I intentionally left my Spain leg of this trip fully unplanned. It’s my effort to become more comfortable with the unknown. “Going with the flow” doesn’t always come naturally to me, but I’m learning to embrace this state of flexibility more. All I knew was I would arrive in Seville on June 30th and depart from Madrid on July 19th — the rest was (and still is) all up in the air.
I secured a loft apartment in Seville days before I arrived via Airbnb (bonus points for the roof deck!) and booked my rental car just before I arrived into town, figuring I could pack Seville into three full days.
I almost chickened out on this road trip — I haven’t had a car in more than a decade (I drive maybe once a year...) and my Spanish is rusty at best despite years of schooling. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, no? Would I be able to read the road signs? (Yes!) Did I remember how to properly operate a moving vehicle? (Yes!) It’s a good thing I didn’t let self-doubt creep in and change my mind.
Needing a tiny bit of structure in my life, I have a few loose “rules” for this adventure —
Pony up for the car insurance. I’m all for frugality and managing your finances, but this coverage was worth the additional money just in case (knock on wood, so far both me and the car are unscathed).
With the exception of Granada, don't plan to spend more than one night in any city. There’s too many miles to explore between here and my final destination.
Book my lodging the day-of. So far, this hasn’t induced any major panic attacks, tears, and/or couch surfing with random strangers. Between Airbnb, Hotel Tonight, and Hotels.com, I’ve been able to find really great last-minute options at reasonable rates ($48-$75 per night). One place even had a luxury pool, and I honestly wanted to move into the sunny Airbnb I just stayed at in Ronda (or simply fly Jose Carlos to the states to decorate my home).
Pray to the parking fairy and keep my finger's crossed that I don’t get a flat tire (I definitely don’t remember that valuable lesson my dad taught me at age 16...). I've lucked out so far and have easily found free street parking almost everywhere. Plus, most of Spain doesn't believe in charging for parking during siesta time (lost revenue on their part, but I'm certainly not complaining). During July and August in some cities, you only pay for parking from 9 AM - 1:30 PM... I wish Chicago would adopt these more laid-back practices!
As with any great road trip, I grabbed a large iced coffee to go and hit the open road. My first destination was Jerez, a town 45-minutes south of Seville that’s known for sherry and equestrian dancing (both of which I experienced during my 24 hours in town). And, I only stopped on the side of the road twice to document fields upon fields of bright sunflowers along the way.
I did make one small detour to a pretty white hillside town I saw in the distance (little did I know these are a dime a dozen in this region!). I found a beautiful pink church at the top of the hill, and soon discovered due to intense wailing that there was a funeral procession starting around the corner. Family and friends were crowded around a black hearse adorned with vibrant flowers. Trying to soak up all the local sights, sounds, and tastes at each stop, this memory is what sticks with me. Realizing this tiny town only had 8 restaurants on TripAdvisor, I decided it was time to continue onward (most of my decisions are based around food...).
I forgot how freeing driving is for me. Granted, if I battled Chicago gridlock every day to and from work, I may have a different sentiment... I haven’t had a car since college, but driving was one way I relieved stress. To blow off steam, I would navigate my silver Passat around the streets of Richmond with the windows rolled down, singing off key at the top of my lungs. A simple, yet wildly effective technique.
In case you find yourself with time to explore southern Spain by car (I highly recommend it), I’ll be documenting my journey as I go. Even if the rest of this road trip goes south from here, I’m still glad I went through with this plan to unplan.