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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trip to Spain - The Return Home to Cuenca...Ecuador...South America

Check-out from my Mallorca apartment was 10am...a bit earlier than the average bear.  My flight didn't leave until 1:30pm, so I knew I was going to kill time at the airport.   Per the instructions, I took the garbage and recycling out to the public bins about 1/2 block away.  I didn't know what the taxi procedure was (some cities you can hail, others you must call).  So, I schlepped my bags across the plaza and waited at the first street.  There wasn't much traffic, so I decided to walk a couple blocks and there I was able to easily hail a taxi.

About taxi's here.  They're almost always very nice modern cars.  They're all on meters which are coded with various formulas based on where you were picked up and where you're going, how many bags you have, etc.  The 3 or 4 I rode in all had GPS systems the drivers used to find their way through winding streets to your destination.  None of them had security cameras or emergency (call 911) buttons like they have in Cuenca.  And, each driver drove very calmly, honoring all stop lights/signs, pedestrians, etc...UNLIKE Cuenca.

$20 later and I was at the airport.  As I mentioned before, the Mallorca airport is HUGE given it's location on an island and the largest city (Palma) is only 400,000.  But, apparently Mallorca is extremely popular, therefore there's lots of direct flights.  Scanning the reader boards, amongst Madrid and Barcelona there were flights to Paris, Manchester, Liverpool, Stuttgart, etc.   However, what I DIDN'T get was there's no Migration or Customs services here.   Does not compute.

Before I left the apartment, I took one last look at my emails.  I had a new one from the travel agency I booked through.  It acknowledged my first departure was on time.  It recapped my two segments following that.  I noticed it said I was to depart Madrid at 9pm.   Noooooo, it's supposed to be 4:25pm.   HERE WE GO!!!  I re-checked my papers and indeed they said 4:25pm.   So, I decided to check-in online so I could select my seats and verify flight times.  Yep, Avianca changed my flight from 4:25pm to 9pm (ESTIMATED).  I was never notified.  No reason given.   As a result of that change I noticed Avianca changed my follow-on flight from Bogota to Quito.   Ok, at least that was taken care of, but dammit, now I had a huge layover in both cities whereas, originally, they were perfect.  Add to that, the arrival time at Quito (10am) now put me AFTER my departure time to Cuenca (9am).   So, I had to cross my fingers that I could get a later flight to Cuenca on the same day.

SIGHHHHH!!!!

A flight slightly over 1 hour long and I landed in Madrid, a MASSIVE airport.  I saw an aircraft taking off on another runway which had to be nearly 1 mile away!  At least this airport's signage made it easier to find my way around than Barcelona or Mallorca's.   I noticed when my taxi pulled into the Mallorca airport there were no signs overhead indicating what airlines were served by which door/stop.  NADA.

It was another sunny day when we took off from Mallorca, so I seized the opportunity to take a few videos.  The first flying over Palma where I spent the last 5 days, the second of the coastline.

Click on the arrow in the video screen.  Once it starts playing, click in the lower right corner to make the video larger to view.

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Since Madrid was my last stop before Bogota, I needed to dispense with my Euro's of which I had about $100 left.  Ain't gonna do me no good in Columbia or Ecuador.  Duty free?  Starbucks?

Luckily, it was daytime and the airport was alive, busy, and shops were open.  So the 5 hours I had to kill before my next flight wasn't tooooo bad.  The Madrid airport has internet but you have to PAY for it, unlike many which are free.

Madrid airport terminal....cool ceiling designs.



9:30pm rolled around and I boarded a brand-spanking new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  The first thing I noticed was the size of the windows...they're almost TWICE the size of typical passenger windows.  NICE!!  We sat at the gate for about a half hour after everyone had boarded and nothing was being said, nothing was happening.  Finally, the captain announced a passenger was getting off the plane (no explanation why) and per security rules, their bags had to be removed, too.  So, we were delayed because the ground crew had to open up the cargohold and search through a pile of probably 100 bags to find that persons and remove it/them.   Oi Vey.



The other thing I noticed different about the Dreamliner (whose fuselage is made of carbon-fiber) is the swept-back wings.  Instead of extending predominantly straight out like most planes, these were swept back as if you were to extend your arms outward and backward of your body.  They also were bowed especially during flight...like a big backward swoop.   Because of the innovative design, you can easily see the wings flex during flight, disturbing as that may seem.

Plane next to us.  Air Bank of America?  LOL

I didn't like anything on the in-flight entertainment system, so I got bored fairly quickly.  I whipped out my handy-dandy mid-sized bottle of scotch and knocked back a few to knock me out.  Yes, it was no problem buying booze in the Madrid airport and taking it on the airplane with you.   Snoooooooze.

