My Life as a Traveler

Rainy Days and Mondays in Bilbao

Who can sleep on the airplane? After 8 hours in the lounge, we were ready to get on our flight. An on time departure, dinner with wine and a movie. What else could you want? How about some sleep?

Ideally, you want to get as much sleep on your transatlantic flight as you can. Studies have shown that if you get 4 hours, you can enjoy your first day in Europe. If you can stay awake and keep moving all day until about 9pm, you’ll be more or less back on schedule. George goes right to sleep as soon as we take off, sometimes skipping dinner. I like to watch a movie as dinner is being served and then conk out. At first, it’s hard to get into a comfortable position. You never do, really. For me, knowing that I will be uncomfortable, yet need to sleep, I become afraid that I’ll be awake the entire time. My heart starts racing with the worry that I won’t be able to function on arrival in Europe. Next thing I know, I sort of wake up – I’ve been asleep an hour. But will I sleep more? This goes on until the main cabin lights go on and they start serving breakfast. Somehow, I’ve slept my 4 hours and I’m ready to go.

One more quick note about the plane: it has downstairs bathrooms! In the middle of the cabin near the galley, there are some swinging doors that lead down a flight of stairs (I’ve only seen stairs on a 747) to a little room where there are 6 bathrooms and a water fountain with paper cups. So cool! It’s Airbus, of course.

When we got to Munich, we hurried to our flight to Bilbao (not going through security!), and after the obligatory breakfast and beer, we descended through the clouds to rainy, cold weather. There was a public bus to the downtown bus station. After buying our bus tickets for the next day, we hopped the tram toward our apartment.

Since there are 5 of us, it is not exactly cheap to stay in hotel rooms. First, most hotel rooms only hold 2 people. Not many hold 5. Second, while the rate for 2 is not bad, that third person (triple rate) makes it quite a bit more expensive. So, for slightly more than the rate of a double and a triple room, we can get an apartment with 2 bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. That’s what we did in Bilbao. We have a sweet apartment overlooking the river with a separate bedroom for the boys, a room for Susie and I, and Mary gets the (most comfortable) sofa.

It’s about 3pm when we finally check in and we are tiiiiired. Yet, we must keep moving until 9pm. Unless you’re Mary, who had been not on one overnight flight, but two overnight flights in a row. She was allowed to take a nap. Morgan had a sore throat and felt bad, so he stayed in as well with Dominic, using the internet. That left Susie and I to check out the town and get some dinner for everyone.

We did a little sightseeing in the old town and found the local grocery where we bought some octopus (local delicacy) for an appetizer,meatballs in sauce to heat up, new white potatoes, and zucchini, plus breakfast food. For all of that, it was about $30. Not bad for dinner and breakfast for 5, right? Whatever we paid extra to stay in the apartment was made up here.

One more thing we had to do before going to bed. As we were waiting for the bus at the airport, we hit the cash machine to get some euros. Everybody got money except for Susie – her transaction was denied. This is a problem as the ATM was the only way she was going to get any money. At the apartment, we tried to reach the credit union by instant chat, then email, but were unsuccessful. After dinner, I was Skyping with my husband George and he offered to call the credit union on her behalf, since we had worked with member services regarding our credit cards just before we left. We waited and watched via Skype while he called them on our home phone, explained the situation, and got it all straightened out. Wow! If we didn’t believe in Skype before, we sure do now. By phone it would have cost us $1.50/minute, but George’s expediency and Skype made it free.

Finally, around 10pm, we make it to bed. Tomorrow we visit the Guggenheim and on to St. Jean de Luz, our next stop before we start our Camino.


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