FLYING: WHO WILL SIT NEXT TO ME?
The anticipation of a flight for me is the anxiety of who will sit next to me on the plane. I don’t particularly enjoy flying per se, but I love imagining the people I meet at the airport and my future travel companion (I guess I’ve watched one American movie too many, but I often think I’ll meet someone I’ll fall madly in love with…and nope, has never happened). Sitting next to a stranger for many hours in a row is a unique opportunity for finding out about a person, a phenomenon, a city…And the best part is, there’s almost no escape from it!
When flying to Ushuaia last November, at the airport of Buenos Aires I spotted three French guys with big bike boxes on their way to cycle in South America for three years while visiting and filming ecological projects. At the very same airport I met an Argentinian couple who efficiently ended up planning my route through Argentina for me (it later on changed a bit, but for the most part, it was the route I actually took all the way from Ushuaia to Bariloche).
This time, I discovered a bit more about Finland and Madrid, as well as started an Instagram project, which will be going on throughout the trip (see below)! My travel companion also listed her favorite three places in Madrid, and as one of them was still unknown to me, I decided to visit it. Now I can recommend all three of them to you, so check them out if you’re heading to Madrid! And pleeeeeease if you fly, talk to the person sitting next to you.
On the plane from Helsinki to Madrid, I had the pleasure of meeting Marta, a kindergarten teacher on her way home from Ylivieska. She and her two friends had been there because another friend of theirs had fallen in love with a Finn some years earlier and had ended up staying in Finland on a permanent basis. The women had been salmon fishing, going to a lakeside sauna and meeting Finns, who were a lot more sociable than Marta had expected through stereotypes. She had loved the untouched nature and tranquility of the country, which was only disturbed by the clouds of mosquitoes that had not left the women alone even for a minute.
Back home, Marta works as a kindergarten teacher for children aged 0‒3 years. What she considers the most rewarding part of her job is accompanying the children in their growth and looking into their needs. Yet, she says Spain could learn a lot from Finland for example regarding the teacher to student ratio, which is much bigger in Finland and regarding the fact that in Finland, the children spend a lot more time outdoors, even at cold or rainy weather. When we met, Marta still had 10 days left of her month-long holidays, which she was planning to spend in Madrid.
“I love Madrid. Its weather and the fact that you can always choose what to do. There’s nature, mountains, shops… The only downsides are pollution and the cars, and the general rhythm of life. People are always in a hurry! Oh, and that Madrid has no sea.”
Marta’s TOP 3 in Madrid
- Parque del Retiro
“I love the lake where the rowing boats are, but the whole park is splendid with its greenery right in the middle of the city”. Retiro covers 125 hectares and more then 15.000 trees, of which the oldest one is estimated to be around 400 years old. In addition to the greenery, there is a lot of culture within the park, such as sculptures, palaces with exhibitions and a rose garden.
- Sierra de Madrid
“There are a lot of paths to walk on in the mountains near Madrid. ‘Senderismo’ (trekking) is very popular amongst locals and I love spending time in nature when I possibly can”. It takes around 45-60 mins to get from the city center to the mountains and once there, you have a lot to choose from. Look up e.g. ‘Sierra Norte de Madrid’ or ‘Sierra Guadarrama’ for more info!
- Templo de Debod
“It is a beautiful place with a great view, especially at sunset”. This is an old Egyptian building in Plaza de España. It was a given as a present for Spain by Egypt in 1968 in order to thank for Spain’s help in conserving important Egyptian temples. The temple is 2200 years old.
I decided to go and check out the Templo de Debod, as I’d already been to the first two on the list. The place really was beautiful and the park full of people having picnics and enjoying the lazy afternoon. At the Parque del Templo de Debod I met Augusto, the most funny Peruvian water salesman in the world! He works at the park daily, so I strongly recommend talking to him if you visit this place (not least because Augusto wanted to remind you to drink fresh water in hot weather :D). He was also the next to contribute to the “questions from strangers to strangers” Instagram chain that me and Marta began on the plane. I’ll make the chain visible also on the blog as soon as I can, but for now, you can find it on Instagram under: sissistrangerless
The next flights will be on Sunday 28th August from Madrid to Lima (Peru) and from Lima to Foz do Iguacu (Brazil) which is where my bike is. Let’s see who will sit next to me then! (Maybe this time, I’ll fall madly in love.).