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Published: November 29th 2018
This morning is relaxed as we have nothing on our agenda other than to catch a bus at lunchtime. Ian still has man flu and I got little sleep last night due to constant coughing and spluttering. If I sound unsympathetic, it’s because I have been awake since 3am. :-(
I make a call home and establish that Dad is definitely out of hospital and back home. He assures me he is taking it easy. Unfortunately the reception at this hotel is rubbish so we have a quick catch up and hope that the next hotel will have decent WiFi. We will be on the bus at 12.40pm (if it arrives on time).
We go out for a slap up breakfast. I have fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes. It’s delicious. Ian chooses pancakes, thinking it’s a less heavy option, but three huge, thick pancakes are delivered! I think I chose the better meal for once!
After breakfast we walk to the bank. The next destination is jam packed with activities so we don’t want to even think about searching for an ATM. Not that they are hard to find but it’s better if we can use our own bank and we have plenty of time this morning.
The bank is located on a very busy shopping street. Ian remarks that the traffic is not allowed to park on it. Apparently someone did so yesterday whilst he was out searching for a chemist, water, lunch and whatever else it is that people do when they are dying. Ian reports that it was a posh looking car and the police removed it none too gently, dragging it roughly along the ground because the brakes were on and hoisting it on to the back of a truck.
We return to our room to finish our packing and chill until the off. I had contemplated a swim in the pool but maybe best not to have to carry wet stuff on the bus.
We order our Uber which is only two minutes away. We stand in the street and five minutes later it arrives. It is tiny and the boot has a bag of the drivers belongings in it. Ian moves the bag and stashes one of ours, the other has to go on the back seat. The driver does not even release the boot catch let alone offer to help. It’s a young man too! This is the first driver that has not offered to help, and equally its the first one we do not tip! Not only does he take the long route to the bus station but he also dumps us on the road at a place where we cannot get onto the pavement due to fixed metal barriers. Once more, we are left to struggle with our own luggage.
We navigate the barrier, enter the station and book our baggage in. They are not checking bag weight today but, given that we will be well within their 25kg limit, I ask them to weigh it anyway...we need to be mindful for our plane trip home. Not that we have bought much - we are not the souvenir collecting kind. My bag is just under 19kg and Ian’s just under 23kg, so we are still under our joint 46kg plane limit. That’s OK as some of our old clothes are also being dumped before we return and a few other items (like the far-too-heavy-to-use headphones) will be transferred to our hand luggage. :-)
We board our bus. There are two over-exuberant Aussies sitting across the corridor. They are shrieking hysterically at some photos on their camera. OMG, I must be getting old as I’m finding it extremely irritating. For once I can’t wait for the TV to be turned on to drown them out. Fortunately this bus journey is only two hours and actually they do settle down once the TV is turned on. :-)
We have arrived in Valladolid. There are no Uber’s here and there’s no sign of a taxi either. Our hotel is only two blocks in each of two directions, so we decide to walk. This isn’t always easy however...the pavements are not exactly rolling-luggage friendly!
We have arrived at our hotel. Ola, we say. Ola, reply the two ladies behind the desk, and then continue to converse loudly between themselves in Spanish and shuffle papers behind their desk. Five minutes pass (it feels like twenty) - do they realise that we are waiting to check in? Surely it’s obvious...we have two huge bags! Now another guest from inside the hotel approaches the desk. A head gesture indicates that they will deal with his request, which they do. I can feel my hackles rising but try to remain calm. Surely they are not deliberately ignoring me? I push my reservation printout (which is already on the desk) a little further forward as a hint but the lady brushes it aside, picking up other papers from her desk and continuing to talk to her colleague and turn her back on me...this is all very odd.
Ian and I look at each other nonplussed. Let’s just walk, says Ian, there must be another hotel nearby! At this point the lady picks up my paper and is checking it against her list. She thrusts a paper in front of me and states ‘write’. I write my name and address as requested. Sign, she yells! I sign. Passport! Ian produces the passport. To be honest, it’s beyond rude.
Our booking is, unusually, shown in US dollars. That’s not a problem as I have my credit card. She winces and huffs loudly (clearly she wants cash) and says, I suppose. She types a figure that is well in excess of 6000 Mexican pesos into her calculator and shows it to me. The correct price should be just over 3000! I am aghast and point to my booking receipt assuming it’s a mistake. No, she shouts...taxes! But booking.com have already added taxes...it’s very clearly set out on the receipt! And anyway, taxes are not double the price of a hotel room! I point to the breakdown on my paper, but she is having none of it - she literally slaps my hand away, thrusting the paper back at me.