We landed in Bogota at 1:30am...that's in the manana.  Since I was continuing on, I didn't need to collect my bags and go through customs/migration.  I landed in a very small area of the terminal cordoned off so I couldn't go anywhere else.  Everything was closed.  Half the lights were off.  Folks who were there before me had already nabbed any seat without armrests so they could lie down and sleep.  My only option:  the concrete floor.  Mind you...I had 6 hours to kill before my next flight from Bogota to Quito.  To top it off, there was NO INTERNET.  NADA!!!  ZILCH!!!!

Can we say 'excruciating'?  I found a series of seats with no armrests in an adjacent gate and plunked down and snoozed....for awhile.  I was awakened by a security guard who was closing that part of the terminal.  I had to get out.  DAMMIT.   No place but the floor.

Somehow I got through 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours.....till there was only 2 hours to go.  Finally, my flight showed up on the monitors.  WHAT?   8:20am?  My tickets says 7:20am!!!  Dawned on me that 7:20am was the 'report to your gate' time and 8:20am was departure time.  DAMN....when I thought I only had 2 more hours of pain to endure, it was 3 more hours.

I was now at the point of becoming a hatchet murderer.  Don't CROSS ME!!!

We departed Bogota and headed for Quito.  Everything was swell if you ignored the fact my deodorant had worn off and I had'nt slept a good sleep in, I dunno when.

Landed in Quito.  My bag was there (miracle).  Since I missed my flight from Quito to Cuenca due to Avianca changing my flight to 5 hours later, I dragged myself and my bags up to the ticket counter for LATAM to ask if there was space to still get to Cuenca the same day and simply change my ticket versus having to buy another.

Ticket counter wasn't open.  Will open in 2 hours.  (enter expletive).   So, I dragged my bags outside and across the street to a food court building.

Now...I'd like to add a side comment here.  Cuenca has a lot of what I call 'stupid noise'...noise that's totally unnecessary.  Horns honking, car alarms yelping, etc.  I was in Barcelona..... Rome....Naples....Marseilles, France....Mallorca, Spain.....cities of millions of people and millions of cars.  In my ENTIRE time in all these places, I hear a horn honk MAYBE three times and a car alarm scream ONCE.   I walked out of the Quito airport terminal to the food court and 1 second later a car alarm was wailing and horns were honking.  10 minutes in Ecuador, I heard more alarms and horns than I did in 2 weeks!!  RIDICULOUS!!!

Back to the counter when they opened and I was able to get on a 7pm flight to Cuenca, with a $15 change fee.  It's was now 1pm, the flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 7pm.  NO WAY was I going to spend another 6 hours in an airport trying to kill time!!!   So, I called Quito Airport Suites where I normally stay when I'm in their neck of the woods.  They have a 'day use rate' where you can get a room and rest and shower for $25 even though you're not overnighting.  I called them and asked them to send a cab ($5 vs $10 the airport charges).

I waited....and waited....and waited in scalding sun.  After 30 minutes, I called and they told me the driver was circling looking for me and couldn't find me.  I had told them to look for a Gringo, wearing black shorts and blue tee shirt.  After all this flying and no sleep, my brain was mush.  It finally dawned on me, the driver was circling below, one level down, via the arrivals circuit, but I was standing (in the hot sun) one level up in the departures level.  SHEET!!!

Once we got that corrected I was on my way to Quito Airport Suites and flung myself into bed.  Couldn't sleep.  WHAT????!!!!!   I think I was too wound up.  After about an hour, I finally got to snooze.

5:45pm QAS called a taxi and I was back at Quito airport for my 7pm flight.   All went smooth and a 50 minute flight later, I was back 'home'.   Jerk taxi driver tried to overcharge me by quoting a flat rate to my apartment...thinking I was an ignorant Gringo who didn't know better and fresh off the turnip truck.  I squashed that real quick by telling him (in Spanish) that I lived here and to use the #!@^(% meter.  GRRRRR

Within 30 minutes of arriving home, I was unpacked, clothes hung in the closet, and the laundry running and I was back into my old routine.

What a trip!!!
  • Approximately 400 photos taken.  
  • 8 flights.  
  • 2 missed flights.  
  • Almost 24 hours spent waiting in the airports!!   
  • Approximately 26 hours of actual flying (in a plane, that is).
  • 6 hours time difference, coming and going.
  • 1 ship
  • 3 tours
  • 4 busses
  • 1 train
  • 3 countries (Italy, France, Spain)
  • 5 cities (Naples, Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma)
  • ...and a partridge.....oops.

