When prepping for this trip, I read quite a few Spain-related travel blog posts. These posts appeared to have numerous aspects in common. First, most sites were authored by a young, beautiful woman who always wrote as though she traveled alone (often part of her journey to self-discovery through her break from the bondage of modern society, or, more succinctly stated, from an ex-boyfriend and the job that she didn’t want to do anyway)…and yet magically she always had plenty of pictures of herself, artfully staged with perfect lighting and composition. Second, her days are full of dreamy meandering down seemingly empty city streets deliciously full of exotic things to stop and ponder (and pose beside.) Third, she always “stumbles” across the most amazing restaurant, shop, hotel,…without ever trying. Fourth, and most importantly, she never ever, EVER, has any children with her.
I think that you’ll quickly see why this post will not be anything like those posts. The difference will be stark. Well, I should say, differences, as I will have three. Children, that is.
Ready? Ok. Hold on to your fanny pack folks.
(I say “your,” because, I don’t and never will own a fanny pack…that most quintessential piece of tourist gear. But still we were, without a doubt, tourists.)
THURSDAY & FRIDAY, October 5/6
So Thursday morning we rolled out of bed, eat a hardy breakfast of apples, yogurt and (you guessed it,) granola bars. Then we packed up our backpacks, said goodbye to our effusive hostess in Santa Maria and headed out with Seville as our destination.
(I have to say, the decision to pack everything we’d need into five backpacks and one bag with Meg’s tent, was an excellent one. It left our hands free, kept us from having to roll luggage across cobblestones (gag), and gave the kids an easy way to help out during the trip. I highly recommend this habit. Even Meg was able to haul her own gear…along with the bunny she decided to stuff into her bag 15 minutes before we left our home, claiming, quite earnestly, that he was her best friend in the whole world. Who could say no to that?)
My story of Seville begins with us stumbling through one of the most scenic parts of the city quite by accident. And by accident I mean, “not at all intentionally,” as opposed to, “I’m going to say that I accidentally found myself meandering through this beautiful neighborhood full of picture-perfect settings in which to have my unnamed associate snap a few hundred Instagram worthy photos, when really I’d trovered the heck out of this place and was following my GPS.” Not that I’m judging. I just want to be clear. We only stopped because we saw a parking spot near the center of the city and then our main goal was gustatory, rather than scenic, in nature.
Hunger: Public Enemy Number One
This is why we found ourselves wandering through the Barrio Santa Cruz, arguably one of the most picturesque and recognizable areas of Seville. It’s known for it’s tiny alleys, winding streets, quaint shops and long history. My family missed all this because we were lost. Lost and hungry. I did snap some pictures, but it quickly became apparent (as my family began to droop and drag) that I needed to focus on growling stomachs rather than than lovely surroundings. Thankfully, we ended up inside a cute little restaurant and I ordered my ravenous family a meal of tapas. I myself ordered a Sangria. It was both celebratory and fortifying. We’d made it this far and we could make it till evening : )
Lodging: Not All Bathrooms are Created Equal
The second bump in our idyllic jaunt to the glorious city of Seville is the insane price of lodging. When you are one (cough, two) young, tether-free adventuress skipping merrily from one place to the next, it’s not a difficult thing to find a place to lay your head (cough, heads) at night. Bump the number of guests up to five, and boy howdy, do the pickings become slim. Especially in Europe. When Meg was a baby we fudged our way into two different hotels. “Whoops! A baby? I mean, does she even count as a person yet?!” I’m sure that the hotel staff privately rolled their eyes at us, but let it slide. Now there was no slipping in our fifth family member. She’s too loud, for starters. Also, she’s too cute. Everyone in Spain noticed her and generally commented on how cute and adorable she was. “Quay bonita!” (Yes, well, you’ve never tried to make her sleep when she doesn’t want to or eat when she’s decided she’s done!) So it took me a while to find an apartment that had enough beds, was within walking distance to the city center and didn’t break the bank. Travel bloggers never seem to have this trouble. Blah.
But find one I did. It was lovely, and naturally, had a balcony where my children felt more than comfortable exchanging heated arguments about who was suppose to go to the bathroom first and why that thing in the bathroom wasn’t really a tiny sink used to wash one’s hands. Do other travel bloggers ever mention the bathrooms in their hotels? No they do not. Because they don’t have to worry about sending a toddler into a room with a bidet, now do they?
Scenery: To Be Glanced at Quickly
Thirdly, from the moment we arrived, it seemed like Seville had it out for my three children. Brenn ran into a merchant’s outdoor shelf, giving him a giant scratch across his face. Meg stumbled while navigating a cobblestone street and ran headlong into the doorway of a restaurant. All three nearly fell into multiple fountains because, well, children can’t resist the impulse to try and rescue all that money that people seem to throw in there. Meg’s grip on the giant chain surrounding the cathedral slipped and she tumbled down the steps. Jack tripped while running up the slopes of the Giralda. Meg lost sight of Paul for a moment while in the crowded Catherdal but her wails, which echoed through those sacred halls, quickly allowed us to locate her. Brenn found that dancing in the mist at a restaurant more appealing than eating. Brenn and Meg became obsessed with birds…nasty, dirty pigeons (and the occasional parrot.) Meg conked out more than once during a meal. And on and on. I felt as though I saw Seville in snatches and glances between the moments when Paul and I were managing our three.
But in a way, it made the adventure, well, adventurous. I saw things from their perspective. And sure, I might have missed some of the beauty that only a single, independently wealthy young woman might glean while slowly navigating the glories of Seville, but it was worth it to see the city with the people I love the most. She seems lonely at times. Loneliness is something I can only dream about : )
Stolen Moments: (And the Camera that Captured Them : )
Nonetheless, I was able to admire the beauty of Seville. We visited the Catherdral twice, once during morning mass when picture taking was frowned upon but the crowds were nonexsistant and again in the afternoon (get tickets earlier than the day of or else suffer the line that wraps around the building!) when the crowds were large but we were able to go up the tower (which is the Spanish version of our statue of liberty. Hot, crowded and everyone is pushing you to hurry hurry hurry around the top.) We saw the treasures of the church, the grace of Columbus and the impressive church organ. We visited the streets surrounding the Cathedral and we visited the massive castle, the Alcazar (get tickets earlier than day of or else suffer the line that…wait, I feel like I already wrote this! : ). All lovely. All camera worthy. I loved the Moorish patterns woven throughout the castle. I also loved the view from the top of the Giralda, the minaret-turned-bell-tower-when-Christianity-took-over that dominates the skyline of Seville. We went in fall when the flowers were minimal and I can only imagine that in spring this city is unstoppable in it’s colorful drama.
Our day finished with a final walk through the old town (where we marvelled at square trees and cool tunnels), a fabulous meal of tapas finished with gelato. A finale no blogger could rival.
And so, while the life of a travel blogger may be filled with gorgeous photos and relaxing observation, I feel that my experience was just as memorable. I sometimes wonder what my children will recall most…probably the pigeons, or the manless pants, or the dunkin donuts and not the amazing historical sites. But that’s ok. I still loved it.
Follow the Spain Trip Reports! Space-A Arrival Adventure, Seville, (To be written) Algarve Coast, Cadiz, Gibraltar and Tips for Travelers with Children (Who what to maintain their sanity)