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Trip Report Peggy and Sandy's Spain trip

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I don't know how far I'll get on this trip report, but I'll take a stab at it. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the little digital recorder that helps me remember all the good details I like to include in a trip report, so you may find yourself dozing off as you read.

I've been wanting to go to Semana Santa in Spain for a while, and I decided I'd better do it before I get too much older, while I can still hobble around. I made plane and hotel reservations in December and January, and then in March I thought I'd see if a college friend, Sandy, wanted to go with me.

Sandy eagerly agreed when I first called her, and we made her plane reservations. Within a couple of weeks she began to worry whether she could keep up with me, but I brushed aside her worries with mentions of my sister Maryfran 's troubles walking on the seven European trips we took together. Sandy is such a nice person and so much fun that I was sure we'd work around her physical deficiencies. I was right. it really was fun traveling with her, though we had problems from the first.

The first problem was that her original flight (with United, on Aer Lingus as the carrier) was canceled, and she was rescheduled. Instead of going from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to Madrid, she had to go to D.C., then to Brussels, then to Madrid via Brussels airline, and she landed three hours later than I did.

I waited anxiously at the arrival gate, but she didn't emerge along with all the others on her flight. I was afraid she'd missed the flight or something equally disastrous, but finally I caught a glimpse of her before she disappeared back into the arrival area, so I charged into that area, where I found her at the lost luggage desk. Bad sign.

Brussels Airline had lost her luggage, so we gave them the names of the next few hotels at which we'd be staying and went on our way. Our Madrid hotel was Intur Palacio San Martín, where my sister and I had stayed in our 2004 trip to Madrid. I like this hotel, despite the fact that set up in the area in front of it are kiosks selling all manner of craft materials. The hotel is classy, and the receptionists are helpful.

Our room was quite elegant, with a slightly elevated area containing a sofa and the TV. Since we were tired and jet-lagged and not up to hunting for a restaurant, we ate at the cafeteria of El Corte Inglés, which is just down the street.

I decided that in solidarity with Sandy, I wouldn't change my clothes until her suitcase arrived. Since we didn't feel especially grubby and nobody appeared to sidle away from us during the next few days, that decision seemed to go well. We kept our fingers crossed that her stuff would catch up with us soon.

I had planned on first going to Cuenca and then Valencia, but since Sandy has never been to Spain, I changed the itinerary to include Córdoba and Granada, so that she could see the Mezquita and the Alhambra.

The next day we took a taxi to Atocha ( which I love on account of the jungle right smack in the middle of it) and took the train to Córdoba. The trip took less than an hour and a half. We stayed at the Hotel Mezquita, right across from the mosque itself. The hotel was pleasant enough, though our windows opened onto the breakfast room/patio, so that we had to be careful to be fully dressed before we opened the windows for air.

We wandered the town a little, where we really began to appreciate Sandy's limitations as a walker and my limitations as a pathfinder. ( Good thing I wasn't a scout for the covered wagons in the old west. The pioneers would have ended up in Saudi Arabia.) The other difficulty we had when we explored the towns is that I am always absolutely sure I'm right. By the end of the trip I had learned to accept Sandy's ideas about which direction we should go. Despite the fact that she thinks she has a poor sense of direction, hers is waaaaay better than mine.

Córdoba was filled with tourists and also with screaming teenagers who congregated along one wall of the Mezquita, often shrieking things at passers-by.

We visited the Mezquita, and I was stunned once again by its beauty--and bemused by the cathedral placed right smack in the middle of it. I console myself by saying that if it were not for the cathedral, the Mosque might well have been destroyed by now.

In Córdoba, we discovered the second problem. Sandy's ATM card didn't work, no matter how many places we tried. She had gone to her bank in Bellingham to ensure that she'd be able to get cash, and she''d been assured that she was good to go. But when she actually got to Spain, she had no luck. Since I had enough money for both of us, I used my card and lent her money. I think it was also in Córdoba that she discovered her third problem: her camera didn't work. The battery was dead. By this time, she'd started to laugh about the "black cloud" hovering over her head.

Well, enough for one day.

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