Friday, February 3, 2012

The Long Lost Puente: Part 1

Once upon a time, in the lesser-known land of Calahorra, there was a puente in honor of Saint Nicholas. And on this puente, the wandering teaching assistant Cate was graced with almost a fortnight of completely uninterrupted holiday time. As if this weren't luck enough, Cate's birthday happened to fall right in the middle of it all. Excited at the prospect of such glorious free time, she made her plans, bought some plane tickets, and then, was off on her grand birthday adventure! This is the story of the first part of her journey.

Parli italiano? Zaragoza, or Getting to Italy (December 5, 2011)

In a word, no... but that didn't stop me from trying in my first destination. Where did I go? To the fashion mecca of Italia: Milan! Or as the Italian call it, Milano! Before I get to Milano though, I need to tell you how I got there.

Enter the biggest city in Aragón and 5th biggest city in Spain: Zaragoza! 
La Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Zaragoza, España
Zaragoza also happens to be the closest city to Logroño (about 1.5-2 hours by bus) with a functional airport (I say functional because technically, Logroño has an airport... that I've never heard of being used). Anyway, most importantly, Zaragoza is a hub for RyanAir, that infamous but oh-so-cheap discount European airline. 

At 9:00 am, I caught the bus to Zaragoza-- literally... I kind of mistakenly thought my ticket was for 9:30. Thank God I was up early and happened to glance at it in time. Phew! Anyway, my flight out wasn't until after 4 in the afternoon, but I hadn't been there before, so I thought I'd allow some time to get my bearings and walk around a bit. After arriving, I headed for the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, "the second most-visited pilgrimage destination in Spain," and lo and behold, I discovered a festival, complete with wise men, a Christmas market, and CAMELS!
Say hello to my camel friend! (Thank you, kind lady who took this for me!)
Also, see the baby behind mama camel?
Statue of Francisco Goya next to the Cathedral.

After kissing the wooden statue inside the cathedral and getting my fill of what little I could see around town in the few hours I'd allotted (and wishing I hadn't packed so much), I took the bus to the airport, and arrived with WAY too much time to spare.

Note to self (and other travelers): Zaragoza's airport only has six gates, so security will never take longer than 30 minutes to get through... in fact, it will much more likely take 5 minutes. I didn't even have to take my boots off.
No matter. The extra time was nice as it allowed me to strategize my packing situation. For those of you who have flown RyanAir before, you know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, I will elaborate:

I mentioned before that RyanAir was infamous. This is because, while they are an extremely economical choice for airfare, what they save you in $$$ (or in this case, €€€), they more than make up for in ridiculous and inconvenient standards. Exhibit A: You have to pay for checked luggage. Ok. This is normal these days. No big deal. What you are allotted is one carry on. Again, sounds normal... but here's the pain in the butt part: not only must it fit into a very stingy metal size checker and only weigh 10 kg, but everything must be in that one bag. No purses, small tote bags, laptops... any kind of personal item may be carried on separately; it all has to go in the bag... and stay under the weight limit! If it doesn't, that'll 40€, please. :(

So how do savvy travelers circumvent this ridiculousness? Well, we wear all our heaviest clothes, in multiple layers, and put/hide all our densest items in our winter coat pockets. We then strap down our backpack as tightly as it will go, and...
My bag slipped in easily enough, but the straps made it a PAIN to pull back out. Grr. 
Voilá! It fit! My coat probably weighed about 10 kilos on its own (that's 22lbs). I may have clipped my Kindle to the inside with a carabiner clip... but whatever. Better safe than 40€ poorer.

So, my bag was packed, I was ready to go, and then, I went! On to Milano!!!
In case you were wondering where you can get to from Zaragoza...
Or at least we will be soon. Sorry to be a tease... but I need to refresh my coffee and get off the keyboard for a bit. So this entry is...[cue dramatic music clip]

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