Ah, Spain. Why do you taunt me so.

Valencia Travel Blog

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"Sin" means "No" as in Sin Gluten. Not that eating these are a sin.
I promised people this blog would be posted a while ago but it’s proven more difficult to write than I thought.  I think you’ll understand why.  Please forgive the potential lack of polish on this entry.  It's still a little tough to focus on the whole thing.

Our next stop after Carcassonne was Valencia.  I wasn’t sure what there was to see in Valencia, but the drive is long and we wanted to break things up a bit.  The car rides were fun for me.  I’d spent a lot of my childhood vacations on long car rides and my brother and I did the drive from Southern California to Kentucky and back several times, always with much silliness to be had.
Roast chicken in a bag. Seriously.
  Our conversations this trip took us to a lot of places, mostly geeky, like what would make up your Star Trek Dream Team (see below) and if you could pick one thing in history to observe and one thing to change, what would they be (also see below).

About 2 hours north of Valencia we made one of our pee and food stops at a large road-side market.  The parking lot had a half-dozen cars in it, was well lit, had security cameras, etc.  This was my first experience of Spain.  We wandered the store scrounging provisions while scanning the shelves for interesting pictures.  One of the things that made it onto my “Eh?” list in Asia was the flavors of Lays.  Lobster and Seaweed were two notable ones.  Here we ran into the same example of culturally appropriate potato chips.
The passenger seat
  In France it had been flavors like Bolonaise and a freakishly accurate Poulet Roti et Thym (roasted chicken with thyme) that tasted so much like the name I was having a hard time processing the texture with the flavor.  In spain the biggest flavors seem to be Jamon (ham), Jamon y queso (ham and cheese), and Paprika (basically BBQ).  I’ve never so desperately wanted to avoid “Ham and Cheese” in my life than after a couple bags of those.

After we filled up we headed back out to the car.  Megan was the first to notice all the glass on the ground.  She actually asked, “is this our car?”  Eventually we all caught up.  We’d been robbed.  Emily’d left her wallet and computer on the front seat, my computer bag was on the floor in the back, Brett’s iPhone along with Megan and my passports were in the console between the front seats.
  The rest of our gear was in the hatchback.

Everything I mentioned was still there, except my computer bag.  After the inventory, we started to piece together what must have happened.  They must have pulled up to park next to our car, rolled down their window, smashed our window, leaned in and tried to grab whatever they could in the relative dark.  The dug through the glove compartment, but we weren’t keeping much in there.  Emily’s computer was in a black bag that they skipped over for some reason.  They didn’t bother to look through the console.  The strap of my computer bag, however, was within reaching distance of the front, so they grabbed it and drove off once they had something with some heft to it.

Megs and I lost my computer, my cell phone, the charger/cords to our camera, our European plug adaptor, our immunization records, the airplane power adaptor, two of the books I’d bought before the trip (one of which being Volume One of a two volume, fairly expensive set), and most importantly of all (to me anyway), the spiral bound notebook filled with two years of my notes for the novel.
Us and the super nice Guardia Civil (police officers).

We backed up our computers before we left, so the only thing I lost was a few re-writes, some homework and any photos we hadn’t already uploaded to Travbuddy.  The handwritten notes, however, have no backup except in my brain.  Luckily I’d started typing and backing up most of my notes for the last 6+ months.

Everyone was safe, I thought ahead enough to leave our paper-only plane tickets at Brett and Em’s, we had our passports, no one else lost their computers, cameras or phones.  In all, we got off pretty easy, but I still couldn’t help feeling violated.  Worse because of the sentimental value of my notebook.  The others had it just as bad, though.  They hadn’t lost anything which made them feel pretty bad.  Survivor’s guilt, as Em put it.
Four college graduates at work

The people inside were incredibly nice and helped us get ahold of the police.  The two officers showed up within ten or fifteen minutes.  Unfortunately the camera for the lot was aiming another direction at the time and no one saw anything.  Between Megan and Emily’s Spanish, and the officer’s English we learned a lot.  Personally I learned two things of note.

One, there are actually two languages in Spain; Catalan and Castellano.  At least one of them carries with it a distinct lisp I was boggled by.  The officer who spoke the most Spanish had a lively conversation with Megs (a lot of which I didn’t follow) and at one point started mentioning Spanish cities.  Valencia became “Valenthia” and Barcelona became “Barthelona”.
  At first I thought he might be teasing Megs about her accent, but that didn’t compute.  Megs’ Spanish is quite good.  Then the other officer started doing it.  It wasn’t until the ordeal was over and Brett mentioned something about it that I realized it was actually the language.  There’s a language with a built-in lisp out there in the world!  I wonder what our speech therapist friend Cat thinks of that?

The second thing I learned was that there is a lot of mafia in southern Spain.  Apparently they come across the straight of Gibraltar from Morocco, as the officer put it, “for a holiday.”  They stake out stops like the one we were at, take what they can, and do everything in their power not to be seen.  Quantity, not quality, seems to be the thing.
Much too fancy a name for a Lays flavor. As is Poulet Roti et Thym
  There had been multiple hits at that same stop in the last two weeks.  Two German women lost everything they had, passports, money, luggage and all.  Again, we got lucky.

The car was covered under Emily’s credit card for insurance, but so far none of my stuff is.  We have a few more options to check out once we get home, though I suspect we’ll just be buying new stuff.  It ends up that it would have been cheaper to fly after all.

The thing I had to quickly realize was that money isn’t all that makes a trip.  We had a lot of experiences left and I refused to let the situation dampen them.  I never would have seen Carcassonne from a plane, or got a feel for the countryside like we did, or even found out what Brett’s Star Trek Dream Team was.

“It will either be a good time or a good story,” someone once told me.  We got to have both.

Dream Teams:

Rich: USS Excelsior, Capt. Sulu (ST Films), First Officer Data (TNG), Helmsmen Sulu (the original series), Holodoc (Voyager), Doc (Enterprise), Head of Security Odo (DS9), Science Officer Spock (TOS)

Brett: Borg Cube or Romulan Bird of Prey (TNG), Lore (TNG), Devolved Worf holding the symbiote of Dax (TNG + DS9), Hugh the Borg (TNG?), Kahn (TOC and ST 2)


Rich: Observe = the life of Jesus Christ; Change = prevent the burning of the Library of Alexander

Brett: [to be added]
Eric says:
Sorry to hear about that, especially the loss of the notebook =( I've been to Valencia before, didn't know that crime/theft was so common there. So brazen considering you had only left your car for a few minutes!
Posted on: Jan 23, 2009
madbard says:
oh fuck. that is my travel nightmare. in the philippines, roving bands of thieves will zip past you on a moped and slash your bags to make everything fall out. then the second wave will snatch your belongings. if other pickpicks snag some loot it is easy to do.
Posted on: Jan 10, 2009
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Sin means No as in Sin Gluten.…
"Sin" means "No" as in Sin Gluten…
Roast chicken in a bag.  Seriously.
Roast chicken in a bag. Seriously.
The passenger seat
The passenger seat
Us and the super nice Guardia Civi…
Us and the super nice Guardia Civ…
Four college graduates at work
Four college graduates at work
Much too fancy a name for a Lays f…
Much too fancy a name for a Lays …
photo by: spocklogic