Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the road to Cordoba or “Recalculating!”

We were up and downstairs eating breakfast by 8:30 this morning.  Today is the day we pick up the rental car and head out on the highway to explore Spain.  Danielle and I walked to the train station (only a 10 minute walk according to the desk clerk.) which took us about 20 minutes.   I have noticed that whenever you ask a desk clerk where something it, it is ALWAYS a 10 minute walk.  Never 15 or 20 or 5, always 10 minutes.
Danielle and I found the Hertz car rental desk and proceeded to wait for an American couple to debate the merits of the car they ordered and the one that the desk clerk was offering instead.  When he asked about an extra driver, she informed him that it would be 8 euros extra per day.  Danielle and I decided that I would NOT be an extra driver.  (Phew!)
When it was finally our turn, Danielle handed the clerk our voucher and the paper with the Hertz reservation number.  She asked for Danielle’s passport and International driver’s license.  Then she asked for the Key Tours account number.  Huh?  She had everything that we had brought with us.  She insisted that she needed that number, in order for Hertz to charge Key Tours, when we return the car. 
After a bit of shrugging shoulders and saying we did not have that, we suggested that she call the hotel and talk to Kristina.  She got the number and called.  She identified herself to Kristina and said that her mother and sister were there to rent the car, and she needed the account number.  [sigh]  I guess I do have white hair but really I am NOT old enough to be Kristina’s mother!
Kristina searched her packet of travel documents in vain.  No 8-9 digit number starting with 26 was listed.  The clerk finally said that if we could get the number and let Hertz know, she would give us the card provided that we gave her a credit card number.  So Danielle handed over her credit card.  Then she wanted our mobile number.  Sorry, we don’t have one.  She wasn’t sure what to do about that, and finally took Danielle’s home phone number.  Then she asked for Danielle’s MI driver’s license, so that she had her home address. 
She opened the packet that was reserved for us and said, “Do you mind a larger car?”  No, that would be just fine.  She didn’t know what number parking space it was parked in, but told us to just push the button and the lights would flash.  We headed down and out to find our car. 
It is a blue Ford Cmax that was backed in.  Neither Danielle nor I could get to the doors from the front, as it was too close to the next car and we couldn’t squeeze past the side mirrors.  Danielle went around to the back and was able to get in that way.  I waited for her to pull out.  It took a couple of minutes to figure everything out and then we were on our way back to the hotel.  It was now about 10:30.  It only took us an hour to pick up our reserved car!!
Now the fun really began.  When one isn’t driving one doesn’t really notice, but apparently one can not turn left anywhere in Seville!!  We went this way and that way and out of a roundabout onto the wrong road and finally pulled up across from the hotel, only to find that we could not fit into the only available parking space.  Around we went again and finally managed to pull up in front of the hotel and into their little area for you to pull off to load and unload.
I stayed with the car while Danielle went in to get Kristina and Lori.  It was now about 11 AM.  Yep, it took us 30 minutes to drive what we had walked in about 20 minutes.  The doorman came out and started loading the luggage.  He put in two suitcases on their sides, then he looked at the two that were left and back at the available space.  He paused and then he picked up one of them and laid it flat and put the other flat on top of it.  He then had a bit of room to stash the carryon bags that we had.  Hurrah, it all fit!!
Kristina took over navigation duties as I don’t know how to work the GPS.  Danielle took off and after several detours we were on the road to Cordoba!!  Seville is in a very flat open area.  A lot like Texas.  We were on a divided highway and the speed was 120 km, so we buzzed right along.  Danielle was doing an excellent job with the stick shift.  Every vehicle that we have been in while in Spain has been a manual transmission.  Don’t European car makers know about automatics?
The GPS was working well, but when we got into Cordoba, we missed several turns.  She says, “In 60 meters, turn right” but she doesn’t say right onto WHAT street.  Danielle would turn and we’d get “Recalculating!”  Or Danielle would miss a turn and we’d get “Recalculating!”  Round and round and round we went.  She wanted us to drive into a street that we were not sure that the car would fit, much less if it was legal to drive there.  Oh my gosh!  I was beginning to think that the GPS lady was going to say, “Look!  If you are NOT going to do what I am TELLING you to do, then I am NOT even going to talk to you anymore!” 
Danielle suggested that Kristina turn off the GPS lady and she did.  Then Kristina had a good idea.  She said for Danielle to park the car when she found a space and she’d walk to find the hotel.  At one point we were less than 200 meters from it, according to the GPS.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that Columbus Day (10/12) is a national holiday in Spain and everyone was off for the holiday.  I think that they were all in Cordoba!  Danielle found a space and Kristina and I set out on foot.  Now this is the freaky part.  We walked down the street and there was part of the old wall to the city with a gate.  Kristina said, “I think we can cut through there to get to where the GPS said that we were so close.”  You’d think you could, but no, we were on a winding pathway that narrowed to about 4’ wide and turned this way then that way then this way.  About now I am thinking, “Oh dear.  How will we ever find the car again?”  We came out onto a wider street and Kristina turned right.  We walked less than a block and came to an intersection.  Kristina started going straight and then said, “Oh, this is our hotel.”  [Blink eyes, look amazed]  How on earth did she do that?  She took us through a maze and came right out at the hotel, when she didn’t have a clue!!  I was totally impressed!!
