Seville, I’m breaking up with you

Querida Sevilla mía,

You know that age-old, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Well, it’s not me. Eres tú. We’ve reached the end of a nine-year relationship, one marked with uncertainty at the beginning, with as much elation as frustration in the years since we became intimate. And más pronto que tarde, I knew we’d end up here.

Te estoy dejando.

giralda sunset1

My friend Stacy maintains that the first Spaniard you fall for is never the one you stay with – it’s always the second. If Spanish lovers were cities, you’d be my second great love, my second Spaniard. Two years before we got to know each other, Valladolid entered my life. Stately and daunting, but a romance that was always a little off. Castilla y León’s capital never did it for me, a bit too cold and a bit too stand-offish to be anything long-term. Neither the castles nor the robust red wine could woo me, but it was a foray into what it meant to truly love a city.

You and I met on a sweltering July day in 2005, your characteristic heat baking midday as I dragged a suitcase towards Calle Gravina. Back then, the Alameda was all albero, you could drive down Constitution and around the roundabout at Puerta Jerez and there was a noticeable lack of skyscrapers, gastrobars and coffee houses. On the surface, you were beautiful, but I pined for Valladolid, not entirely convinced you were boyfriend material.

tapas bodeguita romero typical Spanish tavern

Two years later, we were thrust together again. Still sore from being flat-out rejected by Granada, I set out to try and get to know you on a Sunday evening in late September when everything was shuttered. Walking down Pagés del Coro, I craned my neck to watch the swallows dip between the balconies and around the spire of La Estrella chapel.

Swallows, golondrinas, always return to where they’re from. Even at that moment, exhausted from two weeks traveling and unsure about starting my job the next morning at IES Heliche, I knew I had returned to where I was to be from. In those tender first steps in our relationship, I was smitten. I would soon fall deeply in love with you.

Plaza del Altozano Triana

But today, nine years later, I ripped the band aid off, and HARD. I just up and left it seems, without time for long goodbyes at all of the places I’ve come to haunt in these years together, to the hundreds of caras I’ve come to know in the barrio. No ugly cries, just a few tears pricking my eyes as I locked up my house, rolled one suitcase to the bus stop and headed towards Santa Justa and, later, Madrid.

Like I said, it’s you, not me.

I guess you could say I saw this coming, like that little ball that sits low in your stomach when you know life is going to darte un giro in a big, big way. I needed that giro because you’d simply gotten too easy. I can understand even the oldest abuelo buried deep into one of your old man bars but can no longer get lost in your tangle of streets. You are a comfortable lover, warm and welcoming, familiar and comforting.

But I’m not one to be estancada, stagnant, comfortable. Walking down La Castellana in March, the ball in my stomach dissipated as I skipped from a job interview back towards Atocha. The trees were bare, but the sky was the same bright blue that always welcomes me in Seville. As they say, de Madrid al cielo. Madrid was calling.

Sunshine and Siestas at the Feria de Abril

Sevilla, you’ve been more than good to me, giving me just about everything I’ve ever needed. You’re easy on the eyes, fiery and passionate, deeply sensual and surprising. You’ve shown me the Spain I always wanted to find, even between castles and tintos de Ribera del Duero and my first impression of Spain. You’ve reignited my love for culture, for making strangers my friends, for morning beers and for living in the moment. You changed me for the better.

And you will always be that second great love, te lo prometo. Triana will always be my home.

But you’ve just gotten too small. My dreams and ambitions are too big for your pueblo feel, as much as I’ve come to love it. Your aesthetic beauty continues to enchant me as I ride my bike past the cathedral at twilight or I leave extranjería and am not even mad that my least favorite place in Seville is also one of my favorites. Your manjares are no match for the sleek pubs and international food in Madrid, which I know I’ll grow tired of.

ceramics at Plaza de España Seville Spain

I admit that it was difficult to reach your core, to understand the way you are and learn to appreciate those nuances. At the beginning, it was all new and fun and boisterous, the out-loud way that you live each day, those directionless afternoons and long, raucous nights. Lunches that stretch into breakfast. Balmy evenings, Cruzcampo in hand. Festival after procession after traffic jam. Unforgettable sunsets. Unannounced rain showers. Biting cold and scalding heat. You are a city of extremes and mood swings, for sure, but you’re at your best that way. You are as passionate as they say you are.

