Casa Grande, AZ
The following morning we said goodbye to Barcelona. Our chartered bus picked us up at the Barcelona Center Hotel at 7:45 am. Our luggage had been taken from in front of our hotel room, to the bus so the only thing we had was one carry on.
Jaume pointed out different places along the way to the airport. It was a very short drive. He helped everyone get their luggage checked and then gave everyone a big hug before we went through the TSA checkpoint. Even if you didn't have the TSA-precheck there were no long lines. Bill has to be hand wanded because of his pacemaker so it takes longer for him. Somehow I must have left my name badge in the trays.
The Iberian plane was late arriving but once it emptied out the passengers we were able to take our seats. I wish all our flights were as short as this one was. Jaume said Grand Circle thought about having everyone take the train to Madrid but they would have had to handle their luggage so instead we flew. Personally, I would have liked the train ride.
Estefi, our program director, was at the Madrid airport to meet us. We had a bus to take our pre-trip group of 18 from the Madrid airport to the hotel.
Prior to our trip Estefi had sent an email of interesting places nearby our hotel to see while she was assisting the arrivals at the airport. She also called us on the phone the day before we left to tell us what to expect for weather and any other questions we had. Just from the phone call I knew I'd like our program director. I always ask if we should take our hiking sticks. She stayed at the airport until everyone from the US had arrived. It was nice that we took the pre-trip so we already knew more than half of the travellers.
As everyone who was beginning the trip left the day before on their flight to Madrid, this was Day 2 of the trip.
Our luggage arrived in our hotel room about the time we found our room. All the tips for baggage are included in the cost of the trip.
Estefi did a walk around the area as soon as the last traveller arrived. She pointed out different things that you don't see in the US. She actually lived in Scottsdale for a few years.
She showed us places we could have a tapas and a glass of wine. She talked about the dinning hours of the Spanish to those we didn't take the pre-trip. I liked the fact that she told us the Green Pepper was a very elegant restaurant if we wanted something very nice but also that the local burger joint which of course sells wine and beer had two for one on Thursday's. Next door to the hotel was a huge department store that sold everything from perfume to guns. There was a cafeteria on the top floor and also a grocery store in the basement. In Europe, we've found that the basement of a department usually has a grocery store. This one also had a deli where you could get something to eat.
She stopped by a ham shop but the owner wouldn't allow any photos. She explained about the acorn pigs and how expensive the ham was. I have photos of a ham shop I'll blog later from Ronda.
After our walk, Sue and Hal joined us for dinner. We decided we were all too tired to go far so tried out the burger joint. We were hoping to find an outside table on the sidewalk but they were all filled. We each had a burger and potatoes and a beer and I think I our bill was less than five euros. It was noisy as the place was packed with young people, but the food was good.
All the travellers introduced themselves during a meeting where we had welcome drinks. I was surprised that Bill wasn't the oldest on the trip. One very nice lady who was travelling alone was 88 and there was also a solo man who was 87. The man who was 87 said he lost his wife two years ago and his daughter bought the trip for him. Two months earlier, his daughter died. There wasn't anyone else from Arizona but there was a couple from Little Washington, PA and also a man who lived in West Virginia.
Estefi explained the itinerary and told us places that there was a lot of steps or steep climbs and what to expect. She kept saying "pace yourself, you don't have to do everything".