The Privileges and Pitfalls of Traveling Abroad
As you may remember, a while back I wrote a post for Barrie's blog, about how to live boldly, even when you're terrified. Since that day, Barrie's blog has become a Big Deal. However, she has the good manners, even as a Big Deal, to return the favor and tell us a story. To wit, her recent trip to Marbella. If I were pitching it as a movie, I'd say Michelle Obama goes to Spain on a luxury vacation and meets the enraged friends of that flight attendant who took his job and shoved it.
Hello dear and devoted readers of Privilege.
I asked Lisa if I could write about my recent trip to Spain, and she gave the go-ahead, as long as it related in some way to "privilege." That part is easy -- it was a privilege to go, a complete and total privilege for which I am profoundly grateful. I got to leave my three hormonal teenagers, the 100 degree Atlanta heat and humidity, and a minor home construction project to travel to a coastal Spanish beach resort with a girlfriend for an entire week. That's about as good as it gets, and I know it.
But no privilege can be completely appreciated without examining the accompanying pitfalls. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that pitfalls are inevitable. I accepted that premise going in and was frankly too over-the-top with excitement about the trip to fret about potential annoyances. I started the adventure in a very privilegy mood.
We flew out of the Atlanta airport to JFK. Things did not go well at JFK. Our flight to Spain was delayed by an hour before boarding. Once aboard, we taxied to the runway, but we had to taxi back to the gate because there was a problem with one of the doors. It shouldn't take long they said.
We sat for three hours with a plane-load of restless and drunk Spaniards and a guy from Brooklyn behind me who punctuated his F-word vocabulary with the occasional conjunction and preposition. We start to taxi again -- briefly.
Now here's the exciting part, and I don't know if this would count as privilege or pitfall because frankly, it was kind of thrilling.
As we are pulling out of the gate, a group of Spaniards start to protest. They demanded recompense for being delayed. They wouldn't sit down, they wouldn't be quiet, they wouldn't get off. The flight attendants and the captain tried to humiliate them into submission, but they weren't having any of it.
The F-word man was screaming at them to f-ing sit down and shut up. The rest of us were snapping photos. Then, five Port Authority cops board the plane. More shouting, more refusals, and finally a threat of arrest. They ultimately escort two Spanish women off the plane. Two women! Our 7:00 flight took off at midnight. I guess the real privilege part of this leg of the trip was that I had a sleeping pill.
I haven't told you where we stayed -- Marbella, Spain, a coastal town in southern Spain where vacationing Europeans and hob-nobbers hang out. Michelle Obama and her daughters were there a few weeks before us.
Part of the attraction of Marbella is Puerto Banus, a luxury marina and shopping complex for the jet-set and the super rich. The King of Saudi Arabia berths his yacht there. We decided against staying on his yacht.
Our hotel was absolutely dreamy -- a pension in Old Town Marbella called The Town House, and it was perfect. Look at this yummy room:
Here's a shot of the lovely rooftop patio where we had coffee.
Privilege was a part of every day while we were in Marbella. We slept late. We had coffee and breakfast on the rooftop patio. We either went down to the beach (where we had the privilege of keeping our tops on) to read and watch people, or we shopped in Old Town to walk and watch people. Everything around us was lovely.
Old Town could have been plucked from a storybook. It exceeds the description of quaint European village. Narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and an abundance of flowers. The weather stayed in the low 80's during the day, and there was no rain in Spain during our entire stay.
Lunch was at 2:00. Siesta until 8:00. Dinner somewhere around 10:00. The streets, restaurants, and shops were packed at midnight. We also had some wonderful day trips to Ronda, Ojen, and Monda -- all small Spanish villages within a couple of hours of Marbella.
We had one travel pitfall during our stay, and sadly it was my fault. We planned a day trip to Grenada to see the Alhambra. You must buy advance tickets to see the palace, and I booked us for the wrong day. We decided to go anyway to see the gardens and try to get palace tickets at the door. It was a 3 and 1/2 hour bus ride each way. We couldn't get into the palace. The grounds were beautiful, but we spent nearly 8 hours traveling for a two hour garden tour. Here's the Alhambra at night. It's beautiful, but worth a two day trip.
We arrived at the Malaga airport at 9:00 a.m. for our 11:30 a.m. flight to JFK. We see a huge line at the one and only Delta counter. Our flight was canceled.
That all sounds like the crowning pitfall, and it could have been. But when you are stuck overseas, dying for your own bed, toilet and shower, nothing better highlights the privileges of your own home and family than being kept from them, even one more day than you anticipated.
- No other flights are departing to JFK for two days.
- We wait three hours in line to book a 6:00 p.m. flight to Madrid.
- We wait in the airport for six more hours and board the plane to Madrid.
- We take a shuttle from the airport to a Madrid hotel and stay overnight.
- We take another shuttle back to the airport at dawn's crack and fly home to Atlanta. (That flight was delayed too.)
Traveling is exciting, uplifting, educational, and so much fun. But when it comes to feeling really privileged, it sometimes takes a trip abroad to realize there's no place like home.
*Note that I am a contributor and editor for The Daily Brainstorm. No compensation of any sort was involved in this post.