Monday, October 18, 2010

Farewell to the Costa del Sol

Oh, what a sad day.  Today we turn in our rental car and bid farewell to the sunny seaside.  We had to turn in the rental car BY 9 AM, so we were up, dressed, packed and down for breakfast at 7:30 AM.  We all are going to miss the breakfast buffets, especially the variety of fruits and breads and having someone else fix it for us.
We checked out of the hotel and loaded our car for the last time.  Kristina set the GPS for the airport in Malaga and off we went.  Danielle is now very proficient at following the instructions and figuring out which is the 2nd or 3rd exit from the roundabouts.  We found the airport and the rental car return without any problems.
However, the problem came when we turned in the car.  The account number we had would not work.  The man said it was an invalid number and he charged the car rental to Danielle’s credit card.  He said to Danielle, “I am going to charge it to your card, okay?”  We wondered what other option we had.  I mean, if we said that it was not okay, what would he do?  Hold us hostage or something?
We started walking towards the airport pulling our luggage along.  We were a bit lost as none of the check in counters had big names of airlines over them.  Just TV type monitors with names and numbers.  Lori found something that listed which numbers were for which airlines and we found our check in area. 
We all checked in and then did the Disney line back and forth for security.  In Barcelona we did not need to remove our liquids from the carry-on bags, so we didn’t do that here.   Oh dear, they stopped Danielle and made her throw her bottles of water away.  They stopped Lori and made her remove her liquids.  They stopped me and made me remove both my liquids and my meds, which were in a two quart bag, but are all pills with no liquids.  ???  We had to go back and send them through the machine again and then walk back through the scanner.
Once we were through, we could NOT find Kristina.  We scanned the lines, but the sun was shining in the windows behind the security area which made it hard to see people because the sun was in our eyes.  Lori went to see if maybe Kristina had continued on towards our concourse.  Danielle and I waited by security.  After a couple of minutes, Danielle spotted her waving at us from the Disney queue.  ???
When Kristina finally made it through security we found out that they would not let her carry on the olive oil and bottle of alcohol that she had in her backpack.  They made her return to the check in gate to check her bag.  When Kristina got there, she realized that she had lost her boarding pass!!  She was in a panic because she would have to back track to security to see if she could find it…but some lady picked it up off the floor behind her and asked if she’d dropped it.  Phew!
So, now we all made it through security and we could do a bit of last minute shopping before heading to the concourse.  Would you believe that they required that you present your boarding pass at the store and they scanned it before they scanned the items that you were buying!!
In Spain, they assign the gate just an hour or so before boarding.  We went to the bathroom and when we came out they had assigned our gate.  It was, of course, the last gate in that concourse.  We wandered down there and found a seat.  Lori tried to see if wifi was available, but it was not.  About this time she realized that she’d had her boarding pass in her hand when she went to wash her hands in the bathroom and she did not have it any longer.  Off she ran back to the bathroom.  It was on the counter in the bathroom!!  Another phew!! 
The Spanair ladies came to the boarding gate and believe it or not, we actually understood their announcement.  The gate had been changed to the first gate in the concourse.  Off the whole group of us trekked, to the new gate.  By this time, it was 10 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave, so we knew that we would not be leaving on time.
They did board from the back of the plane, so we were in the first group to board.  Danielle and Lori were in the two seats in front of Kristina and me.  It seemed like a short flight, but that is probably because I dozed off almost immediately.  I think I slept for about an hour and the flight was only 1 ½ hours.  Kristina’s seat kept going back and my tray table kept popping loose and flopping down.
We exited the airplane and the monitors above the door to the airport said for us to go to luggage pick up area 6.  We followed the crowd and found the luggage conveyors, but they only went down to 8.  Where the heck was 6?  Most of the people on our flight went right on out the doors there, so we followed, figuring that 1-6 must be through that door.  Nope.  We were now back in the terminal.  We walked a bit but didn’t find anything like baggage pickup. 
Danielle stopped at information.   The lady looked at her boarding pass and checked on the computer.  It was AREA 6 and the number of the conveyor was 11.  Well why didn’t they say that???  We went back to the doors, but they are automatic and only open from the OTHER side.  As Lori, Danielle and I stood there, a man exited and we quickly jumped through the door.
