Posted by: Dee Andrews | June 23, 2008

Day One in Spain, from Scott

This is the first time I’ve written a blog, or a journal entry for that matter. I don’t think of myself as a writer (they are so educated, elite, and “high-brow” with their extensive vocabularies and unfettered imaginations!). I’m not that talented, I lack linguistic creativity, and my grammar sucks. But here goes, because Dee hasn’t got the nerve to share the real start to our adventure yet…

Day 1:

It’s 3:00am on Wednesday morning (I think), and we are all wide-awake in our hotel room near London Heathrow airport. I keep trying to sleep until our wakeup call at 4:45am, but it’s hopeless. The girls start giggling. I decide I’m up too and crawl in bed with Emma and Grace to get some Dad cuddle time. Shortly thereafter with our 6 suitcases (2 of them approaching 70 lbs apiece), 4 backpacks, 3 laptops and other assorted travel “necessities,” we catch the shuttle bus to Heathrow to check-in for our 7:00am flight to Barcelona. Hungry…our stomachs are all growling, but nothing is open at Terminal 1 yet. Dee, being Super-Mom and having planned for just this exact contingency, has a couple energy bars in her “purse.” It seems more like a fancy, large duffle bag to me. But, then what do I know about women’s fashion and travel accessories. The kids and I ravenously consume them.

The plane leaves on time, or thereabouts. 10:30am, we land in Barcelona. We are actually in Spain after talking about it, and planning, and preparing, and packing and coordinating, and packing some more. We’re here!

On to pick up the brand new leased car from Renault. No problems. Contract, registration, keys and car in hand. And, to make things even better, all the luggage actually fit in the thing. I’d been stressing out about this issue more than anything else. Actually had a zit forming because of it! But here we are, and the luggage fit. Whew, what a major relief.

2 liters of fuel in the car. So, first priority is to find some diesel ASAP. Drive to the nearest petrol station. Can’t read or understand a darn thing on the pumps. Each fuel type is “branded” and we don’t know which is which. To make matters more difficult, we’d been warned that most stations were out of diesel due to the truck drivers being on strike. Dee steps up and goes inside to ask for help. She returns. The clerk spoke some English and she’s got it…”it’s the green 98” she says. “Are you sure?” I ask not being convinced. “I think so,” she replies. I’m still not convinced, so I ask, “Are you really sure?” “I think so,” she says again. In goes the green 98.

So far so good. We manage to get out of town without making a wrong turn or getting lost. On our way. All the luggage and family in the car for a 4-hour drive to Javea, which is just south of Valencia. We’ve got plans to be in Javea for 3 days before we continue our journey further south and west to Frigiliana where we’ve rented our first summer villa.

Chug, chug, chug. Uh oh. Something’s going on with the car. I down shift thinking I haven’t driven a stick in so long that maybe it’s me that’s the problem. Warning light comes on, in French nonetheless. Something about the fuel injection system, I think. Then it happens. The car completely dies, and we stall out in a very long tunnel. There’s no shoulder and busy traffic is doing 120 kph. I get the car over to the side and fear sets in. “I’m really scared,” I say to Dee. Frantically, we call the Renault 24/7 roadside service, but get a phone agent who only speaks French from some main office, presumably in France. We don’t know exactly where we are, and I can’t speak French. The car is totally incapacitated and I’m really afraid we are going to get rear-ended by someone who doesn’t see us. Game over.

Then it happens. Magically a tow truck shows up! The Spanish travel god, or goddess, or whatever or whoever is watching. Or maybe some friendly motorist that passed by called for help. We weren’t in the tunnel more than 5 minutes, and someone is here to save us. Something in Spanish, “What’s wrong with the car?”

I help the tow guy rig our vehicle, and then we all climb into the cab of the tow truck. Now what? Where to? How do we talk with the guy? Out of the tunnel. But, there’s another problem. The amiable tow guy is worried about the number of passengers in his cab. After much broken Spanish and more hand gesturing, Emma and I get in the seized-up Renault and lay down in the back seat (so the policia won’t see us). Emma falls asleep. My heart’s still racing and the adrenaline is pumping, so I lay there trying to figure out our plan of attack. About 30 minutes later we arrive at a mechanic back in Barcelona to fix the vehicle. 2 hours to fix it…my Spanish is getting better by the minute.

Off we go to get cash, because the mechanic doesn’t accept credit cards. And, also to get something to eat. We find an ATM and a couple local cafes, but the girls are not comfortable eating at any of them (too near the “slums” they say). So we end up running for cover to the 5-star hotel across the street (Hotel Hesperia Tower) where the entire staff speaks English. Wine, beer and orange Fantas to calm our frazzled nerves.

The final tally for our first fill up was over $2,000:
• 67 Euros for gasoline
• 673 Euros for the tow
• 213 Euros to fix the car (drained the gas lines)
• 134 Euros for a fancy lunch of octopus and fish wrapped in ham
• 70 Euros for diesel (Black 95 of course you gringos!)

Back on the road again and we finally arrive at our hotel in Javea about 10:00pm. Feeling better about our prospects and a newfound level of confidence, we go out to eat dinner with the rest of the local Spaniards at a restaurant on the beach. Have a fabulous meal and lots of red wine. In bed sometime around 1:00am.

It seems like that first day lasted a whole year. London is some faint experience or memory from the past. Dee and I did an incredible amount of research before this journey. Most other families, that have undertaken a similar adventure, have faced many challenges and obstacles. So, Dee and I were both mentally prepared. At least we thought we were. Looking back on our first day now, just a week and a half later, it feels like we passed the test. It was a difficult exam at that. The next one surely will be easier!

Gotta go, the girls are skinny-dipping in the pool.


  1. Scott~
    Seems to me your writing skills are just fine! I could certainly sense what a scary predicament you were all experiencing as you sat in the tunnel wondering….now what?!? Someday you will laugh about the experience, but it is probably too soon for that right now. I am just glad you are all safe and sound! BIG HUGS !!
    Love, Mom

  2. Scottie-
    Wow! Todd and I think you should start writing a book on your yearlong experience and that it would definately be a best seller. Your post was thoroughly entertaining – I’m still on the edge of my seat! So glad everyone is safe. Love hearing about your daily adventures and seeing the beautiful pics.
    Lot’s of love from Boulder!

  3. Hi Javea is a really nice place to hang out with kids. The Arenal beach ( so long, flat and soft and the slope into the sea is very gentle. Another thing I would recommend in Javea is going to the Art Gallery there – they are very friendly and would show you and the kids about Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  4. OMG! You guys are awesome. I cannot wait to tell our “experiences” next year. I have already learned so much from your adventure….like the 98 black gas!!!!
    Enjoy it all, for terrific memories are being made!

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