My Personal A to Z of Spain, D is for Driving

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The first task after arrival at Seville airport was to pick up the hire car and although I said previously that I wouldn’t, for convenience I did choose Hertz again.

The helpful lady at the desk took me step by step through the formalities and then showed me a diagram that identified all of the previous damage that the car had suffered.  This turned out to be practically every single panel, front back and sides and when we collected it from the car park it was in a real mess and looking quite sorry for itself and my first reaction was to be a bit annoyed that we had been allocated such a tatty vehicle.

I was soon to discover however that this was quite normal for cars in this part of Spain!  The interior was clean but there was an overpowering smell of industrial strength air freshener that was so unpleasant that we had to drive with the windows down and we began to worry about what sort of previous smell the deodoriser was covering up.

Instead of staying in the city of Seville, where the hotels seemed to be a little expensive, we had chosen instead to book a cheaper alternative in the nearby town of Carmona that was about thirty kilometres away.  The first part of the journey along the Autovia du Sur was pleasant and without incident and then we left at the junction for the town and things started to unraval.  We didn’t have a proper town map, only something from the multimap website and this didn’t prove to be especially helpful.

We became confused and did a couple of circuits of the town looking for street names that we could identify but these proved to be illusive and of little assistance because they didn’t seem to correspond to the map.  Eventually, on third time around the main town square I found a bar that was still open and asked for help.  The man was as equally confused by multimap as we were and it took him some time to interpret it for himself before he could even begin to draw the route that we needed through what looked like a tangled web of streets with a baffling one way system.  Finally he provided comprehensive instructions but in rapid fire Spanish that made it difficult to follow but it was helpful just to discover that we were in the new part of the town and what we really needed was the centro historico, which was a few hundred metres away.

Confident now of directions we set off again and this time took the correct turning through an imposing medieval fortress gate and into a labyrinth of confusing narrow streets.  At a fork in the road we were presented with two options.  We were staying at a hotel in San Fernando Square and there was a sign that seemed to suggest that we should turn left but I overruled Micky who pointed this out and foolishly decided to ignore the sensible thing to do and took the right fork instead.

This was a big mistake because the road climbed up a narrow cobbled street barely wide enough for the car to pass and then seemed to abruptly stop at what looked like a pedestrian alleyway.  There was an elderly Spanish couple out strolling so we asked for help and after they had studied the map seemed to suggest to us that we should carry on down this narrow path.  We were not convinced and asked for clarification and the man, who spoke no English and was not terribly useful, was determined not to let his wife, who could speak a little English and was a lot more helpful, have her turn with the map.

Maps and men must be the same everywhere, let me explain, it’s a macho sort of thing that drives us to take control and this is based on years of experience of being sent in the wrong direction as soon as you get a woman involved with directions.  Women generally are as hopeless with maps and town plans as men are with knitting patterns.  Anyway, while we were debating the situation another car pulled up behind and seemed to be heading in the direction of the alleyway so this was a clue that that was indeed the correct way to go.  As we pulled away the woman looked into the car and in a genuinely caring sort of way said ‘Be careful, good luck’ and this parting comment filled my cup of confidence full to the brim.

We set off and it soon became clear why we needed both precision and good fortune because if we had thought that the previous street had been narrow this one made it look like a six lane highway!  First of all it was necessary to negotiate a dog leg gate that was barely wider than the car and we all had to collectively breathe in so that we could squeeze through and after that the street narrowed down still further and I needed delicate keyhole surgery skills to manoeuvre through 90º bends and past carelessly parked cars and iron bollards strategically placed to impede progress at every turn.  It was like threading a needle and we now understood why the car was covered in dents and scratches and probably why the air freshener was so strong; the previous hirer had possibly driven down the same street and had an unfortunate bowel incident in the process!

Going forward was tricky and we were making slow progress but what really concerned me was the possibility of reaching a dead end and having to reverse all the way back because that would have been impossible.  Finally however we came out into a square (that was actually a circle) and by luck we had found our hotel.  After three circuits of the square it was obvious that there was nowhere to park however so we had to settle for a side street and a two hundred metre walk back to the Hotel Posada San Fernando where a lady on reception was waiting to check us in.

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D is for Driving but it could well have been:

Douro

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25 responses to “My Personal A to Z of Spain, D is for Driving

  1. HI,
    No wonder the car had so many dents, OMG what a drive, I should imagine it would require nerves of steel, good on you for finally getting there, but still what a journey. 🙂

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  2. Ahhh, driving in Spain… so much fun!

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  3. The first time we hired a car in Spain, there was grass growing out of the resprayed panel by the time we returned it to Malaga Airport!

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  4. It doesn’t sound all that different from driving in Greece!

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  5. We had a similar experience. Trouble was a) it was our local county town (in spain) so we should have known where we were going and b) we were in a long wheelbased land rover! Even though it was Spanish plated it attracted far too much attention from bemused pedestrians.

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  6. Ohmygosh! I think walking would be much less scary.

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  7. I am writing this from Augusta in Maine.
    Loved your image of women with maps being like men with knitting patterns!
    We both laughed out loud.
    Bit puzzled by this though:

    ‘…
    As we pulled away the woman looked into the car and in a genuinely caring sort of way said ‘Be careful, good luck’ and this parting comment filled my cup of confidence full to the brim.
    …’

    Should that not be the reverse?

    Love and Peace,
    Dai

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  8. Having lived in Spain for 7 years I am well used to the ways of the Spanish driver. For one, they don’t appear to know what an indicator is for and if they do use it, they tend to use it at the very last minute. Roundabouts are another area to take care with, either the driver who is meant to give way won’t or everyone will sit and wait until the first person decides to move or even worse everyone will sit and wait until everyone tries to move at the same time. As for the dents, most of these appear to come from parking, I would recommend you park as far away from other cars as possible, if a driver gets blocked in they have no problem shunting backwards and forwards until they have ‘bumped’ your car out of the way. Side on dents come from opening doors with no regard for the vehicle next to you. But even though all of this seems to be the norm, I love driving out here.

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    • Thanks for the comment. Actually I have never really had any serious problems driving in Spain and enjoy the wide open roads and the amount of space between towns and cities. I am currently posting my personal A to Z of Spain, next it is E for Extremadura, whereabouts are you? I wonder if I will get close?

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      • Probably not, I’m near a town called Baza in the east of the Granada province, about 650km from Extremadura. Like you I love the open space between towns and cities and even more I love the open space between vehicles in a lot of areas. 5 cars on the autovia near me and we think we’ve got gridlock!! Look forward to your next post and have a great trip.

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  9. Andrew, the white establishments remind me so much of Jerez. It really looks like the destination I’d been to watch the bullrun. I love Spain’s narrow alleys, just as long I don’t drive through them. 😀

    Thanks for memory nudge.

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  10. Yes, maps and men seem to run together and either of them having full understanding of knowing, helping with or giving the correct directions without one ounce of apprehension. LOL.
    Trying to navigate small roads with cars would be so much easier than having to deal with roads that were designed for horse and buggy with a semi truck and a 53 foot trailer which I have had to do on many occasions in the Northeastern USA. Which were not at all allowed the room for these vehicles. So I know what you are talking about.

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  11. I learnt a long time ago not to drive in Spanish villages. You either check it out by foot, or you drive around it, :).

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