A home exchange and a flatulent turtle in Madrid
After 5 weeks in Spain Blonde and Brunette were fairly bedraggled. We’d had a wonderful time but had also had many frustrations, not every single one of which was our fault. Maybe.
We had arranged to exchange Blonde’s condo in Boston for both a condo in Spain on the lovely Costa Brava and a home, from the same family, in Madrid. We knew the home in Madrid was in the suburbs but we also knew it looked great and had a private swimming pool so nothing else seemed to matter.
We traveled to Madrid from Seville on the train and en route were emailing our home exchangee, Gwen, the most unflappable woman in the history of the world. Amazingly, after endless questions and requests from us while on the Costa Brava and her having taken Blonde’s geriatric kitty to an emergency room in the middle of the night, she still responded (politely) to our emails.
We asked Gwen how to reach the Madrid home via public transportation from the train station. We learned that that was not going to happen, so gratefully “let” Gwen arrange for a car service to take us to the home from the train station. The driver was to get the house keys at the gate house and a cousin, Ceci, who had been staying there would have left the alarm off and dinner on the table.
However, the driver didn’t know about the key arrangement, we didn’t speak enough Spanish and he didn’t speak enough English to resolve this so of course we called …… Gwen! She talked him through everything and soonish, and 60 euros later for the ride, we were unlocking the gate. Immediately the private security firm was there in response to the loud alarm we’d set off. Time to call Gwen again! The security people confered with her as we giggled and ran around trying to turn off the alarm. It’s probably safe to say that the security service didn’t think we were professional house burglars. We were what they thought we were.
Fine, that was all taken care of and, although Ceci may have forgotten to leave the alarm off, she did leave us a very tasty meal.
On our journey from Sevillle that day we had stopped for about 6 hours in Cordoba and it had been about 100 degrees F. It would be fair to say we were less than fresh and bouncy. But Ceci called and convinced us that we should use the hot tub out back. We don’t know anything about hot tubs but were assured that we could handle it.
Ceci also mentioned that she had inadvertently left her turtle on the front porch of the house and needed us to provide it with some water. She would come retrieve it the following afternoon.
Sure enough there was a water-lacking turtle. We came to his rescue as he sat in his plastic bin, exuding disgust for his predicament.
Then Ceci had to call a second time to say that we had somehow managed to open the gate to the house’s parking area and set off another alarm. She may have been losing confidence in us at this point. We sure were. This time the security firm ignored us completely.
We will spare you a lot of how it happened but we did manage to get into the hot tub. Blonde immediately nearly drowned as she didn’t know hot tubs have a sloppy place (she does now). The hot tub was fun – it was as if we were on a gay/incest bachelorette show and who hasn’t wanted to be on one of those? (Too bad Miley Cyrus couldn’t have “twerked” for us to really complete the experience.)
Back in the house, we chose our bedrooms, managed not to set off any more alarms and vowed to spend the next day just relaxing and enjoying the pool.
The next morning Blonde woke up and went downstairs to hear Brunette thumping about exclaiming “Shit!” every two seconds. She had not been able to get any of the myriad of coffee makers to work. Poor us! Brunette usually is the non-swearing half of our duo so this was extreme behavior on her part. She announced that the only thing that would save the day would be using the beautiful pool.
Then she looked out the window. A man (hot – just like pool boys are supposed to be) and a woman were pouring bags of clearly lethal chemicals into the pool! Brunette’s devastation knew no bounds when they told us we couldn’t swim in the pool that day for at least three hours.
We didn’t know how to get to town for less than our airfare to Spain, we had early morning plans for each of the next two days leaving from mid-city Madrid and we were coffee-less and pool-deprived. Brunette announced we had to leave or we would never manage to see Madrid. (Or have coffee again.)
Blonde knows that when her sister is running around saying “Shit” and glaring at hot pool boys the time has come to listen to her and formulate a plan. Blonde remembered that Ceci was coming to fetch the hungry, mildly dehydrated testy turtle that afternoon and a plan was born! Get on lastminute.com and book anywhere decent at an affordable rate and move into the city. Then call Ceci and see if she would take us back to the city with her when she retrieved the turtle.
Ceci was agreeable but did mention that she had a small car. We seriously misrepresented the amount of luggage we had and proclaimed that it wouldn’t be a problem. We were packed and waiting when Ceci arrived – in her Mini Cooper. Hmmm.
Ceci justifiably was highly skeptical that our luggage could fit in her car, much less with us and the turtle. But she had met with determination and we declared that Blonde would happily sit in the (somewhat non-existent) backseat with the luggage and Brunette would sit in front with the turtle in his tray. Ceci was deeply concerned but accommodating.
At the first ramp onto the highway a significant portion of the luggage semi-decapitated Blonde who cheerily declared it to be “no problem” as her head injury put the NFL to shame.
Meanwhile, Brunette had worse travails. Toby the turtle was hell bent on escape. (Toby was not his actual name but his name sounded to us like “Uvula” and we’ve already said enough about Miley Cyrus. Whoops, must be dyslexic, we were thinking of another body part with the same letters arranged differently. You figure it out. ) Ceci said he couldn’t get out of his tray but he proved her wrong every 10 seconds as we hurtled toward the city. Brunette admirably wrestled him into submission on every escape attempt.
Unfortunately, “Toby” apparently had an appropriate level of anxiety about the entire event and he began to emit horrifying, extraordinarily impressive and long-lasting turtle farts. Brunette has asthma and the turtle farts set off a major attack. She coughed and restrained Toby who only grew more alarmed and fragrant.
Ceci somehow arrived easily (to us) about three blocks from our hotel. She tried to take us to the door but the myriad of one way streets was against us and she had to get back to work. By now she decided Toby had to go to work with her as he couldn’t be kept in the car and we didn’t think we could check in to a hotel with a farting turtle and explain that we were just “holding it for a friend”.
After too many dead ends trying to reach our hotel we jumped out at a corner, placed Toby on the roof and pulled our luggage out and dumped it on the sidewalk. We thanked Ceci profusely and she jumped back in her car, momentarily forgetting that Toby was on the roof. At this point Toby’s self esteem was probably not at its best.
We were covered in sweat, Brunette sounded like a bad actress pretending to die of “consumption” and Blonde was laughing and swearing as we dragged our stuff down the street to the hotel. It’s a real tribute to the ability of the man at the desk that he was able to compose himself and greet us (almost) as if we were “normal” customers.
We extend our sincere apologies to Ceci and “Toby”.