Going into a European vacation with my family and extended family, was daunting. Not to mention that little race I had while I was there. Knowing my anxiety-ridden self, I used some preventative techniques prior to stepping one foot on the plane. I decided (with a lot of help from my friends) that no matter what, this trip would be an adventure. That sound great, doesn’t it? An adventure! So glamorous, so fun, what could be better?
All along I knew it was going to be messy, that there would be ups and downs and, though it all, I needed to keep my head. As in running, when your legs are burning and lungs can’t get enough air, you call upon your mantras to get you though those tough times -so I needed one for my 12-day European trip with 5 year-old twins, my husband, father and stepmom. I decided upon “adventure,” and boy was it ever!
After the race (full recap on Monday!), we headed into Portugal for some much needed relaxing. Well, I needed to relax and the rest of the slackers just joined me. We needed to rent a
bus car for our crew but couldn’t rent one in Spain and drive it into Portugal, so we took a train to Porto, Portugal and rented one there so we could drive to Obidos, Portugal, our ultimate destination.
Now, if you’ve ever been to Europe you know the cars come in one size there – small. My Toyota Sequoia would never, ever manage to even fit down those roads! We also found out that the gas there is $1.49 per liter or $9.00 per gallon! Holy no way could I even afford to drive my SUV there! And, (yes there’s more) the tolls on the highways were about $12 each. We went though approximately four of them in a two hour trip. Needless to say, the highways were clear of most all traffic any time of the day or night.
Our rental was a behemoth of a vehicle by European standards. It was a Mercedes van that looked suspiciously like the old Aerostar mini-van my mom used to drive:
After we picked it up and strapped the kids in, we were eager to get to downtown Porto which was supposed to be beautiful and filled with shops, parks and restaurants by the water. Lovely.
We tried to park our van in a parking garage. Have you ever tried to put a sleeve of crackers back into a narrow box? That’s exactly what it was like, trying to get our van into the garage. By the time we realized it was a huge mistake, there was no way out. My husband Mike was our trusty driver and he narrowly missed side swiping the van on the first turn down into the garage. Next up – how the hell do we fit this thing into a parking space?
My husband was trying to pull the van ahead of the parking spot so he could back it in. This was an excellent idea, and probably the only way this monster was going to cram itself in between two white lines, but we ran into a little snag. He couldn’t get it into reverse. Right. He also kept inching forward every time he thought it may be in reverse so we got wedged into a corner:
My dad even tried to get the thing into reverse but to no avail. I think my dad was actually hanging his head in shame as he had to walk up to the parking garage office and tell the guys working there (who saw our near miss on the turn by the way) that we are stupid Americans and can’t get our European monster truck into reverse.
I’m not sure how they contained their laughter but, they graciously accompanied my dad to our location and one of the men jumped into the driver’s seat.
Now, I of course had gotten my ass out of the van at this point. My dad and Mike were peering into the window to see how this guy was going to magically force the gearshift into submission but my kids and stepmom were still in the back seat.
Did I mention this puppy was a three-people-in-the-front kinda ride?
The trick (for future reference) is you have to pull up on the gearshift and then down to throw it into reverse. All the appropriate “OOOOhhhhhsss” were said, and the guy took off with our van and people in it. At first we started casually walking behind the van, thinking he was going to swiftly and gracefully guide that puppy right in between two Prius’ but no, he picked up speed and so did we. At one point my dad and I were jogging behind the van and looking at each other like “where the hell is he going?”
And then he pulled into a Handicap spot. So appropriate on so many levels.
We then enjoyed all the glory that is Porto!
And then we tried to leave.
Mike, now a master of reverse, was able to get us all the way to the exit (Salida!), which by the way is always shown with a sign of someone running. I do love that they’re depicting someone running but, why toward the exit? Kinda scary.
Anyway, back to use being trapped in an underground garage in a glorified mini-van – we insert the ticket we were given and nothing happens. Actually something was being messaged across the screen but it was in Portuguese, which even my dad couldn’t help us with. And now there were two mini cars behind us, patiently waiting.
Once again, our token saint (my father) had to get out of the van, first explaining to the people how stupid we are so Mike could move the
tractor trailer van out of their way and then go back to the same parking lot guys to explain what tragedy has befallen us now. I think we were all praying for a shift change but, alas, it was the same guys.
