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Published: December 20th 2006
My Iberia arrival at Melilla
They didn't like me taking photos here.
It's been a hectic few days. I'm on another of my whirlwind mad crazy trips, knocking out passport stamps by the dozen. Well, not quite a dozen, but will end up with 4 new ones. The main reason for this trip is to attend the OpenBSD hackathon in Coimbra, Portugal for 5 days. I've been working on the ACPI implementation for OpenBSD on and off for a year now; my friend Marco wanted me to go to the conference to meet some of the other openbsd geeks. Since I'd never been to Portugal before that was an easy answer. Since I was redeeming an award ticket, it gave me some extra flexibility in adding one or two other destinations. I've been attempting to get on the Traveler's Century Club list, they define a list of ~317 'countries' or territories, and you can join once you have visited 100 of them. I have been to 80+ so I'm getting close. One of these territories was Spanish North Africa (Melilla and Ceuta) two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, similar to Gibraltar. Iberia offers flights to Melilla, and with the award I could get a ~4 hr stopover.
I left Austin Wednesday
afternoon. Traffic was already pretty bad heading out 71 towards the airport around 2:30 PM. Originally I was booked Austin-Dallas-Chicago as that was all that was available for awards at the time, but when I got to the airport I was able to get on the Austin-Chicago 5:00 nonstop. I ended up getting on an even earlier flight (3:50) as standby. When I got to Chicago I had a few hours to kill, we pulled in at the L gates which was quite a hike to the lounge at the far end of the K-concourse. There was also an earlier London flight leaving at 8:00, saving me 2 1/2 hrs of waiting, and I got put on standby for this as well, which I ended up making too! Good travel day indeed.
When we arrived in London I tried calling my aunt, but no answer, then called my grandmother to say hello. I had quite a long wait in London, we had arrived early at 9 AM and my flight to Malaga didn't leave until 3:30! I had a shower in the arrivals lounge then headed over to the BA terminal lounge. I have Qantas Emerald status which lets
me into all oneworld First Class lounges, and the new BA lounge is quite nice! You can order high tea with scones and clotted cream, yum!
The next flight to Malaga was uneventful and it was dark by the time we arrived. I had a 12 hr layover and I was originally planning to just spend the night in Malaga, but looking at the map I saw Gibraltar was just 80 miles away, so close! I rented a car and headed off down the Autovia driving like a speed demon. It took about an hour and a half to get to Gibraltar where I parked the car and walked across the border. It was drizzling and the Rock was looming eerily out of the mist. You have to walk/drive across the runway to get into Gibraltar. I spent a couple hours wandering around the streets, and climbed up to the castle which was closed (as was everything else). When I got back to the car there was a guy sitting next to it, I was worried something had happened, but he was just watching the car as in my haste I had forgotten to lock the doors and trunk!!!!
Stupid me, I was in crazy mode. I drove back to Malaga, finally arriving at the Sol Melia hotel I had booked last minute for 35 Euros. Quite a nice place.
An early start at 6 AM, little sleep before heading back to the Malaga airport and the quick flight to Melilla. Melilla is surrounded by Morocco, not a very big place, and the border with Morocco was very tempting. As I headed out of the airport, I grabbed a taxi to the border. I said I wanted to just cross over to get the stamp, but he said he could take me across the border and into the next town, then back into Melilla and to the airport. He said 70Euro which seemed pretty steep, but at least I thought I would get to look around awhile. As we crossed the border there was a huge line of people and cars waiting to get into Melilla from Morocco.. that didn't bode well for getting back in. We drove to Nador, where we didn't even end up stopping as the driver wanted to get back to the border. Morocco was an hour earlier and nothing yet was open. All
that hurrying for nothing; we arrived back at the border at 9 AM and sat there for an hour and a half. My flight back to Madrid was leaving at 12:50, so that didn't leave much time. We did a tour of the old city, quite nice as they have put a lot of money into restoration. The cabbie drove me over to the harbor, then into old town. He got out and showed me around town, up to a museum and down into the caves under the city. Thought that was very nice of him. We had to cut the cave tour short as we had to go back to the airport.
As we got back to the airport, the driver said it would now be 150Euro, not 70!! My Spanish isn't that bad, it wasn't a misunderstanding of the fare originally. I argued with him but he wouldn't back down a bit. claimed he was paid by the hour. No wonder he was so nice showing me around the old town. Feh. $200 for 4 hrs is pretty steep anywhere.
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