Welcome back to the next installment of funny travel stories (Europe edition)! If you remember Part I from South America…we had already run into some doozies during our first three months of full-time travel.
As a reminder, these are the stories where shit just goes wrong. I lost stuff. Our Airbnb flooded in the middle of the night. I lost more stuff. The laundromat lost our stuff, but gave us someone else’s granny panties as a consolation prize.
You get the idea.
And just as I predicted, shit continued to go wrong on the European leg of our trip.
If you thought after South America I would be a pro, and would handle these situations with dignity and grace…you’d be wrong. A good anxiety-driven freak out and ugly cry is more my jam.
So with that, let’s share some comedic relief with some funny travel stories about my mistakes and mishaps during the second three months of full-time travel…this time in Europe!
FUNNY TRAVEL STORIES – EUROPE EDITION (PART II)
The Wheels on the Bus Go…Off, Off, Off?
We started our European leg in Portugal, with plans to move into Spain from there. An old co-worker of mine (love you Sean!) just-so-happened to be celebrating his 30th birthday on the southern coast of Spain. And the timing worked out perfectly for us to swing by for a visit on our way to Madrid.
The problem was figuring out how to get there.
Apparently if you rent a car in one country, and drop it in another, they GOUGE you in additional fees. I’m talking a $200 rental jumping up to over $1,000.
Hard pass. Clearly that wasn’t going to work. We are traveling long-term and balling on a budget, after all.
Enter: the solution. We would just take a 4 1/2 hour bus from Lisbon to cross the border into Spain, pick up a rental car, and drive the 5 hours to Nerja.
Easy peasy. But as they say about the best-laid plans, this one didn’t go smoothly in actuality.
It started off fine. We were cruising through Portugal’s countryside while I was jamming to my favorite Spanish singer (Alvaro Soler for those curious).
As I’m gazing out the windows, all of a sudden I see debris being kicked up near my face. Then the bus starts shaking and making all sorts of noises you don’t typically associate with a smooth bus ride. All while even MORE debris came spiraling upwards.
It had become obviously apparent to everyone on board (except the BUS DRIVER somehow) that we had completely blown out a tire.
After we continued to drive with no signs of the bus driver stopping, passengers finally filled her in to what had happened.
We pull over on the side of the highway while the driver assesses the damage. Then the driver calls the powers-that-be for next steps. They instruct us to hang tight for assistance, which will take 90 minutes to reach us.
Oy vey! We (im)patiently wait.
Assistance finally arrives, and they escort us while we chug-a-lug down the highway at like 20 mph to the nearest rest stop. Luckily there was a small restaurant onsite, so everyone could get off the bus and grab a bite while they worked to replace the tire.
Fast forward another 90 minutes, and the tire fiasco is remedied.
All-in-all it was a 3-hour delay before we were back on the road heading to Badajoz, Spain to pick up our rental car. Then it would be smooth sailing to Nerja…or so we thought (continued below).
Nada. Nunca. Zilch. This incident caused a lot of unneeded stress, and time lost drinking with our friends in Southern Spain. If that ain’t a loss, I don’t know what is!
Dude, Where’s My Car?
After the nightmare that was our bus ride (from above) into Spain, we were SO looking forward to picking up our rental car and hitting the road to Nerja. Our friends were already there and getting the celebrations started.
The bus drops us off at the bus station in Badajoz.
We hail a ride share with the rental car company as our destination. Our driver doesn’t speak much English, and at this point we had lost quite a bit of our Spanish, but it’s fine. The app is leading him to our destination.
Well, kinda. Turns out the address on our rental confirmation leads to literally nothing. Like an empty parking lot with no building whatsoever. PERFECT.
Through our Spanglish efforts, our driver explains that the rental car companies are all centrally located near one another. So the best bet is for him to take us there.
And sure as shit, there are a bunch of rental car companies. Except ours. Still nowhere to be found.
Frustrated, we have the driver drop us at a nearby restaurant so we can regroup and come up with a plan (over a stress cocktail).
We scour the internet, and everything pointed to the address that doesn’t exist. AWESOME.
We try calling, but language barriers prevent us from understanding one another.
So we try an online chat option (where we can translate on our phone). We explain what’s happening to the chat agent, and he calls the company to figure out where they are located.
And he gets the correct address…hallelujah!
They had moved into a mall (odd) not too far from where we were. So we get our packs on and hoof it down the street to pick up our car.
Since we made a reservation in advance, it should be a super easy pickup, right? WRONG AGAIN.
At first they have no record of our reservation, but they can offer us an option from their inventory for almost twice as much. Nice try, but not today satan.
After refusing profusely and showing them all the proof we have of our reservation…they finally find it. Except their system won’t allow them to rent it to us for the rate we booked online. UGH.
After more than an hour of back and forth, we get close (and frustrated) enough to the original cost that we begrudgingly accept a vehicle.
So how much time was wasted in Badajoz?? Another 3 hours!
For those keeping track…we finally left Badajoz for Nerja a full 6 hours later than planned. We had to drive in the dark (so we couldn’t see the beyond AMAZING views), missed dinner plans, and were beaten and exhausted by the time we arrived.