Apparently in Portugal, you need to pay for parking before you leave.
After we paid, got our giant van back in line to exit, we all said a silent prayer that we would escape the garage in one piece.
We did, and after several wrong turns trying to get back to our hotel (thank the Lord and sweet baby Jesus for roundabouts!), we finally made it!
I think my son Miles put it best the next day, when we all piled back into the van to head to Obidos, when he said “Dad, are you going to not kill us today?” Yes baby, we’re all going to make it to the beach alive!
Ever have car rental issues?
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done on vacation?
Yup, that was an adventure! Your hubs will now always be referred to Master of the Reverse! 😉
Forever and always. 🙂
That sounded like a huge cluster, but just glad you all got it figured out and still enjoyed the beach. I could totally see us doing something similar and not being nearly as graceful or calm about it!
It was not graceful or calm but I’m glad the story read that way – ha ha – thanks Janine!
Driving in other countries is always an adventure. England and Scotland are full of those roundabouts but you are on the other side of the road. We would literally chant “stay left” every time we went’ through one so we didn’t kill anyone.
I can’t even imagine if we had to factor in driving on the other side of the road!
I love how your documenting all of this, you guys will have this to look back on all the awesome memories created, including details that cloud easily be forgotten!
I take notes (and pictures) of everything! I’m so glad I have this, and so many other things, documented here. Thanks Jess!!
Laughing out loud on the commuter bus!
That’s what I like to hear!
What a crazy story! The only rental-car related incident we had was, as two young, naive people, my husband and I got duped into renting a large SUV to drive into the mountains of Colorado. It was a lot more expensive than getting a car, then as we’re driving along, these teeny cars are just zipping past us up the mountain. We were so ticked!
That is horrible!! But I’m sure you will never do that again…and we will always figure out reverse 🙂
Oh man no wonder no one was on the streets!! I would totally walk every single place that is real highway robbery (pun intended). I know nothing about stick shifts but I learned something today!! Those pictures are so gorgeous and calming!
Isn’t that insane?? That’s just another reason they are much slimmer then most Americans 🙂 Maybe we should start doing the same…
Traveling, especially with children in a foreign country, is always an adventure! Love your positive attitude through it all. One time I returned my rental car in Philly after a weeklong business trip to discover that someone had sideswiped the front passenger side. I never even saw it! Thank goodness my company has great rental insurance. I filled out a few forms and never heard another peep!
OMG that is awful! I’m so glad we survived unscathed because, like every man, my husband refused the rental insurance.
Welp, it’s not MY most embarrassing while on vacation. It’s my oldest daughter’s… 10 years after our trip to Destin, Florida, she tells me that while we were there, she pooped her pants. Ummm… huh? Why am I just now finding this out?? How does a child poop her pants at a restaurant and not tell you until 10 years later?
Oh dear Lord! I wonder why she even decided to tell you?? You really should write a post about THAT!
LOL! I am reading this as I’m on hold with the travel agent. Luckily your story is making the now twenty minute wait less horrific. I have no good travel stories to mention. Love how your dad was a champ at explaining and getting help.
I’m so glad I could help! I hope you’re going somewhere amazing…and worth holding 20 minutes for!
Love your stories! This happened to me in England.. could not get it into reverse for the life of me!! I too had to find a friendly Englishman to help us out of our ridiculous situation! 🙂
That makes me feel a lot better. Thanks Eve!
Ah hahaha. This would SO happen to me! I remember gas in Australia being very expensive as well (similarly priced) so everyone drives small cars. It’s always a wonder how we cram all of our luggage into his parents’ tiny car! On the bright side, they appear to drive on the same side of the car at least. One time I was driving in Sydney, I totally scraped the curb pulling up a light because I was having trouble judging the left side while sitting on the right. Oops!
Portugal just looks so beautiful! I would love to go there one day!
I don’t think I could handle driving on the other side of the street!!
Wait until you see the pictures from the coast of Portugal – amazing! You guys should definitely plan a trip. The place we stayed is Praia D’EL Rey in Obidos. Gorgeous!
