Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Long Day of Travel

We left Chulilla around 6 am.  I had slept a couple hours in there somewhere, and my friend had slept not at all.  We drove to "the" train station in Valencia, navigated the parking lot to find the rental car drop off, and found it closed.  We parked the car, unpacked the bags, and dropped the key off in the night drop.

Next, we navigated the train station.  I noticed that there was a security checkpoint and we were a bit worried that it looked like pocket knives weren't allowed in our bags, but we grabbed breakfast while debating what to do.

After breakfast, I noticed that the departure listings didn't seem to include our train, nor anything for our destination leaving at the time I was pretty sure we were supposed to leave.  We stopped in to customer service and through our broken Spanish, learned that not only were we not in "the" train station, but we were not in the right train station.  We were directed to a shuttle between the train stations, that is free for people with boarding passes.  We were also told that while there was security in this station, there was no security screening in the other station.

We waited around in what we assumed was the right spot with time pressure building.  It was getting on to 9 am and our train was scheduled to leave around 10:30 am.  I wasn't sure how long it would take to get from one station to the next.  After 10 to 15 minutes, the shuttle arrived.  They scolded my friend for not putting away the rental cart, then we headed to the other station.  It was a long, tense ride of 5 minutes from the station we were in to the north station.

At the north station, we found what appeared to be the gates, then settled in for a wait.  After a while, I realized the machines that were letting people in did not have readers that would read the tickets on our phones.  We got a couple boarding passes printed out from a large kiosk machine, then waited some more.  Then, I realized the machines would not read our boarding passes either.  Stress really wanted to mount.  We were directed to the far end of the gates as where we would board, but our instructions weren't terribly clear.  We thought someone would let us in if we needed help.

More waiting, then I noticed that some of the kiosks were for short trips, some for medium trips, and some for long trips.  Apparently, you have to know how far someone else thinks your trip will be to choose the right kiosk.  We also noticed that our bags did not obey the rules printed on the backs of the boarding passes that we had never seen before.  Additional stress mounted.

Finally, our platform was assigned and people were allowed to pass the gates for our train, though the train had not yet arrived.  It turns out that people traveling long distance are let through security at a gate much similar to boarding a plane at the airport, except that there is no security screening.  We walked out to our platform and waited with the mob for our train to magically appear before us.

We had assigned seats in an assigned coach, so when the train appeared, we found our coach and began to navigate the baggage problem.  Since I had shoved everything I owned (including 2 backpacks and a laptop bag) inside my large suitcase, it was bursting at the seams.  I would have had trouble finding a place for my bag, but two people were incredibly friendly and made room for me.  There was no way it was going in the overhead shelf designed for the smallish carry on bags.

Our seats were terrible.  They were painfully narrow, and the layout of the car was nothing like what we had seen on the website when we booked.  Instead of across from each other, we ended up next to one another.  I sweated the entire trip, but thankfully, we were both so tired that we managed to sleep through part of the four hour trip.  When we were awake, we got some spectacular views of the coast passing by.

Eventually, we realized that we were going to pass within 300 meters of the place we were staying, then travel another 30 to 45 minutes into Barcelona before we stopped.  Adding insult to injury, there seemed to be a train station nearly on top of the place.  If we had stopped there, and hadn't been picking up a car, I think we might actually have disembarked.

Finally, we arrived at the bewildering Barcelona Sants station.  We arrived underground, and took a tiny little elevator up to the top.  Europe is an amazing place, but they do not seem to go in for spacious elevators.  If you are claustrophobic, I recommend the stairs.

Upstairs, none of the signs seem to direct you anywhere.  We found several signs mentioning the rental car company was in the building, but not that actually indicated where it might be.  We passed all the way through the building, then walked all the way around the building, then went back inside.  We had seen evidence that Enterprise was upstairs, on top of the station, but no evidence of how to get there.  On our third pass through the station, someone half heartedly pointed us toward something, and walking that way, we discovered the rental car companies clustered together in an unmarked section of every map in the building.

