Hurricane María and The Unexpectedly Solo Trip

Early in 2017 I started planning a trip to Spain with my sister, my absolute favorite destination. It was to be her 1st time visiting so we (well, mostly I) struggled to find an itinerary that would fit her 10 available days, give her a chance to savor a few of the many flavors of the country, and yet remain a relaxing experience.

Knowing her likes, Barcelona was a given, but what else to add? Sevilla, Madrid, Granada, Toledo, Avila… the possibilities were endless. After a lot of back and forth we settled on a Barcelona and Granada itinerary.

We had it all planned. Hard-to-get reservations were made, flights bought, hotels were booked… The Spreadsheet had come to life.



My husband, C, would go a week before me to Switzerland to see his family and deal with the practicalities of life as an expat. Sis would be traveling from Las Vegas to Barcelona, and I would travel from San Juan de Puerto Rico to meet her there. We would spend a leisurely week in BCN and then fly to Granada to spend a few more days together. Sis would return from Granada to Vegas and I would stay solo before it was time to relocate to Málaga for two weeks of R&R with the hubs.

It was a good plan. A great plan. It would have been perfect.

And then Hurricane María happened 10 days before my scheduled departure. Yeah….. that was so not fun.

maria we are here

That was how my sister wound up having an unexpected solo trip.

And us? Stuck at home dealing with scenes more appropriate to The Walking Dead. Let’s just say that I do not care to repeat the 3 months which followed and leave it at that.

As things slowly began to improve around us in the San Juan area, and the ‘New Normal’ (never to be confused with what was normal before the storm) began to set in, C and I could finally start making new travel plans.

He still had to go back home to Switzerland for at least 2-weeks to take care of a ton paperwork and lawyer stuff. All in Swiss German. Which I don’t speak or understand beyond the words required for pleasantries.

No thank you! He could go all by himself.  I was perfectly fine staying for a week at home with the cats and indulging on major doses of the girly stuff. And THEN  I would go on a 1-week trip  somewhere.

Afterwards we would reunite in Spain for some leisurely time in Málaga to recapture at least some of our Pre-María plans.

I made a few soft inquiries among my friends. They all either had other travel plans or were still in recuperation mode after the hurricane (meaning everyone was completely broke after endless unplanned expenses and/or still had no electricity at home six months afterwards). No one was game for a trip anywhere within my timeframe. It was going to have to be a solo trip.

Now, I have traveled by myself for work many times. And I had occasionally tagged on to these trips a few days here and there for personal recreation. I mean, if you have to go through CDG anyway, doesn’t staying a few days in Paris make sense? Of course it does. Paris is not only for lovers.

Still, planning an entirely solo vacation felt somehow different. A week is not very long but it is not quite short either. Would I eventually get bored? Lonely?

I never really planned to spend a full week in Madrid. I was going to use Barajas as a gateway airport to a more ‘exciting’ destination. I mean, having been to the city several times (both for work and leisure), how much more could there be so see?

But since C and I would meet in Málaga, staying anywhere in Spain sort of made sense. Amsterdam and Prague got scratched off the potential destination list.

I got online and did some quick searches for ‘Five days in Madrid’.  Wow! Yes, all the usual suspects were there, but as I started listing the new (to me) things I wanted to see or revisit (it had been at least 10-years since I visited last), my spreadsheet began to fill up rather quickly.

Alarmingly quick.

After only a couple of days of research it looked like I barely had enough time to squeeze in a daytrip or two. Interesting, I thought.

So that’s how I wound up having a ridiculously overpriced drink served on a plastic cup at a bar in the San Juan Airport, flying over a surprisingly green Spain, and walking over to the Puerta del Sol on a gloriously bright blue sky.


Next: Day 1 Saturday, April 14, 2018


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