...NOT to be continued.

El Fin
(The End)

Dano

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trip to Spain - 5 days in Mallorca (Day 5)

Weather:  Yet another perfect sunny day.

What to do for my last day in Mallorca?  Rent a scooter?  I was going to, but the address of one of their locations turned out to be under refurbishment.

Go visit the caves?  Next time.

Take the train to Inca, known for its Thursday markets (this was Thurs)?  Apparently it's known for its leather market, but it turned out to be soooo much more.  I walked to the train station, purchased a RT ticket for $7, and easily found which track to go to.  Like pretty much all train systems in Europe, this one left at EXACTLY the scheduled time.  30 mins later, passing orchard after almond orchard, I arrived in Inca, a town of approximately 26,000 (but felt much more than that).  Just 50 feet from the train station, the market started and wound down narrow streets for at least 12 blocks.  THOUSANDS were there.

Aside from leather goods, the area around Inca produces high volumes of olives, almonds, and cheese.


Just a little farm house seen along the train route!

Notice the hats strung up over the market.  Dunno why.

Seen along the way on the train.

Arenques = Herring

Lots of handcrafted cheese.  It all looked so enticing but I had no clue what was what and from what.  The vendor sliced off tidbits for me to taste and I bought some for my cheesy friends back home.

Several vendors featured kids selling goods they probably baked at home.  Some of the adults were dressed the same way.  I discerned they were playing a historical role versus this is the way they dress now.




Olives, Olives, and more OLIVES!!!  I didn't know there were so many types.  Personally, I don't like them.  They take up valuable space in my Martini!!!
Olives are grown in the higher hills of Mallorca.

SCADS of Olives!!!!

The area around Inca was well-known for growing grapes for wine.  This restaurant is located in an old wine cellar.  Notice the huge casks on either side.


Do you get the feeling these people LIVE LIFE versus the other way around?





At first I thought these were fake, but they're real.  RED cactus?

Mushrooms




...to be continued

Dano

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trip to Spain - 5 days in Mallorca (Day 4)

Weather report:  Sunny again.

A day to walk to the Cathedral and catch the hop on/hop off double-dccker bus.  So, that's what I did.  I walked down to the Cathedral (about 10 minutes) and there was a double-decker tour bus waiting for me.  $17, a map, headphones to listen to English translation, and we were off.

In Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona, and Mallorca the traffic was always light, polite, and you almost never heard a horn or a car alarm.  In fact, in my ENTIRE trip, I don't think I heard ONE car alarm and maybe (MAYBE) I heard 5 car horns.  That would take less than 30 seconds in Cuenca.

Speaking of near-non-existence, I think I saw Police 3 times in all of the 5 days in Mallorca.

Cars in Mallorca, Barcelona, and the Italian cities I visited, are 90% sub-compacts and 10% sub-sub-compacts (meaning they seat only 1 or two people).  No gas-guzzlers or giant double-cab 4 x4 Ford F250's here!!  Scooters were immensely popular because of limited parking space (you can park them almost anywhere) and you don't have to pay for parking.

Graffiti.  Very little of it in the most popular sections of each of the cities.  Somehow, aside from the lower economic neighborhoods, a lot of cities have clobbered the problem of graffiti.   Now, if they can only show Cuenca officials how they did it.

TONS of boats and yachts in the harbor.  I can only imagine the scene during summertime!

We're headed up there, to the castle on the hill.
Bellver Castle was built nearly 700 years ago BM (Before Mom).

While traversing various neighborhoods, interesting sites popped up.
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View from the hill where Bellver Castle is located.  Semi reminds me of viewing San Diego harbor from Point Loma (eh, Ron?)

I like the part about $400+ dollar fine if you spray graffiti on the site.

The original moat canal (sans water)
Note the size in relation to the people on the bridge.




The entire hillside is reserved greens space with tons of hiking trails to take the pooch.





Some of the white blobs you see are yachts shrink-wrapped in plastic for the winter.


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The seaside wall adjacent to the Cathedral and Royal Palace.

Massive gothic-style cathedral.  $7 Euros entrance fee.

This guy is almost 5 feet tall.

I don't think this would fit on my dining room table or yours.
It's almost 7 feet tall by 4 feet wide!!!

The dome in an adjacent room inside the Cathedral.
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This is a one and 1/2 person car.  Just pull up and plug in!

...to be continued

Dano

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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