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Lyn and John Morrey explore the Mediterranean!

John and Lyn pose for a photo at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Rota, Spain. Photo Lyn Morrey.

John and Lyn pose for a photo at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Rota, Spain. Photo Lyn Morrey.

This narrative may be most helpful for Mediterranean adventurers having additional travel time, once their cruise ship docks.

Our final cruise port was outside Rome. More specifically, Civitavecchia, Italy, a seaport town one hour northwest of the city.

For us then, the most economical transport into Rome was by train. But we’d recommend walking out to the rail station ONLY if handling limited luggage; i.e., we each wrangled one piece of carry-on-sized, wheeled luggage and a small shoulder-slung day pack. Travelers with small children or limited physical mobility or juggling cumbersome luggage might best access central Rome via shared taxi, private van or car rental—all are viable options from this port.

Currently the cruise ships docking at Civitavecchia (Royal Caribbean for us) do provide a (gratuitous) bus transfer from the ship’s departure ramp, outward to the terminal entrance/exit gates. From this busy gateway, one can readily drag limited wheeled luggage down, and along a concrete sidewalk, straight into the Civitavecchia train station … about a 15 minute, or 10 to 15 city block walk. Train tickets are bought from an agent for the run into Rome at 5 Euros per adult.

Once in Rome, we found the metro and train stations are dually housed under one roof. So at the major terminus, one may also purchase metro tickets. But for our immediate needs, we proceeded with our luggage, out and up to the street level, then onward to our hotel near Vatican City or west Rome. We observed that dragging luggage in European cities would not necessarily mark us as tourist targets, because suitcases are a common sight, especially useful for locals transporting items to and from market.

For this twosome, excluding lodging, we’d budgeted a paltry 100 US dollars per day—too fiscally conservative a budget for Rome. Even in a “low-travel” season, there were just too many of us tourists vying for the same pricey exhibit tickets. But also, and for our tourist comfort, within the overcrowded city streets, there was too little space to move about. So, and despite the as yet unseen cathedrals and beckoning museum programs, we elected to move on to Spain.

From central Rome out to Leonardo DaVinci International Airport, we’d pre-booked a private taxi through our hotel at 50 Euros. A one-way, interregional, Easy Jet flight for one was 50 USD to fly from Rome to Madrid, Spain. We’d pre-booked an airport shuttle from the airport into Madrid at 11 Euros each.

Once in Madrid though, and despite near-perfect travel weather the three weeks prior, we encountered all umbrella days with overcast skies and cool temps. But between rain showers, we managed a walking reconnaissance from our hotel, up to the train station to purchase regional train tickets from Madrid into Seville.

From this same ticket agent, we learned that, throughout Spain, a “senior travel discount” (over 65, age verified by passport) applies. Issued on the spot, is a special senior travel discount card for a 25 percent discount of weekend tickets and 40 percent weekdays.

We found Madrid to Seville train to be fast, clean, with the non-smoking cars efficiently monitored by uniformed attendants and a dining car attached.

Travel time: 2.5 hours. Cost, with the senior card weekend discount: 87 Euros each.

The Seville train station interior was clean, with an escalator up to the street level. After inquiry, we knew to look for the Seville city bus C1 or C2, but we had difficulty locating the actual bus stop. Even without a proficiency in Spanish to read station signage, if one goes straight out the main doors and across the large parking area to a covered bus stop, here C1 and C2 stops to load passengers.

Seville city buses display their route number on the right front, exterior and bus tickets can be purchased from the driver.

Small-denomination Euros are a courtesy to all; the single ticket price: 1.30 Euros. Passengers frequently board city buses with their luggage; riders may signal to be let off at a non-stop via a buzzer to the driver; one enters at the front, pays the driver, and selects available seating—some reserved for seniors and disabled—and exits at the rear.

Seville buses are well maintained; the ridership is friendly/helpful and the price is right! Buses C1 and C2 run in a circuitous fashion, clockwise and counter clockwise, approximately every 15 to 30 minutes. Bus routes run along the outskirts of Seville, then cross the river to Triana before making the return to central.

We especially enjoyed the Triana district across the river, owing to its gypsy, Flamenco and ethnic histories. Evident to casual strollers and observers is a family-oriented, comfortable, old-neighborhood pride. And we’d definitely stay again at Hotel Monte Triana at 91 Euro per night, including VAT. (tax).

This really concluded our post-cruise travel arrangements. The remainder of our Mediterranean adventures involved getting back Stateside.

For many years, we’d promised ourselves a Space-A military flight. We’d selected U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain, as this positive option for finally trying our luck with travel back to CONUS.

On our last day in Seville, we dragged luggage from the Triana Hotel out to a C-2 stop for the ride across the river to Seville’s regional bus station. The day prior, we’d made a test-run (sans luggage) and purchased our bus tickets.

The downtown Seville regional bus station is located 100 yards across a major roadway and tram tracks from the downtown C-2 bus stop. Easy.

