Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tres dias in Mad City...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, when I last left you, brother Tavares and I, fresh off a Katrina Mills sighting and draining the final swig of our prestigious McDonald's beers, were about to board a plane to Madrid. THAT, dear family, is where we resume the tale this evening.

Day 1: Magister - a slice of home (brew) in Madrid

So the flight from Lisbon was fine, with the one exception that it was on DONKEY AIR. That's right - anyone ever heard of Air Europa? Yeah - me neither. Luckily I was so damn tired from the 57 miles we walked against 400 mph wind that I was able to sleep like a ROCK. However, I did wake up in time to see some gorgeous Spanish peaks covered in snow - it was a neat scene.

Once on the ground, we caught a cab to the Westin, where we dropped our gear and checked in. I am officially a "Starwood Preferred Guest" now (those of you working at the Bank are now laughing; if you don't work at the bank, then just keep telling yourself that I am VERY important and sophisticated), and so I was treated to a slightly upgraded room. I know that this place is old, but it is Old World Europe money, and it was SWEET.

At 7, brother Ray and I rolled into Plaza Santa Ana, where we hit up my FAVORITE spot in Mad City - Magister. This joint, one of the few that actually brews its own beer, was a STAPLE for JT and I when we lived here (and a frequent haunt when I return). I like it for a) the Rubia beer (a SOLID blond), b) the old bartender who hates me and ALWAYS shoo's me away (but is HILARIOUS whilst doing so - Dinger - he's like the Farouk or Gunther of Spain), and c) the MOUNDS of food you can get. I mean check out this bountiful feast of potatoes and...well, fat.

Around 9, feeling exhausted and potentially sick, we retired early. RT actually hit the gym and watched the gold medal hockey match, but I was OUT COLD. Hats off to both teams, and congrats to Team Maple Leaf for a hard earned victory - watch your asses in 2014. :-)
Day 2: Dinner at the oldest joint in the world

So day 2 started out with a bang. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, I got my lazy ass out of bed and did 35 on the bike. Whilst it wasn't a ton of exercise, it set the ton for my 8 AM rendevous with destiny. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, after being shunned the previous 3 trips to Madrid, THE WESTIN DESAYUNO (that would be brekkie) WAS INCLUDED!!!! Let me tell you that, once you've had it, nothing you ever read in your LIFE will mean more to you than the phrase "desayuno esta incluido." Conscious of this, I trotted down at 7:50 AM, where I spent the next 40 MINUTES shoveling down piles of jamon, salmon, fresh fruit, donuts, coffee, and juice. Yes, I did have 4 plates in front of me at any given time. Yes, I am sure that I disgusted EVERYONE around me. Yes, I spent more time eating than I spent exercising. And Yes - I have NO regrets. And SPOILER ALERT - I was rinse-repeat on that for the next 2 days.

So the work day was good, working through cutover task lists, data conversion plans, disaster recovery and mitigation scenarios (all in 2 languages). I'm sure I've mentioned it, but the office in Madrid is AWESOME. It's a 50 story tower right in the heart of the city, and you can actually look down INTO REAL MADRID STADIUM. Yeah, it's pretty wicked.

The highlights of the evening, however, were two fold. First, Ray and I met our buddy Rui (another Portuguese fella, Rui is our Supply Chain guru) for a couple of drinks in the mall atrium just beside Torre Picasso. We had a pair of Mahou's (the second best beer in Spain after Cruzcampo, which is the TRUTH), and we had a great time chatting and finally getting to relax a little outside the office.
Next up, Taylor's internal (or lack thereof) GPS struck again. Ray and I left Rui and boarded the Madrid Metro (which I do know very well, for the record), getting off at Sol. The destination (for which we were already 15 minutes late) was Casa Botin, currently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "oldest restaurant in the world," having served food on the same site since 1275. Incidentally, this restaurant was the site of the infamous "acute cardio-pulmonary disease" phone call in 2007, from which I STILL haven't full recovered.

Well, when Ray asked if we should book a cab, I said, "No way, dude - I know EXACTLY where this place is." And the truth was that I did know...I just didn't know how to get to the staircase that led to it. Consequently,we burned another 15 minutes lost before Ray saved us with his BlackBerry. Thank GOODNESS for modern technology (well, except Matt Miller, of course).

