By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Mar 06, 2008 at 3:35 PM

MADRID -- Getting today's blog from my laptop to our readers might be a challenge, as the Hotel Mora doesn't have Internet access, wi-fi or otherwise. In our 12 hours here (half of it sleeping), I haven't seen an Internet café yet. But I plan on writing this on my MacBook, then somehow getting it e-mailed to Milwaukee (as I can't seem to sync the file to my Blackberry). If I'm lucky, I can at least find some place with Internet access and a USB port, so I can dump this file from my digital camera's memory card, without schlepping a laptop around Madrid. I don't think I can get photos into this blog, but if you're reading these words, at least one of my convoluted idea worked.

As I blogged yesterday, if you could call it that, Wednesday was a long and frustrating day, complete with getting lost, travel delays, $5 tiny bottles of water and few meals. I wrote my blog on my diminutive Blackberry, so I know it was choppy and rushed. Sorry about that. After getting hosed on EasyJet with their ridiculous carry-on policy, we got in to Madrid at about 8 p.m., an hour and a half late. That airline, their atrociously inefficient boarding policy and their deceptive luggage claims, is a scam. If you're ever in Europe, don't fall for it.

Fortunately, Spain put me in a better mood the moment we landed. Their metro is spotless, efficient, modern and easy to understand. It puts Paris to shame. Polite and generous people surrounded us, including a woman who not only helped us lug our big, 50-pound suitcase up an endless flight of stairs (the only bizarrely inaccessible part of the system), but who also directed us to our hotel. She calmed our jangled nerves, smiled and touched Velia's arm and bid happy travels along our way.

In the first few hours, I noticed the people in Madrid have a different demeanor than the Parisians, too. Fewer crazy eyeglasses, no permeating stink or bizarre fashion sense, it feels more like a mix of the nicest parts of Mexico I've visited, like Marida in the Yucatan, and downtown Chicago.

Granted, I speak just a few words of Spanish, but I can hear the Castilian dialect, which sounds lispy on men and women. It's cracking me up, frankly, especially when a some young hipster says, "Grathias." Velia speaks very good Spanish, but hers sounds more Mexican. Communication is a little tricky, as these people speak very quickly, but we're getting by.

The hotel is in a great location, literally across the street from the Prado Museum, but when I pointed out that our last two hotel rooms were tiny, I probably cursed myself. This place, a mere $125 a night, is literally only a bit larger than a king-sized bed. I really can't imagine a smaller hotel room, and I'm having a hard time drawing any comparisons. Fortunately, it's clean, and the building is historic and unique. But next time I go to Europe, I plan on ignoring anything claiming to be less than four stars, because there is no way this qualifies for three. This would barely make 1.5 stars in the United States.

Famished, we grabbed a bite in the restaurant adjoining the hotel last night at about 9:45 p.m. Madrid loves ham. Next to the hotel is the Ham Museum, which we will certainly check out. As Samuel Jackson said in "Pulp Fiction," I don't really dig on the swine (bacon aside), so while my wife had a ham and beans dish, I ordered an asparagus and two dressings salad. Sounds interesting, right? Wrong.

It contained five spears of cold, canned white asparagus and some thousand island dressing. It's probably my uneducated palate, but most of my meals have been lacking. I choked it down, plunking down the $30 this dinner cost, and put this silly day out of its misery. I won't lie, and laugh at me if you must, but I'm getting a tad homesick after eight days eating weird food. I could go for a burrito from Qdoba right about now.

This morning, we greeted our day with a fresh perspective. The weather is sunny but cool for the area, about 50 degrees. We got to the Prado Museum nice and early and took in amazing works by El Greco, Goya, Rubens and Velazquez. This is a wonderful museum, though it's laid out in a confusing fashion.

Then, we strolled through the Botanical Gardens, which aren't quite in bloom but are close. We wandered down the Paseo del Prado, circled back for a great lunch at an organic café and finally returned to the hotel for a siesta, where we are now.

The people of Madrid are night owls who stay out very late. They eat dinner around 8 or 9 p.m. Our plan this afternoon is to check out the Reina Sofia Museum, then to see what kind of tapas and flamenco we can find. I really like what I've seen so far of Madrid. This is a cool, clean and polite city on the move.

A couple random observations before I attempt to get this blog off my laptop and on to the Web:

For the first time in Europe, we've seen several Harleys parked around town. Driving looks insane here, maybe even more hectic than Paris. I'm glad we've already bid farewell to the car.

The national car company is called SEAT. These little Spanish cars, as well as scooters galore, abound.

We found our lunch thanks to a guy passing out handbills on the street. This might be the first time in my life something good came from a handbill shoved at me by a stranger.

Unlike Paris, where I didn't see that many people smoking, Madrid is full of smokers. Cigars and cigarettes all over the place.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.