WineFuture 2009 La Rioja, Spain

I'm on the road again with limited internet access after a couple of days of sightseeing in Rioja, but in the meantime, check out my take on the future of the wine industry at PalatePress.com. I'll be posting some additional commentary on specific issues from the conference and some of my more amusing travel encounters once I'm back in Napa.


My trip to Spain begins

The view outside my hotel window in Logrono, Spain

Did I tell you I’m traveling to Spain for a conference? I received a scholarship to attend the WineFuture Conference in Logrono, Spain 11/12-11/13. It was a last minute thing- I only had 3 ½ week’s notice to plan the trip, but I’ve arrived safe and sound. Let me regale you with my observations on getting here.

Day 1

I was unsuccessful at my attempt to avoid the last minute airport rush, and in the craziness I left my cell phone plugged into the charger in the wall at home. Ok- I can deal with that one. I’ve still got the laptop. I’ll just communicate by email instead.

Once I got to the airport, things went smoothly. The shuttle got us there in plenty of time. We had some breakfast and relaxed. And by we, I mean me and the surly teenager. I took a huge chance and brought my almost 17 year old son along with me. He and I don’t have the best relationship right now but I thought about how I would have really wanted to do something like this when I was his age. He agreed with me, and now, here we are in a hotel room in Spain where he is asleep and I am wide awake at 2 am.

The US portion of the trip – SF to Chicago went smoothly. As usual, the Skymall catalog provided the most amusement. Telekinesis game. You put on this headset and “supposedly” relaxation triggers energy waves that allow you to move this little ball around a miniature obstacle course. Really?? Who buys this stuff?

There was only an hour layover between arriving and the next leg of the flight- Chicago to Madrid. The gate was right next to the one where we landed. How lucky was that? We painlessly segued to Iberia Air for the next jaunt.

Here’s where things get interesting. The Iberia plane was decent, although without a lot of the perks that are becoming standard on some of the newer planes, like your own personal viewing screen or wifi. No problem, I can deal.

The guy in the seat in front of me trying to steal my under seat leg room? No deal. I deliberately chose the two seats together in the side row so I wouldn’t get squished into the middle seat. Airline leg room is one of my pet peeves. Why is it a given that the short person should take the middle seat? Mr. Inconsiderate in the seat in front of me stuffed his carry-on bag underneath his seat instead of the seat in front of him. It took me a few minutes to figure out why my modest sized purse wouldn’t fit in the usual spot underneath the seat. I may not be tall, but my back starts to hurt if I can’t stretch out my legs and end up scrunched up. I’m not giving up my leg room for him, especially on an 8 hour flight. Put your stuff in the overhead bin like everyone else, Bud. (For once there was plenty of room in the bins.) I just kept pushing his stuff with my foot until he got the message. Later on in the flight when he dropped a CD from his briefcase and it landed near me in the aisle, I picked it up and handed it to him while I smiled sweetly to offset the non-negotiable leg room issue.

Someone’s baby cried off and on the whole flight and I had ample opportunity to reflect on the fact that I’m less tolerant of stuff like that than I used to be. I’m trying to remember back when I was that mom with the infant who wouldn’t stop crying or the 3 yr old throwing a tantrum on the plane. I’m trying to be sympathetic, but my baby turns 17 next week. (Holy shit. How did that happen?)

Let me tell you about the stewardesses. They were nice enough and chicly dressed I might add. None of them were rude, but they also didn’t do anything that you usually expect stewardesses to do. They did the seatbelt, oxygen mask, cushion as a flotation device routine. They served dinner and that was it. Period. They even missed picking up our meal trays. Sam was trying to sleep, I was reading and suddenly I looked up and everyone else’s tray was gone.  Had to bus it myself and chase after the stewardess to get rid of the stuff. They spent the remaining 6 hours huddled in the back of the plane while everyone served themselves water or juice from the galley. No one bitched at you for getting up when the seatbelt sign was lit, no one checked that the seat back was upright in preparation for landing. De nada. Apparently, breakfast was “self serve.” If you wanted it you were supposed to go back and get the cigarette carton shaped box of sweet rolls from the galley yourself. By the time I figured it out we were landing. There was also no beer or wine on the plane- highly unusual for a European trans-Atlantic flight. I haven’t figured out if this was because some of the Iberia staff was on strike that day or if that’s just the way Iberia rolls. The plane landed safely at the Madrid airport even though my seat wasn’t in the upright position (hmmmm.)

The Madrid airport was stunningly designed, think Gaudi meets Pompidou, and I admired it as we marched up and down escalators and along miles of glass walled corridors between the gates, customs and security and on the tram to the domestic terminal. It was a short commuter flight from there to San Sebastian where we picked up the rental car and more hilarity ensued. Well, mostly the sort of hilarity where you don’t know exactly where you are going, punctuated with “round about” intersections, vague directions from someone who only speaks a bit of English, and the GPS voice telling you “Turn around” “Take the next right” “Go through the round about and take the 3rd exit…” Eventually we found ourselves on the highway and made it to the hotel in Logrono.

To be continued.