We went inside to the reception desk and Kristina explained that we had a car and needed to know how to get to the hotel with it.  The lady asked where we parked the car.  For a moment we both went blank…then I remembered the name of the street and Kristina remembered that it was right in front of the police station.  We only had to go around the block and enter where the GPS lady had TOLD US to enter, even though the street looked barely big enough for the car.  I said, “Where do we park?” and she replied, “Oh, we will park the car for you.  Just pull up out front.”
Back into the maze we went and we were back at the car in a few minutes, map in hand.  Danielle drove us right to it, now that we knew that you COULD drive down that street.  It does help to be able to read enough Spanish to know what the signs are saying.
We had rooms next to each other and they were wonderfully unique.  There was a fountain outside our room in the courtyard and it smelled lovely.  We think it might have been jasmine blooming in the courtyard. First things first, Lori set up the computer and emailed Barb, our travel agent, with our sad story about the car rental.  Once we had that done, we headed out to find lunch.
We found an ice cream shop and ate there.  Hey ADAM, I had PIZZA again.  This time it was most likely frozen and baked, but hey, I’d never had frozen pizza in Spain before.  Danielle also had pizza (no English menu and a limited selection, so pizza was something we both knew.)  Lori had potato salad and gazpacho and Kristina had ham sandwich.  We all had ice cream for dessert.  I had Catalyan cream which was a sort of caramel flavor, Lori had Something  Maria which was sort of a coconut cookie flavor; Danielle had mint chocolate chip and Kristina had nougat.  It started raining while we were eating, so we headed back to our hotel for me to grab my raincoat.  Do you believe that I was the only one to bring rain gear??  They said if they didn’t have rain gear it wouldn’t rain.  I said that if you DO have rain gear then you will never need it.  Both of us were wrong, but it was a light drizzle and soon stopped. 
We headed for the mosque/cathedral.  This was once the 3rd largest mosque in the world.  When the Moors were driven from Spain, the Catholic Church took it over and made it into a church.  It was very beautiful with lots of arches and small chapels. 
After that, we decided to take a horse drawn carriage ride around town.  We walked back towards our hotel because that is where the carriages were parked.  We hired a carriage and driver for a one hour tour of the city.  It was very nice and the driver pointed out points of interest (in Spanish).  We ended back only about ½ a block from our hotel, so we headed there to regroup.
Danielle decided to look into booking our hotel room for Madrid.  Lori took a nap and Kristina and I went out walking to visit the gift shops and look around.  It was getting late and a lot of the shops were closed, but a few were still open.  We walked to the Roman Bridge and there were lots of people there, quite a few teenagers or young adults walking around along with the tourists.
We went back to the hotel.  Lori had heard from Barb about the account; our Key Tour guy said it should have been printed on our voucher and he didn’t know why it wasn’t there, but he gave it to Barb and she passed it along to us.   I am sure that Danielle is happy that she doesn’t have to pay for the rental car, when we had already paid for it in our tour package.  Danielle had also book rooms in a hotel near the airport for us.  She emailed her friend in Madrid and told him where we would be staying.
It was time for dinner so we headed out to find a good restaurant.  The one we settled on was nice.  We had hot rolls with olive oil to start, then the main course.  Danielle had a fried stuffed pork dish; Kristina had fried eggplant and Lori had a roasted pepper salad with tuna.   I decided to be adventurous and I ordered cuddle fish.  I had never even heard of cuddle fish until Captain Jack mentioned it in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie “At world’s end”.  Well, let me tell you this about cuddle fish…it is the only fish that I can think of that I have had that I totally did NOT like.  First of all, it is sort of hollow.  Second it is tough; I had a hard time cutting it with my knife and third, it was served with some part of it that looked like small tentacles.  UGH!!  It had a texture that was sort of like chewy rubber, if there would be such a thing.  The taste was very mild, almost non-existent.  I avoided the tentacle like things.
When the waiter returned, Danielle had cleaned her plate, Kristina had cleaned her plate, Lori only had a small bit left on her plate and I had eaten maybe ½ of mine.  He raised his eyebrows and said something in Spanish.  He pointed to their plates and then to mine.  We got the gist of it, “They cleaned their plates, why didn’t you?”    I just laughed and shrugged my shoulders and Kristina said, “She never had it before and didn’t care for it.”
I ordered chocolate cake for dessert, Danielle had lemon sorbet which turned out to be liquid and Lori and Kristina planned to order the sliced almonds sautéed in anise.  The waiter said “fini” or something to say that they were out of the almonds.  Kristina then had chocolate cake and Lori had cheesecake.  We are not sure what they use to make the cheesecake, but it was not Philadelphia cream cheese.  However it was still very good.
We walked back through the maze of streets to our hotel and went to bed. 

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