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I heard 34 voices murmuring behind me. "Oh, oh, here we go again," said the Star Salesman. "Imagine," said a Widow, "he didn't know they had siestas in Spain, especially on Sunday."
She gave me an idea—and I needed one. "Listen, everybody," I said. "Let's all grab taxis and get down to the bullfights. We may never be in Madrid on a Sunday again."
Mr. Efficiency checked with the concierge. "The bullfights have been sold out for four weeks," he said. An American standing importantly in the lobby added: "You'll have to pay $12 a ticket, black market, if there are any left. At the end of the show it will be a madhouse and you won't be able to get a cab."
"There are always tickets to be had outside a sold-out stadium," I said with a firmness I did not feel. "Let's go."
The taxi was only 100 pesetas (about $1.50) and four rode for the price of one. Scalpers offered tickets for 100 pesetas, or as high as 150 pesetas for preferred seats. It didn't disappoint our travelers to learn that these were merely the novillada (novice) fights. They were colorful and exciting and they saw us through the crisis about the rooms. Our accommodations were ready when we returned to the hotel.
Crisis by crisis we continued our European tour. The next one already was in the making when we landed at Nice. The airport was clean and large. We were dealt with courteously and with speed in going through customs. We met our courier, an elderly gentleman with charming, rather tired manners, who was called the Commander because he had been an officer in the colonial service. He seemed the unlikeliest possible bearer of bad news—but he was. He told me our accommodations had been changed and we would not be staying at the hotel listed on our itinerary. The one on the list wasn't good enough for us, he said, and he had chosen one which "cost a few bob more." He was a clever one, I guess: the next day when I called for mail at our original hotel (it faced the Mediterranean whereas ours was several blocks inland), I asked about rates and found the new hotel was actually "a few bob" cheaper.
I was beginning to get pretty good at turning debits into credits, however. That night I said to the Star Salesman: "This is a real break, to live inland. When we walk to the beach we see something of Nice. If we lived in one of those waterfront hotels we wouldn't see much of the town at all." Next day I heard him telling one of the other tourists: "We're certainly lucky to discover how fascinating Nice really is. And the five-block walk to the beach is good exercise."
One day we took Napoleon's Corniche, the high road to Monaco, then gambled and won in the tourist portion of Monte Carlo casino known to the natives as the Kitchen. Starting back for Nice the Commander said, "You seem a capable enough chap."
"Yes, I don't think you require my services any longer," he continued. "I'll send the bus around at 7:30 in the morning for your airport trip. Oh, by the way, did I tell you I lived right here in Monte Carlo?" And before I could even cry out in alarm, he was gone, with a cheerio.