As we headed for the conveyor, a security guard stopped us.  We showed him our boarding passes and he wanted to see the baggage claim checks.  Lori showed them to him and he allowed us to continue.  Kristina was already there and we asked how she managed to get past the security guard, but we forgot that she had the baggage claim ticket from her backpack.
Our luggage arrived safely and we once again exited the baggage area.  We went to the shuttle service area to see about a shuttle to our hotel.  The lady informed us that it would be over 70 Euros to go to our hotel.  She said it was 15-20 km away.  We declined to pay that and went out to the bus shuttle area.  We read the list of hotels that the bus stopped at and our hotel was not on the list.  Back we trudged to the taxi stand.  I asked a driver how much to take us to our hotel.  He looked at the reservation confirmation that we had and said it would be 20-25 Euros.  We agreed to pay that and piled into the taxi.
Well, apparently he didn’t have a clue as to where the hotel was.  He drove us under the airport (seriously, there is a very long tunnel and you are driving below the airport instead of around it to get to the other side.) and through several roundabouts and then up a twisty hill.  Then he stopped, asked for the printout again and checked his GPS.    We went back towards the hill and Danielle pointed out a sign for our hotel.  Back down the twisty hill, through another roundabout or two and he pulled up at our hotel.  We were practically in sight of the airport.  We were definitely within sight of very low flying aircraft.  He charged us 20 Euros.
The area is very industrial but the hotel is very nice.  It is a mom & pop hotel, with junior being the English speaker.  It is clean and modern looking and secure, as they have to buzz you in the door.  Nothing fancy, but for one night, it is good enough and certainly close to the airport.
Lori asked about wifi and we were told that the password was on the paper on the door in our room.  Lori had trouble connecting and discovered that I was actually 1.  Once she knew that, she was able to connect and email Barb, our travel agent, about the car.  She also was able to instant message Jay about it.  He called Barb and told Lori that Barb would check into this for us.
We decided, due to the high cost of taxis, and the fact that Junior said we’d have to take the bus to the nearest metro station or Dad could drive us there for 20 Euros, that we would not try to meet Danielle’s friend Ryan for dinner.  Figuring that it would cost us to get to the metro, to take the metro there and back and then we’d have to find our way back to the hotel after dark via the bus, it just wasn’t practical to go into the city of Madrid for dinner.
Danielle emailed Ryan and explained the situation.  We asked at the desk about a local restaurant for lunch and were told that there was one about a five minute walk down the street.  We were all impressed that it was a FIVE minute walk instead of the ubiquitous TEN minute walk.   Sure enough, five minutes brought us to a local restaurant.  The man in charge only spoke a few words of English and the waitress didn’t speak any.  The tables were covered with paper table cloths and a small loaf of crusty bread was sitting directly on the tablecloth at each place setting.
The man tried to explain the menu.  The waitress came out with a kettle of soup, which she ladled into a bowl for a guy sitting nearby.  She came back out a few minutes later and showed it to us.  It was bean soup with carrots, potatoes, ham and sausage.   We all said we’d have that.  The guy came by when she was ladling the soup into bowls for us and showed us the “seconds” of either fish or eggs and sausage.  We decided that bean soup, bread and agua was plenty for us.
We walked back to the hotel.  Lori checked online and Danielle and Kristina took a siesta.  Once Lori was done, she gave the computer to me and I updated the blog for all of you, while she took a siesta.  We regrouped after that and decided to take a bit of a walk to see what we could see.  This is a mostly industrial area.  They are painting cars in the next building to the hotel, so it smells quite interesting outside.  We walked back to the hotel and decided to order dinner from the local carry out place that they had menus for at the front desk. 
HEY ADAM, We ate PIZZA again!!  It was easy and we could have it delivered, so we went with that.  We played Fill or bust at a table in the dining area while waiting for our pizza.  Then we ate and played Phase 10 after dinner.
Junior will deliver us to the airport tomorrow for only 10 Euors per room and we will need to leave here by 10 AM to get there in time for our international flight.  We think that we have to pay for breakfast, but will decide tomorrow whether to do that or not, based upon what they have for breakfast.
We are sad to be leaving Spain, but are all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds.   Some of us are looking forward to seeing dogs (and maybe a husband).  It will also be nice to be able to drive to where we want to go and be able to read road signs and not have to listen to “recalculating” frequently.  We have had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we explored Spain. 

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