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.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Video Blog - Month 5

Today has been a really nice day. The weather was perfect so I was able to record this blog from inside Parque Alonso Sanchez, not too far from where I live. It is in Spanish, of course.

Puestas de sol Onubenses / Huelvan Sunsets

Aunque vivir en Huelva ha estado un poco aburrido, una de las mejoras cosas son las puestas del sol. TodavĂ­a no he visto la puesta desde la playa, solo desde el muelle del Rio Tinto y la puerta. Y claro, mi piso.

La vista de la puesta desde mi piso cerca de La Merced

La vista desde el puerto de Huelva

La puesta del sol en enero desde El Muelle del Rio Tinto.

Otra foto desde el rio.


I really have not blogged much lately. It has been about two or three weeks since my last post, but not much is new. When I first started planning on coming to Spain, I thought I was going to travel a lot. I thought I was going to see most of the cities I wanted to in Spain and even some cities in Europe. I still want to see some, but with each passing weekend I have to re-prioritize. The absolute latest I can stay in Europe is August. But that requires me to pay expenses without an income.

I still hope to see a lot of places in Spain that I still have not seen such as: Pamplona, Santiago de Compostella, Salamanca, Segovia, Zaragosa and Valencia. I also would really like to see Morocco, Venice, Rome and Gibraltar if I am not able to go to any other international destinations. This weekend will be a four-day one and I am still trying to figure out where to go-- Valencia or Zaragosa are looking to be my best options. Transportation is very strange though. I can fly to Rome, round trip for cheaper than I can fly to many destinations in Spain, one-way. And buses are very inconvenient and uncomfortable. From Sevilla to Santiago is a 14 hour bus ride, or an hour and a half flight. I have a day or two to figure it out and try to find someone to go with me so I don't have to travel alone again.

In other news, we are finally seeing some warmer days. Of course, cooler temperatures are still in the forecast, but spring seems to be just around the corner. I look forward to when I no longer have to wear a jacket anymore, even in the mornings. I look even more forward to not having to wear a jacket inside my apartment.

I will post a video blog in the next day or two. I plan to take advantage of this nice weather and record it in one of the local parks. Unfortunately, I feel like my Spanish is getting worse rather than better.