I left for Spain on a typical day in Southern California....way too much traffic on the freeways and having to take 3 times the normal amount of time to get to the airport. I finally got there and made my way to the American Airlines counter to find out they cancelled my flight. One question...why do they take my email when I buy my flight if they can't show the courtesy to email all passengers on a cancelled flight letting them know it's cancelled?
Well, it took awhile but at long last they found another flight and I took off first flying to Miami and then to Madrid. I landed in Miami rushed to the next plane only to have it sit on the tarmac for 1 hour. Second question...why board the plane when you know it's not going to take off???? We took off for Madrid and had a pretty seamless flight. Spain is 9 hours ahead of California so by the time we got there it was 9am in Spain (midnight in California). My brother was supposed to meet me in Madrid but he was having his own troubles. By the time I cleared customs it was about 10:30am and I was exhausted.
I went to pull money out of the ATM which is what I always do when I travel and nothing. Stupid Bank of America froze my account. These knuckleheads did the same thing to me when I was in Australia. I didn't anticipate this happening because I hadn't even had any transactions yet in Spain....so why freeze it? The only phone I had was a Global phone I rented from Sprint that charges $2/minute for talk and the data package on it wasn't working....so no emails. I have a blackberry that is only 6 months old but Sprint explained my network isn't global.....very frustrating....so I had to rent this phone.
So I have to wait 2 hours for Bank of America to open their customer service lines and I'm very hungry. I piece together my loose change and a $10 bill from the US and exchange it for about $7 Euros. The only place in the airport that was cheap enough for me to eat was a McDonald's. I was so tired and hungry that I can tell you a Big Mac never tasted better. After I ate I used my "platinum gold rental phone" and called my bank and let them know that I had already informed them I'd be in Spain before I left and if I had my card shut off again I would terminate my account when I returned. They released the hold and life was getting better. I went to the Avis Rental Car kiosk and rented a car. It was now around 1pm and I couldn't wait to get out of there.
I get to my mid-size car which in American standards is a moped....but I didn't care...I had wheels. Even more important the car had a mp3 input for my Ipod which I have to have for any car I rent. I hadn't driven a stick shift for about 1 year and it felt good. I plugged in the Ipod, cranked some Michael Jackson and sped down the highway to get into Madrid. It was hilarious to see the Spaniards watching me rock out in the car to MJ...I was just having a brief moment of adrenaline so happy to be out of the airport. Well...that was short lived. I couldn't get in touch with my brother because of my rental phone not working so after driving around for 45 minutes I needed to sleep.
If you have never driven in Europe....let me tell you...it's like driving with 1 million 16-year olds. Lot's of honking, yelling, cutting off, driving on sidewalks, driving down the wrong way of the road, etc. After 5 minutes I fit right in....I had to find a place to park and the only place I could find was in front of a University...I didn't care, I had to sleep. I tried to lay back my seat in my moped car and it wouldn't go back. I finally found the lever which was one of those manual wheel things that you have to turn to get the seat to go back....all I could do was laugh because I was paying $95/day for this car....I got the seat down and slept. I woke up and called Sprint on my "PGR" phone and they tried to fix the problem but they couldn't..only the phone would work. About 30 minutes later I get a call from my brother Ryan that he had arrived at the train station. He was surprised to find out I had rented a car because that wasn't the plan...but it was the best decision I have ever made.
I go to pick him up and we go to our hotel. We get to this place which is in the middle of downtown and as we walk to the hotel after having to park in a parking garage (no parking offered at the hotel) we pass a row of hookers (prostitutes) and I ask Ryan if he specifically chose this hotel because of it being on hooker row. Ryan was very offended by this question and regretted the choice of hotel...I just found it funny. It's hard to describe but Madrid is truly a beautiful city and our hotel was in a very nice area....prostitutes are just much more allowed in Europe...in America we usually banish them to the nasty parts of the city. The hotel room that was supposed to be spacious with two beds had two twin beds smashed together. Ryan asks me, "Can you sleep next to me like that?" I replied, "Sure I can....just gives me a chance to get to know you better." Ryan gave me a look like, "Don't even think about it," and I just winked at him. That's when he said, "We need to get out of here."
Spain-Day 1....Part 2 will be continued tomorrow...trust me, it was just as fun....