Spain is a beautiful country. I can’t wait to go back sometime and see it when it’s not raining every day.
The rain started on our way to Granada. Do you know the kind of rain where it’s not pouring, exactly, but you get the sense that the maximum amount of water is still coming down? This was that kind of rain. The kind where by the time you get your umbrella open, your shoes are already soaked through, and then your pant legs, and then you might as well forget the umbrella.
Here we are, leaving Toledo on the first day of rain.
After a lovely wait for an hour or so until the end of the car rental employees siesta at the Cordoba bus station, we picked up our rental car. We were looking for windmills at which to tilt, but didn’t see any. They have some peculiar structures around the landscape, but nothing like you see in Don Quixote drawings.
Maybe they’re antennas? Who knows?
In Granada, people live in caves cut out of the hillside. We thought that sounded super cool, so we rented one via AirBNB as our Granada lodging. We were right, it was pretty neat, but the cave did smell a little weird. Maybe that was thanks to decades upon decades of smoking. People smoke a lot in Spain. Maybe it was the fact that it was a cave.
Still, it was pretty cool, even if walking down out of the hills to enjoy Granada in the rain was a treacherous death-dance. You might be worried that you’ll hurt yourself in a fall on the wet cobbles, but don’t worry, you’ll soon be put right out of any misery by a speeding cab.
Our main objective in Granada was to see the Alhambra, a palace/fortress built in 889 by the Moors, but even then, I understand, it was built on Roman ruins. Long story short it’s an old place. We love looking at old things, especially if the old thing in question has a combination café and beer hut in the courtyard.
The skies cleared in Granada, so we hopped back on the train and headed up north to Logroño, where rain was forecasted. It was also where we found the entrance to Fraggle Rock. Don’t believe me?
We toured a few wineries. I was delighted to find this cool Escort rally car parked outside one.
It belonged to the husband of the winemaker. She was an excellent tour guide. We learned a lot about the merits of different oaks for wine barrels and how different levels of toasting those oaks affect the wine. She didn’t have much to say about the car.
Every night for dinner: tapas. I can’t remember the exact name of this dish, but it was either the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Indigestion.
We loved Logroño. As we were leaving, it stopped raining, so we headed to Madrid where rain was forecasted as soon as it stopped snowing.
Madrid has some amazing tapas places too.
After two days in Madrid, we were due to end our stay. We’d had a great time, learned a lot, and eaten anything seved to us on a small dish. I even ate some hand soap in our hotel, mistaking it for tapas.
But at the airport on Saturday, we learned some things: there was only one flight home from Madrid, all flights from Europe to the US leave around the same time (so if you miss one, you miss them all for that day), and the German airline Lufthansa was on strike, so the busiest travel weekend of the year was even busier than it normally would be.
When you fly on a buddy pass, your status is that of a fart. If the plane is utterly empty and you happen to waft in just before they close the door, they aren’t gonna stop you. But if literally any other human being in the world wanders by the plane and wants to get on, that person has higher status than you do.
Another factor is that you might look at a list of flights for an airline and say, “wow, they have five flights outta here today. Surely one will be empty!” Except that four out of those five are probably what they call “codeshares,” which means that your airline can sell you a ticket, but they don’t operate the flight, which means that if you’re flying like we were, you cannot get on that flight.
We got to the airport extra early and hurried to each stop along the way. We asked everyone for help. Being on the standby list is one thing, but seeing yourself as numbers five and six on the list, then six and seven, then eleven and twelve, on down to the mid twenties as other people show up at the last minute, well, it’s not great.
Again, we asked to fly this way, so we don’t complain. We have flown on standby before. We expected some delays, maybe some rerouting. No big deal. We are flexible.
It was Saturday morning. We had a few options. I spoke to a lady from my airline. She said she might be able to squeeze us on a later flight on Wednesday morning, four days from now. Our only other option was to buy a ticket home, which would be between three and five thousand euros … each.
So, we were stuck in Spain. Admittedly, it’s not a terrible problem to have. There were still sights to see.
When Egypt built the Aswan Dam across the Nile, a lot of land that was previously land became lake. The Egyptians realized that this temple, The Temple of Debod, would be under-appreciated by fish, so they gave it to Spain, where people live. The Spanish disassembled it, moved it, and reconstructed it in Madrid.
Bedraggled, wet, and moving to our third lodging in Madrid, we stopped into a bar that appeared to have beer. Meghann ordered an Imperial IPA. I was attempting to find out, using a mixture of Spanish and French, how people said “IPA” there. The bartender was telling me with conviction that IPA came from the word “Imperial.”
“Non, c’est ‘India Pale Ale,'” I said.
“Je pense que c’est Imperial,” he said, pointing with his finger at the bottle. “See? Im, peri, al.”
“Do you guys need help with English?” a voice asked. It turned out to belong to some new friends from Wales. Abandoning the hopeless IPA conversation and hoping for common musical ground, I asked if they might be Elbow fans. They are. And so, we made some new friends.
The next day, we visited the palace in Madrid together, the four of us. They snapped a photo of us in the courtyard. It wasn’t even raining that day.
In the palace they have lots of fancy whatnots, including a dead guy in a coffee table. We were having fun, but we were also ready to be on our way home. Luckily, our new friends knew a few tricks for searching for flights, and we were able to find some for about half what we’d otherwise have had to spend.
So, we were headed home at last, tired, late, and having been kicked around all over Europe in the name of saving money that we didn’t end up saving anyway.
Delighted to be on US soil at last, or nearly, we got into a customs line a mile long at JFK. It was moving pretty well until there was a concerted effort to re-route the line by people getting off another flight.
Rather than get in line at the end, the newcomers decided to just start a new line in the middle of our line. I guess they hoped no one would notice? Someone did. This led to wailing and gnashing of teeth, but no airport employees cared. They just let the passengers sort this kind of thing out amongst themselves “Lord of the Flies” style, I guess.
In Customs, we were honest about the fact that we’d brought a small quantity of ham home from Spain, so our government took it from us, not wanting us to wrench any form of enjoyment from the trip. But at least we were home, in the good old US of A.
We checked the forecast.
Rain for the week.