Traveling from Seville to Rota, one may purchase a time-certain ticket for a “ComBus”. Cost for a one-way, April 2012 bus prices: 10.32 Euros. Trip time: two hours. Bus interior we found to be clean, non-smoking and comfortable. Only one stop is made, at the city of Jerez, in an otherwise direct bus route.

Once past Jerez, we began to concentrate out the left bus windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the Rota main gate. The bus then made two right turns before stopping at Rota’s sleepy city bus station.

Dismounting in the hot afternoon sun, we were initially focused on getting our passports stamped. In minimalist Spanish, we inquired where the police station was in order that we could acquire base passes.

Locals, out enjoying their late afternoon coffee at a curbside café, kindly advised that, although the police station was closed until the following day, we should still be able to access the Navy base.

ake a load off! This is the lobby of the Navy Lodge at Rota, Spain. Photo by Lyn Morrey.

Take a load off! This is the lobby of the Navy Lodge at Rota, Spain. Photo by Lyn Morrey.

Dragging our luggage from the terminal, we both started out onto a main street, crossing a primary roadway in the direction of Rota’s main gate, maybe a four to five short-block stroll!

The requirement for having a passport stamped at the Rota Police station will vary—apparently based on a visitor’s length of stay on base.

Daily base passes were issued to us by a non-uniformed official at a security hut situated just inside the main gate. For our brief, two-day Rota stay, the security officer advised that it was unnecessary to stamp our US passports.

Instead we were each issued a 24-hour paper pass to flash to gate guards (plus our military ID) when accessing the base.

Bottom line: seemingly this Spanish military gate official determines when passport stamping is necessary.

Once onboard, we learned that the base is Spanish, shared by an agreement with our US forces. Consequently, there were no Stars and Stripes to greet us—or noticeably flying. Gate guards are Spanish military. Base signage is in English and Spanish.

From either the Navy Lodge or adjacent Gateway Inn, the AMC/PAX (Air Terminal) is a 10 to 12 normal city block walk. Some blocks are longer than others. Owing to the relatively flat terrain, we walked everywhere on base without difficulty. And as mentioned in prior Military Living® articles on Rota, military retirees are allowed only use of MiniMart, Subway (restaurant), bowling alley (last resort), and a pizza franchise.

But via a kindly fellow passenger, we were introduced to a small sandwich and coffee shop housed in the base library and it is where the AMC air crews gather for coffee. We particularly enjoyed the fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Stateside and prior to departing CONUS for our Mediterranean cruise, we’d attempted to reserve a room online at the Rota Navy Lodge (or Gateway Inn). Ultimately and after leaving the cruise ship, we’d been successful at reserving a room for several nights. The Rota Navy Lodge is a clean, quiet, 1950’s-motor-court-style built around a central green space.

Only later, with guilt and dismay, did we would learn that fellow PAX travelers had necessarily slept inside the AMC terminal because of there being no base lodging available. Thankfully, chair-sleeping at Rota’s AMC is allowed, whereas at other base PAX terminals may close overnight or disallow sleeping on chairs or floors.

John settles into the life of the Space-A traveler. (Photo by Lyn Morrey)

John settles into the life of the Space-A traveler. Photo by Lyn Morrey.

We found that the Rota air terminal to be manned 24/7; the staff gracious, patient and helpful. One terminal downside would prove to be a lack of an up-to-the-minute, digital display of flight departures. Therefore, for accuracy in determining precedent order of any roll call departure, we perspectives almost continually had to readdress flight statuses with the AMC/PAX staff.

Seemingly, an overhead departure board is a needed upgrade at Rota and which we’d found so helpful in 2010 at the Ramstein terminal. (Of note is that our Space-A experiences are limited to just these two PAX terminals).

Valuable Info: Perspective air travelers from Rota MUST sign up directly with Rota PAX and cannot simply use the or any other sign-up group. Contact must be made directly to a staff at Rota or an email to Rota AMC and not just a website communication. And, as has been advised in prior issues of the R&R Travel News®, do pack along copies of any and all communications with Rota PAX.

If an AMC flight consists of several legs, (e.g., Rota to Norfolk, then Norfolk to Charleston) currently a Space-A traveler can be booted off at Norfolk, effectively resetting one’s Julian date clock. Whereas, as recently as 2010, our Morrey Space-A experience at Ramstein was, once boarded, all the manifested travelers got to their final destination—barring the ubiquitous, unforeseen mechanical problems.

We LOVED our Space-A adventures and are seriously game to try other travel opportunities. Critical to a positive Space-A outcome and travel experience is one’s timing, luck, attitude and flexibility. Of course we all learn shortcuts and hints from fellow travelers.

Just as critical it seems, is our staying abreast of the Space-A system changes via the R&R Travel News®.

So here’s to us and FLAPS UP, y’all! Questions? Just email us.

CAPT Lyn Morrey, U.S. Navy (Ret.) and John Morrey Mountain Rest, SC

Reprint from May–Jun 2013 • Volume 43, No. 3


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