Santander Travel Blog

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The view from C'lotta's window
After 30 hours of traveling, exhausted but exhilirated, I was spat out in the Bilbao airport by a pond-hopping plane which sat no more than 40 people. Speaking no Spanish whatsoever, I realized that the task of getting to Bilbao's bus station was going to be a challenge for my sleep-deprived mind. I got in the line for the taxis toting only my medium, green travel pack from EMS, hoping to get a taxi driver who spoke at least a little English so as to not have to exert the maximum effort my mind could simply not deliver. Thankfully, the next driver that beckoned to the ever-growing line was a short, grinning man in his early forties who was, if anything, approachable. I quickly looked back at what my sister had written for me to say to him, "Necissito ir aqi", and then to point to the words "station de autobus" and hope for the best.
Drying laundry
He chuckled at my poor attempt at Spanish and said, "bus station? Okay!".

During the half an hour drive to the Bilbao bus station, we attempted communication while I tried to speak slowly, as did he, yet to loudly, as most Americans do when speaking to foreigners. The last thing I wanted was to appear American. His assumption was way off, guessing that my nationality was of the British kind, which actually flattered me quite a bit.

Finally, we made it to the bus station and I thanked him profusely, he wishing me a safe time in my travels. With a wave and a smile, I was again on my own.

I looked around me. I ran through my sister's insturctions again and again, but here I found myself lost and confused. All around me were people sitting in various metal benches between large, cement poles, and all about me was the constant milling of people and the constant murmur of Spanish/ Basque.
Approaching what I thought was the ticket counter rather tentitively, I tried the phrase that hadn't failed me yet, "Necissito ir aqi," this time pointing to the word Santander. The man chuckled and asked something in what I processed as quick, though upon reflection he was probably speaking to me as he would a small child. I began to laugh at myself and signed to him to write it down so that maybe I could decipher his meaning. He chuckled and wrote down three times. I circled one and he wrote down a price. I paid it and he handed me my ticket. While he did so, he pointed to it and said "billeta" and also the number of the gate where my bus would arrive. I thanked him in Spanish, and moved out of the way smiling to myself at my recent success.
My warm bed, pack, and sleeping partner - the giant banana

The next task, phoning my sister. She had requested that I call her cell phone when I arrived in the station at Bilbao so that her family could coordinate a pick up at the station in Santander and bring me back to their pad. Approaching the phones, I looked all around the sides of the phone booth and realized that all the instruction were in Spanish only, rendering them useless to me. I briefly looked them over trying to glean some kind of meaning from the bizarre combinations of letters, but got nothing past pick up the handset, and put in money. Putting my tired mind to use, I decided to watch how it was done by someone else. The next in line was an old nun. I attempted to look over her shoulder while also trying not to seem like some kind of curious psychopath, but I failed miserably as told by her backwards glances at me. Not to be discouraged while I was so close, I tried to approach her about the how in working this confusing mechanism, she waved me away in French and continued on her way.

A bit discouraged, I tried again with a lady who had just finished on the other phone. I stopped her with a "pardon" and, pointing to the phone booth, asked "como"? Beginning to speak quickly, I waited until she was done and stated, "no hablo espanol mui bien". Sighing she said clearly and slowly, "numero?" I showed her my sister's number. She looked at it and stated "euros" and I took out my purse. Holding it open, she rifled through and selected three coins and inserted them into the machine. Then, dialing my sister's number, handed me the phone. It didn't work. "No," I tried. She selected another coin and tried the number again. This time, I heard the familiar voice of my sister on the other end. I grinned and offered, "gracias". She shrugged and moved on.

After the phone call, I was left to figure out where my bus was to be leaving from. I found the platform, but it was surrounded by sketchy middle-aged men who were eyeing my knee-length skirt with great interest. I decided to chill out somewhere a bit more public for the time being. While waiting, I finally saw. Children playing with their parents watching and laughing, old women and men traveling together, holding hands, young people laughing and joking, people sleeping on one another's shoulders, people looking to one another's eyes. These images calmed me. So I didn't know the language, but I knew the people here. What a comforting thought.

As I arrived in Santander, I was greated by my familiar sister, whom I hugged relentlessly until she told me that we had to buy our tickets for Barcelona now before they were sold out or overly expensive. She kidnapped me to a car already full with two, boisterous sisters speaking quickly, and interjecting their speech with English words so that I could at least understand the jest of the conversation.
Parting ways at the house, I entered to meet my sister's host mother.

I bit nervous, not wanting to offend, we entered the house and were greeted with a warm, understanding woman who not only knew what kind of condition I was in after having traveled so long, but also what kind of condition Alyssa was in from the night before. Thankfully, C'lotta spoke French very well and we were able to communicate easily with one another. She offered me soup, bread, and langoustines, and then sent me off to bed, which was a relief to me. A busy arrival, but a happy one, I fell asleep in a warm bed, hugging a giant, stuffed banana.
cillosis says:
Sounds exhausting! That's what worries me the most about traveling speaking the language and getting myself stuck in a situation where I don't know what to do. Luckily people are pretty nice and it worked out good for you!
Posted on: Jan 03, 2008
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The view from Clottas window
The view from C'lotta's window
Drying laundry
Drying laundry
My warm bed, pack, and sleeping pa…
My warm bed, pack, and sleeping p…
543 km (337 miles) traveled
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photo by: viajeroh