A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Seville

A Bus Trip Goes Awry


Alhambra Palace, Granada Spain

I recently spent two weeks in Spain with my husband and our travel friends, the Lambs. For the first week we rented a car and rambled through Madrid and Mallorca.  While seeing the sights of this ancient area was an amazing experience, it’s the story of a trip to Seville that begs to be told.

On week two we traveled to the island of Malaga. Here we planned to park the car and leave the driving to someone else. In other words – we’d signed up for several bus tours. Most of these were scheduled through our hotel, but the trip to Seville – home of the famous barber – we’d booked on our own.

According to the guidebooks Seville was all about whitewashed villas smothered with bougainvillea, pristine beaches, and exquisite vistas along the river. Excited to see this legendary place, we met our bus at 6:00 A.M. We’d been told the driver would be stopping a few times to pick up people from other hotels, but we were O.K. with that. We hopped on and settled down for the 2 ½ hour drive.

As the bus stopped for the tenth time to pick up yet another group, we began to wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into. Especially when, at one of the stops the driver got off the bus and relieved himself in the bushes. (While I don’t claim to be an expert on bus driver etiquette this struck me as highly odd).

After two hours of playing pickup we finally entered the freeway and began to make some progress. But alas, twenty minutes later it was time for a coffee break and we pulled into a mega bus stop designed to tempt tourists into spending lots of money. Sigh. When we finally reached Seville, it was four hours since we’d started.

Seville was everything the guidebooks promised. We strolled through old town, visited the astounding Spanish Square, were humbled by the enormous cathedral LaGiralda, and enjoyed a relaxing cruise along the river.  But alas, too soon it was time to get back on the bus as we clearly had a long drive ahead of us.

The stars were coming out as we arrived in Malaga and began the morning’s meandering pick-up process in reverse.  By now we were exhausted, and this situation had become so awful it was funny.  People began to make bets on what time we might actually arrive home. My husband threw out the ridiculous time of 10:00 o’clock!

Finally, we were down to eight passengers. As we approached the freeway on-ramp and nosed into traffic the bus made an odd clanking sound. The lights clicked off, the air conditioner died, and we sat in stunned silence. No way!  The driver tried to restart the engine but to no avail. I could feel my friend’s eyes boring into my head. I met her gaze and we clapped our hands over our mouths to smother hysterical laughter.  

At this point, drivers who were stuck behind the bus began honking and making impolite gestures as they drove onto the grass to get around us. Our exasperated driver flung himself off the bus and banged around for a few minutes before tossing several emergency flares on the ground.  He got back in, stabbed at his cell phone and began making angry phone calls in staccato Spanish.


Waiting for Don Quixote.

In the meantime, we the lucky few, alternated between praying we wouldn’t be side-swiped by a semi truck, and wondering what else could possibly go wrong.  Eventually the driver decided it was safer to remove us to an island in the middle of an intersection.  There we waited until several knights on white horses (think taxi cab drivers) came to our rescue. Yeah! We arrived home at 10:30 p.m. after a 16 ½ hour tour.

In closing, I would highly recommend visiting Seville, it’s amazing and inspiring, but take my advice and take yourself. If you do choose the bus, best of luck. Just make sure your last stop isn’t on the freeway.

. . . .

For fellow travel aficionados I’ve included a link to a great travel site – GoNOMAD . Here you’ll find plenty of ideas for your next vacation. I’ve also included their submission guidelines for travel writers. Check it out.


To Drive or Be Driven- The Dramatic Conclusion


This is the second half of a post on touring Ireland. To Drive – should we rent a car and brave the roads? Or Be Driven – take a bus tour? Part 1 looked at the pros and cons of renting a car and driving. (https://geanieroake.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/to-drive-or-be-driven-touring-southern-ireland/)  Today we talk about bus tours.

Pros Of Bus Tours

1. For those who haven’t the time or the confidence to plan a complicated overseas vacation, a bus tour may be the perfect solution. Simply browse through a catalog, or travel company website, choose your preferred itinerary, and sign on the dotted line. From that point on, everything from food and lodging, to entertainment, is taken care of. All accommodations are carefully researched and of excellent quality. All you have to do is appear at the appropriate departure point, and get on the bus.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Your guide is well versed in the history and details of the area, and it’s fun to have someone along who knows all the answers. The tour directors also know where to stop for lunch, where to find the best shopping deals, and who to steer you away from when it comes to scam artists and hucksters.

3. If you’re a people person, traveling with a group is ideal. There are many new faces to get acquainted with, and a variety of opinions and insights to enjoy. As your trip begins, you are traveling with strangers, but if you’re lucky, by the time it’s over you have evolved into a group of friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. You can sleep. If you’re suffering from jet lag and can’t stay awake for another minute, you don’t have to. You can doze off without risking anyone’s life, and you still arrive promptly at your intended destination.

To Be Driven, Cons:

1. Your tour itinerary is planned to please the majority. If one of the stops doesn’t interest you, you get to participate anyway. Initially of course you have many different itineraries to choose from, but nothing is ever going to be “perfect” unless you plan it yourself.

2. Because of the convenience, guided tours tend to be more expensive. Traveling in the off-season, and comparison-shopping will help keep the cost down, though you never want to choose a company simply because they’re the least expensive. As with any decision of this nature, do your homework and be sure the group you pick is reputable. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. On bus tours the schedule is important. The concept of 40 people traveling together works only if everyone cooperates. Toss a couple of non-conformists into the pot and the carefully laid plans began to unravel. If you are one who becomes so absorbed that you lose track of time, or who simply doesn’t care that 39 people are sitting on the bus waiting for you to finish shopping, you will not be the most popular person on your tour. With this in mind, you may want to think about other forms of transportation.