Renting a car in Spain has been an interesting experience.  It seems to be standard policy to rent you one type of car online, then hard upsell you to another car in person.  Fortunately, my friend is good at resisting upsells.  Unfortunately, they really didn't have the car he booked.  They wanted him to upgrade for 50 euros a day on a 100 euro a week car.  When he declined, they put us in a mini-van, for no extra cost.

The rental agent directed us on how to get to the roof with the cars.  Walk outside of the building.  Find the marked door that shows it is the entrance to a fitness facility.  Walk up this dark ramp, zigzag around two corners, then take another unmarked, miniscule elevator up to the hotel.  At the hotel, lobby, walk out onto the roof of the building, then all the way around the hotel and dividing walls, until you arrive at the rental car parking lot.  I'm surprised we missed it before.

The rental agent, who apparently took some unmarked shortcut to beat us there, showed us to our van, and we set out for Cunit.  By this time, we were running late to meet the owner of our next lodgings, so I didn't mention that I was ravenous.  We drove 50 minutes out of Barcelona, through two unexpected toll stations, and found an approximation of our lovely seaside destination.  Parking was sparse, so we dove into the first spot we saw, then walked the last 4 blocks to the address we had.  It was not the address we had been given by AirBnB.  We were not sure if we were going to meet the woman at home, and she would show us where we were going, or if we were going to the address of the apartment.

Once we found the address, we called her up.  She said she would be right there.  We still had no real idea what to expect, so we hung around like a couple of thugs scaring off old women, until she arrived.

Elsa (I think?) seemed nice.  She showed us our current apartment, and gave us a brief tour.  The balcony is huge.  I really struggle to describe it.  The balcony is wider than the apartment, and just as deep as it is wide.  It extends from the back of the building out on top of the floor below, and then continues around the end of the building and approximately two thirds of the way to the front of the building.  In addition, there is a metal spiral staircase that takes us up to the roof of the building, where we have even more room on top of our apartment, and a full view of the surrounding area.  The balcony overlooks a pair of walled, community pools, and just 500 meters away, is a clear view of the beach and the Mediterranean Sea.

I gave up on finding an angle or angles that would do the place justice and just made a video.  I apologize for my terrible camera work.


On top of everything else, it turned out that we had arrived just in time for fairie, which is basically a fair.  It has food vendors, flamenco dancing, and amusement park rides.  This would be why there was so little parking.

Finally, as Elsa was getting ready to leave, we asked about the wifi password.  Slight problem.  There is no internet in the apartment.  Since we have to have internet, this is a huge concern.  She tells us we can go to the other apartment, but the internet there is broken today and won't be fixed until tomorrow.  She says she can get internet installed on Monday in this place, and the other place won't have a view of the sea.  When she leaves, things are in an uncertain state of hopefully internet Monday, but tether to our phone's data plans until then.

Finally at our destination, even if it might only be for a couple days, we bring our bags up to the fourth floor (tercer, above baixos, primer, and segond) via the tiny tiny little elevator that barely holds the two of us without bags, and settle in just a bit before going out for food.  On our way in, we had spotted a restaurant whose name I never noticed, but under the name it said, "tapas, tapas, y mas tapas," and that seemed just like my kind of place.  We had half a dozen tapas including caricoles (Spanish snails), beer, soda, and coffee, then headed back to the apartment.

At this point, I was about ready to give in if my friend did not want to go out to see fairie (fair-ee-uh), but I made the mistake of going up to the top of the spiral staircase.  Of in the darkening distance, I could see the glowing colorful lights, and I was hooked.

We went to fairie, had French crepes, and gawped at all the people, lights, and action.  Then, honoring our poor exhausted bodies, we returned to the apartment and passed out.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the video! That view <3 It sounds like sooooo much fun although transportation seems to be a clusterfuck! Yikes!