Well, we left Raleigh December 31; that's a good day to travel if the weather holds up--and it did. Fairly empty airport, no delays, and then an eight-hour lay-over in Philadelphia. We ate lots of stale peanuts and warmed-over taco meat in the Phili Admiral's Lounge, while we waited for our flight. One positive development was we got upgraded to business class from our premium economy seats, for free. Good flight with surprisingly good food for an airline. Arrived early in the morning of January 1, to Madrid, and a nearly empty airport. No lines, no waiting, baggage at the belt, and off in a taxi to what appeared a deserted city.
We enjoyed walking around in what looked like a set for a dystopian future, post-nuke, or post-pandemic film. No zombies or Mel Gibson, however.
The night brought back the old Madrid magic. Huge festive crowds appeared and packed the sidewalks and plazas. It was great. Some things, however, still did not make sense. Out on the streets, we were jammed in with a bazillion maskless people, shoulder to shoulder, but when we boarded a bus or train, we had to put on our little paper masks, or risk getting fined. What's the science behind that?
Early on the 2nd, we caught the fast train to San Sebastián, not crowded but had to wear our masks for over six hours. The train did not prove so fast; car no.3 caught fire as we crossed the Ebro River. We came to a halt over the river; the peasants from car no. 3, insisted on escaping the smoke by moving into our previously serene car no. 1.
Don't they know that on the Titanic the steerage passengers had to die? These folks should have jumped off the bridge into the frigid river below. Sigh. What has happened to Western Civilization?
We eventually got towed off the bridge, and transferred to a train obviously just removed that day from the salvage yard. No bathrooms, no food, no drink, no first class. Got into San Sebastián over three hours late, but learned we would get a full refund on our tickets. Not bad. Worth risking my elderly life over the Ebro for free tickets.
Had a wonderful Three Kings Day. Watched the parade from a friend's balcony. The Kings appeared, tossing hard candy at the crowd, but also making an appearance were clowns on unicycles, giant dancing squids, seahorses, and sharks--and a loud fire truck. Don't remember those in the liturgy, but, maybe I didn't read it closely.
We then took a gaggle of friends and relatives to our not-yet ready apartment in San Sebastián, and continued the party with the help of several bottles of champagne, Danish beer, La Rioja wine, and, of course, blue bottles of Bombay Gin. I stuck to fizzy mineral water--don't like alcohol since my Foreign Service days.
One of my wife's cousins, a drum major in past parades, insisted on re-enacting the role. While his brother played music from a phone, he drum majored around the apartment, weaving among the paint cans, ladders, and other debris, singing--quite well, actually--at the top of his lungs while directing the invisible marching band behind him with a long broom handle. This at 3 am; no neighbor said even a peep of protest then or the following day. Gotta love Spain. David would have enjoyed it.
Spent the next couple of days visiting some wonderful rustic farm house restaurants out in the beautiful countryside. Foggy, rainy mountain landscape. No tourists. Spanish barely spoken.
The Basques love their farmers, and treat them with great respect. The farmers, in turn, produce some fantastic food and chefs.
Also spent a lot of time sitting in our apartment as various handymen did a lot of rewiring, switching out of appliances, painting, and delivering and assembling furniture. The Diplowife passed much of the day today with lawyers, hashing out all sorts of inheritance and property registration and taxation issues.
In other words, I literally watched paint dry, and kept wondering if this place will ever be ready. There is always something more.
I also followed the battle for Speaker of the House.
All things considered, I thought it turned out pretty well. The score of hardcore stalwarts played their hand about as skillfully as could be expected, and extracted what seem some significant concessions from the McCarthy wing of the party. Look, as I have noted before, I am a disaster at predicting US politics, but think we got a good result given the lackluster midterms. If we can get some action to restrain the outrageous behavior of the FBI, correct the narrative on J6, revisit our Ukraine policy, see some movement on securing the border, get some accountability for the COVID disaster, and hold down spending, that's a lot. Impeachment of Biden and his cronies would also be quite nice--but I won't hold my breath.
It's 2 am, and I guess should try to get some sleep. I don't want to say anything too stupid at this late hour. I will wait for daylight to do that.
Happy New Year, again.