A Road Trip in Spain and Portugal
The degree was over, the results were in and Ben, Rich and I were off to Spain to celebrate. We decided to hire a car and spend time wandering round the Spanish Mediterranean coast and then up into the interior, with the aim of escaping some of the tourists, of which we were of course three.
On the afternoon of day one we rolled through the long, wide and spookily quiet outer suburbs of Seville (later discovering that as it was a Sunday, every man and his rabid dog had gone to the coast). After having navigated the inner one-way system a few too many times, we rolled up outside an agreeable little edifice, ‘Hostel Van Gough’ which boasted ‘a smell of fresh oranges...’ among a host of other tourist-enticing slogans. We checked in, freshened up, and wandered outside (where it was 42 degrees) to peruse the cathedral. By now it was early evening and we decided to treat ourselves to a brief introduction to Seville by horse and cart. Richard selected a friendly-looking horse, and off we went.
We were duly returned to Cathedral Square some 45 minutes later, and decided to find a bite to eat. We stumbled across an inviting Irish Pub of all places, situated on the cobbled street that circumnavigates the cathedral. Selecting a table on the street we settled down to teasing our taste buds with the menu. It was at this moment that our luck changed, and little known to us so would our holiday plans. After choosing a slimming chicken burger and lager I noticed the street was bathed in the beautifully warm golden rays of a late Spanish evening. Grabbing my camera, I wandered up the street to get some shots. The meal waxed and waned as dusk descended on Seville. Then, for no reason I looked around to the road and saw a young man on a moped and caught his eye. He was driving along the cobbled street and had begun to cross it to our side. Innocently believing he was stopping to speak to a friend I looked back. Richard was less at ease, with good reason. The moped suddenly sped up when beside us and the young driver made a grab for Richard’s rucksack. Richard tried to grab it but was too late. The moped sped off with the rucksack as Richard and Ben pursued on foot. Not wishing to be pessimistic, but that really was never going to aid the situation as Richard can’t run due to a gammy leg, and Ben is totally blind without this glasses, which at this point in time, he was not wearing. Still, the moped driver had got more than he had bargained for. Richard had strapped the rucksack to a spare chair just to be ‘on the safe side’. Thus the moped was seen flying off into the distance with a rucksack and restaurant chair helplessly in tow. Neither were seen again. The rucksack contained all of Richard’s camera gear, all of our passports and our driving licenses too.
What to do? With the time fast approaching midnight we went in search of the local policia station marked on the Lonely Planet map of Seville. When we arrived a strange uniformed apparition juggling a burger, cigarette and tabloid newspaper greeted us. Richard explained (being the only one that spoke Spanish amongst us) what had happened. The expression of the gentleman changed to one of annoyance, probably because he was going to have to put one of the three items down in order to find the appropriate form for us to fill in. Anyway, we wandered out an hour or so later with three copies of a statement detailing our misfortune. I must just digress a moment here. Whilst being interviewed all of our information was typed into a computer database, and various numbers and forms automatically generated. Very efficient. A true paper-less office I thought! Not so. After having satisfied the computer’s appetite for our personal details, the policeman proceeded to print out enough copies of the same form to give nearly everyone in Seville and its suburbs one each. Then he got a rubber stamp and proceeded to slam it onto each copy along with his and Richard’s signature. Then as that is clearly not enough fun for one evening, he decided to get a stapler and clip various permutations of pages together with such force that I feared the table would give way. I know I’m a simple creature, but surely if all the information has been placed on computer, the idea is that you then don’t need to waste vast reams of paper? Is it me?
A call to the British Embassy in Madrid first thing the following morning clarified that a road trip to the capital was called for. A visit to an internet café meant all the relevant forms could be printed out and completed in advance of our visit to Madrid. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Seville even though our hearts weren’t really there. Another early start and about six hours later we had begun dodging the cars of Madrid with more than a little feeling of being on a fairground ride (you known you’re in Madrid because all of the cars have numerous dents in them and no one stops for red lights). The next morning bright and early Richard, Ben and myself presented ourselves at the Consulate-General Madrid. A few hours later we returned to collect brand-new full 10-year passports. However, they are only valid for one year and then must be renewed for the further nine years. This is in case the old passport re-appears and also due to the absence of a counter-signature. So equipped with new passports, we headed out of Madrid towards Toledo to continue our travels Portugal-bound.
By day two, we were on car number two due to the first developing an electrical fault (or left any longer it would have because the electrics had prolapsed below the chassis and given Ben’s driving they wouldn’t have remained there too long). This in itself is not too groundbreaking. However, imagine if you will a random road-block in Portugal. Ben was driving when all cars were flagged down and asked to park by the road. We pulled up and a police officer made his way to the now open window by Ben. He spoke no English and we spoke no Portuguese, however, this didn’t seam to deter him. After a brief but enjoyable game of charades, we handed over our shining new passports. It was then it struck me. We had handed three passports that were all less than one day old and all issued in Madrid. Furthermore, due to them being processed together, they had consecutive numbers. He looked at us. We grinned at him. A further game of charades and we handed him the hire car certificate. His expression changed as he wandered to the front of the car. It was then I realised I had handed him the certificate for the first car, identical in everyway except for the number plate. More amusing was the fact that none of us held a driving licence except for my crumbled fax copy. Needless to say he spoke not a word of Spanish and thus the police statement was as good as a forgery. With a very perplexed expression he wished us a good holiday in English and we went on our way. He must still be wondering what those three young men of questionable identity were doing in a car not registered to them... perhaps the language problem helped our cause!
Loading comments ..