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Journey to Almuñecar, España (Spain), February 2020

Within two weeks of the first conception of the idea, Daniel and I got married, vacated our messy, yet minimal Florida apartment, got our dog certified to fly, and headed out for Spain. For reference with regard to the 2020 "situation" our flight out of the U.S. was on Jan. 28. Getting everything ready in two weeks was difficult, but entirely possible. That last night and day was a bit of a culmination, as I realized our apartment was still about 1/3 full, and within 12 hours we would have our wedding and be on our way to the airport for an international flight. This is the story of the two days that felt like two weeks in arriving to this beautiful sea-side town.

Daniel and I were married at 6:45 am as the sun rose over the beach before a small handful of our friends and family. We finished up around 8 am and were back at the apartment to finish vacating. We spent up until literally the last minute trying to give things away to other people in our apartment complex, hauling the good stuff to donation centers, hauling things worth keeping to our friends car, and hauling whatever else to the dumpster. We ended up leaving a bit of things inside the apartment. Bye bye deposit! At least we left the door open so people could come take what they wanted. We drive to my dad's who drives us to the Orlando Airport. We were hit with some surprises at the airport, which maybe should have been expected but perhaps one can learn from this mistake. We had just two legs to our flights. On the first leg, we paid $55 each for overweight bags, We booked our flight through a budget airline site that pieces together the best deals from different airlines, so we had a different airline for the second flight and had to go through security a second time. Upon checking in for the second flight we found that we did, in fact need to have a return flight to verify our Visa rights would not be overstayed. Our plan for this was to book a fully refundable flight since our flight out of Spain would be to another, yet-to-be-determined country, We ended up doing this AT THE TICKET COUNTER while getting checked in so we could show the attendant for verification. We had to charge close to $2,000 it confirm that they flight would be refundable. Also, our bags were not only overweight, requiring $150 per bag, but Daniel's bag was over 32 kg, which apparently is the maximum baggage you can legally bring into Spain checked. So he also had to ditch some odds and end there at the counter.

So, the night before the wedding we got about two hours of sleep, and our flight to Spain was overnight as well. Needless to say we are a bit tired upon arrival. We exchange some currency at the airport at a terrible rate with fees, get the rental car, and begin to drive from Barcelona to Almunecar.

Here's a map of Spain for reference, with Barcelona just out of view of the upper right corner, and our destination as the blue dot:

We begin driving along the coast to find that there are toll booths every 10 minutes. At first it seems like there will just be one toll booth, but then another appears, and another, with each on being about $10. After a few rounds of this, we pull over and try to figure out a free route. We stop in a small town called Cambrils, and get a SIM card as well as some basic necessities. We stop at a tapas bar with Wifi to figure out how to avoid tolls. It's pretty simple and there's a parallel road that's free, oddly enough. We were using the GPS equipped in the car and learned there was an easy way to select toll free routes as well. Either way we had a nice stop to refuel, booked an Airbnb a few more hours out in Cuenca, and were back on our way.

We made it to our Airbnb around nightfall, and after a bit of a hassle meeting the host at a separate location to get the keys, taking over 20 minutes to park the car in an extremely tiny, up hill parking garage, and having to wake up someone in the building to find the right door, we could finally sleep for the night. The parking garage situation was beyond comical because in addition to having an uphill entrance that was about 6 inches wider than the car and with a tight curve right after, the lights were on about a 30 second timer, so I had to get out, direct Daniel, and then run back to the lights to keep them turned on, and he had to get passed the gate before it automatically closed, which also had a comically short timer.

We also realized that my suitcase zipper had completely broken due to the suitcase being stuffed too full (plus it being my mom's old suitcase of about 10 years, and was already kind of broken.)

Luckily the only thing that spilled out was a container of Himalayan salt crystals, into the crevices of the backseat of the rental car including the seatbelt slots. Daniel's suitcase is also bursting at the seams so we lug everything into the Airbnb and ditch about 15% of our stuff right there in the Airbnb. We happily found that there was a washing machine in the Airbnb because we didn't have a chance to do all our laundry before leaving. It was an interesting washer that looked like a dishwasher and was also in the kitchen so we thought it was a dual washer-dryer. However, similar to the other countries we had visited, dryers are not a thing in Spain. We realized this after washing the clothes so we hung the clothes up all over the apartment and hoped most would dry by morning. We were eventually able to get some sleep and refund the flight we bought at the airport.

In the morning we packed up, squared everything away, and left the Airbnb with the key inside as requested. As we entered the elevator we realized this was also the key to the parking garage so we had to get a random person to trust us and let us in. Then the same person proceeded to watch us from their window as we took about twice as long to get out of the parking garage as we took to get in. So we begin our journey only really having oranges for breakfast, eager to get on the road.

We procrastinate which town to stop for lunch in and soon there is a stand-still in traffic. We sat in a long line of cars for close to an hour with no sign of the reason. When we're finally able to pull out into a small town, everything is closed for siesta. We found somewhere open and sit down, order coffees, and only then find out that they're not serving food at this time. Daniel is able to find a grocery store open and finds some sushi and random food that we eat in the car. Once we start getting close to Granada, we decide to stop and try to find some new suitcases since now Daniel's suitcase has also succumbed, and we know it will be hard to find large stores in our final location.

We pull off in Granada and find a department store, kind of like a Macy's. It's about 8 pm on a Wednesday and the streets of Granada feel like New York or Chicago! Lights and cars everywhere, thick pedestrian traffic, and all kinds of activity. We're walking around with Bella in her dog sling, go into the department store, and find some really durable, lightweight suitcases. Check! We arrive at our final Airbnb at about 10 pm and find it's located at the top of a very twisty hill with no streetlights. After backtracking several times, we finally find it! It's beautiful, the best Airbnb we've ever booked. We try to find some late night food and turns out, that while most people in Spain have dinner late, this town is a tourist area in the off season and there was nothing open but a tiny hostel with sandwiches. Even the McDonald's was closed!

We are finally in what will be our paradise, as it will turn out, for many months to come!

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