Seville, and Why We Travel

After four weeks, we’re headed north. On the train from Seville to Madrid, I have 2 1/2 hours to write this post before we arrive for a 48-hour whirlwind stop.

It’s been four weeks of blissful sunshine. Four weeks of getting to know our favorite baristas and waiters and to establish a rhythm that resembles everyday life.

Simultaneously, I feel as though we’ve done everything, and nothing. As I write this, I am utterly content.

This trip was a throw back to the first two years of retirement when we lived nomadically. As I told someone at the time, “I don’t love travel so much. I just like to move a lot.” The feeling of being settled. Of having a routine. And then, of moving on.

It’s time to move on.

During our time in Seville, we took one two-night trip to Cordoba and flaked on a similar trip to Granada. Instead, we walked for miles every day—up and down our neighborhood streets, in and out of every church, stopping for coffee—or a glass of wine—on a whim.

In the churches, we gained a sense of the role that Catholicism still plays here. We saw gold alters and carved Madonnas. Smelled incense. Heard an old nun snore while a young woman prayed and wept. Tasted the sweets made and sold in convents.

Pat spent an evening photographing a religious procession like those that will take place the week before Easter. At her mother’s nudging, a young woman explained to him that they were from the large, colorful church on a nearby square and that this was a “celebration of pride and friendship.”

Our time in Seville has me thinking about travel. What does it mean? What do I want it to mean?

In that context, last week I threw out a question to our kids and their spouses: what are your favorite travel memories?

The floodgates opened. It was both touching and exhilarating.

There were stories involving grandmothers—their ability to spoil and entertain but mostly their ability to laugh (and laugh and laugh), especially during the most stressful times.

A surprising number of memories involved the worst of days: Pat and I driving with our family split between two rental cars. Me careening through the English countryside in a Mercedes automatic. Pat trying (unsuccessfully) to keep up in a manual Ford Mondeo. Had I given Pat our itinerary? We spent hours backtracking as my group tried to find his group pre-cellphone. Eventually reunited, I drove from London to Paris over the following days to a steady patter from the back seat, “I still see dad!”

My daughter-in-law and my younger son (her brother-in-law) remember a night spent violently ill with food poisoning in Rome. The next day, when the rest of us went out, they lollygagged at the apartment. My same son and his wife recall hitting a curb and blowing out a tire entering Yellowstone National Park moments after getting engaged. My daughter remembers crashing a rented motorbike 100 yards into her journey across Vietnam, which resulted in the motorbike being confiscated as she replanned her transportation.

There were tales of serendipity and high jinks and foolishness. Memories from family trips to Michigan. Many more from our near-annual pilgrimages to Courtmacsherry, Ireland as our kids grew.

Some memories were of people no longer alive. My older son said, “I remember a bonfire on the beach at Elberta. Uncle George was there.”

Notably, every memory was devoid of any monument or palace or masterpiece—or anything else from a TripAdvisor-top-ten list.

Rather, these unscripted moments almost always occurred during the pause.

Someday down the road when I reminisce about Seville, I’ll remember the handsome-coach driver who was picking oranges and lobbing them onto an adjacent horse’s head. Pat took his photo and a few days later as Pat was crossing the square the driver yelled out laughing, “Amigo, amigo, amigo! Hola amigo!”

I’ll remember this morning, after four weeks of breakfast at the same place, how the barista waived with both hands and said, “have safe travels!”

And I’ll remember rooftop coffees and long conversations with good friends.

The alcazar was lovely. The cathedral was stunning. But neither place will be the stuff of my memories.

And that is what I need to remember.

Shout out to Mary who takes our best photos!

Categories: Ruminations, Western Europe

Tags: , , , ,

12 replies

  1. “…I feel as though we’ve done everything, and nothing. As I write this, I am utterly content.” I’ve felt that myself. It also speaks to our retirement when people would ask, “what do you do all day?”
    Lovely post – Thank you!

  2. I’m just trying to keep up with Pat, Julie!

    Terrific post, as always

    Mary 🙂

  3. Oh I miss you two! I can hardly wait to get to Paris to see you both again…❤️🇫🇷❤️ Katherine

  4. Amazing travels, great pictures! ❤️

  5. Your posts make me smile. Thank you! I love reading about your adventures. AND, the photo of the 2 of you is just grand.

  6. You look beautiful! Truly. Seeing you is heartwarming. I smile from ear to ear bc I have such fond and fun memories of you and yours!

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