Misadventures in Costa del Sol, Spain – Part Three

My two-week vacation had come to an end. This was my last day at the resort and I had to be out by noon. My friends had gone home the day before.  My plane though, wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next day.  Knowing this, I telephoned around to hostels to find a place to spend the night.   Finally I found a place and made a reservation.   I checked out of the hotel, took the bus into Malagua. With my luggage, I wandered the streets of the city trying to locate the address asking everyone I met (in my halting Spanish) for directions.  After several wrong turns I found it. I checked into the small hotel, took the ancient elevator up to the third floor and stood before the old wooden door hesitant to insert the key. I felt as if I’d stepped back in time.  It reminded me of the tenement buildings in Harlem where I grew up except this hallway was much smaller.  Slowly, I opened the door to my room and stepped in.  I was greeted by a sea of brown – brown walls, brown carpet, brown doors – one leading to a closet, the other to the tiny bathroom, a single bed with a faded bedspread.  The forty-watt bulb dangling from the ceiling cast ominous shadows on the wall.  On a small table sat a 14 inch TV screen, with programs in Spanish, mostly featuring bull fights. The only window looked out onto an alley – quite a comedown from the luxurious apartments at the resort with large color TV’s that featured international programs.  Nonetheless, it would do for one night.
I wandered through the Lara, an interesting maze of streets, and as I was getting hungry, I decided to find a place to eat. From a guidebook I’d borrowed from my local library and copied pages, I thought about having one of Spain’s famous dishes “Malaguena.” The problem, my funds were quite low.  I could either dine out my last day in Spain, eating at one of the outdoor restaurants, or save the money to pay my hotel bill and take a taxi to the airport the next day. I decided I’d eat out.  When the waiter delivered the huge dish of fried fish, I savored the wonderful taste. But when I began to look closely at what I was eating, I saw what looked like eyeballs staring up at me – octopus or squid tentacles, I think. Despite the delicious flavors, I couldn’t finish my meal knowing I was eating octopus.
I returned to my lonely room, tried to read in the dim light until I finally fell asleep listening to voices murmuring nearby and the elevator as it rattled up and down its shaft.  The next day, I returned to my exploration of the Lara. As my checkout time from the hostel approached I felt my anxiety rise, I was deep into the Lara and lost.  Walking quickly down one street after another, I finally found one that led to the boulevard and to my hostel. I paid the hostel bill with my credit card, took a taxi to the airport, and sat around for hours waiting for my plane to take me home.  It had been a wonderful adventure; however, I was ready to put it behind me.

Misadventures in Spain – Part Two

I had been in Spain for almost a week.  At the end of the first week, my two friends joined me at the beautiful resort.  Tired of talking to myself and wandering around alone, I was looking forward to their visit. During that 2nd week we visited Mijas, a quaint, picturesque village; Seville, historic, cultural, and financial capital of Southern Spain; Gibraltar where we visited St. Michael’s Cave and the monkeys that roam freely about the area; and the Casbah, a walled city in Tangier, Morocco.   
I’d seen Casablanca, the 1940’s movie staring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, and couldn’t wait to see that area of Tangier where such intrigue took place.  Before entering the Casbah, our guide warned us all to keep up with the group as the Casbah is made up a maze of streets and alleys where one could easily get lost.  We were also warned to watch out for pickpockets who preyed on unsuspecting tourists. He added that we would encounter many vendors trying to sell their wares and to be “careful how you open your purses or wallets.”  Armed with these warning almost put me in a state of panic.  I don’t know about the others, but I was on guard. As our guide led us through the Casbah pointing out different sights, all I could think about was his warning.  “Keep up with group and watch out for pickpockets.”  When I spotted several young men in green-stripped tee shirts moving among us, I clutched my purse even tighter. When vendors approached, while I wanted to examine their wares, I dared not stop. One vendor was offended about my refusal and asked derisively, “Why are you here if you don’t want to buy?” Despite this, there were many memorable moments even if I can’t remember them.
Back to our resort. The end of the week fast approached but not the end of our adventures. The weather was hot and humid and since our apartment had no air conditioner, we were forced to leave the windows and door to the balcony opened to catch whatever breeze happened by. One morning, one of my friends was awakened when she felt someone standing at the foot of her bed. Thinking it was me, she didn’t pay much attention at first.  But when she opened her eyes she saw a man bending over the nightstand where she had her bag. She shouted, frightening the man who headed for the balcony door.  We watched him leap from balcony to balcony carrying a basket filled with other tenants’ valuables.  Lesson learned, when traveling, don’t leave valuables lying around openly. When we reported it to the front desk, they denied knowing anything about it. Suddenly I understood why this beautiful resort had so many empty rooms.  The next day my friends flew back to the U.S. leaving me alone to spend one more day and night at the resort.

Travel Misadventures Part One – Costa del Sol

I’d booked two weeks at a resort in Costa del Sol and was looking forward to spending my vacation in Spain, a country I had never before been.  I flew from LAX to Heathrow in London, and then from Gatwick to Malagua, Spain. Being on a tight budget, I called the hotel prior to my departure to find the most economical way to get to the resort. The receptionist at the hotel desk where I’d plan to spend my vacation, told me the best way to get there was to take a taxi from the airport to Costa del Sol. “It will cost around $50,” she said. “Is there a less expensive way?” I asked. “Well,” she hesitated, “there is.” She gave me directions.  From the airport in Malagua to the resort in Costa del Sol is a distance of over thirty miles.  Piece of cake, I thought confidently. I love an adventure, or so I thought. 
Outside the Malagua airport was a line of taxicabs, each driver beckoning me. “No, gracias,” I waved them away. In my halting Spanish I managed to find the local train station.  The car I stepped into was practically empty. I sat down and as I waited for the doors to close, I looked around wondering who to pay and when. The doors closed and the train started. At each stop passengers hopped on and off before the conductor reached the car in which I was sitting.  Will I be able to do the same? Not a chance. Fortunately, I had exchanged a few dollars at the airport so when the conductor came to me, I was able to pay my fare. I think at the time it was three pesetas to Fuengirola. 
The town of Fuengirola was the last stop. Trying not to show how confused I was, I followed the crowd of people to one of several bus stops and waited. Someone told me what bus to take and where to get off. After several minutes, the local bus arrived. By now it was rush hour and with my heavy bags I managed to get a seat.  It was a long ride and especially distressing because with so many people standing in the aisle, I couldn’t see the street names. Finally I heard the driver call out the name of my stop.  I managed to push pass the passengers to get off before the bus pulled away.  On one side was a long stretch of coastline; on the other, various shops, and restaurants, and in front of me, a very steep hill. As I stood looking up at Mount Everest, I began to wish I had paid the $50 for a taxi. Gathering my remaining strength, I dragged my luggage up the hill to the resort, a distance of almost a mile.
It was almost dark when I checked in. Tired, hot and sweaty, not to mention suffering from jet lag, all I wanted was a shower and something to eat.  I had no problem checking in or finding the way to my apartment. When I surveyed the rooms, I noticed that the bathtub was filled with water. I unplugged the stopper and let the water drain out. Then I undressed, stepped into the shower and turned on the faucet. Nothing. Not a drop.  I phoned the desk. “We turn off the water for a few hours, once every week. It’ll be on again tomorrow,” the clerk explained cheerfully. “Use the water in the bathtub.”  I groaned. Too hungry and exhausted to bother, I decided to forget the shower; just let me get something to eat.  Unfortunately, the on-site restaurant was closed. The desk clerk told me where to purchase food and water – halfway down the hill I’d just climbed!  Oh well, my adventure had begun.  If this were any indication of things to come, it would be a long two weeks.