No.2 Sis and I went to Spain quite a few years ago. We spent the first night in Madrid, then toured the Andalusia region in the south, then zipped over to Portugal for two days, then back to Madrid.


After we checked into our Madrid hotel, I looked into getting tickets for a flamenco dancing show. The clerk at the front desk didn’t speak English, so I knew I’d have to call the nightclub myself. Between my high school Spanish and my Rick Steves’ phrase book, I worked out exactly what I wanted to say. I dialed the number on the brochure, and when a man answered, I recited my prepared speech.

“Bueno”, he said, “que es su nombre”?

I started giving him my credit card number.

“No, no! Que es su nombre”?

I tried giving him my phone number, my hotel address and room number, my measurements…


I told him I didn’t understand, apologized, and hung up. Moments later, I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand. Numero is number. Nombre is NAME! How humiliating. Well, the flamenco show started way past our bedtime, anyway.

The next day we took the train south to Valencia and started touring in earnest. We had booked two nights in a quaint little guest house recommended by Rick Steves. It was as charming and as inexpensive as he said it would be. Unfortunately, it was a little more rustic than we were prepared for.

The beds were foam mats on concrete slabs, covered with thick, heavy, fur-like blankets. The blankets were necessary because it was winter, there was no heat, and the windows didn’t close. There was an Andalusian festival going on, and there was flamenco music and dancing outside our open window until 4:00 in the morning. At least we had some entertainment as we laid awake, shivering.

We checked out of there a day early because both Sis and I developed horrible backaches from the primitive beds. We wandered around a bit, pulling our rolling suitcases over the rough cobblestones. We were looking for a more modern hotel that the guidebook said was nearby. We couldn’t find it, but we found a taxi stand.

We showed the driver the hotel we wanted to go to and he pointed back the way we had come. “Bueno”, I said, and started getting into the cab. He shook his head and mimed to us that we were very close, but because of the narrow one-way streets, he’d have to drive us in a big loop to get us to the new hotel.

Whatever, I was not getting out of that cab. So the driver gave in, drove us in a big loop and dropped us about a block from the taxi stand.

I regret to say, I then became the cliche “Ugly American”. I was polite, and apologetic, but I insisted on seeing the room before we checked in. They showed us one room, and one of the two beds was acceptable. We asked to see another room, and again, one of the two beds was acceptable.

I asked them to switch the beds so we could be in a room with two comfortable beds. They were lovely, and accommodated us. Thank Goddess they spoke English, because it could have gotten even uglier with a language barrier.

Stay tuned…