WE DON'T SERVE NO STINKING DESSERT
VALENCIA – Having been to Spain once before, I should’ve known it was a silly request. Finished a light dinner around 7:30 p.m. at a bustling tapas bar in the middle of the historic centre of this city, one that doesn’t get nearly as much press as it deserves, and thought I’d order some flan on my last night in the country.
The woman behind the counter looked at me like I was crazy. Was I pronouncing it wrong? How many ways can you mangle the word “flan?” Anyway, it finally dawned on her that I wanted a bite of dessert.
“Ocho,” she finally replied.
At 7:55 p.m. local time the woman handed me the dessert menu - but they didn’t have any flan. Nor did the three or four other places I went past on my way back to the Vincci Palace Hotel, which has a lot of modern amenities but is garishly decorated in black and silver; kinda like an Al Davis wet dream (he’s the owner of the Oakland Raiders if you’re with me on this one).
I’ll have to look for some at the airport in Madrid, I guess.
Imagine an airline where they don’t charge you for a sandwich or a glass of wine. Imagine, if you haven’t flown it lately, British Airways. Okay, it wasn’t an award-winning sandwich (chicken with a curry-mustard sauce on brown bread). But the wine was a French syrah-grenache that they charge five bucks for on an Air Canada flight.
And they also, gasp, asked fliers to fill out a survey so they could, wait for it, try to improve service. What a concept!
On the other hand, Iberia ain't exactly the greatest thing in the European skies.
CALLING JOSE CALDERON
It’s weird. You see a lot of really short people in Spain; men who often don’t reach 5 feet on a good day. But there also are plenty of rail-thin, tall women who tower over a slightly-less-than-average-height North American. Which would explain how the coat hangers in my hotel in Valencia were about six feet off the ground. But not how the urinals at the airport in Madrid are nearly waist-high for your ever-so-slightly-less-than-average-height North American.
What’s with the airports over here not telling folks about their flights? It’s weird, but both at Heathrow and Madrid airports you have to wait to find out what gate your flight is leaving from. Maybe they're busy and don't know what gate they'll use. Or maybe it's a security issue I can't get my head around. In Madrid you can’t get access to this top-secret information until an hour before departure. At London’s Heathrow, it’s 30 to 40 minutes.
It’s probably a boon to the folks who run the airport duty-free shops and the little places where you can buy Beatles key-chains or glasses of Spanish cava, but it creates a bit of a rush for folks who don’t move about as easily as your average flier.
PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME LEAVE
The day after a friend was telling me about the joys of a BBC pension, there was a story in the British Airways magazine that had a funny item about the same thing.
“The joke was that the BBC was the only organization on earth where, when you retired, you gave them a watch.”
Kinda like that one.