We were neither prepared nor disappointed. It was just supposed to be a quick trip tacked on to pick up our friend Ahnya from the airport. So we added a hotel stay after a late return from our trip to Bordeaux. Between gas and tolls and time made up for sleep, it all made sense.
The night in the hotel was like a night in a marble palace compared to anything we could afford in France. The price tag? What the mop in our French hotel room’s utility closest probably gets charged.
We walked through three rooms before arriving at our beds. The expansiveness added to the palace effect. Sparse furnishings were just fine. Firm, straightforward mattresses. A little crib for Jamesy. Echoing halls, corners to be filled, and…goodnight.
The next morning after finding Ahnya wandering the airport with a cart piled high from two weeks of continent hopping, we headed for the old town. With a 7 pm target to pick up Penny from the sitters, we meant to hire a horse carriage and use it for a quick jaunt around the important parts of the city.
Horse carriages we were told. THE cathedral (as if there’s only ever one).
With Ahyna safely collected, we chose a parking garage at least a half mile further away than intended, just because. Wait, because why? Because even with GPS, even with a baby tilting the scale into the 99th percentile, even when I’m trying my hardest not to, I will still make Cody walk an extra sweaty 15 minutes. Maybe it’s a learned trait. Maybe it’s a penchant. Blame it on my dad’s habit of parking by trees.
So, with the parking garage at our backs and confusion over which cathedral was to be our compass, we set out. To the carriages, we said.
The sun blistered and the streets narrowed, but between impatient cars and our fellow leathering pedestrians, we managed to wander into a curtained haven where old stone walls delighted in their solidness and modern store signs beckoned.
So, this is where they were keeping the life, we murmured.
The shaded streets housed all the faces, languages, and ages that the sun scared away and the siesta hour beckoned behind closed doors. The curtained walkways organized an upbeat stream of people despite the lengthening afternoon.
There’s a cathedral. Looks too small to be THE cathedral. And where would the carriages go? We gave up on the tour option. This part of Sevilla would be good enough.
After an hour of participating in the bustle, we chose an upscale restaurant on the outskirts. We negotiated the appropriate tapas and bebidas from a fancy menu and sat under a moist, artificial breeze where I enjoyed the nondescript comfort of nursing a baby in public again.
Then, we looked over our shoulders.
Face palm. All three of us at once.
There were the horse carriages all along. If we hadn’t turned right to enter the shady enclave of the commercial center, we would have seen the sprawling, open aired square directly to our left where the carriages and horses were lined up and ready to go.
And now, like in all good travel stories, we were running dangerously low on time. And, like in all good travel stories, instead of adjusting from our original goals, we took the opportunity to negotiate in a language we had no business pretending to speak.
–Can you take us to our garage? Or at least drop us off nearby? We asked the driver who hailed us first.
–Yes, but you will pay, this man in the woven hat warned.
–No, no, just do your regular ride and we’ll come back and get off here.
As soon as we were up and inside the carriage, the driver broached the subject again,
-Ok, how about 70?
20 euros extra would have been the price of a cab we reasoned..
–ok why not.
So he took us on a winding stroll, across busy cement and past the old buildings the other tour guides were hawking. He kept up a steady stream of commentary, recounting tales in 95% Spanish, 5% English. Between the three of us and the traffic, we probably understood 7%, which really was more than enough.
We enjoyed the shade when it happened, and felt guilty for making this poor horse plod across hot asphalt in the sun when the trees parted.
–And this used to be the movie set for so and so, the driver repeated when we asked again. Somehow we were in the ornate courtyard of a palace, or so I assume. The man tilted his hat up to wipe his brow.
-Time for a picture, the driver insisted.
–Oh, you’re too kind! we replied, smiling. It’s America’s 200 plus year anniversary, we congratulated each other warmly. Let’s enjoy our picture.
Back on the move, we passed down a familiar urban street. The pretty old walls faded away and were replaced by rotating movie advertisements and construction tape.
–And here is a home for the anciennes, he waved to his left.
Ahhh, we nodded, admiring the building for the old folks as he pulled the carriage up to an angle against the red light. He must be running out of things to talk about, we said, while also quipping, It’s the tour no one else ever gets. Turning traffic blinked at our driver in irritation, waiting for an opening, but he was unmoved on the shady asphalt until his light turned green.
Finally, back in that hot urban sun, there was the parking garage. We disembarked, handed the gracious driver our 70 euro and made it back to the gasoline clouded underground parkway, still remarking on having been in the presence of Lawrence of Arabia, the palace of Theed, and that covetous white woven hat.
|Mode||To and from||Overnights||Accommodation|
|Air/Car||Airplane from Bordeaux, car to Puerto||Sevilla||Hotel San Pablo|
|Transportation||Useful phrases on this trip
|Horse carriage||Table for three, please||Una mesa para tres, por favor|
|Can you drop us off at this parking garage?||¿Puedes llevar a nos a este parking?|