Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Missed connections - the Adventure begins

The morning started early with another yummy breakfast at Hotel Regis, Barcelona.
I like their muesli and fresh fruit the best, but Cath and Gill enjoy the range of smoked meats, cheeses and pastries, especially the chocolate ones. The taxi picked us up at 7.30am as arranged. The streets were only just gaining light and office workers were making their way to work, coffee and papers in hand as we circuited the one way streets to get out onto the main road to the airport. This looked more like a working city, rather than the image we had gained over Thursday, Friday and the weekend. I think a lot of people must have been extending their summer vacation, taking advantage of the National holiday, last Wednesday. Barcelona airport is huge and the electronic billboards notifying the flights, times and gates, tantalise the imagination. Bucharest, Miami, Buenos Ares, Istanbul, Rome, Paris, Chicago. It seems as if every city in the world is listed there. There was a huge queue at every desk. We waited and edged our way forward. Within an hour we were becoming nervous about making our flight, and I went to the Iberia airline `billett´ window to ask if we could get our boarding passes. I was told to go straight to the top of the queue, so collecting Cath & Gill, we pushed forward. A pommy bloke protested loudly, so I answered loudly (in English) We´ve been told to go to the front - our flight is in 15 minutes´. He subsided, but not so the Spanish woman who obviously didn´t understand English. She berated us in no uncertain terms, so that EVERYONE began looking and adding their comments! Luckily I can´t understand Spanish. We were then told to go to desk no. 2, which was a `last minute desk´, where a very helpful woman calmly fixed our boarding passes and wished us buenos dais. Dashing along miles of shiny linoleum, faster and faster, the backs of my calves burning from walking in sand yesteday, we made it to the passport check, and I, last of the three of us, scored a gorgeous wink from the gorgeous passport official as he stamped my passport. Made my day, and it needed to. We got to the boarding lounge to find the flight delayed by half an hour. That soon extended to an hour and ten minutes. Our original flight plan had an hour between landing in Madrid and then flying to Tangier. Sure enough, we didn´t make the Tangier flight. At Madrid airport we went through a circus of being sent to the customs gate, sent back, waiting for nearly an hour to get to the Customer service counter, waiting another hour to get tickets issued, trying to get the airline to give us a hotel room, ending up with meal vouchers for a crappy italian fast food outlet and weasling our way into the Iberia VIP lounge courtesy of Cath´s Qantas club card. She was only supposed to be allowed to bring in one guest, but I showed the receptionist my Qantas frequent flyer number and we explained about being stranded at the airport for 10 hours and she let me in. Very nice, free alcohol & food, showers, internet and after sitting in the lounge for 6 hours, I discovered a room with day beds! Cath managed to ring the tour agent in Tangier and tell them about the delay. We had a driver booked to pick us up at the airport at midday, poor fellow would have been put out. Now we are hoping that one will turn up at midnight! The thought of being stranded at Tangier airport at midnight is not a comfortable one. All this and we haven´t even made it to Morocco yet.....

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