"When you get to a fork in the road, take it"
Navigation and communication:
First, thank you to Steve Jobs as the maps and walking/driving directions available on our i-Phones have saved our bacon dozens of times so far.
When we arrived in Spain, we bought spanish SIM cards for our unlocked i-Phones at the Madrid train station. For $25eu each, we got 1gb of data and $18 worth of talk/text time. That way we could stay in touch and use the data for e-mail, maps and research when we were away from free hotel or restaurant wi-fi.
In Spain, the phone maps and walking directions were life savers. We could drop a pin at our hotel/apartment and then wander around the maze of narrow winding one-way streets and alleys for hours and then just click on directions back to the pinned location. The only problem was that the street names in these ancient cities changes every couple hundred feet for no apparent reason (we were told that they do it to honor a famous person or family), but it seems more likely that they just want to piss-off the tourists. This problem is further complicated by the fact that the before-said ever-changing street names are rarely posted anywhere so you have no idea if you are going the right direction. Typical directions from the map "Proceed on Calle Sanchez for 30 feet, then proceed left on Calle Gomez then right on Calle Hermosa, proceed left on Avenue de Mendosa, proceed onto Calle Jerez for 30 feet". In reality, you just went straight for 100 feet while all the unmarked street names changed names. Confusing? Yes, very...but only until we learned to just watch the arrows on the screen and not listen to the directions. Another thing you learn is to never drive inside the old city walls. One time in Seville, we called a taxi to take us to a restaurant we could not find on the map, the taxi drove for about 20 minutes and charged us 8eu. When we put in walking directions to our pinned home, it was only a 3 minute walk back due to the limited car access on the narrow streets. Note: the narrow winding cobblestone streets don't stop the locals from driving at breakneck speed - especially on their motorcycles. However, to be truthful, the confusion, getting lost and all that just add to the flavor and ambiance of travel in beautiful places. Once you learn that it's going to be different than what you are use to, then you can just plan for extra time and enjoy where getting lost takes you.
So you might think that since we have been here a month, we must be starting to become fluent in Spanish. You, mi amigo, would be el wrongo. We are trying, but keep in mind I was taking French lessons - which only makes the Spanish more confusing. When we are out and about, there are two different results when we communicate in Spanish. The usual one is this: unbeknownst to us, we must have some invisible (to us anyway) neon flashing arrows above our heads that pointing to us saying "Americanos". The result being that we stupidly attempt to speak Spanish and point with our hands while they politely listen and then answer us in English. The other, more rare result is we actually accidentally speak the language correctly enough to fool them into thinking we are not idiots - the unfortunate result being that they answer us in Spanish. Thus the conversation:
Me: Donde es el vino?
Spanish guy on street: el vino ? usted borracho ! primero hay que ir a la izquierda en la Calle González , y luego caminar treinta y dos pasos a la calle Rameriz , luego dar la vuelta , comprar unas tapas , ir al baño , tomar tres vueltas alrededor del parque , tomar una siesta y luego buscar el vino nuevo. (All said in less than 3 seconds).
Me (A proud, but stupid American): Si! Bueno, perfecto, Gracias!
Me (whispering to Cathy) What the hell did he say?
Still.....all this beats being home watching reruns of Bonanza. Don't you agree?