Flamingos and Slut Mountain....

Where, oh where do I start with Day 1 of the road trip? I swear you can't make up material this good.

You will never, ever know the sweet victory felt by Brian, Dana and me when we finally arrived to this happy little rental car. Brian and I had, ahem, made a few clothing purchases while in Spain (okay, maybe more-so me), and even after sending an entire box of stuff floating home over the Atlantic Ocean, we were still hard-pressed to cram everything into our suitcases. 

When it was finally time to leave Barcelona on the morning of Thursday, March 31, there was really no humanly way we were going to drag our 8 tons of luggage the half-mile to the Aerobus, get it loaded all onto the bus, unloaded at the terminal and then reloaded onto the rental car courtesy bus. Common sense would tell you to rent a car in the city, drive it to the apartment, load up our stuff, and hit the road. But I do NOT drive in the city with all those crazy motos zipping about with my still-novice standard skills, so we always had to hike out of town to the airport to rent cars. Which was never a problem when we had a reasonable amount of weekend luggage. 

Well, this was no weekend trip. This was like everything, I mean everything, we owned. Right down to the shopping bags full of random leftover groceries that we frugally-minded folks thought might come in handy on the trip.

So how did we all finally get into this fabulous black Peugoet rolling down the highway you ask? 

I stood with all the luggage in the foyer of the apartment building while Dana and Brian hiked out to Via Laietana to hail a cab large enough to fit us and all our stuff. When they finally found one, they had to explain in their very limited Spanish that they needed this guy to go down our one-way alley of a street to pick up Brian's lovely wife and our 17 (okay maybe 5) cement-filled bags. Sounds easy enough, but our street is as narrow and as one-way as they come. And delivery drivers are notorious for parking their trucks and leisurely unloading their wares, while car after car piles up. 

So I waited, and I waited, and I waited.

They finally arrived about 30 minutes later and we begin cramming ourselves and our stuff into this little hatchback car like we were Tetris pieces. There was no lack of laughter as once again we were asked by a cab driver if we had "dos muertes" (two dead people) in each bag. Our cab driver who had taken us from the airport to our Holiday Inn on that first day in January had asked the same thing!

So we get to the rental company, tip the cabbie generously, and begin our adventure down the coast of Spain. I had made most of the accommodations, but in my stress at planning the entire 6 weeks of travel, Brian had generously offered to take on a few legs of the trip, and this was one of those legs.

Oh, sweet, sweet Brian. 

As we are getting very close to our first stop in the little town of Alcanar that he had chosen, we begin to notice people on the side of the road every few meters. Oddly enough they are sitting in chairs at the end of dirt roads or driveways of some sort. And wait, they're all women. We feel like we're out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but mountain to our right and the coast to our left, so we're a little perplexed.

As we whiz down this country farm and market road, they are steadily perched one after another. Dana has begun to verbalize her many hypotheses for this oddity, finally deciding that they are all waiting for the bus or some other public transportation and everyone must drag chairs down to the end of their road while they wait. It could happen.

We continue down the road, and notice that the shorts are getting shorter and the tops skimpier before we see our first bathing beauty in full-on bikini. Brian utters it, but Dana and I just refuse to believe it.

Yep.

Prostitutes.

At this point our map is showing us as being about 5 minutes from our hotel, and I am freaking out. We lovingly start calling this place "Slut Mountain" instead of Alcanar, and with our faces pressed to the glass and the blur of hookers against the mountainside passing like fence posts, we press onward to the hotel.

Oh, the hotel.  Hotel Carlos III.

We had read in the reviews that there was a cement factory a kilometer down the beach, but people mainly focused on the fact that there wasn't any noise disturbance. We never quite considered the fact that the lovely cement factory would be a part of our lovely advertised seaside view.

As for the room, think Motel 6, minus any classiness. That's right. I just called the Motel 6 classy compared to this joint.

Mmm hmmm, that's an empty pool. But doesn't the sea look nice?

At this point, I'm beside myself. I'm saying there's no way I'm staying in this place, making up conspiracy theories about criminals breaking into our car and pimps stealing away Dana and me in the middle of the night. Brian and Dana are hilariously the calm ones of the group, and since we already had to pay in advance with no hope of a refund, they convince me that it will be fine.

