I would love, more than anything, to recount the past 30ish hours of my life for you. They have been quite the adventure.
First of all, travel has all gone well. After eating a delicious Olive Garden lunch with my parents, we headed to the Tri-Cities airport where I caught a 33 minute flight to Charlotte. Upon arriving in Charlotte, I found out that there was no seat for me on the flight to Madrid I had booked months previously. You can imagine my frustration…how could there be no seat on a flight we had paid over $1,000 to reserve? I wasn’t really worried but I tried to play up the “I’m young, naive, and traveling (internationally) alone for the first time” card and I ended up getting a seat a few minutes before the flight left. The flight to Madrid was uneventful and I didn’t sleep at all, not for one second of our 8 hour flight. When we landed in Madrid it was 6:40AM and we seemed to taxi aimlessly around for about 30 minutes before settling on a gate and unloading. For those of you who don’t know, I was planning to meet two people who are also studying abroad with my program, Jeff and Hailey, in our terminal in Madrid. Jeff and I ran into each other before too long, but it was 3.5 hours later before we finally found Hailey and were ready to head out. During this time, I sat in the corner of Terminal 1 at the Madrid Barajas airport with a dozen American study abroad students and people-watched. It was a good time and we got to see a whole bunch of sweet families reunite, which is always something fun to watch.
The next several hours are a blur of dragging about 100 lbs of luggage each around Madrid. The three of us stuck out like a (huge) sore thumb everywhere we went. It didn’t help that we barely caught our bus and then laughed obnoxiously for ten minutes because we were so out of sorts trying to make it on the right bus and keep our really, really heavy luggage from rolling around and hitting innocent bystanders on the bus. After making it to Madrid’s main bus station, we bought a ticket to get from Madrid to Bilbao and sat down at a hole-in-the-wall café for lunch. We had no idea what we were ordering and it just so happened that everything we ordered was gross (we have already learned that the Spanish love their mystery meat), so we gave up and left for Bilbao. We met some rowdy Spaniards on our bus and did our best to communicate with them. There was one older man who was so friendly that when we got to Bilbao he stayed with us and rode the metro with us all the way to our stop to make sure that we made it to the right place. He was an angel from heaven…I didn’t know what he was saying some of the time but we just followed him around until we found our place. It was hilarious. There were also babies everywhere. It seemed like every time we tried to maneuver our excessive luggage somewhere new, there was a baby/bay stroller in the way.
We finally made it to out hostel at about 6:00PM and were happy to check it and sit down all our junk for a while. When we decided to head out for dinner, we were once again super-obvious foreigners trying our best to find an actual restaurant. The dining culture appears to be very different in Spain. For one thing, they eat dinner really late. Like 9 or 10 PM late. Also, it is difficult to find a restaurant where you actually sit down and a waitress/waiter actually comes to serve you. Most restaurants, people order at the bar and then stand all over the place and talk. We walked all around the city center in the rain and went into 4 or 5 different restaurants before we finally spotted one that was actually full-service. After a on-flight cheese danish for breakfast and sketchy mystery-meat sandwiches for lunch, we were more than ready for a real meal. I played it safe and ordered the Spaghetti Marinara, which actually turned out to be spaghetti noodles with shrimp and weird yellow sauce. I had stopped caring by this point.
We’re now sitting in our hostel with some fellow Americans, one Belgian, two Australians, one Brit, and I haven’t met the others. Quite a variety. I feel like I’ve moved into my dorm freshman year all over again.
Just wanted to give a brief update of my day of travel. We haven’t slept in well over 36 hours so we’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep tomorrow before heading to Dublin tomorrow afternoon!