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Posts Tagged ‘Backroads.com’

The morning of day six we did a loop from the hotel to the center of Archidona and back, about 30 km, the last 300 meters or so down a steep slope, in morning traffic, on cobblestones. Not my favorite. The ride back, on different roads, seemed to be uphill the whole way. After the ride was finished, we had time for a shower and to pack for the bus ride to Granada. Had a big delayed breakfast (brunch) then everyone gathered to say goodbye to our leaders and climb into the bus that dropped us off in the center of town.

The photo is of our 3 team leaders giving us their interpretation of a bull fight before the last ride. This was a fun group. 

I caught a cab to the hotel I had reserved for 2 nights in Granada. They were full and had no record of my reservation. I pulled out my computer and showed the desk clerk (owner it turned out) my confirmation. He was very apologetic and got on the phone with Expedia (apparently they handle reservations for Hotels.com) to find me another room at the same price. I decided to leave my luggage with the guy and go to the train station to sort out train travel logistics.

Lots of drama about train reservations. It turns out that a first class Eurail pass does NOT get you a seat on a train. You must make a reservation for your seat and they charge extra for each train and reservation. That ignorance on my part led to the overnight tourist class ride from hell on the night train from Lisbon to Madrid. I made the reservation for the Madrid to Seville train, another 29 euros, but was unable to secure a reservation for the Granada to Barcelona leg. Backrounds.com says they are happy to assist with travel arrangements, so I asked our logistics guy, Gonzalo, to help me getting reservations for the Granada to Barcelona, Barcelona to Cordoba legs of the journey. Turns out nothing is simple. I sat next to him 2 days later while he was on the phone for a long time with Eurail trying to set everything up. The normal Granada to Barcelona route was not available, it was never clear why. He finally got me reservations, but I had to go to Madrid then transfer to Barcelona. They were supposed to e-mail me electronic tickets for these two trips and took my credit card info, but no e-tickets ever arrived. So off to the train station to get the tickets. I did have location numbers for the Granada-Madrid and Madrid-Barcelona trips (Good for Gonzalo). The first person I talked to at the Granada train station couldn’t find any record of my reservations. She finally told me to take a number and stand in a long line for her colleague to help me. Finally got to him and he was able to use the locator numbers Gonzalo got for me and print out separate tickets for Grenada-Madrid, Madrid-Barcelona and Barcelona-Cordoba. Each ticket was a separate transaction with the credit card and the long line behind me was getting very anxious. After the Barcelona-Cordoba transaction was finally completed I took pity on the line and decided to wait until I got to Barcelona to take care of my remaining travels. 

I returned to my hotel, where the owner was guarding my bag, to find he hadn’t found anything, mostly because he was trying to find a hotel that would only charge what I had reserved from Hotels.com. Plus, the town was full of tourists and most of the hotels were booked.  By this time, I was exhausted, not the least from my bike ride that morning. I went into my computer and found a place, the 4-star Hotel Washington Irving, across the street from the Alhambra, at twice the cost of the dump I was supposed to stay in, supposedly a 3-star. The owner insisted on calling the Washington Irving and did manage to get me a discount. He also paid the cab driver to bring me there. The Washington Irving is legitimate 4-star hotel. 

The next day I showed up at the time for my self-guided tour of the Alhambra, unable to accomplish on my previous visit to Granada. I spent the following 1 1/2 hours trying to dodge the masses of tour groups blocking the way. I managed to see all I wanted to see, but it required a lot of flagstone stairway climbing, up and down. After I was done with the Alhambra, I took a taxi to El Centro and walked around another 1 1/2 hours before sitting down at a sidewalk cafe to order a beer and some duck pate’. The waiter brought the beer along with a slice of bread with a tomato slice covered with a thin slice of duck breast fried but cold. “Well”, I thought, “This is a different duck pate.” The dish was listed on their menus for 8 1/2 euros. Disgusted, I was about to signal for the bill when he showed up again this time with my order, a basket of toasted bread, 2 thick slices of very tasty pate’, some fruit and nuts. The first offering was just a free appetizer to go with my beer. I had to order another beer to finish the pate, but I powered through.

There is more to the train saga. I decided I would not do another 11+ hour trip from Madrid to Lisbon, and certainly no more night trains. Not for this old man. I studied the maps and saw the distance from Huelva to Lisbon significantly shorter than going through Madrid again. But there is no train service. There was no train service to anyplace in Portugal from Huelva. However, I could get a bus from Huelva for an hour’s ride to Faro, a town in southern Portugal that has rail service to Lisbon. OK, that’s a deal. Not so fast, I couldn’t find a bus to get me to that train. So, I looked up buses from Huelva to Lisbon, a six-hour ride, with first class seats available. Reserved them for less than 20 euros, cheaper than getting another train reservation. 

I will write a long post about the many other disadvantages of a Eurail pass to travel in Spain and Portugal.

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