Tuesday March 11, 2014
It is ten years today since the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004, in which 191 were killed and over 2,000 were injured.
I had moved two Madrid two months earlier and had recently moved into an apartment ten minutes walk from the attack. I had traveled once on the train line that was attacked.
I was coming home from an early morning class (I was an English teacher at the time) when a friend called to ask if I was OK and to tell me what had happened. I already had an idea something was up. A woman crying on the Metro, screaming 'Y estan todos muertos' ('And they are all dead') shook the entire carriage. My Spanish wasn't too good at the time and I couldn't tell if she was crazy or not, but the deeply saddened faces of my fellow passengers told me that something serious had happened.
The indiscriminate nature of the attacks made everyone fearful over the next few days. We felt that we were all targets.
Madrid was a dark place for the coming weeks. Cars would drive by with memorials in the window. Shrines were erected in Puerta del Sol and at the train station. There was some debate over when these memorials should be removed: the train staff, who had been closest to the attack, had to walk past these makeshift remembrances every day. "We don't want to forget, but we need to move on" was the sentiment of those who worked there.
Madrid has honoured the dead with a Madrid Bombings Memorial at Atocha Train Station.
Today, my heart goes out to all those affected by terrorist attacks throughout the world.
Monday March 10, 2014
One of the downsides to traveling with budget airlines like easyJet and Ryanair is that, with such high checked baggage fees, we all want to travel hand baggage only and yet still have a full wardrobe and all the gadgets and amusements we need to make our vacation go smoothly. You then have to use some serious Jedi powers to get everything into your hand baggage, or at least know how to perform the 'these are not the oversized bags you are looking for' trick on the stormtrooper staff that man the baggage cages as you board the plane.
We all have our favourite ways of getting more than we're supposed to past their beady eyes. But slipping things by the attendants in our big winter jackets has backfired on us, the passengers, as the overhead lockers can no longer take everyone's luggage.
easyJet is the only airline to sensibly tackle this problem, by introducing a new 'guaranteed hand baggage' size of 50cm x 40cm x 20cm (19.7" x 15.7" x 7.9") in 2013. Not a 'limit' as such (you can still carry on the industry standard hand baggage size, which is more than what Ryanair allows), it's just that a larger bag might be put in the hold if the plane is full.
But who has a bag that fits well? I have several bags that are smaller but then I lose out on what I'm entitled to. And as I'm going to really stuff this bag full to burst, I need a bag that is sturdy enough for the job. Oh, and as I inevitably have to swallow my dignity and fly Ryanair on occasions, I need a bag light enough that it doesn't eat into their 10kg weight limit (easyJet has no weight limit).
And I have found the perfect bag: it's made by Cabin Max. Using two of their bags, as well as some nifty packing tips that my wife taught me, we packed a weeks' clothing, toiletries and gadgets for each of us and were well under the weight and size limits. Check out how we did it: Packing for Ryanair and easyJet: Hand Luggage Only
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Are you visiting Spain this March or April? Boy, have you got a lot to fit into your schedule!
If you're already in Spain, March gets off to a bang today with the Carnival (known as Mardi Gras in the US) taking place in many cities around the country. Check out my list of Carnival Cities in Spain or read about what's going on tonight at the Carnival in Sitges or the Chueca Carnival.
If you're not in town for the official start of Lent, don't think that the next forty days will be bereft of fun things to do. The Fallas Festival also happens this month, with events earlier in Valencia leading up to the big event from March 15 to March 19.
April sees Semana Santa, Spain's week-long Easter celebrations, dominate events. Check out the Best Semana Santa Cities in Spain to see what to head for (or to avoid, if Easter is not your kind of thing).
Friday February 28, 2014
Venere.com, one of my favorite hotel booking websites, has a 15% off deal for today only - and the best part is that you don't have to pay up front!
With Venere, as with Booking.com (in most cases), there is a no-obligation clause which can make planning your vacation a lot easier.
This could be especially useful for anyone looking for Las Fallas Accommodation. Valencia's colossal street festival, Spain's Biggest Party, takes place in March and accommodation can be extremely expensive, especially this close to the dates.
Check out the Venere.com 15% Discount.