Morocco/Spain diary: Day 15

Saturday, 27 September, 2014. 11:51

We are sitting in Marrakesh International Airport, waiting for our flight to Madrid. It’s a very small airport by international standards, with one large waiting area and what looks like just three gates. It looks like they don’t even have jet tubes, and we might have to walk across the tarmac to board the plane.

We got up a bit before 07:30, and thankfully the hot water was working again, so we both showered and dressed for today’s travel. We repacked our bags from scratch and regained enough space to fit everything in. I am carrying the fossil plates we bought to make sure they don’t get smashed in the luggage, and M. is carrying the ceramics we got in Fes.

Our final breakfast in Morocco was leisurely. This time the cake was an orange cake, and the varying bread product was thin squares of fried pastry, all crispy with no doughy part, sprinkled with sesame seed and a few spots of honey. The yoghurt selection today included pistachio yoghurt, which we both tried. I scraped the fuzz off a kiwifruit and bit into it, but it was very sour. We saw Bev and Colleen again, and the rest of their tour group, who ate at the large communal table, while we sat at a table for two. Colleen said there was a mix-up with their dinner last night, and she got left behind when she went back to her room to collect something, and they had to send a taxi to pick her up and take her to rejoin her tour group!

After eating, we packed and double checked we had everything, then left the room, handed the key back to one of the cleaning ladies, and sat to wait for our airport transfer at 10:45. We took the time to check how to get from Madrid Airport to our hotel for tonight. It looks like we can use the Metro, but we will have to change lines twice to get to Opera, the nearest station to the hotel. Fortunately from there it’s only about a 50 metre walk to the hotel.

During our trip here in Morocco, several of the people we were travelling with accidentally took euro out of their wallets instead of dirhams and didn’t realise it. Someone told a story about people accidentally paying with euro and the merchant taking it without comment, thus making a huge profit at the expense of the unfortunate traveller. So we kept an eye on other people’s money and corrected their mistakes a few times.

M. has checked out the few shops here in the airport waiting lounge, and spent the last of our dirham notes, using 70 to buy a small parcel of chocolate coated almonds. All the prices here are marked in euro, not dirhams, but they accepted the dirhams. The chocolates are ridiculously expensive, but we won’t get another chance to spend our dirhams.


Our flight to Madrid should have started boarding 15 minutes ago, but the plane hasn’t even landed here yet.

We wanted to get rid of our last handful of dirham coins. I looked for a charity donation box, but couldn’t find one. So I suggested we could give them to the toilet cleaning ladies when we use the toilets before getting in the flight, even though when I went earlier I saw no evidence anywhere of them collecting money. But then I found a charity box in another wander, and dropped all the coins in. And them M. went to use the toilets, and the cleaning ladies had their hands out asking for coins as she emerged!

Leaving Marrakesh
Boarding our flight from Marrakesh to Madrid.

15:03 Morocco time, 16:03 Spain time

We boarded our flight maybe 20 minutes late after the plane finally arrived. We walked across the tarmac to climb into the CRJ 1000 plane, which is a small jet with two engines mounted on the tail, and none on the wings. The flight time is only an hour and a half. They don’t serve an included meal on this flight, but you can buy sandwiches and drinks from a menu. I think we should be okay for food until we land and get to our hotel.

Leaving Africa
Flying over northern Africa.

22:35. Hotel Room Mate Mario, Madrid.

We landed around 17:00, give or take. Madrid airport is huge, with four non-intersecting runways. Even with multiple huge terminals, we taxied to a stop out on the tarmac and had to walk over to a bus to drive us over to the satellite terminal T4S, from where where caught a shuttle train which must have gone a kilometre or so to terminal T4, where we claimed our bags and exited into the arrivals area.

Because we hadn’t eaten properly since breakfast, only snacking on some dried apricots and the chocolate almonds M. had bought at Marrakesh airport, we stopped at a cafeteria in the arrivals area and had a quick snack. M. got a cappuccino and I had a “Delhi” wrap, which was tandoori chicken. After this, we went down to the Metro station and bought two three-day tourist tickets for the public transport, then got on the next train into the city. We had to change lines twice, at Nuevos Ministerios and then Cuatros Caminos, before arriving at Opera. We emerged into a small square behind the opera house and quickly found our street, near the Burger King marked on our map of Madrid. The hotel was just a few steps past that.

We checked in and found the hotel Room Mate Mario to be modern and funky, with coloured lighting and modern abstract designs everywhere. The room is comfortable, but had twin beds, so we asked if we could change to a double room. They had none available, but said they would reconfigure our room with a double bed for us while we were out tomorrow.

The next step was to find some dinner. Restaurants in Madrid are notorious for not even opening until 20:30 or 21:00, since the Spanish often don’t eat dinner until 22:00 or so. After looking at some restaurant reviews on the WiFi, we found a place near us which opened at 20:00, so decided to go have a look. As we left, we passed La Paella Real, right near our hotel, across from the Burger King, and it was open. So we ventured in, to find it was populated entirely by Japanese tourists. But they had a table and we were hungry, so we sat down and ordered grilled asparagus for a starter, then a “fish and shellfish” paella. There were also very crusty bread rolls and olives. We got a half bottle of Chiton white wine from Rioja to go with the seafood, and this was very light and not bad.

Grilled asparagus
Grilled asparagus.

The asparagus was good, and came with a big pile of rock salt crystals, which looked at first like nut flakes or something until M. tried a big mouthful and found out the hard way. It also had balsamic reduction and cherry tomatoes and a bit of lettuce on the side. The paella came out in a big metal cooking dish, which the waitress showed us before scooping it all into two large plates to serve. The size of the dish was enormous, but it was delicious, with prawns, squid pieces, mussels, and fish pieces. We ate a lot of it, but couldn’t possibly finish it off. It was more salty than our normal food, so I ordered a creme caramel (or “flan” in Spanish) for dessert. It was mediocre, but the sweetness was nice. We paid with Amex and then the waiter brought us complimentary glasses of cava. We’d seen everyone else in the restaurant get some bubbly at the end of their meals and we’re wondering why they were all ordering it.


As we left the restaurant we looked at the mass of photos on the wall near the entrance. They were obviously celebrity photos taken in the restaurant, but the only person we recognised in them was Luciano Pavarotti. The atmosphere outside was good, with lots of people milling about the opera house, so we walked for a few minutes, doing a circuit around the large building and getting a glimpse of the royal palace on the other side. We also popped into a souvenir shop briefly, before returning to our hotel. We were so tired we basically just brushed our teeth and dropped into bed.

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