Friday, October 29, 2010

Granada and Andrew Bird: Part I

Hello, hello,

This is another one of those two-posts-at-the-same-time entries.  Well, maybe 2 ½-posts because this one has two parts. Again, I’m sorry for the wait but my previous source of internet (a café below my house) has abated.  For reasons unknown, they have decided to turn off their Wi-Fi.  At a business that advertises Wi-Fi.  Odd, huh?  Anywho, my new source of internet is an unsecured network in the middle of my plaza.  Thus far it has been, unreliable, to say the least. 

I hope that with this post I can almost catch you guys up.  I’m gonna start from last Thursday (the 14th), which was the weekend after my first puente.   We (Meg, Hillary, and I) had heard from a girl we met at orientation that there was going to be an Andrew Bird concert in Granada on the 14th.  If I haven’t shown you any of his music, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and check him out on youtube.  He is impressive.  

Thanks to the puente, I didn’t have to work the preceding Monday or Tuesday, but I did have to work on that Thursday.  I was worried about missing the concert, but I talked to my school, and I was able to work on Wednesday instead of Thursday.  First obstacle averted.

The next challenge was how to get tickets and how to get to Granada.  Finding the tickets was surprisingly easy.  I found out from the concert website that there was a travel agency in La Línea that sold the tickets.  One down, one to go.  The travel situation, however, was a little more difficult.  Bus tickets to Granada are around 15-20 each way, which was a little out of my price range.  A train ticket, which to me is so much better than one for a bus, is even more expensive.  We all looked around for a little bit, and after talking to some friends, discovered that the cheapest way to get to Granada was to rent a car.  Because Meg and Hillary both had to work Thursday morning, it was also the most convenient.  

By car, Granada is around 3.5 hours away.  Our friend who told us about the concert, Bianca, and her roommate Kelly were also going so we would have to pick them up.  The town they live in is called La Roda de Andalucía, which is only slightly out of the way on the road to Granada.   The concert began at 9:30 p.m., so if we left around 2 p.m. then that would give us plenty of time to pick up Bianca and Kelly and get to Granada, right? Well we thought it would.   As some of you aged folk already know, nothing happens exactly as you plan it; especially if you’re driving in a foreign country.  

The bumps in the road started when we first visited the car rental place –about a week before we left.  The second we opened our mouths, the man at the desk realized we were foreigners, and we realized he didn’t much care for foreigners.  It was like every word we said exasperated him.  Though all we asked for was the price to rent a 5-person car for one day.  He told us it would be 90€.  Ahhh!  Hold on! Just, just, wait one second.  Ughmm, excuse me sir, but that’s way more than the word-of-mouth price we were told.  Needless to say, we left to go and find out what was happening.  According to our friends, it should have been around 20€ or so per day.  Definitely not 90€.  

The next step was to retreat to the sanctuary of our generation: the internet.  The place where all your questions can be answered (if not always correctly).  Meg and Hillary looked up the website and made a reservation for a 5-person size car, with a manual transmission, for three days.  It was  42€.  Clearly the internet is the way to play.  I’m going to give the man the benefit of the doubt and say that we just weren’t specific enough with him.  Meg thought he was just an asshole.  Probably a mix of the two.  One more obstacle out of the way.  

Thus far the plan was to drive to Granada on Thursday afternoon, see the concert and drive back Saturday night.  The car had to be back in La Línea by 10 p.m.  The only obstacle left was trying to find a place to stay.  Bianca’s roommate, Kelly, has a friend in Granada whose roommates leave almost every weekend and we had first planned on staying with her.  However, that weekend was one of the few her roommates decided to spend at home, so no luck there.  Our next best option was to find a hostel. 
It was now Tuesday the 12th, two days to go, and I put the hostel problem on the back burner.  I went to work Wednesday and came back that night to finalize the travel plans.  I have to say gracias again to those wonderful ladies; they had hit the web again and found a hostel that looked pretty good.  Well, that sounds good to me.  All that’s left is to actually get there.  

