Europe 2014 Day 11: Barcelona to Santa Ana

Monday January 5, 2015
I got my revenge at 430am as my alarm went off. I staggered out of bed and showered. I was thinking they must hear the water and the toilet because I sure heard them last night. I hope they were light sleepers so they could enjoy interrupted sleep as I did. I calculated that at best I had 3 full hours of sleep with a few moments more here and there during the noise making. But despite my bleary eyes, I had everything ready and was downstairs at 545. When I checked out of the hotel I scanned my bill and it looks like they undercharged me for the room. After the exploits of last night, maybe he felt bad for me.

The taxi to Barcelona-Sants train station took only 15 minutes which meant I was at the station a full 90 minutes before I could even board the train. I so could have slept for another hour. Ugh. Better safe than sorry I guess. I went to the just opening café and had breakfast. I spoiled myself with 2 pan au chocolat and some orange juice. I narrowly avoided bag and tray drama as the cashier helped me to my table. Thankfully, my good friend free Wi-Fi was there as well so it gave me something to do. After about 45 minutes, I went through baggage screening to the pre-board area. It seemed like forever before they finally called our train for boarding, but finally I boarded the train at 7:30. I was happy to see that my car (and for that fact most of the train) was completely empty. Only 5 people were on my car (of course one of them kept clearing his throat through the entire journey to Madrid) and I settled in for a blissful trip to Madrid.

There was some sort of in-train movie that involved some police detective and a politician and some lies and eventual redemption. That’s the best I could do since there was no sound and I kept sleeping. I probably was awake for 20 minutes of the 2h30m trip to Spain. I remember there being a spectacular sunrise that I was able to take a photo, some fog, some beautiful countryside, and the train reaching 300km/h (about 180mph).

We sailed into Madrid about 2 minutes late – this isn’t Japan ya’know. To my surprise, the Madrid Atocha train station was mostly deserted as well. It turns out it was 3 Kings day tomorrow so most people had taken the day off as a holiday. I was really glad as it made my transport day a bit easier. At the train station, I struggled to remember where the airport shuttle was located so I ended up missing one before the lady at the info counter pointed me in the right direction. I was now a bit behind schedule, so I was hoping for no delays on the trip to the airport.

I boarded the bus and found a great single seat. I noticed it filled up fast and there was a lady and her daughter who kept talking to the driver. She looked like Alex Kingston so I was thinking maybe there was some Doctor Who stuff going on, but as I watched their interactions I deduced that this was the bus drivers wife and daughter and since it was a holiday they decided to ride the bus to the airport since it was probably the only time they would see him today. I liked my made up story and it warmed my heart when the bus driver kissed them goodbye and gave them some money.

No delays to the Airport and I was glad to finally be starting my long trip home. I found the American check in counter and I was the last person in line to check in. I kept waiting for more people to show up, but nope, I was it. They asked if I was interested in getting bumped from the flight for $800 in travel vouchers and hotel. It was a tough decision as I wanted to stay and get the free stuff but I knew I had to be at work the next day and I just wanted to get home. I think had I fully rested the night before and had been staying in Madrid already, I would have accepted it no questions asked.

I was hoping to get something to eat and leisurely make my way to the gate, but it turns out I was already late and they were beginning boarding in 20 minutes. I still had to clear security and take the tram to the gate. At security I had to get a thorough examination of my backpack as the x-ray showed something suspicious. It looked like the forgotten remnants of my baguette, but they made me empty it al out into a bin and then re-scanned it. Satisfied with their delay of my trip, the sent me off to re-pack my backpack and then head to the gate. I noticed that I had priority boarding on my ticket to Dallas, so when I finally got my water and made it to the gate, I went right onto the plane. It was a 767 and an old one at that. In the jet way they scolded me for taking plane photos, but I wasn’t tackled so I was thankful for that.

After filling the plane up to the gills, we headed off after some delay on the runway. I noticed there was no in-flight entertainment save for a tiny CRT screen every few rows. I was glad I had loaded the movies on my iPad. I really wanted to sleep, but I could not get comfortable at all. So I ended up watching two moves, taking a nap, eating, and otherwise being uncomfortable. I was glad I was in an aisle seat as I got to get up and move around whenever I wanted. Finally after 11 excruciating hours, we landed in Dallas.

Immigration in Dallas was a confusing mess. They had these self-serve kiosks which would send random people to the actual person checking people coming into the country. Apparently almost all of us on my area of the flight were tagged to talk to a person. In a way, the kiosks were a waste of time, but I was glad I got deferred to a person since I made them stamp be back into the country.

I then had three glorious hours to wait for my connecting flight to Orange County. I wandered around and found something to eat and then parked it at the gate. Again, I had priority boarding so I was on the plane in the first group. This flight wasn’t nearly as full, so it was actually quite pleasant. I tried to watch another movie on the last segment, but I was so exhausted I ended up sleeping for half of the flight. Finally, 24 hours after getting onto the train in Barcelona, I stepped off the plane at Orange County. I was so happy to be back home after a long, long travel day. Daniel was at the airport just after I got my bags so we made it home without delay. I didn’t stay up too much later and changed my clothes and went to bed.

Such a great trip and I am glad that I was able to relax in Madeira with Nathan before the hectic weekend in Barcelona. I could certainly do with another day in Barcelona for sure, and I hope to also visit Madrid more than just passing through.

Let’s go on vacation again soon!!