Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Off to Spain!

OK I'll admit,  that sounds pretty damned pretentious,  but I never in my life would have thought I'd ever say such a thing. 
So just cut me a little slack.
 The thing is,  Travelling Companion had to be in Bilbao,  Spain at some point to do some sort of financial thing-ma-bob,  and we figured we'd go together and make a weekend of it.
I have photographic proof.  Well,  I suppose if you've been following along up to this point,  you'd realise I don't exactly make this stuff up.
 As you well know,  in spite of her having flown off to such exotic locations as Serbia and Romania,  I've been quite content to be left behind *sniff*,  so this was my turn to go along for the ride.
And if you don't recognise my particular brand of sarcasm by now,  you need to turn off your computer.

 Fortunately for us,  since we both have learned over the years how to travel "light",  we didn't have to check any luggage on the way,  since it turns out this mob scene in front of the terminal was all about checking in luggage.
It didn't take too long to determine that we didn't need to be there,  and we headed for the gate.

One of the slight disadvantages of not booking ones own ticket (this was a business trip after all)  is that there are sometimes these little surprises that come to light along the way.  The first leg of our flight over to Bilbao was on Fly Niki.
I'm not going to get into just who Niki Lauda is,  but flyniki is a discount airline based here in Austria that is only ever so slightly better than one such as Ryanair.
Can't say I would recommend Fly Niki all that much. Unless of course you're about five feet tall and weigh about 90 pounds, since any average sized person is going to find it very cramped.  Very cramped.
 Did I say very cramped?
 Thankfully,  we were on an Airbus A something or other,  and there was proper ventilation.  That made it at least bearable.  Plus they fire a sandwich in your general direction at some point along the way.  I thought I'd have to pay,  and even had some money out,  'cause I was getting a tad hungry,  but it was free.

 That came as a surprise.

 Now,  the other thing that happens with the discount airlines,  apart from that mob scene above,  since all the discount airlines get relegated to another terminal,   is that you also have the pleasure of being herded out to the tarmac on the big white bus.  Sorry,  no jet way for you!
I should admit that the "good news" about that part of the deal is that they then at least open up the rear doors of the plane and anyone who is sitting at the back then gets on by way of the back stairway.   We were back in the 20s somewhere.

First leg of the journey was to La Palma,  Mallorca.  

That was one of our first glimpses of Mallorca.

La Palma reminded my a bit of Puerto Rico,  except that it was pretty evident that a large portion of their economy was due to the flow of tourists that head there.
Nice roads,  buildings etc.

You'll also notice by the colour of that paint on the plane there,  that the second leg of the journey was with Air Berlin.
I had always thought of Air Berlin as being a discount airline,  so I was surprised that there was a good inch and half of extra leg room!   We were as giddy as school kids!  I was actually comfortable!

No food though.


Bilbao is situated in a valley in what might be considered the foothills of the Pyrenees
(and I know the geography "experts"  are going to disagree with me),  and they've had to put the airport over in the next  valley,   but thankfully all the roads in the area are of the modern four lane type,  with a handy dandy tunnel to get you into town.     I did take a drive on Monday on what would have been the "old way" to get from the airport to Bilbao,  and that was interesting to say the least. 
Gearing down and copious braking.  That's all I'm going to say.

We were still a few miles out on our descent at this point.

Did the touristy thing on Sunday,  with a visit to the Guggenheim,

  and then on out to check out the Viscaya Bridge.

 I'm putting in all these links just to cut down on my own verbal diarrhoea,  so you can go off and read to your hearts content.

No problems to speak of.   Rented a little BMW of some sort,  which was adequate.  Also helps to be able to drive standard,  and be able to start on a hill.   Many hills.
 The only slight annoyance that I had was trying to get to the underground parking for the hotel,  which due to the one way streets was just about impossible,  so I'd simply end up double parking and bringing the key to one of the folks at the desk.  There was no expectation that any foreigner to Bilbao would be able to master that one,  and I wasn't willing to put in the training.
 The only other issue that I could possibly mention would be one of language.   I don't mean Spanish.   It comes back.  Road signs and all that basic stuff are a piece of cake after a year in Puerto Rico.   I'm talking about the other "official"  language,  Basque. 


I foolishly thought it went back to some sort of Arabic root,  but it turns out that even the experts don't really know where the heck this language comes from.   So,  road signs are in Spanish,  Basque,  and then maybe English.    Too much information!    It took considerable practise for me to read a sign and be able to ignore the Basque,  since if I didn't,  then no information got processed in my pea brain at all.  
Thankfully one of the pleasant surprises was that whoever booked the car,  thought to reserve a GPS.   Nice touch,  and greatly appreciated,  trust me.

Time isn't on my side at the moment,  so I'll stop boring you now.   Have to go get dinner ready.  

Always nice to be "back home". 

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Well, I've been getting too many spam comments showing up. Just a drag, so we'll go another route and hope that helps. So, we won't be hearing anything more from Mr. Nony Moose.
I guess I'll just have to do without that Gucci purse.