Sunday, June 2, 2013

The time I went to Spain and I thought I was all chic and stuff

Remember I mentioned a few posts ago, that I went to Spain for my work? Well, I wanted to tell you about that. Yes, Spain. I know, right?

The company I work for makes software and the boss and a manager were going to Marbella, Spain to promote it to a  group that was meeting there, and I got to go too. The furthest I've ever been was Mexico, so I was wriggling with excitement at the thought of going to Spain!

Of course, the downside to travelling far away, is the travelling time. It took us about 20 hours, between layovers, and flying time, to get there. But for me, that was just all part of the adventure.

We had a layover for a couple hours at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris and can I just tell you how stylish and beautiful their airport is? Even their bathrooms were picture-worthy!

These were the stall doors in one of the women's bathrooms. Aren't they just girly and artsy?

This is the women's bathroom in the Paris airport I visited during the flight home. It was the cleanest bathroom I've ever seen! It just gleamed! Those things that look like counters under the mirrors? Those are sinks.
Everything about the Paris airport was high-class and stylish. And everyone was thin, well-dressed and in a hurry. I mean, we'd be just walking along normally and they would just fly past us, all cool in their pashmina scarves, high heels, and designer luggage. And I'm talking about the men!

Seriously, everyone wore scarves in Europe, both in Paris and in Spain. And they were tied in these fancy knots that I've seen them do on YouTube, but could never duplicate. Like this:

Compared to the stylish Parisians, I'm sure the three of stood out as Yankees, schlepping along with our backpacks and sneakers. We may as well have had a hound dog and a couple of chickens with us, like the Clampetts.

After the layover in Paris, our plane landed in Malaga, Spain, then it was about a 30 minute drive to our hotel in Marbella.

Now, a little background about Marbella, Spain. It's a beach city, and it's ritzy. It's known for being a celebrity vacation spot. Arab sheiks have mansions there. It has the second largest number of Rolls Royce's registered there, London  having the first.

It's also known for being sunny 300-some-odd days out of the year. However. When we were there, of course, there was an unusual cold snap across Europe and it rained a good deal of the time. One day, it was crazy rainy, windy, and stormy - very unusual. I kept thinking of the song "The Rain in Spain Lies Mainly in the Plain" (Is that actually a song?? Or is it just a line from My Fair Lady?). Because it's sooo not true. When it rains in Spain, it rains everywhere.

But we didn't let the damp weather dampen our spirits at all (see what I did there?). Because, after all, we were in another country and we were going to just experience the adventure, rain or shine. The cloudy weather just made the colors around us, and the ocean, all the more beautiful.

These are the steps from the hotel to a little restaurant on the beach. Everything was green and lush.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, and didn't have to meet with our potential clients until Monday, so we had a day and a half to soak in the culture and do some sightseeing.

My first impression of the people in Marbella, at least the ones we were in contact with, is that they were very accommodating. It's a touristy town, so you might expect that to be the case, but it was more than that.  They were gracious. It was quite endearing. It seemed like they just wanted to make us smile. And we did a lot of smiling.

Oh, and the food. The food was fabulous. All three of us like seafood, which was a good thing because that was the specialty everywhere. I'll never eat seafood anywhere that isn't near the ocean again. Definitely not here in Vegas. 

We ate a lot of this!
Many people we met spoke English, which was great because although I meant to learn a little Spanish before the trip, I didn't. It would have been helpful if I could have read Spanish though. I was looking at the menu at one of the restaurants we were in, and it had an 8 page menu and at the top of each page was the name of a different country - Russia, France, Italy.

So I go "Oh look, they have all these ethnic foods from all over the world, how cool that they have so many choices!" 

Then my boss pointed out that they didn't serve food from each of those countries, they just printed the menu in each of those languages.

I felt like Roseanne Roseannadanna from Saturday Night Live. "NeVERmind."

So I said, "Ooops. Kind of scary that you hired me, isn't it?" Good thing my boss has a sense of humor.

We did most of our sightseeing along the pier and in Old Town, which was a labyrinth of streets and alleys, with a mix of churches, shops, and homes all jumbled together. It was so colorful and quaint.

I just loved the terracotta and china blue.

I had to do a double-take when I saw this bar.

I loved how much history was just mixed in with the modern world. This is what's left of an Arab castle from the 15th century.

See what I mean about colorful and quaint?