Only one night. We can do this. 

So we go to the very friendly front desk staff (how's that for silver lining) and ask them about beaches in the area. If the room is a train wreck and Slut Mountain is infested with streetwalkers, we're at least going to make the most of a beautiful day and stare out at the sea somewhere pretty.

Brian had chosen this part of country because of a river delta just down the way so we hop back into the Peugoet with area map in hand and resolve to have a GREAT time.

Once you get out of hookerville, the area is quite nice. We drove for a few kilometers through a rural, marshy area and finally arrived at the natural preserve. As we are headed down toward the beach in our little SUV, we see a van pulled over on the side of the road. At this point our knee-jerk reaction is to wonder what kind of sexual favor the driver is probably receiving (I know, I know, but we were seriously scarred).

Just then Brian notices that the passengers of the van are staring out over a watery field with binoculars. He begins to crack a joke about me not hitting these "dorky bird-watchers" when he looks over and suddenly sees what they're looking at.

Out of nowhere, my adorable husband excitedly shouts with kid-like fervor....

"Oh my gawwww! Fla-MEEN-gohhhhhs...in the WILD!"

It's all I can do to pull over fast enough for Mr. Brian C. Floyd. In seconds he has rolled down the window and is reaching for the camera. It was the cutest, most hilarious thing ever.

So we joined our formerly-nerdy birdwatching friends and pulled over for a few minutes to enjoy the flamingos. Yes, in the wild as Brian so eloquently put.

Just as we were getting over the shock and awe of our long-legged feathery friends to our left, we notice to our right that the skyline is full of kites. Kite surfing!

We drive down onto the beach and park on the long expanse of deserted sand dunes. On one side is the swirling waves of the Mediterranean Sea. On the other is a shallow bay where probably 20 kite surfers are slicing through the water at the mercy of the gusty winds. It was quite the sight.

The wind was obviously pretty strong, but we decided to stay and hang out for a while. The beach was empty for as far as you could see, and it was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.

You wouldn't even know we were down the street from a brothel, right?

So we found a spot that suited our fancy, spread out our sarongs, and plopped down for some afternoon sunning on the beaches of Slut Mountain.

There was only one problem. No bathrooms. I have been blessed with a tiny bladder, and seeing as it was too cold to actually get in the water to relieve myself, I had quite the pickle on my hands. The kite surfers were far enough away on the bay side that I knew if I could just find a bush or a tree, I could squat without an audience.

No bushes or trees on a beach.

So in the gale-force winds, I found an appropriately-sized dune, dug a hole, and tried to pee with the wind. I always carry my own Kleenex for such occasions, but I did not anticipate chasing my used tissue down as it sailed down the beach as I pulled up my shorts with my hair slapping my face in the wind. Never a dull moment.

After we had taken enough sandblasting as we could handle on the beach, we ventured to the supermarket to get some rations for the evening. It had already been quite the day, and we were pooped. We had told Dana about the giant legs of jamon serrano hanging in the supermarkets, and she finally got to see them up close and personal...hairy hooves and all.

Thank you Eroski (supermarket) for 66 cent wine.

That night we popped a bottle of wine in the room and then headed down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I don't know what we were expecting based on our previous impressions of the facilities. But dinner was exactly as you can imagine. We ordered a starter salad...iceberg lettuce with a plop of goat cheese in the middle. The "pasta" for the main course...chef boyardee noodles and sauce...COLD.

I mean, it was just comical at this point. So we had our after-dinner drink in the bar with the two other hotel guests. Solo, male business travelers, by the way. We spent dinner debating if this place rented rooms by the hour and what kind of "business" these guys could actually have around this part of the country.

But we never lost our senses of humor. Oh, mine was pretty difficult to find earlier that day when we all arrived. But I knew that this one hotel night was all that was keeping me from a weekend in Alicante, so I bucked up and decided to have fun. Plus, Dana and Brian aren't bad company, if I do say so myself.

So we watched the sunset over our beloved cement factory, and decided to skip Alcanar on the next trip to Spain.

In the morning we were Alicante-bound!!