~A TRIP OF A LIFE TIME
Europe: the next frontier. These are the voyages of Albee and Allison Raney. Their mission: to explore strange new lands. To seek out new congregations, and new civilizations, to boldly go where they never went before.
The adventures began with a thirteen hour travel to Spain. We flew on KLM (Dutch airlines). They are partners with Delta. So I rolled up to the Delta counter check in line. Before my turn a Delta representative walked up to me and asked to see our tickets. Then he walked behind the counter with them. He shortly returned and told us he moved us closer to the front of the plane. Yes he moved us to the seats that have extra leg room and the backs recline further. These seats cost an extra $145 each! No he didn’t charge us (handicap hook up, you dig). As he escorted us to a special place to early board nosey on lookers looked on in envy. I thought to myself DON’T hate, your legs work! NOW walk yourself to the back of the bus!
Ok so you know how the airlines in America are all cry’n about money problems. They don’t give you blankets, pillows and nickel and dime us to death. Fuel prices go up BAM we are slapped with a sir charge. Your bag is .2 over the weight limit you are SLAPED a penalty charge. Not Dutch Airlines. Our bag was overweight a little over two pounds. They didn’t flinch. We boarded the plane and they handed us blankets and pillows. They offered us beer and wine. Of course we said no. Europe is expensive enough we weren’t goin to start spending money before we hit the ground. Besides I am armed with my air borne, no jet lag pills and a bottle of water. I am bound and determined to hit the ground running.
Then I heard magical words in the near distance…complementary. Now that’s just SILLY! It would be SACK religious not to partake. Not over partake. Just merely except the hospitality extended by the Dutch. I had a nice glass of red wine with dinner.
Oh but I was DONE! DONE I tell you! They had a handicap bathroom on the plane. They told me to give them a ten minute heads up when I had to go to the bathroom. What they do is move a retractable wall between two bathrooms and creates one BIG bathroom. The nine and ½ hour flight was like and evening on the couch. Comfortable seat, wine and a big bathroom. Oh if you are wondering how I get to said bathroom check this out. They keep on board teenie tiny wheelchair that fits between the aisle.
We arrived in Barcelona around four o’clock local time. However, the city the wedding was in was a little over an hour north. Now Albert has been to Europe several times. He’s been to England, France, Germany and more. With that said he has never driven in Europe. Well we rented a car. It would be easier with the wheelchair. When we got to the car rental place at the airport I was surprised with the cars. There were some make and models we have here. But a ton of foreign cars. Ok so you know how we have the cute little Fiat. Well in Spain Fiat sells a DOPE cross over vehicle. Oh and so does Mini Cooper. I don’t know why they be hold’n out on America. Why they be sending us these small baby cars?? Don’t they know we big people over here!
We had never heard of or seen our rental car before. It was a Sierra Leon hatch back. Doesn’t that just sound SIDIDY?! What kind of car do you drive? Why a Sierra Leon ah ha (sipping tea with a pinkie up) When we got to our car it was parked to close to the car next to it. So Albert had to back up the car before getting me in. Now the games begin. We have all seen the commercials, TV shows or movies where this happens. Ok so I’m in my wheelchair a safe distance behind the car. Now I watch Albert get in the car, start it, put it in reverse and look at me over his shoulder. Instead of the car moving backwards it moves forward ABRUPTLY! Followed by a jerk to a HARD stop. Albee’s head pops out of the car. He tells me he can’t get it in reverse. He tries again. Once again he looks over his shoulder and puts the car in reverse steps on the gas aaand the car goes forward. I SCREAM STOP! He jumps out of the car in desperation and says he doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong. At this point the car is almost completely out of its parking space and in the oncoming traffic driving area. He gets out. I tell him to go ask somebody and thus there is the ongoing war between man and woman…where woman says go ask for directions and man insists he can figure it out. After 2-3 more failed attempts, he went and asked somebody (#FINALLY). A Nice young man that worked there got in the car and showed him that he needed to push the gear shift down and over to go in to reverse…without the press down, it was not going to happen. Spain – 1, Albert – 0.
I wish I could say driving got easier. Ok what is it with Spain’s love affair with round abouts! Oh and they are not the round abouts we use to here. No, they are smaller in circumference with more street exit turn offs. Oh yeah, and the street signs were ity bity little things. You had zero advance notice the sign was at the point you had to turn off onto the street you wanted. If and when Albert missed the street we wanted you couldn’t just go around the roundabout again. If you didn’t pick a street you were dumped on the same street you were originally on in the opposite direction. Then you would have to travel to another roundabout that would turn you around so you could go back to the other one again. I really can’t tell you how many times that fiscal happened. Let’s just say Spain – 2, Albert – 0.
We drove up this dirt hilly road to reach the villa. As we drove through the second gate the 14th century villa came into view. It was breath taking. It was built with brick and stone, solid as a rock. The inside was cavernes. Vaulted ceilings and the floors were a mixture of cement and stone. Our bedroom was like a hidden room behind the formal dining room. It was down a little ramp. When you were lying on the bed looking up it was a little creepy. The ceiling was vaulted, rounded and made of brick. To me it felt like a tomb or a torture chamber. One thing for sure the houitie toutie that own the villa back in the day did NOT sleep here. That there was slave quarters at best. Don’t get me wrong it was remolded and decorated beautifully. Even with a fresh coat of paint you can’t silence what the ancient bricks are screaming.