Luckily there’s no better cure than good friends and copious bottles of Spanish wine for a shitty day, and we were greeted in Nerja with both.
Little Miss Sourpuss really can’t find anything here. It ate up a bunch of time (on an already stressful day), and we wound up paying more. No bueno!
Thick as Thieves
Ahhhhhhh Madrid. I had been once before, and absolutely fell in love with the city. The food, the people, the culture, the sangria. All of it.
So I was super excited to head back on this trip. And Madrid round two was equally as amazing…that is until our 2nd to last night there.
Here’s a thing you need to know about Spanish cultures…they do things LATE. They work late, dinner is late, which means after dinner drinks are late. And as hard as we tried, we COULD NOT stay up late enough to go out in Madrid.
Sure, there are bars everywhere where you can have a drink. But if you’re there before midnight, you can basically hear a pin drop it’s so dead.
Friendly bartenders filled us in…things don’t really get poppin’ until close to 1 am. YIKES. I can start at brunch at 11 am and make it past 1 am no problem. But I can’t start at 1 am. I’m old!
So we had resolved that it just wasn’t going to work. We would leave Spain without experiencing the lively Spanish parties that we had heard so much about.
Our 2nd to last night, we leave our Airbnb in the La Latina neighborhood in search of something to do. Nothing in particular…just walk around and see what looks good.
We make a turn and the street is suddenly FILLED with people, music, circus-like performers, and all sorts of bars slinging drinks. And what’s funny is you were blissfully unaware from just one street over. It’s like the heavens opened up to give us the Spanish send-off party we so desperately wanted.
So we dive in head first!
Drinks are had and performances are watched as we move from one street, to the next, to the next. This thing just kept going! At one point we depart the smaller side streets and arrive to a larger street that was even more crowded and lively, if you can imagine it.
Needless to say, we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. That is, until I reach into my purse for my cell phone…annnnnnnd it’s gone. Like, gone gone.
And since I’ve had quite a few drinks at this time, and I’ve had multiple cell phones stolen before, the natural response is to royally freak out. I’m talking full-on ugly crying meltdown.
Which is lovely for my “fixer” boyfriend to deal with (sarcasm). He’s ready to retrace steps, offer a reward, find security cameras…whatever it takes to retrieve my phone.
But in my mind, that was all a waste of time. It didn’t drop out of my purse, someone clearly reached in and took it. So they’re not going to be easy to find.
And the funny thing about it is, we have technology that allows me to track my phone to a staggering level of accuracy. When I got back to our Airbnb, I could literally watch from my laptop the EXACT route they took from where they stole my phone, to their apartment building almost an hour outside of the city.
Yet you literally can’t do anything about it.
Luckily we knew petty theft was our most likely incident to occur on this trip, so we brought an older phone with us as a backup. And I was able to use that until I could get a new one. But really, thieves are the worst and they can all go to hell.
When Dogs Attack
In Sicily, one of the highlights was getting to visit the town where my boyfriend’s family (on his dad’s side) are rooted. His dad and stepmom were able to join us, and it was really cool for them to see.
My personal highlight of any location we visit usually revolves around street dogs. I’m obsessed. Any warnings about avoiding contact with street dogs falls on deaf ears with me.
I mean, I got a rabies shot specifically so I could give love to all the stray dogs. #Smart
So I was delighted to find the SWEETEST street dog in the little town’s main square. When I came up to pet her she just rolled onto her back so I could rub her belly, and we became instant best friends.
After lunch, I found her again and tried to feed her some pizza. Which she wanted absolutely nothing to do with. And we had bonded so much that she became my shadow and would follow me wherever I went.
I was on cloud 9.
That is, until we are all hanging in the main square and another little dog walks by with his owner. My bff takes notice, and heads off to investigate. Making a new doggy friend, I thought…adorbs.
Nope. She straight up attacked that other dog! Like a full-on battle for territory. There was barking, and yelping, and people screaming. It was pure chaos as we watched on, horrified.
Then everyone starts looking MY way.
This is a small Sicilian village…people watch everything that goes down. They observe. Everyone knows everyone. They already knew we were “outsiders” simply because they did not know us.
But they had seen me gallivanting around the main square with this dog. And now they’re talking to the dog’s owner who got attacked and pointing my direction.
Not to mention the dog (once done with the attack) came RIGHT BACK TO ME since we were besties.
Which would normally thrill me to no end, but not when a bunch of Sicilians are looking at me thinking MY dog just attacked someone else’s dog.
So we endured the stares, and tried to keep our distance from the dog. She eventually ran off, and the people eventually went back to their business.
But man, my anxiety had me convinced some Sicilian townies were going to get their pitchforks and run us out of town thanks to my incessant need to befriend street dogs.
Which I continued to do the rest of the trip. Didn’t learn a thing.
I got some really good doggo love (before she went psycho). And I also posted about her in my favorite dog-centric facebook group where over 1,000 people liked my video of the Italian dog refusing to eat pizza. #SocialMediaWin
Yet again, I am so very thankful despite these hiccups along the way. We are still injury free. We are still free from any sort of legal issues. And our passports remain safe in our possession.
It could ALWAYS be worse.
But shit will also continue to go wrong. So stay tuned for the third and final installment (Asia edition), coming soon!
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