universe!