The Rain in Spain Did Not Stay on the Plain

Jeanette A. Fratto

© Copyright 2020 by Jeanette A. Fratto

Rain in Barcelona.

By the time our bus limped into the driveway of our hotel in Torremolinos, Spain it resembled a MASH unit rather than a tour bus of happy travelers. Almost half the occupants, including my husband, were in various stages of recovery from food poisoning, acquired the night before at our last hotel. Four people in our group were too sick to make the trip at all and remained behind under a doctor’s care. Illness struck as we were about to begin our last week of a three-week adventure to Portugal and Spain. The first two weeks in Portugal had been wonderful, but as surely as the terrain from Portugal to Spain changed before our eyes, so did our fortunes.

Our last night, in the lovely Algarve region, gave no clue as to what would come. We dined sumptuously at the hotel buffet while trading stories of favorite places in Lisbon or Cascais. We eagerly anticipated traveling to Spain the next day, leaving early by bus. We headed to our rooms after dinner for last minute packing and early bed. By 11 pm our lights were out and I was curled up for a deep sleep, when I heard my husband stumbling to the bathroom. This was not unusual, but the sounds coming from the bathroom were. Never prone to nausea, my husband was now well into its throes. The bathroom visits continued hourly. By 6 am he was weak but finally seemed to be over the worst. Gamely he prepared to be in shape to leave by 8 am. He even thought he could tolerate a light breakfast. He couldn’t.

As we puzzled over what had gripped him, a knock on our door revealed he was not alone. The elderly couple next door had also spent the night developing a close relationship with their bathroom and were still too ill to leave. They were waiting for the doctor and wanted us to inform the tour guide.

At breakfast, it was clear the tour group had dwindled. Those who came to eat without their disabled spouses told similar stories of all-night bathroom trips. This was not the ending we envisioned after our two weeks in Portugal.

As the bus pulled out at 8 am, minus four too sick to travel, it was a sorry affair. When we stopped for a chicken and rice lunch en route to Torremolinos, a special table had been set up with tea and toast for those not feeling well. The rest of us able to eat the full lunch did so, but we felt sheepish about it.

By 4 pm we arrived at our hotel. I unpacked while my husband dived under the covers, not wanting to be disturbed until morning. I joined the few who were well for dinner in the dining room. We hoped the next day would bring a positive change. Instead it brought rain.

We awoke early. My husband felt like his old self. We headed to the balcony of our 8th floor room to view the Mediterranean but saw only mist and fog. But it was early. Things would get better. After all this was the Costa del Sol, and we were scheduled for a walking tour at 10 am.

We approached the dining room for breakfast, but instead of the smell of bacon and eggs, the smell and sight of water greeted us. A broken pipe in the kitchen resulted in a flood. It seemed as if every hotel employee had a mop and a bucket for the clean-up effort. We were redirected to the upstairs cocktail lounge, where a makeshift continental breakfast had been set up. We joined our fellow travelers to muse over what would happen next. It didn’t take long to find out.

By the time we gathered in the lobby for our walking tour, a light rain was falling. Our cheerful tour guide, Salvador, umbrella in hand, was rounding up the group while apologizing for the weather.

Very unusual for this time of year,” he kept repeating.

Undaunted by gathering storm clouds, Salvador headed for the outdoors with about 20 game travelers following behind. We circled around the hotel and into a charming street of shops and small hotels. The rain was now a steady downfall. Those who had umbrellas carried on. Those of us who didn’t took shelter in a little shop, which just happened to have umbrellas on prominent display. We purchased one and kept going. By now we’d lost sight of Salvador and his merry group but were certain we’d find our way back. Our umbrella gave little protection. The wind was whipping as hard as the rain was falling, so everything from the knees down was soaked. Soggy and cold, we made it to our hotel room, changed into warm clothes, and contemplated our 2 pm bus tour to nearby Mijas.

The rain continued to fall heavily as we left Torremolinos. Salvador pointed out lovely landmarks we had to take on faith. The steamed bus windows and intense rain made visibility close to zero. When we reached Mijas, a torrent of muddy water cascaded near the main access road. Our driver maneuvered until he could pass through the ever-narrowing roadway and enter Mijas. Purported to be a charming town, a 45-minute stop for shopping and sightseeing was scheduled. Everyone refused to leave the bus.
Salvador, not willing to give in so easily, promised that if anyone wanted to get off, we would have our stop. Group pressure prevailed. If anyone was brave enough to want to leave, they kept their silence. We quietly headed back to Torremolinos.

At our hotel we were greeted by darkness. A power failure had turned the hotel into a tomb. Disgruntled tourists were huddled in the lobby, including our recently returned couples from Portugal. Having recovered sufficiently, they took separate cabs to reach Torremolinos, at a cost of $400 each, cash only. Still smarting from that, they weren’t happy about being stranded in a dark lobby with their luggage, unable to reach their rooms by elevator.

My husband and I climbed the eight floors to our room and wondered what dinner would be like. Cold food by candlelight? We were close. The hotel dining room, clean but damp from the morning flood, provided a buffet of cold food that we were hesitant to try. Could food poisoning strike twice on one trip? Sure, why not! Although light had been restored, it kept going out, leaving diners to grope for their plates until the next surge of power brought it back.

The next few days brought more rain than sun. Scheduled village tours were bravely attempted but not successful. Salvador, ever the optimist, proceeded with each day’s plans as though we were all imagining terrible weather. This, coupled with the hotel's inability to retain electrical power for more than a few hours at a time, made for an adventuresome, if disappointing, week.

 On our final day in Torremolinos, my husband and I awoke to beautiful sunshine, blue skies, and full-blown head colds. The view from our room was breathtaking. Over red-tiled rooftops we admired the vast expanse of ocean. We were determined to stroll the promenade along the Mediterranean, even though bed for the next 24 hours seemed much more appealing
We walked, snapped pictures, sucked cough drops, and lamented the timing of our visit. We were in a truly lovely area, clearly evident on this brilliant day. Reluctantly we returned to our hotel to pack for the trip home.
As we headed to the Malaga airport at 6 am the next morning, it appeared that another beautiful day was dawning. We were sorry our trip hadn’t started a week later. Salvador implored us all to return to the Costa del Sol. He knew we hadn’t experienced it at its best. We watched through sleepy eyes as the city faded in the distance, pretty sure we’d give it another chance.

My husband and I, southern California residents, took a three-week trip to Spain and Portugal. Although it started well, it went downhill from there.  It definitely did not stay on the plain.
I have enjoyed writing all my life, short stories, essays, and articles. After retiring from a career in law enforcement, I wrote, and self-published, three novels set in southern California, which followed the adventures of a female probation officer.

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