Alan Flyng

Alan Flyng

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Visit to Star Wars Madrid, November, 2009

I had looked forward to this visit with huge relish, as I had worked in Madrid before on the John and Bo Derek film, 'Bolero' there and had very fond memories of the city indeed. Once again, Derek Lyons and I were invited together to visit and enjoy the hospitality of a club of fans totally devoted to all thing Star Wars!

We were met off the plane at Madrid airport by a virtual welcoming committee of members, including a banner and cameras! Ringleaders were Javier Peinado, Benjamín Bruña González, Javier Gonzalez Esteban and Juan Espino Marquez. Their enthusiasm was infectious and by the time we reached central Madrid we were really ready to get started.

Our  reception committee pose with us at the airport on arrival in Spain.

The event poster designed by Benjamin Bruña González

The hotel was a super-heated modern Hotel-Pension with large and comfortable rooms. Derek's even had an exercise machine! We had a brief interlude in which to refresh ourselves and rest and then we were off on the town! Derek and I went for a short walk to explore our surroundings and came across the Don Quixote memorial - a fabulous bronze group of the master and his faithful retainer, Sancho Panza.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Madrid

Later, our friends collected us and took us to the Corte Ingles at the Puerto del Sol and the next door FNAC - a European-wide store selling tickets, books, and all things media and entertainment related, in order to view the Star Wars exhibits and for Derek to view films available on DVD. I went into the Corte Ingles on a fruitless search for a self-tie bow tie. I do so dislike ready made bow ties! I was, however, disappointed. From there we moved on to see where we were due to sign the following day - a comic shop of grand proportions called Atlantica Comics. Next came lunch, followed by a trip to the Prado art gallery - somewhere I had never been before and was ultra-keen to see.

Outside the Prado Gallery, Madrid
The huge statue  of the great painter Velazquez, who is abundantly represented in the Prado's collections!

Like most national collections, it was impossible to see everything, but we gave it a good stab!!! Later that afternoon we all adjourned to an American Diner with masses of atmosphere, owned by another member of the Star Wars Madrid Club, and were served the hugest hamburgers I have ever seen! (And I tell, you, having been around the States and elsewhere, I have sampled some giants in my time! LOL!!!).

Tommy Mel's Classic Diner, Madrid

Not my best side for photographs, but I attempted to eat it in the hand! An idea best forgotten! :o)

After dinner, the seemingly innocent proposal was made that we visit a tapas bar or two, we set off in a group of about 6 or 7. One or two tapas bars turned into a bar crawl! It felt like an English pub-crawl, but this was a dash around central Madrid's bars and cafes on foot, all serving tapas and booze! Walking on a stick can be exhausting, but this really was a march of heroic proportions for me and, had I not been afraid to break someone's back, I would have begged for someone to carry me! :o)

Stuffed to the gills and yet more dishes required sampling - at least, so my feeder said! I was fit to bust and exhausted, both conditions clearly visible above! LOL!

We visited the red light district and Madrid's oldest cafe/bar, as well as a traditional Spanish cider bar, where Derek demonstrated his natural ability to pour a drink from a bottle held above the head and into a glass as low as possible. All this to aerate the drink. But it was delicious! As we progressed, others met up with us and we ended up in a bar/disco with a rowdy bunch of local late-night drinkers.

Tongues akimbo, the motley crew drank on!

The bar-crawl at an end and all well-oiled, we were returned to out hotel and a night of oblivion in exhausted sleep :o) The next day, it was round to Atlantica Comics and set up ready for signing autographs. No sooner than the door opened and we were busy!

Only my hand is visible - poised to sign again as the crowd grows and Derek takes a break to view the contents of the shop.
During the course of the signings, we were both presented with framed certificates naming us Honorary Members of the Rebel Legion, Spanish Base by some of the costumers present - principally Juan Teruel Ramón and Jesús Valcárcel.

The Rebel Legion award! Que la fuerza te acompane! 

Derek and I receiving our Honorary Membership to the Rebel Legion, Spanish Base.

That evening we were taken to meet the entire Star Wars Madrid Club, assembled to honour us with a dinner of epic and delicious proportions, topped off with a gigantic meringue desert and finally the presentation of a perspex laser-engraved award - Friend of Star Wars Madrid. Derek and I were really feeling overwhelmed by the amazing hospitality shown us and generosity of spirit displayed by all!

The perspex Friend of Star Wars Madrid awards.

The gigantic meringue! In spite of diabetes, I had to try it - absolutely delicious and flamed with brandy!

Another great night and another exhausted and belly-stuffed sleep!

Next morning, our friends assembled again at the hotel and signed posters to us and we headed off to the airport and emotional goodbyes! Unfortunately, the company handling the gates and announcements messed up and we managed to miss our boarding time, even though the plane sat on the airport apron for another three quarters of an hour before moving to take off! Much annoying argument ensued and we and another 7 passengers, outsmarted by this display of transparent jobsworth mentality, were then obliged to rebook for the following day and find a hotel nearby for the night. Another £280 later and on an unplanned travel day, we finally made it onto the plane and home. Ryanair - Schmyanair! They had 'forgotten' to load any food on-board and there was even no water to drink! Shame on them!
And so ended a notable and mostly enjoyable (no thanks to Ryanair) visit to a group of genuinely lovely people, with whom we will remain friends as long as Star Wars lasts! I look forward to returning another day - but please note, not by Ryanair!!! =o)