Thursday, April 9, 2015

Spain - Arriving in Madrid

I landed at the Barcelona airport one hour after the scheduled time. The flight was delayed and held up in queue before taking off. It was as if all my good fortune had run out. I was supposed to land at 7:15am, make my way to the Barcelona train station, which was 30 minutes away, to catch an 11am train to Madrid to meet up with Michaela. Even with the one hour delay you would think that gave me plenty of time to get to the train station right? Wrong.

I had one checked bag. I sailed past immigration and hurried to the belt to collect my backpack. Unfortunately, the Catalans have a different sense of time, in other words, no sense of urgency at all. Which was admirable, except I had a train to catch. My bag took what seemed like eternity to get to me, and by the time I hopped into a taxi, it was half past 9. And then with the early morning traffic, I barely made it to the train station on time. To me at least. I arrived at 15 minutes past 10, with plenty of time to spare. But I always like to be early just so I don't stress out. Everything went fine, I got to the Madrid station and stepped out into really chilly weather. I hadn't brought a thicker coat for want of space in my backpack, but also it was supposed to be warmer! I had packed sun dresses, skirts and tank tops! It was rainy and chilly outside. Refrains of "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain" ran through my head.

The next hiccup came in the form of communication. Or the lack of. I couldn't get a hold of Michaela. I haven't figured out why my international roaming for data wasn't quite working and Michaela could only be reached via Whatsapp. So I couldn't call her. In our last communication, she said she'd find a place with free Wifi and text me where to meet. So I'm at the station, and still no texts from her. I didn't think to get her address so I couldn't even cab to her place and wait for her there. Some savvy traveller I was. I walked around the station and found the entrance to the Metro station. I thought, this would be the best place to wait since she was probably going to get here by the subway. So I hung around, crossed my fingers hoping for the best. To my relief, not too long after, I heard a shout from afar.


Michaela ran towards me and gave me a big hug, a little wet from the rain. After exiting the metro, she had gotten lost for 30 minutes trying to find her way to the train station. But she was here. We made our way to her apartment to drop off my belongings before heading out to dinner. We made our way to Plaza Mayor to have coffee and people watch, and strolled into the Mercado San Miguel to drool over the food extravaganza. The Mercado San Miguel is a food market that sold tapas, dessert, mojitos, sangrias. My favorite stall sold trays upon trays of olives. Olives wrapped in bacon, olives stuffed with ham, olives with sun dried tomatoes, olives with anchovies. You name it, they got it. The only reason we didn't get anything was because we were going to return to Madrid later in the trip with more friends and we thought we should all enjoy this experience together.

All seemed to end well for the day. We were supposed to meet her friend Sarah tomorrow in Malaga, and had booked the next few train tickets and hostel accommodations in advance. Unfortunately, Michaela got a text from Sarah who just found out she had booked the wrong tickets and was only going to arrive the day after. Which basically meant that all our schedules were thrown off by one day. We tried not to panic as we scrambled to make new plans for travel. We finally got our schedule figured out, went online to change our train tickets and to purchase new ones when our cards got declined. Every single one of them. Credit, debit, Visa, Master, Discover. My Bank of America card got put on hold because I had made three transactions in a row and was reported as "suspicious activity". Even though I had called before I left the U.S. to notify them of my travel plans. I mean, I appreciate the bank's diligence but really, this was not cool. Especially after I had responded to their email, text message and call to confirm that I had indeed made those transactions. They told me to try again in 10 minutes, but I was unable to use my card for the rest of the night. Undaunted, Michaela and I decide to try to purchase the tickets at the train station in Malaga as soon as we got there the next morning. We went to bed close to midnight because of all the shenanigans even though we had to be up early the next morning to catch a 7am train. Oh well, the trials and tribulations of traveling. C'est la vie!

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