Almost Trapped in Portugal

After a great time in the Algarve, real life intruded (specifically my lack of money and need to start working again) and I had to go home. Let another travel story begin!

First, I got to the Faro Airport with plenty of time and started to chill, conveniently forgetting that Portuguese airports are staffed by retards who’s only joy in life is to make mine as difficult as possible.
When I decided to check in, there was no one at the desk. And then the person I asked looked at me in panic and said “you are very late.” No, I was not, I must add. The problem was, I couldn’t just run through security. I NEEDED a passport check or there was no point.
I finally  found some flunky to check my passport and he took about 10 times longer than he needed to. And then, off to security, slightly concerned I was late, but knowing too much about Ryanair timing to be unduly worried. So, I waited in line, grumpy about the fact that Portuguese take the longest of all European airports to process security (which means about half the time of the best American airport). Luckily, these idiots didn’t have a problem with my liquids. Which is good because I would have dumped them on their ugly TSA shoes at that point.
Walked through the entire Faro airport, quickly but not too worried, despite the many many boarding calls for my flight I was hearing. When I got to the gate, no one seemed surprised that I was checking in “so late” and, I must add, there were 15 more people who got on the plane after me! Yeah, bite me Faro employees. Don’t freak people out without any reason.

So I got myself back to Porto. Great, should be easy from here on, right? Ha. Ha.

There’s a bus that runs from Porto to southern Galicia. It runs a couple times a day and I missed it by 30 minutes…Waiting ensued.  Oh yeah, and the zipper on my pants had decided to fail, probably hours before I’d noticed that I was flashing the world. To add to the fun, I only had enough cash to pay for my bus tickets. And in Europe, paying for things with a card can be complicated or impossible (especially American cards). I’d finished my book on the plane, my pens were out of ink, and my iPod was dead. Cue hours of grumpy boredom in the aiport…Also the bus was late!

So I basically got to Vigo about 30 minutes later than I should have. Easily missed my connecting bus . Oh goody, thinks tired Jeannette. Time to figure out a new way home. I went to the info desk at the bus station and asked the guy, “Where’s the train station? I need to go to Santiago.” He looked at his watch and made a face. For those of you who don’t travel, this is never a good sign. “It’s too far away, you need to take a city bus,” he finally offered, which is infinitely better to hear than, “you missed the last train.”
I grumbled, but I didn’t have a clue how long I had til the next train, and therefore taking any more time than absolutely necessary to get to the train station was a bad idea.

I ran up the stairs and stared at the arrivals board. Next train to Santiago–leaves in 90 minutes. Really? Really?! Not only was I not getting home until midnight, but I could have taken my sweet time getting to the station. My bad mood only slightly decreased when I realized that I could pay for my ticket with my credit card, thus meaning I could spend my cash at the station bar. So I went to the bathroom and futilely tried to fix my pants, gave up and bought a pen and a beer. The next 3 1/2 hours were spent writing and planning out my future, until FINALLY I got home.

-Of course, there are no city buses in Santiago at 12:15 a.m. so I ended up walking for another 30  minutes, but that’s another whiny experience alltogether.

A Pre-Work Vacation: Going to Portugal

Even after traveling for 26 hours straight and moving house for the 3rd time in 4 months, I can’t sit still. So, I landed in Santiago, ditched my suitcase in the apartment, slept for 10 hours, and then ran off to Portugal for a spontaneous bit of fun in the last of the sun!

Getting to Porto is a royal pain in the ass on a Saturday, just saying. The normal buses don’t run so my only option was the 5:45 AM train from Santiago–which I made by virtue of being completely jet lagged. When I changed to the Portuguese train in Vigo the grumpy conductor lectured me about not buying a ticket in the station. Not because he thought I was trying to pull something, but because it costs more to buy a ticket on the CP (Portuguese) trains. Yeah, the conductor was trying to save me money. I take back all (okay, half) the bad things I’ve said about RENFE!

In other news, Portuguese airports have the stupidest employees in all of Europe (possibly the world, but I need to collect more data to be sure). See, the last time I flew through Porto a moron on power trip confiscated my toiletries because the 100 mL bottles didn’t have labels. Yep, the person whose jobs entails handling 100 mL bottles everyday couldn’t say if my liquids were the right size or not.
Well this time I was ready for them. Everything I owned had a label on it and was in the little baggy. And…I still got flagged down. The two morons in question demanded I test my hairspray on my arm–to prove it wasn’t evil terrorist juice. Why? Because “it’s not labelled.”
Thing is: the f***ing bottle is 40 mLs. And yes, it is labelled. The label happened to be on the back, where apparently Portuguese employees don’t look. Lucky for me, this wasn’t decided to be my fault and I got through with all my shit.

One quick flight down the Iberian peninsula later, I made it to Faro and promptly left the airport in search of a sunny spot in which to NAP!

Airport Difficulties AGAIN!

Yeah, sure I’m an international traveler. I regularly hop flights across the continent when I’ve got a long weekend. You would assume that I know what the f**k I’m doing, right? That after taking 14 flights in the course of a 6 month period, I have everything figured out, have European flying down to an (almost) exact science, right?

HA. HA. HA.

So, last weekend (that would be exactly 5 days after my London trip with the 14 brats) I decided that staying home and relaxing is overrated and went to Germany to visit my friend.
Now, the only way to get to Bavaria from Santiago is to connect in Barcelona. Which would be easy, except for the fact that Ryanair doesn’t DO connections. Really they are are the cheapest airline ever  and (I suspect) are always looking for ways to mess with me. So I had to buy two separate flights. One to and from Barcelona and one from Barcelona to Munich.