We finally appear to have established that I am not falling for her taxes scam, so now we move on to the room price. I think she is telling me that the room rate is twice as much today because they change their rates every day and this is today’s rate. She does not have my original booking so I must pay the rate they have set for today. Here is my receipt, I am NOT paying this ridiculous price, I state...forgetting that she doesn’t speak English! Perhaps she understood my tone because now she is on the phone, shouting at someone else. She now wants my printout back. It doesn’t have a booking reference. Fortunately I have the booking on my phone app and that does have a reference - I put the phone in front of her. She reads the number off to the person on the phone. To be honest, it has all become very loud and ugly and there are other people at reception now to add to the embarrassment!
Now, I am being (physically) brushed aside. She wants to help the other guests who are waiting. At this point a young lady arrives - presumably the person who was on the other end of the phone. She speaks a little English, she tells me. We go through the whole conversation again, she points to the US dollar price and says that I must pay the taxes. She has a booking.com printout in her hand which exactly matches mine. Yes, I understand about the taxes I say, and I am happy to pay the price on this receipt plus taxes on this receipt, but I am not going to pay double!
Our lady speaks to the harridan behind the counter in Spanish...the harridan types 3224 into her calculator and shows it to the lady. You must pay 3224 pesos she says. Hoorah! Their exchange conversion was slightly less so they have given themselves a good commission but it’s not worth arguing about, at least its not the 100 percent previously demanded! I am told that I can either pay 3224 with my card, with cash or US dollars cash. Given the way this has gone we would prefer to pay with our card, then we have absolute proof that we have paid. I am so annoyed that I actually tell the young girl this!
The young girl disappears and I am handed back to the harridan. Amazingly, the harridan is all charm and smiles now. I type into my translator and then she says...oh, you don’t need that, you can speak English - I can understand you perfectly! I am totally taken aback. Is this some kind of a sick joke? After all that, the woman speaks perfect English! I am not often speechless. I could have easily put this whole thing down to a language problem but now I know for sure, it was simply one huge, elaborate scam!
The lady picks up the card machine and takes my card. I double check the amount and enter my pin. No receipt appears. She tells me the payment has not gone through as there is no charge in her machine, but never mind I can pay her later! That’s good as I am also going to be checking our credit card account online before I make any further payment attempts. This could just be yet another scam!
So here’s what we think happens. You turn up from a long bus journey, tired. They keep you waiting ages so you are desperate for your room. They add to the stress by pretending that they don’t speak your language and being very unfriendly. They try to confuse you by not quoting the price in their currency but actually wanting payment in their currency. They further try to confuse you by throwing in red herrings like tax and foreign exchange rate fluctuations. Finally they tell you their card machine isn’t working. So, in the end you give in and you pay them in cash - anything to get your room sorted. They put the correct room rate in the till and the rest in their pocket!
Now for our room. I have requested a room with a window on an upper floor. We are shown to a ground floor room without a window that stinks of moth balls. They usually use those to discourage cockroaches. OMG, here we go again! I am back at reception. Thankfully the lady is still smiling. I can have a room upstairs, but it faces the road so it will be noisy...but, amazingly, she can change our room tomorrow! We don’t care about the noise, we will take the upper room.
We arrive at our room. Ian is grumpy because of all the check in hassle. The room is tired and it’s hard to squeeze past the beds into the room space but at least we have daylight and it doesn’t smell. It’s definately not worth the room rate we are paying let alone double! At least the beds feel comfy. There is plenty of space in the room, but it’s very badly laid out. We decide to remove the bedside table and shove the two beds together so that we can access the toilet during the night without having to clamber over the bed!
By the time we sort ourselves out it is almost dark. We arrived here at 3.30pm, so that indicates just how long check in took! We have a huge bag of washing but fortunately they usually stay open till 7pm. There is a laundry just around the corner so we drop our bag off on our way to dinner.
Ian is tired and wants to use the first restaurant we find. I am dubious as it’s empty but the menu looks OK and it’s quite pretty with a covered courtyard. It was raining earlier so we elect not to sit on the open air roof terrace. The food is not bad although the fruit juice has been seriously watered down...I just hope they didn’t use tap water! The bill arrives and Ian comments that it’s rather high. On closer inspection, he sees that a tip has been sneakily added at fifteen percent! I suppose they think that we won’t notice and will add a further ten percent? They are to be disappointed, we pay the exact amount and vow that we won’t be returning. Crickey, have we arrived at scam town?
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