Thursday, 16 April 2009

Stuck in Spain

I came out to Spain with my niece on a study trip last week. If you're a regular reader you'll know that I was furious to discover that she'd had no guidance and almost no encouragement as to her future career from her school despite (at that time) being asked to make her choices for her Highers. She really wants to study languages and she's a girl who isn't just keen to speak in a foreign language, she is genuinely fascinated by the nuances of language so she should be encouraged. She was a little unsure of going straight for Higher Spanish (having not done the Standard Grade) but I was confident of her abilities and persuaded her by saying that I'd learn it too and I'd also take her to Spain for a few days before she sat it, in order to practice what she'd learned.

Thus we came out last week. We'd had some horrendous news which I won't go into just now and although my initial thought was to go nowhere, I felt the best way to keep her mind on her exams was to carry on as planned. So, out we came. I thought I'd make it a bit of an adventure for her (no simple routes) so that she could test her Spanish properly. I hadn't bargained on it being quite as much of an adventure mind you ....

Chiclana on the South Coast was great - we went to stay with my old school friend Martin who I've not seen for over 10 years. Martin knows me very well and knew Christie's mum and aunt pretty well too so she enjoyed hearing all the bad (made up) stories about us. However, it's been a bit of a nightmare since leaving - and one that's tested both of us to the limit ~ although I have to say I'm a bit more used to these things than she is.

I decided to come back via Barcelona. Actually there was no other option but it all adds to the confidence building to be able to navigate your way across a foreign country. We got to Barcelona and had 24 hours to spend here. So today, with little time, we thought we'd get on the tour bus and go round the whole city. And we did. In the pouring rain. In fact it wasn't rain, it was hailstones. Giant ones. And so unusual is this in Barcelona that it made the Spanish news tonight! When the hail stopped beating us up it merely poured down. There were no seats downstairs on this bus so we had to sit upstairs but I, seasoned traveller (and girl guide) that I am was prepared and had my brolly at the ready. So it didn't help the fact that I had bare legs, a thin cotton skirt and a sleeveless top on but we had it up all the same - until the tour guide told us to put it down.

"Why?" I asked, lost the will to bother with Spanish at this point and the great idea we'd had to also learn Catalan was just out of the question by now. So I asked her why and she said "in case you drop it in front of a car and cause an accident"! And she wasn't joking. Now I am normally quite hardy and can put up with rain, I am also normally quite obedient in these matters but today, I decided to rebel - big time! I was putting up my brolly and that was that. She said nothing more but I'm sure she was thinking "they're Scottish, surely they're used to it"!

Anyway as soon as we had to leave Barcelona, the sun came back out. Lovely. No use to us right enough but lovely for everyone else. However there was worse awaiting me.

I asked the hotel to get us a taxi to take us to Plaza Catalunya where the airport bus leaves from. She advised it would be cheaper to go to Espana Square. I did the usual enquiries as to whether or not it was the same bus etc and was assured it was. And when we got to the stop I was further reassured. It looked like the same bus, carried the same adverts and the bus driver accepted my return tickets but .... took us to Barcelona Airport when I needed to be at Barcelona Girona Airport. I'd love to say it got better after that but the wifi at the airport stopped working, my phone stopped working, the laptop when I found a working wifi ran out of battery, I could go on but it would get boring.

So here we are, another night in this city that I'm rapidly going off. It's helping Christie's Spanish though as she now knows how to swear in Spanish! And she's learned that the best laid plans of mice and men ... So, you know what they say about silver linings. Seeing as we're on cliches, we are also both keenly aware right now that worse things happen at sea so we'll count our blessings and resolve never to go on holiday ever again. And she better get an "A" in her Spanish!!

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