(Cast of characters for the non Candeleda folks: Giselle, Stephanie and Max – Amazing Anglos
Sergio, Miguel Angel, Monica, Sandra, Mamen, Noelia, Maria Jose and Delfa – Super Spaniards)
With the bulk of the farewells completed an expedition was launched by myself, Giselle, Stephanie, Max and Delfa to find the car rental place and get back on the road. We believed this would be a simple task having been informed that the El Corte ingles next to where the bus had dropped us had one. So we headed into the department store, and between startling perfume sample girls and nearly knocking out customers with my backpack we eventually found the rental desk 10 minutes later. Then, while Giselle and Delfa sorted out the logistics, Max, Stephanie and myself relaxed. Turns out that while we could arrange the car rental there we still had to take a train to Chamartin to pick it up, which we did, disembarking from the train to find every rental agency but the one we wanted in the area. So, while me, Max and Stephanie relaxed, Giselle and Delfa (our heroes!!) went to find the car…for nearly an hour :s.
Finally on the road in style (ahem, in an Audi no less and with the brave Giselle at the wheel as neither Stephanie or myself had any faith in our ability to drive on the right hand side of the road) we dropped Delpha and Max off (more goodbyes, L) eventually convinced the GPS lady we didn’t actually want to drive around industrial estates all night and were on our way to Linares with a stunning sunset and the most amazing full moon as a backdrop. Stopped along the way for dinner and knife shopping (I have no idea why but every petrol station and roadside restaurant we stopped in the whole trip had a display case of knives). Just after midnight we made it into town, checked into our beautiful hotel and fell immediately to sleep.
In the morning we slept in as long as we wanted to, quite the luxury after a week at PI. Found a spot for breakfast and then started exploring the town. For us this mostly consisted of wandering down the main street to the statue of a miner, past a bunch of slightly confusing Chinese restaurants, getting distracted by the Flamenco dresses in el Corte Ingles (where we ran into Mamen), looking at one of the churches, then spotting the older part of town and strolling down the Linares equivalent of Rundle mall for a bit of shopping, then finding a bar for a couple of drinks. Unfortunately when we got back to the hotel we discovered that while all this was going on, Sergio, Monica and Sandra had been waiting to take us out to lunch and sightseeing. Eep! Luckily they had only just given up on us and were at a bar down the street with Maria Jose and so we were able to join them for a lovely afternoon.
Enjoyed some drinks and tapas and were joined, then took a tour of the old part of town we hadn’t been able to find, down narrow cobblestone streets and past beautiful ornate buildings. With the Feria going on, there were many women walking about in just stunning flamenco dresses that we ooohed and aaahed over all afternoon. Stopped for coffee and icecream, visited a rock and roll bar (where we met Miguel Angel) the bullring and then headed to the Feria (to find Noelia). Imagine the rides from the Adelaide show, but with about 30 tents all with different themed music and dancing, and strawberry mojitos :D
Had a bit of a drink and a dance, then headed back to the hotel to briefly visit the pool, rest up and get all pretty for a big night. Monica picked us up at 9 and we went to a bar where we each got a litre of beer and 5 huge, delicious tapas for under 6 euro each! Sergio and his girlfriend joined us, and after a very fun meal, we headed back to the centre of town to meet Sandra and stake out a good spot for the half hour fireworks show at midnight over the fair. After that we grabbed some drinks, found a good spot in the park for a drink, more laughs and a bit of a boogie (well I was dancing to myself anyway). Finally, we had to say goodbye again L Walked back to the hotel via the street markets and fell gratefully to sleep.
Checked out of the hotel nice and early after the previous night’s festivities as we had a long way to travel. My new plan was to drive to Valencia with the girls, then take a train to Barcelona with enough time to switch stations and go overnight to Paris. So we checked out, jumped in the car, engaged in further arguments with the GPS lady who seemed to be determined to send us the wrong way down one way streets, and out onto the highway. Stopped along the way for breakfast and passed by Cuenca along the way (I’m not explaining that reference to anyone but trust me, its funny :P).
Made it to Valencia with plenty of time to drop off the car, print out my ticket and say goodbye to Giselle, then do a little exploring and have a last lunch with Stephanie. Looks like such a cool town, I definitely have to revisit when I have more than an hour and a half to spare! Finally, back to the train station and back to travelling solo. Spent a thrilling hour in Barcelona which consisted mostly of crossing the city to find the other train station, then boarded my train to Paris with many plans for my next return trip to Spain, not least of which includes actually learning Spanish at some point in the interim!