Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

Well, believe it or not, it is time for us to bid adios to Spain!!  It is hard to believe that we have actually been here for fourteen days!!  It seems like we just got here and "poof" it is time for us to fly home.  Lori was up before the alarm went off today.  I woke at 7:30 AM when the alarm sounded.  Usually, Lori would get up when the alarm sounded and I would go back to sleep until about 30 minutes before we were to meet for breakfast, then I'd get up.  I figured that there was no sense in getting up and sitting on the bed waiting for Lori to finish in the bathroom.  But today, being the bathroom was available, instead of resetting the alarm, I got up.

Did I tell you that this hotel had actual doors on the shower!!  Every place else we have stayed had a partial wall or glass partition and you had to be careful not to flood the bathroom floor while you were showering.  So it is worth mentioning that this one had a three part door.  It also had actual keys for the room.  One had to lock the door from inside with the key, as well as remember to lock the door from the outside with the key.  We are used to hotel rooms that lock automatically when you close the door, but this one did not.

And guess what?  When you turned on the switch for the lights, they actually turned on!!  Every other hotel had these little devices by the door, where you inserted one of your plastic card room keys, in order to turn on the lights.  (Remember I told you about that when we arrived in Barcelona!) 

About 9 AM we knocked on the door to Danielle & Kristina's room.  They were dressed and ready to check on breakfast.  We asked at the desk and it was €5 for breakfast of coffee, toast and juice.  We decided that we'd wait and eat at the airport.  We went back to one of the rooms and sat and talked until just before 10 AM.  Then we hauled our luggage out to the (oh dear, I started to say "circulation desk"!!) reception desk.  It turned out that Dad (who did not speak English) was the shuttle driver to the airport.

He loaded our luggage and we piled into his vehicle and away we went.  Honestly, I think that in 3 minutes we were at the tunnel under the airport.  I still can not understand out how that woman at the airport shuttle figured that this hotel was 15-20 km away!!  We would have been at our terminal in about 10 minutes, but we had to stop because a tree was down into the road.  The police were there and guys were just finishing up the removal process.  This caused a mini traffic jam.  When we could continue, it was just a few minutes later that Dad stopped in the road in front of our terminal, said something in Spanish and then "inside" in English.  He off loaded the luggage and we were delivered.

Inside the terminal, we found the same situation as in Malaga.  By now we knew to look for a monitor that would tell us what number we needed to look for to find the US Airways desk.  We located the correct number for check in and headed through the terminal to find it.  We had to have our passports checked by a lady before we could go up to the ticket counter to check in and get our boarding passes.  She asked us what our relationship was to each other.  That was a first.

Once we secured our boarding passes and dropped off our checked baggage, we ran the gauntlet of security.  Kristina and I set off the alarm.  They told Kristina to remove her shoes and try again, even though there wasn't any metal on her shoes.  She still set it off, so a lady patted her down and let her go on.  I was wearing crocs, sweatpants, a polo shirt and had taken off my watches.  The only thing we could figure out was my earrings &/or my glasses set it off.  So I had to be be patted down, too.  When she felt my money belt, she said, "Money belt?"  I said, "yes".  She said, "Very much money?"  I said, "No money, only credit cards."  By then the few Euros that I had left were in my fanny pack and I only had my driver's licenses and my credit cards in my money belt.  Danielle and Lori made it through without setting off any alarms.

Now that we were through security, we decided to shop for some candy in the duty free shop.  Danielle was starting to get a sinus infection and wanted some hard candy to suck on.  I wanted some chocolate.  Lori bought some Toblerone that was individually wrapped and she shared with us for the flight.  That accomplished, we looked for some place to eat breakfast.  We found a typical airport cafeteria and grabbed some bottles of water and a quick breakfast.  It was nothing like the elegant breakfast buffet that we had become used to each morning.

We checked the monitors and our gate had now been assigned, so we headed off to find it.  Along the way Lori decided to stop to exchange her Euros for dollars.  By this time, I only had €20 plus some change, so I decided to keep it.  I went on ahead to the gate.  There were lots of moving sidewalks and just before I reached the gate, I had to show my passport and boarding pass AGAIN!! 

The man asked me where my carry-on had been while I was in the airport.  I said, "with me".   He said, "the whole time" and I said yes.  I think he asked something else and then he said, "Outside of the duty free shops, what have you purchased?"  That confused me and I replied, "Inside the duty free shop I bought chocolate."  He said, "Outside the shops what did you buy?"  I said, "Nothing."  I think what he wanted to know was had I purchased anything suspicious from some terrorist looking guy selling who knows what between security and the gate.  ???  I can understand them asking you that when you check in, but after you've been through security? (No, there was no such person...I am just guessing at what the guard was suggesting.)