Dinner at this joint was AWESOME! We descended into the cellars of the restaurant, where we were treated to some GREAT wine, delicious beef, and (wait for it...) serrano ham. It was a great night of relaxing, and I was even able to capture a picture of Equipo Espana! It was a nice night for a walk, so we strolled the 20 minutes home, even capturing a photo of the Tio Pepe sign in Sol (the construction from 4 years ago is FINALLY done).

Day 3: A stroll down memory lane

So the work day was another great one, complete with the feather in my cap of attending a 2 hour meeting completely in Spanish. And whilst my brain was about to EXPLODE once it was over, I was definitely proud that I had left not only contributing but actually understanding exactly what the hell was going on.
To celebrate, I took Ray and Nancy (another teammate) for a drive down memory lane. There, at 140 Ayala, near the Manuel Bercerra metro stop, was another famous and consistent haunt for Team Taylor during our 2 month stint in Mad City in '07 - Cafe Tehran. And yes, Jen Webb - we saw the door to your apartment complex - talk about some memories!

Cafe Tehran was JUST AS GOOD as I remembered. And to boot, they had THE MOST coveted bottled beer in Spain (and the ONLY place I've ever found it) - San Miguel 1516. This stuff is just plain liquid gold - AMAZING! Throw in dinner and a nice glass of Syrah for desert (as well as Persian ice cream - interesting...), and you've got a recipe for a GREAT night in Spain.

Day 4: Back to Wife Muffin!
So the work day was a good one, and Carolina and I caught a taxi around 2:30 for the airport. It was a WET day, and we were delayed about an hour getting out the door. However, that gave me time to FINALLY finish "The Alienist," a 500 page hardback that I've been lugging around for about 3 weeks. T-bone - you were the man who recommended this to me, and it did NOT disappoint. That being said, it was pretty twisted, and I'm glad to be well clear of it.

We flew into London City Airport (LCY), and I am now a HUGE FAN of this airport. I was touch down to my door step in 75 MINUTES, which is TRULY AMAZING in London. Best of all, I finally got to kiss and hug my BABY PIE! JT had hit the pool, so luckily I was able to crush most of the blog before she got home. I was exhausted, but I (FINALLY) had an AFD and a salad before passing out around 11.

Today has been another GREAT day. For starters, I am offically OUT OF THE BOOT! That's right - I am FINALLY back to normal shoes and feeling no pain (knock on wood). I biked tonight, and I'm giving it another 2 weeks on the bike before I hit the treadmill for a 5-10 minute jog. However, things are looking up!

Tonight was an hour on the bike, a salad for dinner, and my second AFD in a row. However, I am harboring no illusions about AFD's - it's time for the mandatory Friday meeting at the Cat & Canary with Steve and Brother Morgan!

Also, two more classic moments to share:

1. I'm sitting at my desk today working away when I get a tap on my shoulder. I turn around, and who is standing there? Fizzy, Hitman, Notorious - brace yourselves, as I was in the presence of THE POSH PUMA HIMSELF - Cyrus David. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Pop is Life, and it's time to RISE UP! again in the Mother Country. If you haven't figured out any of these references yet, fret not - as a character of EPIC proportions is about to enter the blog.

2. On my way home tonight, I enter the Canary Wharf station (there's a huge down escalator) and notice 3 cops standing at the foot of the stairs. For whatever reason, they stop me and ask to search my bag. When I say fine, they start asking me a series of questions about my bag, my time in the UK, and about me. Why have I been stopped, you ask? Because apparently I was part of a RANDOM SEARCH allowed by the ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 2000. And hey, I'm not trying to be a hater, but here's my question to the cops: when you saw the shirt, the hair that looked like Weird Al Yankovic, and the wrinkled khaki's with the tennis shoes, did you really think Al Queda would look THAT obvious? Rice - did you tell them I'm a communist and needed a good thrashing?
And speaking of, it's time to finish "The Afghan" and call it a night. Dean - this book COOKS. DEFINITELY a worthwhile read.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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