Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Better Late than Never

The title has two meanings. First, I understand this blog is a few days late. Second, the travel plans didn't work exactly how I had hoped but at least I got there and back safely. Now here is the story.

I waited to long to start planning the trip to Segovia, Salamanca and Santiago. I was hoping to have someone to travel with but that did not work out. It was Thursday before I finally made my way to the train station after work to buy three tickets, Huelva - Sevilla - Madrid - Salamanca. If it had worked out, I would have arrived to Salamanca about 8 p.m. on Friday. However, the agent informed me there were no available trains for Madrid at the times allowing me to connect to Salamanca. They were all full. Thats where the headache began.

I decided to go to the bus station again to try and find an alternate route. I printed out a sheet with the timetable of a bus that would go directly from Sevilla to Salamanca and take about seven hours. I brought the sheet home with me so I could buy the ticket online since the company is in Sevilla and not Huelva. Upon closer look at the timetable, I found that I probably could not catch the bus, expecting to arrive at Huelva close to 1 p.m. and the bus leaving Sevilla at 2 p.m. So I had to find a different option.

I found where if I went to Madrid from Huelva, I could connect on another bus there to Salamanca. So, lessons learned from Ryanair for this same trip, I tried to book Socibus before the bus from Madrid. I could not get my card to go through. It was routing me to Verify by Visa which is really a horrible system. It almost never works for me. This time was no different. So, I called my bank and complained. They told me they couldn't see any attempted transactions. Knowing that it wouldn't work for the bus company in Madrid either I began thinking about canceling the trip all together. But that would mean a 50 euro ticket, and a 5 euro hostal deposit would be wasted.

The charge from Ryanair did not show up on my bank account so I decided to talk to the company and maybe they could cancel my reservation and not make the charge. (I know, I must have been dreaming.) I tried about five different phone numbers listed on the airport websites, their website and my ticket. None of those numbers would work. So I decided to call my bank and ask if it would be legal for them to block the transaction. They said it had been verified and therefore they could not do anything. After several more attempts at contacting the airline, I filled out a complaint form. A little while later, I finally got a Spanish number (in the United Kingdom) to work. Of course, they didn't tell me what I wanted to hear. There would be no cancelling. "As it clearly states in our policies and during the booking procedure..." blah blah blah. My point was that it hadn't shown up on the bank yet so what if we just don't go through with it. But anyway, this blog isn't to complain about Ryanair, otherwise it would be much longer than I want to write tonight.

I finally realized Paypal was an option for the bus in Madrid so I bought the ticket and then raced to the local bus station to buy my seat for Madrid. I arrived to Salamanca about five hours later than intended, but better late than never.

I have learned a few things from this experience. The most important lesson was to always book the departing trip before the returning  trip. And the second was that I really am learning to understand and speak Spanish better. After the four to five hours talking to all of these different companies, I realized I was complaining and speaking in Spanish better under the stress than on a good day. I can't imagine what I would have done in that scenario if it were my first week in Spain.

Over the next day or two I intend to write a little about each of the cities I was in during the holiday weekend: Salamanca, Santiago and Sevilla.

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