As I told you before, the Spanish all stand up and wait at the boarding gate.  We remained seated, along with a very few other people.  We decided that there was no sense in standing for 20 minutes when we could get up when the line started moving.  Which is what we did.  Danielle, Kristina and I were together in the middle rows with a gentleman sitting beside me.  Lori was behind us in the next row.  The man sitting next to me went up and asked the stewardess if he could move and she allowed him to do that.  I moved into his aisle seat and that allowed us to lift all of the seat arms and gave us all some extra space.  We piled coats, pillows, blankets and such in the spare seat.

This plane had monitors on the back of each seat.  Your remote control was in the armrest and came out, but was attached by a cable.   You could buy headphones from them or use your own.  I had totally forgotten to bring mine from home, but Danielle had an extra set and let me borrow them.  You had a choice of about a dozen movies; a dozen or so TV shows; music and HBO shows.  I watched a special about the Midwest that featured stops in IL, OH, MI, WI and MN and totally ignored IN.  ??  I guess Ohio and Illinois are mid-west but Indiana isn't?  I found that the screen was too close for me.  It was making me feel nauseous to have it so close to my face.  So I watched part of a couple of movies that the lady in the row in front of me was watching.  I saw part of "Crazy Heart" and most of "Karate Kid".  She was just starting "Grown ups", when the monitors turned off because we were coming in for a landing.  On the way to Spain, I watched the "Last airbender".  It is interesting to watch movies w/o sound and try to figure out what the heck is going on.  Of course, with the "Karate Kid", I had seen the original, so I had an idea.

Kristina watched three movies and two or three TV shows.  Lori watched three movies.  I think Danielle only watched two movies, but I could be wrong.  Kristina told me that she took her glasses off to watch the movies, because the monitors were so close to your face.  I am pretty blind, so I don't think that would have worked for me.

The flight home was longer than the flight to Spain, even though Madrid is farther west than Barcelona.  Flying east, you have the jet stream pushing you along.  Flying west you are flying into the jet stream.  Kristina leaned over to me at one point, hours and hours into the flight and said, "Do you realize that we have only been on this plane for THREE HOURS!!"  I looked at my watches and darn it all, she was right!!  Arghhhhh!!

Danielle wondered about the time and I told her what time it was.  She was trying to figure the time in Michigan and I told her.  She was impressed at my quick answers, but the truth was that I had my digital watch on my right arm with the time in Spain and my "regular" watch on my left arm with Michigan time.  So that I could keep track of how long we'd been up (Spain) and when we would be arriving (Michigan with allowances for the one hour difference in Chicago).  :-D

We were lucky because the pilot really pushed it and we landed in Philadelphia early!!  Hallelujah!!  I do love to travel but those flights to Europe are torture!!  Off to customs we all rushed, to stand in line and show our passports.   Then we picked up our checked bags and went off to stand in a different line.  Then we had to give them back our checked luggage and wait forever to go through security AGAIN!!!  We were miffed about that. 

Quite a few people had purchased things in the duty free area in Madrid and were not allowed to take them into the US, because they didn't understand that they were supposed to put them into their checked luggage once they got to Philly.  They only announce all of these regulations in English, so I am sure that lots of Europeans don't have a clue.  It seems to me that they could do like they do in Madrid and make such important announcements in English, Spanish, French and German.  They could record them and play them periodically, being the announcements in English sounded recorded.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that I watched a video on how to go through customs in Philadelphia that popped up as an option on my monitor when we were about an hour or so away from landing.  It didn't mention that you'd have to stow any liquids into your checked baggage while you had it in your possession for customs.

Now that we were through security (no problems this time-go figure) we headed out to find our gate.  We were in concourse A and we had to go to D.  If we'd had to go to F, we would have needed to catch a shuttle bus at A, but as we were in D, we had to hoof it ourselves and use the moving sidewalks. 

We arrived at the gate and sat and relaxed until our flight started boarding.  They were using some weird system, not zones, but something else, and none of our boarding passes had any such designation.  So we waited while all of the "special" people boarded, and this section boarded and that section boarded and finally it was just a small group of us standing there and we decided, "What the heck" and all got in line anyway.  Lori and Kristina were in row 12; Danielle was in row 13 and I was in row 22!!!  So much for seating us together.

