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Friday, 9 March 2012

Days in the Land of the Famous Galacticos

Last week, I joined forces with another 25 University students to go on a trip to the Spanish capital of Madrid,  in this post, I will reveal all of what went on whilst we were there, including my own photos and a snippet on the game we watched whilst we were out there; Real Madrid vs. Espanyol.

DAY 1 - Friday 2nd March 2012

A very early start with a departure time of 3.15am from Uni wasn't helped after a night out at Yates' Bar where every Thursday is a £1-a-pint night - A few were a little worse for wear but after boarding many fell asleep but not me, who was pretty much listening to some music the whole way to my home-town of Crawley, where Gatwick is located.  As those who know me will know, I do like to kick up a fuss about the location of Gatwick Airport;  I get riled every time I hear the words "London Gatwick" considering firstly, Gatwick isn't in London and, secondly, that Gatwick is situated about 30 miles from London! Anyway, rant over!

An hour and a bit later and we had arrived, a few were a little grouchy and complaining about the cold as I was standing there in shorts and they were rummaging for their coats.

As soon as the bags were put on the conveyor-belt thing we decided to hit the Flying Horse/McDonalds situated in the food court bit of the South Terminal.  Due to the drinking antics of the night before my mouth was as dry as a bone and I ended up grabbing and pretty much downing two large cokes.

7.25 we boarded the plane and it wasn't long until a few of the lads started to take advantage of James Hughes' fear of flying and comments such as "Did you see that swan go flying into the turbine", "Did you just see that bolt come off the wing" or "That doesn't sound too good" being passed around (I think deep down he loved it).

We arrived in Madrid a few hours later and jumped on the coach that took us to "Hostal Nuria", smack bang in the city centre.  Dropping the bags off it was soon back out the door as we boarded the Metro (Similar to the London Underground) and headed to the outskirts of Madrid to visit Real Madrid TV.  A 20 minute ride and we were greeted outside by Pablo Foley-Elias, one of the presenters of the TV station and went in.

It was interesting to see how big the set was for the station, when we were there something was being set up that looked similar to a Spanish version of Mock The Week or something like that.

After a 40 minute or so tour around the facilities most of the lads seemed to be infatuated by the female presenter, Kay Murray for around 5 or 10 minutes before we departed for the Metro, bringing Pablo with us as he lived just down the road from where we were staying.

A few hours of doing nothing ensued before a quick nap turned into a full on 13 hour sleep.

DAY 2 - Saturday 3rd March 2012

Day 2 was pencilled in as the stadium tour of the Santiago Bernabeu.  Being someone who has pretty much visited little non-league grounds for the last 14 years of watching Crawley I was expecting a few more of the average 4,000 capacity stadiums that I ave been in over the years so was looking forward to what Real Madrid had to throw at me.

After a quick shower I donned my Crawley shirt (Got to be done hasn't it?!) and headed downstairs to the dining area but, to my disappointment there was no black pudding, eggs, bacon etc and, instead was just two rolls on a plate with a coating of sugar on top along with a few sachets of jam and butter.

We quickly bundled onto the Metro and escaped it as the train stopped at the "Santiago Bernabeu" station.  A flight of stairs later and there it was; an 85,000 all-seater stadium starring back at us.

A few pictures and a queue for tour tickets and we took the winding steps and the odd escalator up to the top of one of the stands to be greeted by a great view of the stadium.

IMPRESSIVE: Santiago Bernabeu
Next was the museum part of the tour where there were old shirts from players of yesteryear such as Pele, Bobby Chalton and Ferenc Puskas, Raul's first ever pair of boots, the players footwear from last season, an abundance of replica trophies that Madrid have won during their long and distinguished history including the "real" Copa del Rey trophy that the team won last season.

Raul probably scored a few in these
After this, the tour continued towards the dugouts, the tunnel, the changing rooms and the press conference room before finally coming to an end in the club shop.  It was an excellent tour and a real opener to how much history Real Madrid has; for someone of my age, the start of Real Madrid's success earlier in my life was that of the Galacticos era with players such as Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Hierro, Ronaldo, Raul etc so to look around and notice other players such as Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano.

PUSKAS: Knew Where The Net Was
As soon as this finished then the rest of the day was yours, about 7 of us decided to give TGIs a go with it being just around the corner.  Had a "Cheesy Bacon Cheeseburger" and a beer served by the lovely waitress Maria.

We made it back at about 4pm Spanish time which meant there was enough time to find a bar with Jeff Stelling and wait for Crawley to hammer play Torquay.  Unfortunately for me, despite Jeff leading me on to believe we had scored by saying something like "Crawley... sold all of their goalscorers and without a win in 4..."  I was here expecting him to shout "Have scored!..." or something along those lines but instead told the world about Eunan O'Kane making it 1-0 to the visitors - I wasn't happy but it made good viewing for the rest of the boys around me.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful apart from me and a mate not bringing ID out with us as we were planning to go to a club with the rest of the group.  On the way back from the club he was pick-pocketed but, after a 15-20 second grapple he got it back as  was making sure the other Spaniard wasn't going to do anything silly - No biggy!

DAY 3 - Sunday 4th March 2012

This was game day but with the kick off time being 21.30 it meant that until the departure time of 19.00 we could do what we liked for a few hours.  Me and a couple of others popped across the road to a Starbucks and pretty much lounged around for a few hours before departing, once more for the Bernabeu.

As we walked up the steps in the Metro you could already feel the atmosphere; the Madrid fans were singing as we saw the Bernabeu at night all lit up - It looked fantastic.

Onto the game and it wasn't long until Madrid scored; 1 minute in Cristiano Ronaldo had the ball in the net just in front of us but was adjudged to be offside.

He didn't have to wait long though as he was sent clear and tucked the ball past their 'keeper for 1-0 to Real.

They got the second about 20 minutes later as Sami Khedira finished off an impressive one touch move by a number of Madridistas before putting his side 2-0 up at half time.

Gonzalo Higuain netted the clincher a minute after half time and grabbed his second soon after with two good finishes.

Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso all had chances to add to the goal tally before Kaka  went on a mazy run before tucking the ball into the corner of the net for a 5-0 Real win.

Best player on the pitch? Kaka, by a country mile - Assisted 2 and scored 1.  If he has "lost it", as some people say he has then God knows just how good he was when he "had it"!

Back on the Metro we headed straight for a McDonalds before having an early-ish night.

Day 4 - Monday 5th March 2012

The final day in Madrid was a hectic one.  We had to check out of the Hostal at 10am but were allowed to put our bags in a room upstairs.

We then got on the Metro once more for a trip to the well-known Spanish newspaper Marca which took longer than usual because our tour guide, Jessica didn't speak a word on English and we instead had an interpreter which wasn't too bad!

After a 40 minute or so look around Marca we were told to do what we liked as long as we met back at the Hostal at 6pm.

So back on the Metro we went, back to the Bernabeu and back to TGIs, hoping to get one last glimpse of Maria - It wasn't to be but the food was excellent - 13 Euros for a three course meal and unlimited cokes - Can't complain!

MARCA: A good read!
On the way back to the Hostal we had a couple of Desperados in a local bar before heading back and jumping on the coach heading for the airport.

It didn't take long, and after checking in and getting all of that boring stuff out of the way we were on the plane .

I was playing Football Manager 2012 on James' iPad on the flight back to Gatwick and the coach back to Southampton as I was getting sacked at Crawley and taking over the managerial reigns at Hayes and Yeading      

And that was that!  Ended up getting back to Southampton at around 1am!

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