I arrived at Dulles and was able to use the American Airlines Admirals Club while I waited for two hours. Maybe real Admirals get better benefits but one complimentary 8 oz. drink? Pretty cheap. And the Internet wasn't complimentary although one of the staff passed me a super secret code. But the water was free and ice cold. I simply snacked on a pretzel mix until it was time to depart. Money spent at Dulles: $0.
Not quite sure I understand the airlines that have Business Class instead of First Class. On this Iberia Airbus 340 they only had Business Class and it certainly rivaled the First Class I previously flown on American Airlines but not quite to that of Swiss Air. Perhaps this one exception. While it appeared the seats could recline into a full 180 degrees, flat, horizontal position, they didn't. They "only" reclined to 170 degrees (true). But the difference was pretty much negligible.
After takeoff, we were served dinner, even though we didn't get airborne until after 9:15 p.m. I chose the beef tips which came with the absolute most delicious Au Gratin potatoes I have ever eaten. If a Spanish airline makes a French dish taste so delicious I can't wait until I try those in France.
As soon as the meal ended I put on my sleeping mask, reclined, and did my best to sleep. I did OK. I'm not going to venture a guess on how long I slept but it was enough. There were two stretches of pretty rough air where it was pretty difficult to sleep through but thankfully the captain never came on and made a glaring announcement that we were traveling through some bumpy air.
At baggage claim I saw a young boy wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers #43 (Troy Polomalu) jersey. I assumed he was from Pittsburgh. He wasn't. He and his dad are Spaniards. But he likes the way Troy looks. And he posed for me. Steelers Nation is global.
I caught a shuttle to the Madrid Airport Hilton, checked in, then walked 15-20 minutes to find a Metro to downtown. Cost was one Euro.
The historic downtown area is beautiful. Some streets are pedestrian-only and some streets are covered with a mesh tarp (don't know what to call it) to protect the people from the sun. Even the streets that have traffic have very little in this area.
I don't have any pictures but many women carried the folded fans in which to fan themselves. I found a FedEx-Kinkos which offered an Internet Cafe for two Euros for 30 minutes. I logged on and sent my family a message telling them I arrived.
I was going to do the open-air bus tour but by the end of the day, I had walked to most places where the bus stops. A one Euro Metro fare back and manager's reception (aka dinner) at the hotel. Cost spent in Madrid: 4 Euro (I had prepaid for the hotel in January...)
Tomorrow: Toulouse, France. Things have to get more expensive.