Haha…that is too funny. I noticed too when we were there that all the cars were tiny and that there was advertising all over them too! Luckily when we went on the trip with my daughter we were on a tour bus. And we didn’t have a car when we went to Spain with the kids.
That was a good call on your part! Leave the driving to someone else for sure!!
This is why I refuse to be the driver when we’re on vacation. I just don’t trust cars I’m unfamiliar with! Driving in Europe is definitely a different experience than the US…all the cars are teeny, for one thing!
So true! Mike was definitely the best choice for designated driver.
Bwahahahahaha…and then you got stuck going OUT with the payment, too! Oh, lawd!!!
There is a great tale my husband has growing up. Once when he and his family were in Germany, they had a large van (large for Europe, like you said) and went into a parking garage…AND GOT STUCK. The van was too high for the garage and a tow truck had to come and LET AIR OUT OF THE TIRES so they could get it out. So see, even decades ago, travel of this kind is a real ADVENTURE!!
“Dad are you going to try not to kill us today” is something I think my husband and his brothers uttered repeatedly throughout their childhood! 😀 –Lisa
OMG I can SOOOO see how that would happen!!! I’m sure this will be the story my kids will tell over and over again. Mike is going to just love that 🙂 ha aha haha
I once hit a deer with a rental car (another job story that didn’t make it into my post) – it flew over the car as I was driving. And I hadn’t rented it – my employer had. Fortunately their insurance covered it! Your story made me laugh because my daughter is learning to drive, and parking takes her a ridiculous amount of time.
At least she’s taking it slow!! And OMG with the deer!? That is insane. Even crazier is that you have so many other work stories that TOP that one. I think I smell a book in this Dana…
Oh man! This is a story.
I once had a rented PT Loser.. I mean Cruiser.. and we slammed it into a snow bank on our way to the airport. That was awesome. Next time I needed to rent a car, I was flying into JFK from San Francisco on Christmas Eve. I specified “NO PT CRUISERS.” It was snowing. And Christmas Eve. My parents live 1.5 hours from JFK Airport. I got there and they had RUN OUT of cars. Who does that? So they had to drive me in a.. you guessed it.. PT LOSER from Manhattan.
I always wonder why I still moved back east after that winter.
OMG that is beyond horrible!!! I hate driving in the snow and, somehow driving in the snow in a PT Loser, is much worse. I’m so glad you survived that ordeal 🙂
I’m going to adopt your use of the word adventure – maybe I can even use it on days like today when I had to spend 8 hours cleaning, moving furniture, setting up for a wedding and of course, ironing – it was an ‘adventure.”
So glad that y’all didn’t die on any of the trips! Your dad sounds like a super nice guy!
And, I can’t wait till Monday – I’ve been dying to hear all about the race!!!
It’s a good word. Use it as much as needed!
My dad is the best – really!!
I can’t wait to share the race story. I could easily break it up into like 10 different ones – but I won’t do that to y’all 🙂
I’ve never done anything embarrasing on vacation because…oh wait…I haven’t been on vacation in like a decade 🙁 I can’t believe how expensive gas is!!! That is insane!! Glad you had your dad there to translate, that couldve been interesting had he not been there 🙂
Thank God is right!!!
We need to get you on vacation woman! Oh wait – aren’t you like going to PARIS to run a race??? Jealous!!!
Don’t get me started on parking garage debacles. We once stood outside the Dublin airport for an HOUR and couldn’t figure out how to open the door. What a great story! And glad you had some down time.
OMG! Thank you for telling me that. I feel better now. Kind of 🙂
I’m sorry, I totally giggled 🙂
We do okay driving in foreign countries because
a) my husband and are are super-planners (so we Google every possible thing)
b) it’s normal for us to pay for parking before we exit, in Malaysia
c) my husband can drive anything, it’s almost a super power. He can also drive on either side of the road, as we discovered in France (left hand drive as opposed to our right hand drive in Asia), which is handy!
Clearly the only way we should travel from now on is with you and your family. Imagine all the fun ALL THOSE BOYS would have together!?
OMG, that was amazing that they got you out like that. I had to laugh a little though. You still had an awesome time so a little mishap here or there makes is all the more memorable!
You absolutely have to laugh – it’s so ridiculous! I’m sure this story will live on for generations 🙂