We were up until after two o’clock Saturday morning taking down paintings and preparing to repack the artwork, and during one of our midnight shuttles through the labyrinth of the monastery we encountered a couple of bats flying around the hallway. Bigger than the little brown bats found in the Wells, BC area.
After our last monastery breakfast and an exchange of gifts with Carlos and others on staff, we finished packing up. Cristina from the organizing committee helped us layer and roll canvases so we could slide them into the big tube container. Then Carmen and Pablo hauled it out to one of the vehicles returning to the University of Valladolid in Palencia.
Following many tearful farewells with delegates and committee members, we said good-bye to Montesclaros. Leticia kindly gave us a ride to Palencia where Julio had arranged accomodation for us. Hotel Monclús is a lovely, older hotel on the edge of the downtown pedestrian zone. Right next door is a nice bar+restaurant with friendly people and good food at reasonable prices.
In the evening, Julio and his wife Maria took us out to a couple of places within walking distance. Julio did the ordering and we had the pleasure of sampling some wonderful tapas, including snails in a chorizo sauce. Wow.
It was lovely to get to spend time with Julio and Maria free of the many responsibilities of the conference, and very nice of them to treat us.
We spent our last couple of days packing, strolling around Palencia, and figuring out the logistics of our return home. Originally we had been booked to fly from Bilbao to Madrid, then Heathrow and Vancouver. But since it was easier to get from the conference to Palencia than Bilbao with the artwork, we figured it would be simpler to just fly from Madrid.
On a hunch I emailed TD Travel Rewards, from whom we had bought the tickets. Eighteen hours later I received a terse message warning me that if we did this, the airlines would regard us as no-shows for every leg back to Canada, and that we MUST fly out of Bilbao. Sheesh. We thought the airline could resell our Bilbao-Madrid seats, and that this ought to be pretty easy for a computer-based ticketing system. Apparently not.
So we changed our plans accordingly. Julio drove us to the station with all our gear and saw us off on the afternoon train to Bilbao. It was hard to say good-bye to this new friend whose vision made it possible for us to go to Spain!
We enjoyed the beautiful trip back north to Basque Country. We didn’t know exactly where the RENFE train station came into Bilbao, but we knew we had to be ready to get off with all our luggage and the artwork. It was going pretty well until we tried to get out of the elevator in the station and got completely piled up on our suitcases and the big black tube of paintings. Very funny!
A taxi stand was not far away where we found a driver who had enough room to squeeze us in and take us to the airport. It’s a smaller airport than Madrid’s, and we were feeling pleased to be flying out of Bilbao after all. The customs people were as friendly as before and signed off all the artwork. Off we went to the Iberia counter to check in the big suitcase and big tube of paintings so we could take a bus back downtown to have supper and find a cheap place to crash before the flight early next morning.
Unfortunately, we found out that they won’t check any baggage until a couple of hours before a flight, because of terrorism risks. Paradoxically, it would be ok for us to sleep in the same airport with the same luggage on a bench on the mezzanine floor. Sigh. Time for another taxi, this time to a Holiday Inn 1 km from the airport. So much for sampling pinxtos downtown!