Destinations editor Eric Moya is with a group of Abercrombie & Kent clients on a 10-day tour of Spain; it’s one of the brand’s Connections itineraries, which the company recently relaunched to offer “deeply immersive experiences in the most captivating locales.”
I would consider our group a well-traveled lot: primarily couples of retirement age, and many trying an escorted land tour for the first time, after customized solo/couples trips, river cruises, niche travel (one traveler took an archaeological tour of Italy, several are birders) and so on. As such, this is likely a group that has seen its share of travel setbacks.
We had one a couple of days ago, in the form of a five-hour wait at Barcelona Airport. After a day tour of Barcelona’s Olympic Park and Barceloneta neighborhood, capped with seafood paella at the waterfront El Cangrejo Loco, we arrived the airport about 3 p.m. for what was supposed to be a 5 p.m. flight to Granada — which became a 7:30 flight, then 8:30.
Our guide, Maria Teresa Farriols, has likely seen it all, having served as an A&K guide for about 25 years. So, with the understanding of the unpredictability of travel, it becomes a question not of whether setbacks will occur, but how they will be handled.
In Maria Teresa’s case, the answer is: immediately. Within about 10 minutes we went from having our flight canceled to being booked on the next available one (and, yes, re-rebooked when that flight was canceled, too). Faced with the prospect of having her clients wander aimlessly around the airport for hours (though it’s a nice one, with plenty of shops and dining options) she bought all 20 of us admission to the VIP lounge (50 euros, or about $56 each; here’s hoping she’s reimbursed). It was a fine way to pass the time.
We also cut the line during boarding, thanks to Maria Teresa’s negotiations with the gate agents. I’m personally not one to rush onboard, but the group seemed to appreciate it.
After the flight (which departed about 15 minutes behind schedule, but who’s counting?) and drive into town, we ended up checking in to our Granada hotel, the AC Palacio de Santa Paula, at about 11 p.m., where a light dinner awaited our weary group.
With a 9 a.m. departure the next morning (for our tour of the Alhambra palace complex), it was a pretty quick turnaround. But judging from the group’s level of engagement during our Alhambra tour, the previous day’s drama seemed mostly in the past. Views like this certainly didn’t hurt.
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