Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Home

We are back from our big adventure in Spain, which for the record was a great trip, but it's always so nice to get back home. Then again, getting home was particularly sweet because the trip back was a crazy adventure in and of itself. That's what traveling is all about, right? I read a quote that said when things go wrong, the real adventure begins.

We spent our last night in Granada (this is the view of the Alhambra from our hotel), which was a bit crowded and hectic for my taste, and then drove our car north toward Madrid, with a stop in Almagro for the night. I may have spelled that wrong. Either way, Almagro was a small dusty little town about 200km south of Madrid which didn't have a whole lot going on, yet it seemed to be a tourist destination as evident by the fact that there were tourists everywhere. It has been designated as a nice tourist destination though I couldn't quite figure out what the draw was. Sure, it was a quaint and pretty little town, but it was also hot and in the middle of nowhere. We did learn, however, that it is the hometown of Pedro Almodovar, which is kind of cool. It was also hard to find our hotel because the maps didn't seem to make sense, or rather they didn't make sense from the way we entered the city. We were all turned around and couldn't orient ourselves to the map. Consequently we drove around in circles looking for certain streets before finally finding the hotel.

Once in town, we explored the town (it's small) and enjoyed eating at the local restaurants. The hotel we stayed at, Casa Rural Tia Pilar De Almagro was kind of neat and quirky, with all these little antique touches everywhere. There was some sort of connection to Almodovar there, as well. In fact, the town had a very Almodovar-esque feel to it. Either way, the hotel had a pool and breakfast came with the room, a win-win in my book. We chowed at breakfast and then headed north to get to Madrid, bearing in mind that we had to return the car to train station by 2:00PM or incur their wrath.

On a quick note about the rental car, they really try to scare you into getting full coverage on the vehicle, throwing out large numbers in the event that anything happens. I really resented it and rejected the coverage, though it made me mega-paranoid whenever we got into the car. All I wanted to do was get that thing back to the agency. Getting full coverage would have tripled the cost of the rental. Is that crazy, or what?

Anyway, we got up early, ate a killer breakfast, and then headed to Madrid, but not before stopping in a small town just south of the capital, Consuegra, where the windmills that supposedly inspired Cervantes exist. It's actually a cool little town and we drove right up the windmills and checked them out. We probably spent too much time there because by the time we hit the road it was getting dangerously close to the rental car return time. In fact, I was pushing the gas pedal to make up the time, and that was just the beginning. As we approached the city, it became clear to us that the map was going to be useless in guiding us to the train station, which is where the rental agency (Hertz) was located. We were literally going into the situation completely lost because the street signs are virtually non-existent on the highway, the traffic was terrible, we were racing against the clock, and Madrid is a huge town. We were on the outskirts and knew at some point we were going to have to dive right in, the question was, when and where.

I don't know why but at some juncture we just turned into the city and hoped for the best. We were just plodding along on the streets when we noticed the train station sign "atocha" except that it was on the highway and we were on the streets. We drove along until we found an on-ramp and crossed our fingers that we hadn't passed the exit for atocha, which we thankfully had not. We followed that sign like it was a beacon of light from heaven, and before we knew it we were in the heart of the city and at the train station. Our challenge, however, was not over yet, not by a long shot. We still had to figure out where the darn rental agency was, and the traffic by the train station was madness. I recalled that someone told me that rental agencies were all down in the big parking lot below the station, so we took a chance and went down a massive driveway where lo and behold, there they were. We found Hertz, pulled up the car and got out. The time was about 2:10PM.

We turned in the car, there was no damage so we managed to come out unscathed despite their scare tactics (except for emotional strain), and then it took us about 45 minutes to find our hotel even though it was just across the street from the train station - it's a big train station. At that point it didn't matter because we got rid of the car with no damage and I was just happy to on my own two feet. Sometimes you just get tired of driving. We spent a mellow evening in Madrid and then flew home on Iberia Airlines, which had great service, not to mention movie screens on each seat. We were tired when we landed in Boston but happy to closer to home, and then took the bus to our car where we discovered that we had a flat tire. A quick call to AAA fixed that, and we were on our way.

We were exhausted when we got home and went to sleep, though I had to work the next day and was extremely jet-lagged, but these are all stories for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading.

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