Friends and family. As those of you reading this know, I have moved to Spain. Time is precious and texting the same story multiple times is tedious so please consider this a “mass” way of letting you all know about the insanity that happened after I landed in Spain.
I landed in Barcelona and….I’m hoping that people’s attitude there has to do with the turmoil that region has recently been experiencing because the Catalans, they were very unfriendly. Here I was, a small blonde woman with luggage that collectively weighed more than me (not kidding, I have the $300 extra baggage fee from United to prove it) asking for directions and some men wouldn’t even answer me. They would just angrily point, like the sheer fact that I was speaking Spanish and not Catalan was an insult. “Please God let the people of Valencia be more friendly!” I couldn’t help but think multiple times. Then there was the man who gave me a look as though I just kicked his small puppy or child and looked so offended when I was struggling to get my three large suitcases up an escalator (because the elevator hated me and wouldn’t move?) and one of them fell. Don’t worry, it’s not like it fell on him or anything. But it fell at the foot of the escalator entrance and I had two other large suitcases to man handle already up the escalator that I had to hold and what’s a small blonde woman to do! My God, if looks could kill. He looked personally offended that I had let such a thing happen. He begrudgingly lifted my bag for me and sent it up the stairs. Anyway, enough about this man, but I wasn’t impressed with the Spaniards Catalan’s hospitality so far.
You guys. The looks I got about the mere fact that I had so much luggage. Just that alone seemed to offend them. “How dare she have so much luggage!” Each passing glare screamed at me. “I’m moving to another country!” I wanted to yell. Or put a big sign on my back in order to explain that all this shit wasn’t just for a weekend journey.
Now, let me explain everything I had to go through before I could even think of getting rid of this luggage. As I mentioned I landed in Barcelona. I had to somehow carry the luggage from one terminal to the next (and push carts were not allowed because ???) get on a bus to get to the other terminal, take a subway to the train station (get the luggage on and off the subway). Then I had to take a train (get the luggage on and off the train, then get a rental car (lift the luggage into and out of a car trunk). Even my purse was heavy. Anything that didn’t fit in my luggage, because each suit case was packed to the brim, went in my purse. Jammie pants? In my purse. Makeup bag? Purse. Electric toothbrush? You guessed it.
So on the bus from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 there was a sign, it said “hold onto your luggage” but, naturally I ignored it. How was I supposed to hold onto all that luggage? Well, the minute that bus took off all my incredibly heavily luggage, with excellent wheels, starts rolling around the entire bus. Cue angry Catalan stares. Cue Alexia scrambling around the moving bus trying to control her luggage while Catalan men (and women) do not help. “Please God I hope the Valencian people are nicer!”
Fast forward from the subway (nice foreigner man helped me there). Now, I’m on the train, or rather- in line to get on the train. I asked the man behind me a question (in Spanish) and he looks at me blankly. I say “English?” To which he says “yes” and we start chatting. He was from Norway and I dubbed him my knight in shining armor. This man helped me carry my luggage and get it on the train. As luck would have it, we were assigned to the same cabin, so this made the whole thing quite easy. When the train finally stopped in Valencia (roughly 3 hours later) he said “Let’s go get your suitcases!” Thank you, kind Sir whose name I don’t remember. I will forever be grateful.
I didn’t want to be a bother after we got off the train so I assured him that I was “fine, I can take it from here” and let him go on his business. Well that was a mistake. After I got inside the train station building the Monster suit case as I called it, fell and I knocked over some huge, electrical “Welcome to Valencia” sign. Yep.
Some nice Valencian man helped me (they were already nicer than the Catalans!) and I slowly made my way to the car rental booth, noting a few drops of rain falling on my head. Now, let me start by saying that I did not want a car. But the company insisted and what’s a girl to do. I get to the counter, hand the man my license, my international license and say “Now, my most important question: Please tell me you have an automatic car.”
I have not driven a manual car in over 15 years. Yes. 15 years. He smiled and said “I’m sorry….”. Oh my God this has gone beyond an adventure at this point. I told him I haven’t driven a manual car in that many years and asked “You put your foot on the clutch every time you press the break, right?” and he somehow finangled “extra” insurance for me at no extra charge. “So I have more peace of mind.” He handed me the keys and I said “Please don’t laugh at me when you see me going round and round the parking lot trying to practice” he laughed. He then saw my luggage and said “Leave the luggage here and bring the car over.” The thought of “DON’T LEAVE YOUR LUGGAGE UNATTENDED” screamed in my brain but to be to be quite honest, I didn’t give two you-know-what’s if someone took my bags at that point. Let them take it. It’ll take them 20 minutes to try and “run off” with it anyway and they’d probably give up.
I walk out of the car rental agency, and hear a huge roar above my head…and…..it starts…..pouring rain. I don’t even like driving in the rain in Santa Barbara. 10 feet of snow? No problem. But RAIN? It’s night-time by this point, but the lightning lit up the sky as though it was 2 in the afternoon. I walked to the car, realizing I was about to drive at night (which I also do not like), in a random Spanish city I’ve never been to, in the pouring rain, in a manual car, and I said a little prayer.
