Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 26: I Surrender!

I don’t know what I was thinking making this massive trip of 6 weeks, backpacking around Europe. I’m not sight seeing as much as I’m sight  glancing. I sit on these tour buses that take me around these different towns and I see statues, the facades of museums(sometimes I go in them, mostly I don’t), fountains, palaces and whatever else some one has somewhere designated as a ‘must see tourist site’.

Today, I left Lisbon, a lovely city I would have loved to have spent more time with but with my rather unfortunate choice of accommodation(a hostel which will be unnamed) which had me sleeping in a near coffin without any air, I couldn’t wait to leave.

Seriously, when I saw photos of the set up, I thought ok, it’s bunk beds but they look like trundle beds, nice and comfy. Instead, they were trundle beds but rather than set up horizontally so you slide out of bed like normal people, they set it up by depth so you crawl into bed head first and climb out feet first.

When I saw those micro hotels that Japan came up with, I thought cute, I might try it just because it’s a novel idea. Now, I’d rather be in an MRI, at least I’d have an excuse to hyperventilate. Then there was a problem of not having any air circulation whatsoever. I would have happily removed my shirt and slept in shorts except it was a mixed dorm and my hosts incorrectly assumed my name was a male appellation and gave me the top bunk. So this overweight, over fed gnome was scrambling up a ladder pretending to be Mowgli of the jungle. And at one point, I lost a hand hold and ended up swinging uncontrollable backwards.

On my first night at this hostel, I was so aggravated and uncomfortable, that I immediately searched out a hotel for my next town, Madrid. I have an app that looks up last minute discounted rooms. Great. I booked a room, only $100 for two nights, not bad at all and it was near the airport, it’s name actually includes ‘airport’. Good, my last airport hotel was this lovely and I mean lovely, place in Barcelona where I had my own bed, with AC, TV with American CNN(enjoyed Castle speaking in Espanol as well) and grazed in my own large bathroom with a tub that allowed me to wash my jeans by stomping on them in the tub. I had clean clothes!

So I looked forward to a hotel room to myself. I wasn’t staying at any more hostels. There is a reason most of them are populated by 20 somethings, they don’t know any better. Thus they settle for less. I’ve grown past conversations about relationships and missing someone even though we just spent the day together, etc. I’m over it, move on.

Besides, you can’t give a 20something any advise that will actually take root and add to their wisdom, only experience does that and they have to go through their battles to forge their own identities. If you told me when I was in my twenties that I’d be doing this now, I would have laughed and expected nothing less. But that’s me, stubborn as a mule and dense to boot. I have to live the lesson to learn it.

I ramble, back to Madrid and the hotel.

I booked the hotel THEN, I read the reviews on a certain, well read review site(they too shall go unnamed because they aren’t paying me). The reviews were atrocious about this hotel, “unless the alternative is to live in a tent don’t go”, “it’s not a safe place for a solo woman traveler”, “
STAY AWAY!” was basically the comments.

So being the control freak that I am(I’m trying to work through that, thus this trip), I fretted the night away, until I passed out from my antihistamines. Did I happen to mention how everyone seems to smoke anywhere and everywhere in Europe thus my allergies ignite my asthma and I’ve had to used my rescue inhaler more than I ever had, even resorting to my cortisone inhaler? Well, consider it mentioned.

I read it was a 30Euro taxi ride even though it was by the airport, if you want to take public transportation to the center of Madrid, you need to walk a kilometer away to catch a bus and it’s a desolate area, blah blah blah blah blah.

I planned to drop 30Euros and stay in on Monday and do laundry in proper washing machine and dryer(rather than in my sink and hanging over the lamps-trust me it works). But I happened to see a tourist information desk. I asked what would be the easiest way to get there, do all the internet information you want, but sometimes a human interaction will do wonders.

A pleasant young lady told me the best way was to call the hotel and schedule a shuttle, she gave me the phone number and I went to call at the nearest phone. I came back when I realized, I don’t know how to dial their phones, am I supposed to push 1 first or just the numbers. Plus, the public phones in Europe also allow you, somehow, to use it as an internet connection, send a fax and all sorts of things that I just barely managed to understand since it was all en Espanol.

She told me how to dial. I dialed. A woman answered who couldn’t speak English. I didn’t understand, why would a hotel have only a Spanish speaking person?

“No habla Espanol.” I said, meaning myself. Then realizing how stupid I sounded, asked. “Habla Ingles?”

She had a resigned voice, and she told me “no, espanol.”

“Ok,” I said, just as resigned. “Bye…gracias!”

I walked back to the tourist desk, she had given me the wrong number. I dialed again, I was running out of coins, even though it’s only .50 to call, I only had 1 euro coins. I was losing money quickly. Finally an automated voice answered, in Spanish of course, but the name of the hotel was mentioned and I hoped someone would talk to me. Someone did.

She said she would send the shuttle, where was I, she asked. I didn’t know so I looked at the first sign, saw an arrow pointing downward so I assumed it meant I was standing in Terminal 1. She told me to go stand and wait by the shuttle bus area.

I trotted back to the tourist desk, waved at my new best friend, asking where the shuttle bus was and she pointed it to me and we waved good bye to each other like long lost friends. It wasn’t until I was standing at the shuttle bus area, after dodging taxis and a public bus that almost ran my foot over, an experience I’m glad to pass over, that I was at Terminal 2.

I used my cell phone because now, I was too far away from a public phone and besides, had run out of change. I called the hotel, told them I was in terminal 2 and the woman who had answered previously said in a bit of an exasperated voice. “But I had my colleague go to Terminal 1.”

I replied. “Yes, but I’m actually in Terminal 2, can’t you call him? I’m so sorry.”

She said. “Yes, no it’s ok, I’ll call him.”

When he finally showed up, I was the only person at the shuttle bus area and standing in a pool of my own sweat. Madrid was 91F today, I had a 25lb pack on my back and another 10lb strapped to my front. I think I would survive it if I were hit by a car because my luggage would break my fall.

It was a simple 6euro fare and it took about 15minutes to get to the hotel. Instead of walking one kilometer in heat that will surely kill me, I will take the same shuttle back to the airport for 6euros and climb on the metro which will take me to central Madrid.

The hotel which so many people had written such horrible reviews was at an amazing 20c when I walked in, it is a suite with the flat screen TV in the living room, I have a kitchenette(ok, no utensils or pots or pans whatsoever making it moot) but I have a kitchen table with which I can type out this blog post on my iPad which has a keyboard, instead of my phone, thus my very loquacious post tonight.

I did my laundry, although I had to pay 7.90 euros for the detergent, which if anyone wants, I’ll leave since its 2L worth of detergent, airport security would really wonder about that. I had to touch someone else’s clothes so I could wash mine since they left it unattended and their was a sign saying don’t be surprised if that happens, it’s not the hotel’s fault you left your clothes alone. My clothes smell great. 

I have a mini fridge with a tiny plastic ice cube tray for the freezer, but I have a freezer. And my fridge at home basically looks like this anyways, always have to have my coke zero(they don’t pay me either, but it’s my poison so there!).

Tomorrow, I make the trek to Madrid and I have every plan to actually spend money and eat before I go so I don’t start my day out like a cranky troll despising everything and everyone and bewailing the state of my life…..on twitter.

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