I had the middle seat between two business men.  One had a Kindle on his lap, but slept most of the way to Chicago.  The other had an ipod touch and played some type of card game most of the way.  Neither talked to me, which was fine.  Danielle had purchased some M&Ms for each of us in Philly, and I carefully doled them out a few at a time.  Just when I was thinking, "I can't take much more!" and was beginning to feel somewhat antsy, the pilot announced that we were ahead  of schedule and would be landing soon.  Oh my!!  Thank you Lord!!  What a joy to be on two flights that left on time and arrived early!! 

The others patiently waited for me to exit the plane.  I was almost to the last row, so it took awhile.  We managed to find the luggage carousel with out any trouble and our luggage was just rounding the bend as we arrived.  Dawn was standing there waiting for us so we didn't even have to wait for our ride to show up!!

We hiked out to the parking garage, loaded up and headed out.  Dawn maneuvered us through Chicago traffic and we buzzed right along towards Michigan.  We arrived at Dawn's house about 10:30 PM EDT.  Lori had called Jay from Michigan City, so he pulled up as we unloaded the luggage.  We would have dropped her off, but we figured that Jay wanted to be a hero to the dogs, by finding Mom and bringing her home.  He said they had really moped when she didn't come home like she usually does after work. 

Danielle, Kristina and I piled into Kristina's car and headed for Stevensville.  When we got there, we transferred my luggage to my car and I was on the road to home.  I was a bit worried, as by this time I was pretty tired, but the FRIGID air in MI had revived me a bit!!  As I started down Cleveland Avenue I happened to notice that the gas gauge was between 1/4 and empty.  Huh?  Why on earth would I have left the car almost on empty?  That didn't make any sense. 

I thought, "Well, shoot!  I'll need to stop for gas on the way home."  Then I remembered...I was going to stop on the way TO Kristina & Danielle's house on Tuesday morning, but I didn't have my debit card, only had a limited amount of US dollars for food in the airports and my Visa travel money "credit" card was in my money belt under all of my clothes.  Well, I didn't want to risk driving home on empty tonight, so I decided I'd run into Meijer's gas station and put in $10.  I knew that I had $10 US in with my passport and that gas station would be open.  I wasn't sure what time the station in Eau Claire closed.

From there on, I had a nice easy drive home; no deer or other animals running in front of me and very little traffic.  The library was still standing and looked fine as I passed through Eau Claire.

When I got home, I decided to leave my big suitcase in the car and just take in my carry on bag.  I parked in the barn and walked into the house.  I went to get the barn door remote from my purse, to close the barn door, but it wasn't there.  It wasn't in the pocket of my winter coat (which I had worn on the trip to Stevensville a couple of weeks before) so I went into the laundry room to get the one I keep there.  It wasn't there either.  ???  It is now 11:30 PM EDT; 5:30 AM Spain time, I have been up for 22 hours and I am exhausted and I can't find the stupid barn door remote!!  Arghhh!!  I headed back out to the barn to get the one out of the car, when I realized that the car was locked and the keys are on the kitchen counter.  Arghhh!!

At least, at this point, I did NOT lock myself out of the house which would have made the whole situation hysterical!!  I was awake enough to make sure that the door was unlocked before going outside!!  I turned around and went back inside, got the keys, walked back to the barn, unlocked the car and took the remote that lives in the car.  I closed the barn door on the way back to the house.  I walked into the house and checked through the rooms.  All was well...except I had two dead mice in traps.  Ugh!!  I dumped them into the trash, tied it up and set it on the back porch. 

It was 59 degrees in my house so I went into the bedroom and turned on the heat in there.  I took a shower and fell into bed.  I slept like a log!!  Poor Danielle, Lori and Kristina had to go to work on Wednesday.  I had scheduled an additional vacation day to give myself a day to recover from the trip home.  I am a bit older you know, and it takes me longer to recover.   Actually, I had additional vacation time and thought it would be nice to have a day to do laundry and settle in before starting back to work.  Wednesday morning I found the remote that usually lives in my purse.  It was on the passenger seat of the car.  I have no clue as to the location of the one that usually lives in the laundry room.  That is soooo frustrating.  I mean, I live alone!  Who would have moved it? 

Kristina tells me that she informed her mother that she now expects a breakfast buffet every morning.  I told her to let me know how that worked for her, because if it did, I would pop in for the buffet, too. 

Thanks to all of you who hung in there and kept reading the blog!!  It was a lot of fun to write it as we lived it, instead of coming home and trying to remember details two weeks later.  Please continue to check it for the next few days as Lori may add more photos.  There may be an additional post or two in the coming days with things that we want to add. 
Gracias, Adios and Vaya con Dios!

1 comment:

  1. I had a great time and hope I did not frustrate any of the ladies to much! :)