At last, after careful consideration of all the pros and cons, My mother and I were able to make a decision. We did not like the idea of traveling on someone else’s timetable, and there were places we wanted to see which were not included in the guided tours, but . . .  we ultimately chose to go that route anyway.

The deciding factor – fear. I am not known for my driving skills on a good day. As far as I was concerned, the combination of jet lag, and driving on the left, added up to a recipe for certain for disaster. To the great relief of the people of Ireland, and their livestock, I decided to leave the driving to someone else. It was a good decision. Who knows what kind of experience, good or bad, we might have had on our own, but the bus trip turned out to be great fun.


We signed on with CIE International, for their 10-day “Irish Welcome” tour. We traveled with a group of 40 people, ranging in age from 15 to 80, whom we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. Everyone was on their good behavior and there were no obvious incidents, aside from one case of car sickness, which happily occurred just as we were pulling into the hotel parking lot.

Our driver/guide, Tom Keane was charming, did not have an incomprehensible accent, and was very good at the logistics of moving 40 people around the countryside. The schedule was well-organized, with plenty of free time, and we saw some fascinating places that we would never have known about on our own. Best of all, when the trip was over we felt rested and relaxed, and ready to start planning our next adventure.

To Drive or Be Driven – Touring Southern Ireland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo drive or be driven, that was the question when my mother and I planned our trip to Ireland. Should we do the “typical tourist” thing and sign up for a bus tour? Or be independent, and strike out on our own in a rental car?

Unfortunately my impressions of bus tours were not very positive. I had visions of being shuffled from one tourist trap to another by a cranky guide with an incomprehensible accent – Mora na maidine dhuit. Dia ‘s Muire dhuit! (!?)

Driving, on the other hand, held it’s own perils. People in Ireland drive on the “wrong” side, and their farm animals tend to materialize without warning in front of your car. Of course driving would give me the freedom to see exactly what I wanted, but that was only if I dared to pry my eyes from the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since the entire outcome of my once-in-a-lifetime trip rested on this decision, and I was not an experienced traveler, I decided to consult others who were. Their opinions were many and varied. “If you’ve never been to Ireland before,” said a travel agent friend, “take the bus. It’s easier and more relaxing.” Upon hearing this, a co-worker recoiled in horror. “Don’t take a bus tour! It costs more and you’re stuck with strangers!” “But gas is $6.00 a gallon in Ireland,” said another. “You should go on a walking tour.”

After listening to the experts I decided I was more confused than ever. The time had come to call in the big guns, the heavy-duty problem solving artillery. This decision called for . . . a list of pros and cons!


To Drive, (Self Guided Car Tours) Pros:

1. With self-driven tours, the advantages are many, but flexibility rates high on the list. When you happen onto a breathtaking view or an intriguing photo op, rather than flying by and incurring whiplash from gawking at what’s behind you, you can stop. You can spend the whole day in a particular spot. You obviously won’t cover as many miles this way, but the experience will be your own. You can do what interests you, even if it’s not on a list of must see stops.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. When you travel in small groups, you are much more likely to interact with local people. Large bus tours understandably send the natives running for the hills, but many are quite willing to engage in conversation with a lone traveler or two. By getting to know the people, you come to understand the culture, and get a more accurate picture of what a place is really like

3. You get to choose the company you keep. Whether it’s friends or family, you know these people, and (hopefully) know what to expect from them. Traveling together can, if done right, be the basis of memories that will last a lifetime.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. Self driven tours are also more economical. This depends of course on the lodgings and restaurants you choose, but many tour companies offer incredible rates on car tour packages. Sometimes you can find combination deals when you book flights to Ireland. Ireland’s climate is mild, and unless you’re one who melts in the rain (don’t go to Ireland if this is the case) you should have an enjoyable trip anytime of the year.

To Drive, Cons: 1. While spending time in Ireland, I overheard one of the locals discussing out-of -town drivers. “You can spot them a mile away,” he said, ” weaving down the middle of the road, with a crumpled map in one hand, and Rosary beads clutched in the other.” The art of driving on the left is a skill more easily acquired by some than others. Needless to say, the complications spiral off the chart if you’ve tried to save money (approximately $16 dollars a day) by renting a car with standard transmission. Even the most adaptable drivers have an adrenalin jolt or two in the beginning. So keep in mind, that this may not be the most relaxing way to go.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. A driver is also at a disadvantage when it comes to sightseeing. While others are gasping at the scenery, you are required to keep your eyes on the road. Also, you’ll need to be on the lookout for unexpected roadside impediments – wandering flocks of sheep for example.

3. Be aware that the roads in Ireland are narrow, and if you meet a tour bus going the opposite direction you will be expected to get out of the way, or back up to a place where the less maneuverable vehicle can get around you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. Road signs can be confusing. Distances shown with a km following it are in kilometers, while those with nothing following it are in miles. Most signs are in English but not all. There are Gaelic speaking areas in the South where what appears on the road signs will not match your map. Should you find yourself hopelessly lost you can either enjoy the spontaneity of the experience, or dissolve into tears. The latter isn’t really necessary though, since you can always find a tour bus, and follow them to the next point of interest.

For the rest of the story, and the dramatic final decision – see To Drive or Be Driven Part Two. Coming soon to a blog post near this one.


Library Lady Book Review: Walking Salt Lake City

I love to see new places.  My motto – have money will travel.  The only problem with that is the have money part.  As we are experiencing a slight shortage of the green right now , my husband and I, along with the Lambs – our travel friends – have decided to explore our own corner of the world. Continue reading