I have had so much fun this last weekend. I really have. I've been on a four day trip to Spain to stay with and see friends. I was due to stay near Moraira (between Valencia and Alicante) for most of the time, but the first night, I booked an Airbnb room in Alicante itself as I'd never been there before. I've also never used Airbnb before and it proved to be quite an experience.
Now I'll admit that I have little to no Spanish at all, and since Airbnb is often offered by people who have spare rooms in their own homes (actually what normal B&B used to be), this means that you are likely to be staying with local people. I won't name the lady I stayed with here or give her address, because she was really very sweet and I wouldn't want to put anyone off. Added to that, at least some of my problems were caused by a) the fact that I left my phone at home in Rotterdam (duh) and b) communication difficulties, which were hardly her fault. Anyway, all that aside my stay at her flat proved to be very good meat for a blog post, which is what you're getting here.
For the sake of giving her an identity, I'll call my host lady Sara. Well, Sara and I had been arranging things over the internet using the useful if not always accurate Google as our interpreter. So far so good. Even if the messages were slightly offside at times, we did at least understand I was going to arrive at her address at between 3 and 4 p.m. Which I did.
Last Friday afternoon, I found my way easily from the airport into Alicante by bus and walked the short, but very steep 400 odd metres to her house from the bus stop. To ensure I was at the right address and about to press the correct buzzer, I double checked the details. All was well till I rang the bell.
I pressed, pushed, leant on one side and then the other of the little button, but nothing happened and nothing I did would persuade it to ring. There was no sound and no one came to the door. Somewhat perplexed, I wondered how I could contact her. It was soon after 3 p.m., so I thought maybe she wasn't home yet. But how was I to find out without a phone? What a predicament.
What I did have, though, was my iPad, so I decided to go back down the hill to the centre and find a café with WiFi where I could email her. Which I did too. Again with the help of my friend, the sometimes mischievous translator, Google, I composed a message and sent it to her. I told her I'd left my phone at home, that I'd been to the flat and that it seemed no one was there. I then said I'd go back at 4:30 p.m. and try again. The message that came back translated like this: 'I hope you get your phone back. I'll be on the floor. The bell is 4b' As you can imagine, I was puzzled and my imagination went into overdrive.
Finishing my coffee, I hefted up my bag, which had gained weight significantly by this time (funny how they do that, isn't it?) and staggered off back up the hill to the BnB. Again, I tried the bell and again nothing happened. I peered through the glass and there was no one lying on the floor either.
Then (at last) it occurred to me that maybe the bell didn't work. I furtively pressed another one to see what would happen. Its loud and peremptory buzz made me jump out of my skin, and I prayed its owner wasn't in. How embarrassing that would have been! I began to sweat trying to imagine what I would say to any possible 'Qué?' that might come through the intercom. Luckily for me, no one answered, but it certainly confirmed that Sara's bell wasn't working.
What to do now? She patently wasn't on the floor and her bell wouldn't work. Was I really going to have to crawl back to the café with my ten ton load, buy more coffee and send her another message? Just as I was preparing to gather up my courage, a light came on and Sara appeared, right there 'on the floor'. She was clearly puzzled that I hadn't rung the bell as she was pointing at it when she opened the door, but when she realised hers was the only one in the whole block that didn't work, she was duly very apologetic.
We climbed up the eight flights of stairs to her fourth floor apartment, by which time I realised I was not as fit as I thought I was. I was practically on my knees by the time we got to her door. Well, she kindly gave me a restorative cup of coffee and introduced me to her daughter who did speak English. Apparently Google had played with my message too and they thought I'd lost my phone at the café which was why I'd gone back there. A litany of confusion, but anyway, they gave me a key for going in and out.
The next fun with breaking and entering - sorry, getting in - occurred when I went back to the BnB after taking an evening stroll round Alicante. It's a lovely city and I spent a lot of time walking around until well after dark, so by the time I got back, the entrance was dark too. Going in, I looked for a light and found one of those timed switches - you know the type. They stay on for a while and then turn themselves off. Lots of apartment blocks and hotels have them. I pushed this one and the light came on, so I started up the stairs, but it wasn't long before I realised I couldn't remember how many floors I'd climbed or how many storeys the building had. Oh dear. And there was nothing on any of the landings to say which one I was on. Oh dear, oh dear. I tried a key in the door I thought was the right flat and it didn't work. Oh dear, oh dearie dear. Not knowing now if I had to go up or down, I hesitated, and at that moment my time was up with the lights. Everything went black. And I really mean black.
Now just picture this - Val groping her way all around the walls in total darkness like a manic spider. It was crazy and I still couldn't find the light switch, so then I had a mild (micro) panic. I didn't dare go down or up the stairs. Firstly, I didn't know where they were and secondly, I was sure I'd break my neck if I tried. Can you imagine it? I could have sat down and pushed myself around on my backside I suppose or crawled, but didn't want to risk that either. I mean supposing someone came out of their flat, switched the light on and found me crawling up the stairs on my hands and knees. I was cringing at the thought. Then joy of joy, I remembered my iPad, which I'd thankfully taken with me. If I opened it, I would have the light from the screen. Talk about 'let there be light!' What a relief!
With the help of my trusty tablet, I confirmed my key was wrong for the door I was looking at and after shining the iPad around up and down the stairwell, I decided I needed to go up one more floor. I still couldn't find the light switch, though, so I used my screen light to find my way upstairs. Such was my gratitude that I'd got to the right door, I unlocked it, crept into my room and went to bed.
Now then, shall I tell you about what happened when all the lights and heater in my room tripped out too? Hmm, no, I think I'll leave that for now. This is quite enough of a shaggy blog story :) More on the beauties of the Spanish coastal areas next time. Have a great week ending everyone!