Most mornings I would eat breakfast on the back stone patio with the Mediterranean off in the distance. The day of the wedding I was sitting on a back patio of a Villa in SPAIN! To my left down about five steps decorators were setting up for the wedding that afternoon. I could hear their chatter amongst the birds chirping. I can’t understand a LICK of it because it’s in Spanish. Oh and not in the same Spanish we hear around the way at home. Here in the homeland there are three dialects of Spanish. In the area we were in its Catalan. Catalan really is a stand-alone language. These Spaniard’s want to succeed from Spain. Why do they wanna split you ask? Well it’s pretty messed up. Apparently way back in da day a King or Dictator or Socialist ruler whatever way they govern had Hitler-itist. He tried to snuff out these people. He obviously failed like Hit but there is bad blood till this day between the groups. #upcoming war, #heads Anderson Cooper.
The chef the groom’s family hired made me eggs and bacon like every morning! Boring? NO! She didn’t even need to put her foot in it. The eggs were small and the yokes brilliant yellow. So flavorful without salt. Apparently they legally only work the chickens six months out of the year. That and they are grass feed. You don’t pay extra nor is it given the title “organic”. It’s just plain since.
Let’s talk about food for a moment. All in all it was AMAZING! The pork, the pork the PORK I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. The ham, pircutio, sausage, rib eye, bacon, and more. It’s more than the way they season. It’s not fatty or chewy. No matter how it’s prepared it just melts to a puddle of yummy goodness in your mouth. There are two reasons why. One is they have a type of pig that is only found in Spain called Ibérico Pig. The second reason is Spain is the last country to still grass feed their pigs. The groom always thought he was allergic to pork. He found out he really isn’t. He tried the bacon over there thinking he would be sick the next day but he wasn’t. The next day he pork BBQ and shoulder. He still didn’t get sick. From there it was on like Donkey Kong! Got back here and our pork made him sick. You know it’s how treat our pork out here. So hats off to Spain!
Speaking of the groom, the wedding was breath taking. It was on the south lawn at the villa. We had to take my tippers off to go down stairs to the lush lawn. Albee was so nervous being his first talk. It didn’t help it was in the high 80’s and he was in a suit. At least it wasn’t a wool suit like the grooms or the brides full wedding dress. Between the three of them I was worried someone would pass out. Not the case. It went over without a hitch. It was the most intimate, prettiest wedding I’ve ever been to.
After the wedding we went onto the veranda for aperitifs, tapas and champagne. Of course being clueless Americans we thought the aperitifs were the tapas. We chowed down on them only to find out we still had to eat an ENDLESS round of tapas before diner. Needless to say we postponed dinner and a group played croquet on the west lawn before dinner. I watched the game from the stone tiled alongside the grass. It was fun, everyone was still dressed up. It felt very booshie. I was rolling myself forward trying to watch the game. Oddly I was having a hard time gaining momentum and get slowly rolling backwards. So I reach back and gave it extra humf. I popped a wheelie doing that. Usually that’s no big deal my tippers catch me. I forgot we had taken them off for the wedding. So my wheelchair kept going flipping backwards slamming MY head on the cement tile!! Nothing like a trip to the ER while on vacation. But get this they triaged me as soon as I was in the door. Oh and guess how long I had to wait to see the doc…five minutes! No concussion! Made me think just how hard do you have to hit your head to get one.
Lastly I want to tell you about touring Barcelona. Albee found a company that did disable tours. The only day we could tour all the English speaking tour guides were booked. So the owner of the business decided he would give us the tour himself. Now it wasn’t cheap. We bought the three hour Gaudi tour. Who is Gaudi you ask. If you ask Albert he’d says he’s a WACK-a-DODDLE. He definitely was unique. At the same time a brilliant architect that designed everything from the stone tile streets, the Familia church to various buildings in Barcelona. He is for sure worth a Google hit.
Allen the owner is British. He and his Argentinian wife have lived in Barcelona for 10 years. He has MS and walks with a cane. He knew where all the accessible entrances, bathrooms and metro travel were. We bonded over our shared disease. Unlike me he’s very mobile but had excruciating pain from the MS. So like Gilligan a three hour tout ended up being longer, like four hours longer. He explained Spain is a male dominant Society. Women are unapologetically paid less than men doing the same job. Sadly last year 37 women were killed by their own husbands. That was only the beginning! He spilled other things about Spain’s dirty laundry. Once again I thought to myself Americans haven’t a clue how good they got it.
Allen not only gave a great tour he opened my eyes. He began his business in Spain but quickly other foreign lands needed accessible tours. His business operates in 50 different countries. He told us they even have a jungle tour in Thailand. The tour takes the disabled people to view the Apes there even the Silver Back Apes. They tolerate human viewing them at a distance. Only when disabled people come the Apes will come down and interact with them. They will gently touch only the disable. Sometimes will put their arms around the person trying cradling them like a child. The Silver back himself will come down and present himself. CRA CRA CRAZY STUFF!
When I graduated to the chair my life got smaller. In my wildest dreams I NEVER saw me on an EPIC trip that I just experienced. Thank you Albert, Mariah (bride), Dabi (groom), Encinitas’s (Dabi’s parents) for making this possible. Thank you Allen for opening this little black girl in wheelchair eyes. It’s not too late to dream.