Julian and I try to find slow ways to travel even when we’re visiting touristy places. One of the ways we slow travel down is literally, by walking. Last year we walked from one “white village” to another in Andalusia, Spain. I loved both the walking and the white villages, but I felt that I had missed a big part of what Andalusia is by not seeing its primary towns. Yet that’s exactly where the tourists head. So how do I slow travel while still visiting the tourist hotspots?
It occurred to me that slow travel is a state of mind as well as a form of transportation. I wondered if I could slow travel by staying in local neighbourhoods, eating at local restos and wandering the streets without looking to check off sights.
Those of you who know Julian know that he is fully committed to skiing in the months of November through May. So, for my travelling companion, I chose a long time friend that I thought might embrace my slow travel mentality.
Dianne and I have known each other since the 1980s, which I realize was a very long time ago when I see the fashions (and the haircuts!) in old movies. And when I compare the Tom Hanks of today with the young man in Big. But I digress.
We have not only known each other a long time; our paths have crossed in strange and diverse ways. Back in the day, I TA’d her in an undergraduate stats course. Later we shared a thesis supervisor, and much later I was a prof when she was a doctoral student at Ottawa U. Old bonds may fray but they don’t break: the morning of her thesis defence, she called me to ask the difference between mediators and moderators. Most recently, we’ve shared thoughts about our private practice clients in group supervision. Like I said, we go back a long way.
Dianne is a good choice for a slow travel partner because, like me, she enjoys hanging out, talking, wandering the streets, and trying new food.
Our slow travel began with the necessity of our choice to stay in Airbnbs. You may have heard me rant about the impact of Airbnb on locals’ willingness to rent to young adults like my son. If so, I apologize in advance for what I’m about to reveal. You see, when two women of a certain age travel, they really shouldn’t share a hotel room. First of all, we’re way too old for it. Second (and more importantly), age brings with it afflictions like insomnia — and snoring — that test the best marriages, let alone good friendships. And the most affordable way to get two bedrooms is — well, Airbnb. In Andalusia, that puts us squarely in the centre of town, along with the long-haired, backpack-wearing and pierced-nose millennials. Also the little old ladies (just like us!) lugging their bags of groceries home.
The street where our Airbnb is located
Air Canada provided the next component to our slow travel experience. Beginning in our row and proceeding to the back of the plane, the in-flight entertainment system was down. Which meant that the lights by which we could have read also were down. For the entire 7-hour flight from Toronto to Madrid. The shallow pleasures of Tom Cruise and Tom Clancy were not to be ours. So I went to sleep, while Dianne walked the aisles and struck up conversation with the flight attendants. A surprisingly good time was had by both.
When Iberia heard about Air Canada’s efforts, they tried to get in on the act by slowing down the delivery of my luggage. It wasn’t lost, the woman at the lost luggage counter eagerly assured me: it was on the next flight. Foolishly, the luggage contained both the Tylenol and the implements of torture that I use to stop the excruciating pain in my back and neck that accompanies air travel. So delayed luggage was not at all in the spirit of slow travel in my mind, and Iberia will be hearing about it.
After a return visit to the airport to retrieve said luggage, we put the next phase of slow travel into practice by seeking out a neighbourhood tapas bar. We chose the one that had a nice young woman (multiple nose piercings) hawking outside on a cool evening. She’d been kind to Dianne earlier in the day when she ventured out in search of an ATM and toilet paper (which Airbnbs appear not to supply). We ordered the young woman’s favourite dish of broad beans with Serrano ham and it was delicious.
So far, so good.
A little plaza nearby