An unexpected layover in Lleida

There are a handful of truths I've come across while traveling. 

  1. Panic is unnecessary
  2. Cheap beer is great beer when it's the only option.
  3. Never expect road magic, but don't be surprised by it.

To the first point:

To travel from Madrid to the Pyrenees, one typically rents a car and drives 6+ hours across the arid countryside. It's not unlike California's Central Valley. A more relaxed approach involves the the 200+ mph Renfe AVE train to Lleida. This cuts your drive time to about two hours.

Rene is a wonderful plan unless you arrive in Lleida Saturday afternoon, when all the agencies are closed until Monday. In a panic, you might catch a cab to the nearest airport where Google assures you that Europcar is open until 11pm. But then you'd find that office is also closed. As your taxi drives away, you must remember that panic is completely unecessary.

To the second point:

Sometimes it's a bottle of Taiwan Beer at an open air bar in the pouring rain near a busy street. Sometimes it's a single tap at a lonely airport bar deep in the outskirts of Lleida.

The Lleida-Alguaire Airport feels novel, like the view of Wilson Hall at Fermilab or St Anthony's Church in Kailua. Unlike either, it is situated on a desolate, dusty plain, twenty minutes from downtown Lleda.

With no cars in the parking lot and no flights departing or arriving, it's hard to fathom why this little bar would open. Of course, as befits a phantom airport in the desert, the EuropeCar office is open precisely never. With this realization, the bar begins to make sense.

Courage! It's not hard to solve these sorts of problems. The trick is to let each possibilty play out in your head, and savor the problem. Mangum ice cream bars and beer are both worldwide options for such crises. 

Now, here's an application of the third point:

A corollary of this would read:

"bring little gifts for people who help you along the way."

A warm and energic security guard - perhaps the entire security detail at this airport - helped us triangulate a call to Carlos, an independent car rental agent who delievered an AWD Jeep right to the airport. This was after our host-turned-fixer Alejandro at Terra Bonansa sent the relevant details our way.

We made sure to leave her with bar of Seattle's own Theo chocolate.


If there's anything I would add to those universal truths, it would be

4. Try to wake up early.

The solstice is rapidly approaching, make use of your daylight! Besides simply arriving on time, there are some nifty fringe benefits.