This is a shot from the pier, looking at the city.
Once our Sunday of sightseeing was over, we had to get down to business and prepare for our meetings. My job was to ride the elevator down to the lobby and find the folks we had scheduled meetings with and escort them up to the suite where my boss and the manager were waiting. These were people we had never met, mind you, so it was a bit challenging. Fortunately, everyone had name tags on, so that helped.

I have to pause for a minute here and tell you about my wardrobe for this trip. I agonized over what outfits to wear for our 3 days of business meetings. It was sort of business casual, since it was a resort setting. But aside from the meetings, there were cocktail parties and dinners which each needed an appropriate outfit too.

This was a job for my fashionista cousin. When I need to buy clothes, I always take her shopping with me. We had a couple "Project Spain" shopping trips and consultation sessions to make sure I was properly outfitted for this trip. 

I love my cousin because she's both talented and honest. I can try on an outfit I think will work, and she's all, "No."

Then she whips around my closet like a Tasmanian Devil and in a few seconds has pants, shirt, scarf, shoes, and jewelry and says, "Try this." And it will be the most beautiful outfit ever. Did I mention how much I love her?

Back to my story. So like I said, my job was to ride down and find the clients. So I'm in the lobby, standing by the elevators, looking around for our next client, and this little man walks off the elevator, stops, looks me up and down, and says (in an unidentifiable European accent), "Very chic!"

Now, if I actually were chic, I would have just said, "Why thank you!" Or even, "Well, merci!"

But no.

I didn't quite hear what he said and thought he was asking what company I was with (I have no idea why I thought that because "Chic" sounds nothing like "What company are you with?").

So I responded to him by saying the name of my company. Which likely confused the hell out of him.

He just gave me a funny look like "Ooookaaaaay" and said, "Well, nevertheless, chic!" and walked away.

By the time I figured out it was a compliment, I was stammering a thank you, but it didn't matter, he'd moved on. Probably to find a woman who actually was chic.

I still felt pretty good about getting a compliment on fashion from a European. Even if I didn't understand it.

Our days of eating fantastic seafood, riding in elevators, and looking at the ocean from our rooms, came to a close too soon and it was time to journey home. I was going to miss this view from my hotel room.

The bit of land way off in the distance on the left side of the picture is the coastline of Africa.
But, I'm not quite finished with my story yet. Because no travel story is complete without telling the part about being felt up by the French equivalent of the TSA.

I successfully went through 5 airport security sessions, including Paris, on the way into Spain. Had no problem at all. But for some reason, I set off the buzzer when I walked through the metal detector thing in Paris on the way home.

So the woman agent says something like, "May I check you?" in her French accented English, and pulls me aside and sweeps the little wand thingy over me, front and back. Ok, fine.

Then she does the pat-down. Only it wasn't so much a pat-down, as it was a rub-down. Seriously. She ran her hands sloooooowly all across the front of me (including the boobs), and sloooooowly all across the back of me.

Now, I've been pat-down at airports in the US before, but it did not feel quite like this. This felt sensual. I swear to you. It was quite off-putting.

Even more so the second time I got in line.

Just kidding.

No, but I did get her phone number.

Anyhoo, you haven't experienced a TSA pat-down, until you've had a French TSA pat-down with an agent named Franchesca. Just sayin.

So after my massage, the rest of the trip was uneventful. 

One thing that made me smile was stepping into the terminal in Minneapolis, where we had a short layover, and hearing Bruce Springsteen blaring over the loudspeakers and seeing everyone schlepping around in their sneakers, like we were. Quite different from the beautiful, artsy, and aloof Paris airport.

It was good to be home.

The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Almost home.
Lastly, I just have to show the cutest kitchenware that I bought in Marbella. They're hand-painted oil and vinegar bottles, where one side holds oil and the other vinegar. And these cute little ramekins:

I just love these!

So that's my Spain trip story. I'll tell you, travelling abroad like that really made me want to travel more. I'd love to see Italy, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland. I told hubby that before we settle into that RV for our cross-country trip across America, we need to take a couple trips abroad. Or at least one. So that's a goal now.

Maybe I'll look up Franchesca while we're over there.

Chicly Yours,

1 comment:

Fred J said...

God, I love your blog. What's not to love about a story that has a happy ending... IN THE MIDDLE!

You are funnier by accident than I am on purpose, and the smartest dingbat I know.

So those aren't bongs in that last picture? Gosh, that whole intervention thing just seems kinda stupid now. Wow... sorry about that. My bad. Congratulations on your 30-day pin anyway. I suppose you can come back home now. Oopsie.