I found my car. I got in. And I stalled it 7 times trying to get it out of the parking space. But 7 is a lucky number, right? And I managed to get it out of the parking space AND to the front door of the rental agency. I grab my luggage, and try to put the Monster in my trunk. It was so heavy and I was struggling and accidentally hit the car with the luggage and my car started moving forward. Oh my God. That’s when I learned always put the hand break on a manual car! A nice Valencian lady helped me. So far the Valencian people were far and above the Catalans.
With all the luggage in the car I tried to turn it on and it wouldn’t. “Well, I’ve already broken it.” I went back into the car rental place “The car won’t start, I already broke it.” (Thank God that apparently the Spaniards find me as funny as the Americans did.). He came outside to help me and told me the steering wheel had locked and I just had to move it a bit. Then I asked him to help me program my GPS, which took a while, but we figured it out. “Good luck!” He said. To which I responded “I’ll need it!” And somehow, don’t ask me how, I was off. I got out of the parking lot and…..I’ll refrain from too much cursing on this blog post. But imagine suddenly being in the middle of Paris (or some other huge European city), at night, in pouring rain— I mean i just had no idea where I was, how to get to where I had to go, I had never even driven in Europe before. I said another prayer.
Now, Europe. Please answer me this: what is with all the roundabouts? Is this just your way of preemptively warding off foreigners from driving? Seriously, I had to go on four roundabouts and I just have no idea how I did any of it. I only stalled the car once in the middle of the street, got some honks, but I was so proud and amazed I somehow only stalled it once on the streets. I thought I was going to stall it more times than just once. But it was just once. And you guys, did I mention it was pouring? I’m talking the streets were flooded. I got the car up to second gear, the navigation system was just ridiculous and it was raining so hard and the cars were going so fast that when I’d have to change lanes I just prayed, honestly. Most of the time I couldn’t even tell if there was a car there or not but I put my turning signal on and just hoped for the best.
After the most harrowing and memorable drive of my entire life, the GPS told me I had arrived at my destination. I didn’t even know if I had, honestly. I just hoped the nice man at the car rental agency had put in the right address (he struggled). I walked in the hotel, showed the man behind the front desk my paper and I said “Am I in the right place? I just drove a manual car for the first time in fifteen years and I don’t even know who or where I am right now.”
“You’re in the right place.” AMAZING. Seriously you guys, I was amazed. He gave me the keys to my room, 215. I went to the second floor and saw apartments all the way up to 210. Are you serious? Where was 215? No idea. Seriously, it was just one hall way and 215 was nowhere to be found. I went back down to chat with the front desk guy. I felt like an idiot, but he told me “It’s on the second story. You have to go through a door, and there are the rest of the apartments.” I just went “oooook.” And tried again. You guys. There was no door. There were apartments 200-210, and that was it. Well, there was an Emergency Exit door but I mean….no way, right? But there were literally no other doors so I said “Well, here goes! Imma make an alarm go off in this entire building!” I cautiously opened the Emergency Exit “alarm will sound” door and wouldn’t you know it— the rest of the apartments. You see in America, you go through a door that says “Emergency exit alarm will sound” and an alarm will sound. There are usually also stairs you go down. Nope! Not in Spain! In Spain that’s where the rest of the apartments are (???).
Finally in my room, I was still a bit shaken up by the whole driving a manual car in the pouring rain in Europe, so naturally my next thought was “I need a drink.” I made my way back down to the front desk and asked the young man if there is a grocery store or little shop, anything, near by. He said yes, but it’s closed. Today is a holiday. Everything is closed and it’s pouring rain. (Side note: what does the pouring rain have to do with things being open or closed?? Do grocery stores close when it’s raining? I guess I’ll find out eventually.) Literally next to the front desk there was a pub/restaurant so I said well shoot, there you go. I go inside, sit down, bar man comes over and I say “Can I please have a glass of red wine. Any kind, I don’t care.” He laughed. (Again, glad the Spaniards like my humor.) He came back with some red wine, I glance at the menu and see a vegan burger. Hello Spain, my name is Alexia, and I love you. I eat and drink to my heart’s content and after a long while of enjoying my meal and my glass (okay, 2) of wine, I ask for my bill. I pay and quite honestly out of nowhere the man asks if I will join him and a few of his friends for a *insert Spanish word Alexia doesn’t know, but is assuming has to do with alcohol* so I said “Sure!” I walk over to where his party was: himself, a girl around my age, and a young Spaniard. (The young Spaniard may have been the reason the bar man, who I later found out was the owner, invited me over.) The owner, Javier, asks “Alexia what’ll you have, I’m partial to Jagermeister.” Next thing I knew, we were all taking Jagermeister shots and suddenly I was there talking with them for three hours or so (and had taken several more Jagermeister shots with Javier and his companions). I was so thankful for the hospitality, and I was reminded of why I loved Spain so much when I spent a measly four days here ten years ago.
And that, my friends, is the story of my arrival to Spain. Now, wish me luck, because I have to drive that car again tomorrow. Viva España!