Okay, so here’s a little backstory. As a non-EU citizen, I have to get my passport checked and boarding pass stamped before I go through security. This is very simple and takes place at the first Ryanair desk at the airport entrance.

I got my pass stamped, got through security and boarded my plane in Santiago all in about 15 minutes after arriving at the airport. I was a little nervous about delays, because I only had an hour between my two Ryanair flights. And because they weren’t connected flights, if I missed one due to a delay I was SOL and spending the weekend in Barcelona, not Germany. Luckily,  it wasn’t a problem; I was even a couple minutes early into BCN.

Now comes the fun part. So I had an hour to kill in the M3 terminal of Barcelona before my flight to Munich began boarding. I screwed around, ate muffins and did nothing until boarding was announced. And then, as is my habit, I dinked around and didn’t get in line until almost all the people were on the plane (it’s annoying to hurry on the plane just for the privilege of being cooped up in a kennel-sized space for an extra 20 minutes). So, as I was waiting for my turn to board, I realized that my pass for this flight didn’t have a stamp (you starting to see the problem?) Of course it didn’t, because I had already been through security and didn’t need another stamp. I decided that it shouldn’t be a problem, right?

HA. HA. HA.

The girl looked at my pass and shook her head. I protested, explained myself in two languages, said I’d just come in from Santiago and they hadn’t stamped it, but she wasn’t budging. Okay fine, nothing is more useless than arguing with an airline employee, so I asked where I needed to go to get the stamp. “Back through security,” she said.

Oh fuck. Did I mention that most of the people were already on the plane? And that it was about 20 minutes until TAKE OFF? I looked at the unhelpful girl and asked one question, “Can I make it?”

“I don’t know,” was her oh-so-helpful answer.

I took off, literally sprinting down the terminal with my backpack, cursing airports, Ryanair, and my own stupidity as I dodged slow people and their rolling suitcases. I raced out of the secure area, around luggage collection, and down a pair of escalators. And there, to my disgust, I realized that I was on the complete other end of the building from the Ryanair desk. So I kept running, pretty damn sure that I was wasting my energy and wasn’t going to make it. I finally spotted the Ryanair desk, which didn’t have a line, and kind of threw my papers and passport at the guy. He stamped me, taking all of 5 seconds to look at my things, and nodded reassuringly at me. I had no idea what that meant, if he even knew where the terminal was, let alone if I’d made my flight, but I had made it this far, why the hell not? So I took off again, up another escalator, dodged a stroller and some stressed out moms on the way to security and then, cursing the stupid line-managing ropes, raced up to the front of the line. Actually the “line” was about 2 people. As I waited 30 seconds for them to go through, I realized that my water bottle was full and would set off the alarms. So I yanked it out and chugged the entire 20 oz (not so hard considering how fast and far I’d just run) right before handing my pass to the short bald security guard. And then, less than a minutes later (coat and scarf off, backpack down, watch off, liquids separated) I was through security. I scooped up my shit, and realized that the Duty Free shop was the only thing between me and my terminal. So I booked it straight through the shop, dodging the rack of vodka and possibly some irate workers, I made it to the terminal. And I saw my friend, the unhelpful girl from before. I raced up to her desk and shoved my pass at her, still having no f**king idea if I was too late, if the plane was already on the runway…

And she nodded, told her friend that number blah blah was here and apologized for the crazy inconvenience she’d put me through. Meh, whatever, I thought because she then waved me through the already closed doors to a full plane. I’d made it!

When I sat my exhausted self down, I was sweaty as hell and running on crazy adrenaline. I looked at my watch and realized that from the moment I’d booked it away from the desk until that moment, only 13 minutes had passed. That’s right, I cleared security coming and going, got stamped, and crossed the Barcelona airport in less an 15 minutes!

Murphy’s Law as it Applies to Airplanes

Nothing can ever go right when dealing with airlines.

My flight out of PDX was delayed about 40 minutes. For those of you unfamiliar with airline fun and games, that’s usually just enough lateness to screw over half the passengers, who now need to find other flights to get where they’re going. I was paranoid and had a long layover in Chicago, so I’m still on schedule at this point. Thank you God!

Bonded with some guys over our mutual hatred for the incompetence of airlines. As one put it, it’s not the problems that piss us off, it’s the stupid way they handle them. Screechy intercom: the plane is broken. Ok, let’s have more than one person around to assist the passengers. If you know things are gonna go wrong, why isn’t there a better system in place to deal with the angry mobs?

I try to have an attitude of exasperated amusement when dealing with the inevitable screw-ups. Oh well if they lose my luggage and I have to wear the same underwear (crap I knew I forgot to put something in my carry-on) for three days. When I miss a connection or three due to mechanical error, well, I’d rather they figure out there’s a problem before my ass is hovering at 30,000 feet.

Stay tuned to see what goes wrong on the next plane. (7:27 Chicago Time, hovering over a thick fluffy cloud)

Well nothing big went wrong, though I almost missed getting on my connection at Chicago cause I was sitting at the wrong gate. Yeah, y’all can laugh at me. The long ass flight over the Atlantic involved me watching too many movies. X-men Wolverine, hells yes for Hugh Jackman! Right now I’m sitting in Copenhagen, wondering how people understand Scandanavian languages; sounds like gargling. I’m gonna be in Madrid in like 4ish hours!!

And now here comes my pathetic plea: come on people, start leaving me comments. I feel so unloved.