I woke up Thursday morning, packed my stuff up, and waited for my roommates to get off work.  Hillary came back around 1 p.m. and we left around 1:30 p.m. to pick up the car.  Meg would be back around 2 p.m. so we planned to meet up with her then leave.  This is where the fun began.  

First, we got to the rental place and the same frustrated man was working.  He ever so politely informed us that we couldn’t rent a car without a tarjeta or card.  From this we took that he meant a tarjeta de identidad extranjera which is basically a residency permit that we have applied for but not yet received.  Again we were confused, because our friend Bianca had rented a car with only her passport and visa.  We called Bianca and just in case we ran by the bus station and checked on the last bus out to Granada.  The last bus left at 4:00, which meant we would probably get into Granada around 9:00 p.m.  However, we didn’t know if Bianca and Kelly could catch a bus from their town as well.  We had already promised to bring a car, so if we couldn’t get it, we’d be stuck.  

Back at the rental office the guy told us a visa would work fine (why he didn’t mention this before I can only guess) and the only other thing we would need is a driver’s license that has been issued for more than a year.  Neither Meg nor Hillary can drive a standard, so I had already planned on driving, but alas my license was issued in April.  I was lucky enough to have lost it twice over the last year so we wouldn’t be using my information.  Hillary had just renewed hers as well so our only hope was with Meg.  It was now past two o’clock and we went back to the apartment to talk to Meg.

Back at the place, Meg told us that she had just renewed her license as well.  Damn.  Now we’re in a little bit of a bind.  Well, when in doubt, go talk.  Back to the car rental store!

We arrive again and what do you know, the man hasn’t changed his personality in the last 30 minutes.  You don’t have a valid license? I’m sorry; you still can’t rent this car.  There really isn’t anything I can do to help.  Yes, Spanish licenses have to be renewed as well, but they have both an issue and a renewal date.  All I can say is that I need some kind of official document that says you have been driving for more than one year (so I don’t get fired for renting a car that kills someone).  

Aaaaaand damn again.  Back to the drawing board I guess.  The girls and I split up again to go look on the internet for ways to get a copy of our driving records.  I was sure the DMV could send me something.  Eventually.  

All I found after about 45 minutes on the net was a private company that could email my records to me for the low price of $50.00.  If I lived in California, the DMV could email the records to me; however, Arkansas is not so advanced.  Only snail mail for the Natural State.  

Honestly, I didn’t think we would be able to make the concert.  I called the girls, relayed the news, and told them I’d be at the apartment if they needed anything.  They said they didn’t, so I waited. 

Around a quarter till four Meg and Hillary busted through the door with success in their hands.  Hillary had her driving records! And they had the keys to the car in hand! Apparently, they had contacted Hillary’s parents, who were able to reach the DMV in Greenbriar and email her a copy.  Wow, I’m impressed.  Good work girls.  Now let’s get out of this town. 

We gather our things and leave the apartment.  After finding the garage, we get the first sight of our temporary car.  It’s a Ford.  Really Spain?  We rent a car in Europe and you give us a Ford? I was hoping for a low end Mercedes or BMW or even a Peugeot.  Nope, just a Ford hatchback that feels like a bus compared to my old Civic.  I would love to show you guys a picture, but I forgot to take one.  I’m still trying to get used to this whole you-have-a-camera-so-use-it thing.  Just imagine a plain blue, 5-seater, hatchback station wagon.   It was nothing special and certainly did not have any secrets under the hood or in the tires.  The whole weekend it felt like every little car or bus was either out-powering or out-cornering me.  

This part of the story has turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be so I’m going to take this chance to end Part I of our Granada expedition.  Part II will be coming soon, if it is not already here, so don’t go anywhere.  I promise this next part will be more pictures and less text, but just as crazy. 

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