or centuries, visitors have wondered why the Spanish, particularly the Madridlenos (residents of the capital), eat dinner at such a late hour.

Dinner typically starts at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.

A few non-Spanish attendees at the recent Fitur international travel and trade show think they have figured out the modus operandi behind the dining schedule.

After leaving the Juan Carlos I Exhibition Center, two Fitur attendees headed back at 6 p.m. to their hotel.

One waited an hour in line for a taxi, got caught up in traffic and arrived at her hotel at 8 p.m.

These happy diners in Madrid began their main course at midnight. Did they need a rest after their journey home from the Fitur international travel trade show? Her roommate took the metro, changed three times, got off at the wrong stop and still needed to take a taxi to the hotel.

She arrived home at 8:30 p.m.

"We were so exhausted and had such a long commute, we couldn't think of eating until later," the metro rider confided the next day.

"So I guess this is why the Madridlenos eat late!"

For the record, Insider found Madrid's abundance of taxis and its clean metro wonderful in comparison to New York's public transportation system.

Men in uniform

Diane Jedrzejewski, owner of Ticket to Ride, a Riverside, Ill., retail agency specializing in the Disney product line, had a tale for Insider involving a bellman at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.

The agent had flown from Chicago's Midway Airport on National Airlines to Los Angeles in late January to preview Disney's California Adventure theme park. However, her luggage was inadvertently off-loaded in Las Vegas during a 40-minute interim stop.

National eventually recovered one of her two suitcases -- containing only shoes -- but the other was never seen again.

Having official things to do in Anaheim, and arriving just with the clothes on her back, the agent began calling National from her hotel room, to no avail.

Around 9:30 p.m., she asked Carlos, a hotel bellman, if there was a Wal-Mart around where she could buy some clothes and travel appliances.

Feeling sorry for her, Carlos drove her to the store himself and proceeded to shop with her, still in his bellman's uniform and looking very out of place at the discount store, the agent said.

The bottom line is that Carlos finally had some baggage to deliver, even if he had to help create it!

As an aside to this insider story, National promised to make restitution to the agent, provided she could supply receipts for the lost clothing items. That was no problem for the self-described "receipt queen."

Wedded bliss

How disastrous was your honeymoon?

Thrifty Car Rental asked that question in its seventh annual Disastrous Honeymoon contest and got lots of answers that prove love and humor do triumph in times of calamity.

Debbie and Steve Meyer of Sudbury, Mass., arrived at their hideaway in Maui just prior to their wedding ceremony.

The place was a mess, the previous renters were still there and someone was sleeping in the bride's bed.

They moved to a condo, dressed for their wedding, and went to the church, which was locked.

The impromptu outdoor ceremony took place in a graveyard next to the church. It rained, of course.

On a hike the next day, another hiker fell off a cliff. Rescue personnel asked the newlyweds to help aid the injured climber.

When they returned to their condo that evening, they found it completely enclosed in a giant tent for insect fumigation.

Can you top that?

If so, Thrifty wants to hear from you by Sept. 30 at www.honeymoondisasters.com.

This year's winners won a second honeymoon.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed.


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