My journey abroad began in the Dayton International Airport on New Years Day. My flight schedule consisted of a short flight to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, then a non-stop flight to the Madrid-Barajas airport. As I sat in the Dayton Airport, at my gate, I looked at the clock: it was 3:55pm, my flight was supposed to have taken off ten minutes ago. This wouldn't have been much of an issue if my layover in Chicago hadn't only been for an hour.
I got the tickets to ride!
By the time we boarded and took off from Dayton, it was 4:05 p.m., which meant my flight wouldn't land in Chicago until 4:15 Central Time. My flight for Madrid was scheduled for 4:45 Central Time, I knew it was going to be very difficult to make it. As I exited my flight, it was 4:20 and I was forced to wait in a line on the boarding platform in order to get the luggage that I had checked for the flight to Chicago. The baggage people were taking their sweet time as I checked the clock again: 4:27 p.m.. Moments later, I had my carry-on luggage, a backpack on my shoulders and two coats in my hand, walking briskly into the Chicago Airport. My flight to Madrid was at gate K19, I was at gate H18. I saw a sign for the direction to K19 and took off, weaving in and out of the crowd of travelers in the airport. I reached K9 and briefly stopped to look at the departures board, my flight read: FINAL BOARDING. I immediately picked up my carry-on luggage and sprinted to my gate. I had arrived just in time as the boarding attendees annoyingly allowed me down the boarding platform. I entered a jam packed plane, one of these huge jetliners with seats 3x4x3. Of course, I found my seat in the middle of the middle; but, I couldn't complain: I had made it.
Iberia Air wasn't so bad, but any flight for 8 hours becomes gruesome by the end, especially when I had a backpack under my seat along with two coats and a sweater. On top of that, there weren't any personal televisions for each seat, but I didn't necessarily mind. I mostly read and listened to music. And ate! They fed us quite well, with a three course meal (airplane portions) for dinner and then an hour before landing, they provided a small breakfast. Landing in Madrid, I was already feeling tired, as it was 1:40am in the U.S. In Madrid, it was 7:40am.
Entering the Madrid airport, I was surrounded by groups of Americans who either were on high school trips or other college students like myself who were on their way to other universities in Spain. I wasn't inclined to figure out which, but I followed them through the aesthetically appealing interior of the Madrid airport.
I arrived at the customs checkpoint and anticipated some heavy questioning, or at least more than what I received. The interaction with the customs official went as followed:
Spanish customs official: Hola
Spanish customs official: [looking at my passport/visa] Where are you going?
Spanish customs official: [stamps passport]
Me: Gracias. [I walk away]
After this subtle entrance, I continued my journey to the baggage claim, up and down escalators and on an indoor airport train. My arrival at the baggage claim was met with a considerable amount confusion as my big suitcase never arrived. I checked other baggage claims but to no avail. It was time to talk to customer service. Sure enough my luggage was left in Chicago, which came as little surprise considering the dramatic catching of my flight. However, the feeling of being without my luggage and completely exhausted in a foreign country is not a feeling I want to feel again. Luckily, the customer service man gave me good advice and I wouldn't let this get in the way of getting to my final destination of León.
After my feeling of helplessness subsided, I left the baggage claim and made my way to the subway in the airport. After careful perusal of the map and a little help from a Spanish worker, I bought a subway ticket and set off for the train station in the northern part of Madrid, it was called Estacion de Chamartin. I made a subway transfer in the middle of Madrid and then arrived at the train station in about 20 minutes, approximately at 10:30am.
I snapped this outside Estación de Chamartín
I purchased a train ticket to León for 11:40am and took a seat in the station feeling appropriately exhausted.
Once the gate was announced for my train around 11:20am, I picked myself up and headed for my ride, a slick and modern train. I boarded this splendid machine:
The inside of Renfe trains are clean, quiet and comfortable, at least for someone who is exhausted. The efficiency of these trains is phenomenal. If I hadn't known better I wouldn't have thought I was even on a train considering how quiet and smooth the ride was. As the the train headed north from Madrid, the beautiful countryside of Spain emerged, while simultaneously the Spanish country folk began to outnumber the Madrid urban dwellers on the train. The train made several stops along the way en route to León as I enjoyed the countryside as well as a little shut eye.
At 4 p.m., I awoke to the announcement of our arrival in León. I groggily gathered my belongings and exited the train to a delightful warm and sunny day. After approximately 24 hours of traveling, I had finally arrived at my final destination, short a suitcase and completely exhausted.
But I still needed to find a place to stay for the night...
Utilizing Google maps (which somehow is still accessible without cell phone service), I navigated my way to the hostel, well at least I tried. Of course, I got lost! First, I had my first encounter with León Cathedral which was quite the sight to see given my woozy condition. Then, in another attempt to find my hostel, I stumbled upon Basilica de San Isidoro. In a failed attempt to find my hostel, I discovered two of the most remarkable landmarks in the city. But then I found the hostel. Hostal San Martín. I walked up the steps to the second floor and in so many discombobulated Spanish words requested a room for two nights.
Afuera de Hostal San Martín
I entered my room and immediately crashed on the bed and slept for ten straight hours. From Dayton, Ohio to León, Spain, I had completed my traveling.
Hasta la proxima