Travel Karma may have run out

After a fabulous night out in Valencia, I slept until 10:30, checked out of my hostel on time at 11 am, and walked in the glorious sunshine to my car. I had already reserved a hostel in Barcelona, and I’ve been dreaming about spending time in Barcelona for literally years. This was the reason I had sped through the other cities: so I could spend some quality time in the land of Catalan. So, my plans were good, the day was beautiful, and all was right with the world.

On the walk to my car I noticed that streets were strangely empty, and soon realized why: there was a marathon going on! Very exciting, runners streaming past on the wide street leading to the park area I had run through just yesterday. Briefly I wondered if the road closures that are usually necessary for a large marathon in the middle of a city like this would hamper my exit. No matter, I’ve got all day, and it should only take 4 hours max to drive to Barcelona.

Upon arriving at my parking spot, I realized I had more urgent problems. Namely: my car was… missing. The entire block had been cleared of cars, presumably for the marathon, although the massive empty block didn’t look like it was being used for anything at the moment.

It’s a rather concerning moment when you realize that your car (which contains your backpack with all your worldly belongings) is missing, and you don’t really know how to go about finding it. I think I spun in circles, both mentally and figuratively, for a few minutes trying to figure out how to proceed. How do I know what towing company took my car? How do I explain in my meager Spanish what has happened? How much will this cost me? Oh, and dang it – now I have to go to the bathroom.

Eventually I found a police officer stationed at the corner, and explained to him: “mi coche fue remolcada” and “necessito el numero del officina”. He asked me, quite logically, what the license plate number for my car was.

Uh oh. It’s a rental. And all the documentation was in the car. What now?

I explained it was a White Nissan (Kashkai? Cash Guy? Kwaskay?) and luckily he said “ah, si, Nissan Qashqai, pero cual es el licencia?”. I boggled for a moment: they probably towed quite a few cars to empty the street, my car might be one of many Nissan SUVs, how would I track this down without the license number?

And then I remember that I took this picture back when I was documenting the silly name of the car:

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Maybe all is not lost after all.

I brought this picture up on my phone and showed it to him, and based on this partial number, he called someone and then gave me an address and advised I flag down a taxi.  Once again I found myself at the mercy of strangers: I simply handed the taxi driver a small piece of paper on which the officer has scribbled something, and he took me on a 20 minute drive out to an area of town that I didn’t recognize, and dropped me in front of a decrepit looking building with a dirty glass door in the side.  Entering that, I saw a large bullet proof window and a chart explaining fees for towing.

I paid my hefty fine, and soon was reunited with not only my car, but Meebus as well.

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Nice of the towing company to keep the prostitution ad presumably placed on my car at night when they took my car.

Me: Good to see you Meebus, where have you been?

Meebus: stuffed in your backback, locked in the trunk of an SUV.  Thanks.

And with that, Meebus and I hit the road, northward bound.

Now, without wifi access, I had no idea how to get to Barcelona, or once there how to get to my hostel.  However, after the rather frustrating, expensive, and slightly nerve-wrecking experience I’d just gone through I was eager to just get out.  Driving around a little I quickly saw signs pointing to Barcelona, and within minutes was on the right road.

Now one thing I have not heard mention of in travel blogs about Spain is tool booths.  Tool booths are normally a nuisance, but not a complete hazard.  Turns out my unexpected fees today were not going to be limited to the towing.  I hit no less than 4 tool booths between Valencia and Barcelona, one charging 30 Euros to get through, for a grand total of 42 euros in tolls alone.  I’ve never heard of anything even remotely this expensive before.  Rather shocking.

So I rolled into Barcelona without a map, and far poorer than I expected.  I didn’t waste much time wandering around on the way so it was around 5 by the time I arrived.  However, Barcelona is a BIG city, and without even a map to go by, I was very much shooting in the dark for where to go.

Another note: when looking for a place in Spain that has wifi, you should note that it is not pronounced “Why-Fi”.  No, asking for this will get you scrunched up looks from the proprietors, and attempts in English, Spanish and even Catalan to find out what you are actually looking for.  However, if you ask for “wee-fee”, you will be greeted with “ah, claro, si!” and you will be in business.  Thus armed with a map to my hostel and turn-by-turn directions on my computer, I set out again.

Finding my hostel was relatively painless, but returning my rental car was far more pain than it was worth: the map to the Enterprise rental office turned out to be wrong, so I drove in circles for 30 minutes trying to find a non-existent place.  On trying Google maps, I finally got an accurate location, but misnamed streets, so through a combination of Bing and Google maps I was able to get there (all this necessitating trips back to the hostel to use the wee-fee).  By the time I got to Enterprise, it was verging on sunset, and clouds were threatening.  To make matters worse, there is no signage at the “Estacion Sants” (bus station) where I was returning the car, so only by driving to the top of a parking garage and looking out over the surroundings could I see a small office saying “Enterprise” across another building to know where I should take my car.  By the time I handed the car off (more fees: I hadn’t found a gas station so they charged me 18 euros convenience charge, plus a hefty markup per-liter on fill up), the rain had started.

Now, being from Seattle, I’m not scared of rain.  So I set out to walk the estimated 1.5 miles back to the hostel.  The clouds seemed thin and the forecast called for light rain (40% change of precipitation).  I had forgotten that Seattle weather was hunting me, and had some vengeance in mind.  So while I happily put in my headphones and set off on my way, the clouds gathered and schemed.

I ended up walking 1/2 hour in the wrong direction, finally turning around as the rain set in for a good serious soaking.  I stopped at a cash machine to replenish my depleted funds, only to have the machine tell me that my code was wrong and I needed to contact the bank.  So, I’ve got 2 euros and some change.  Not good.  I keep walking, now soaked thoroughly as the rain doubles and re-doubles in strength.  I ponder taking a taxi to get out of the rain, but I don’t think I have enough money.

So I walk.  And walk.  An hour later, I finally find the turn off to my hostel, just one side of my headphones shorts out, presumably from the massive amount of water running through every part of me.  I think the specter of me outside the door of the hostel, drenched, angry, tired, and ready to snap was a sobering experience for the poor lady working the front desk, as she quickly found other things to be busy with as I stalked to my room.

My entry to Barcelona, which I have been dreaming about for 15 years, was less than ideal.  But hey, it can only go up from here, yes?

7 thoughts on “Travel Karma may have run out

  1. Good job at dealing with the unexpected crisis! One of the lesser joys of traveling, yeah. Enjoy Barcelona! (I’m reminded of sending my buddy off to pick up our rental car while I waited at the hostel I’d just found. She came back in tears, because all of our belongings that were in the car* were missing. Filing a police report in Spanish was a thrill and involved lots of frustrated hand-waving.)

    *I had everything of importance on me, but she did not. Uh oh. I recommend avoiding this experience.

  2. Your car got towed, I think, because Meebus took the car to a secluded spot to have a liaison with Jennifer. Serves you right for keeping him in the pack.

    Enjoy Barcelona! If you are going to be there through next Sunday June 1, Barca is playing at home. you should try to go.

  3. Barcelona is an amazing city… I am sure you will love it and this less than perfect start will become something to laugh at (eventually). The travel hiccups only make the other moments seem all the better. Happy travels:)

    1. Thanks Erin! Barcelona is indeed excellent. My less than optimal arrival is already a good story to tell other travelers. And life is all about having good stories to tell, no?

      I imagine your new house is creating many good stories for you as well ;-).

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