Still, there were frustrations with the language, that lazy way that you “forget” letters and entire syllables. Frustrations with getting around and untangling the back alleys of your deepest barrios. Frustrations navigating the choque between our two cultures and figuring out a way to make it work for nearly a decade. There was a lot of give and take, that’s for sure.

my first feria de abril

And that’s not to say you haven’t changed for the better in these nine years together.

You’re more guiri-friendly, easier to get around and constantly coming up with ways to reinvent yourself without losing what makes you, . Even when I rolled by eyes at the Setas, I found the best views from its waffle-like towers. You always find a way to stay true to yourself, even if that means having to take the long way home when the streets are choked with a procession or if I call the Ayuntamiento and they send my call from office to office without ever getting through to an actual human.

But those same things that I once loved have become annoyances as we’ve gotten more comfortable with one another. Some of it is trivial, lo sé, but in the bigger scheme of things, we need time apart. Room to breathe, to try new things. I can’t get everything I need from you right now, Seville, y ya está. I know the decision was quick and may have its repercussions, but it’s what I have to do right now if we ever want a chance again.

Expat in Seville Cat Gaa

Madrid presents so many new possibilities. I scoffed at the idea of living there and opening myself up to loving it, but it will never be you. In fact, I think it will be like Valladolid, a tough nut to crack and one whose true character I may never know the way that I know you.

I’ll look for you in the bares de viejos, in a sevillano passing by wearing a Betis t-shirt, in the way that the Madrid gatos will laugh at my accent or look puzzled when I ask for a copistería or a cervecita. You’ll probably follow me around, to be honest. You were never one to let go lightly.

I love Seville Heart Necklace

This morning, as I drove over the San Telmo bridge towards Triana, the swallows returned. It was already a warm July morning, maybe even eleven years to the day since I first felt the breeze over the Guadalquivir. Eres un amor para toda la vida, Sevilla. Maybe in three or five years’ time, we’ll find ourselves back together, a bit more mature and ready for a new stage in our relationship. You’ll have changed, I have no doubt, and so will I.

But if the golondrinas are any indication, volveré. It’s the natural course.

Con todo mi cariño,


Wondering about my absence the past two months? I’ve been back and forth on the AVE, making trips to Madrid for job interviews, spending time alone with Sevilla and even squeezed in a ten-day trip to the US for my sister’s wedding. On July 3rd, 2016 – coincidentally the same day I applied for my visa for Spain in 2007 – the Novio and I officially moved to Madrid. I’ll start a job in a few weeks as an admissions counselor at a prestigious American university with a campus in the heart of La Capi. Adiós, teaching – never thought I’d see the day!!

No time for complatency

Will I like Madrid? I’m positive I will. Will I love it? Not in the same way that I love Seville, but the Novio and I have big plans for the next few years, and Seville was simply too small for our career ambitions. I’m not entirely sure how the scope of Sunshine and Siestas, a blog that has largely been about Andalucía, will change, but you can count on my voice coming through! 

I’m curious to hear your reactions to the news, which I’ve managed to keep surprisingly quiet! Not even sure I believe it myself!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Beautifully written “breakup” Cat. You will always have Sevilla. Now you get to spread your love. I have no doubt you will love living in Madrid. A big congratulations on the new job. So exciting!
    Kara of Standby to Somewhere recently posted..Asturias at LastMy Profile

    • As someone who has left her heart in varios sitios, I knew you’d understand! Enjoy your summer in Italy. I have to say I wish I were traveling, but moving is expensive!!

  2. Vaya! Felicidades. May this next adventure wow you with surprises and embrace you as strongly as did Sevilla. Wishing you all the best in everything.

    p.s. Now you’re only a 4 hr bus ride to pais vasco(almost my doorstep)! haha.

    • Surprise! Yes, it’s an unexpected step to some, but one I knew I’d eventually take. I may also take you up on the offer of PV – it’s been ages since I’ve been up that way!

  3. joannaschoff says:

    I look forward to hearing about life in Madrid. ¡Buena suerte!
    I’m a Spanish teacher in the states and your adventure sounds glorious even the hard parts.

  4. Jodi Schafer says:

    I’ve enjoyed your blog so much?
    A retired Spanish teacher, I’ve always wanted to do what you’ve done, but it’s gut-wrenchingly painful to live in Spain, where they accept you, but you never feel totally comfortable. Is your novio americano? You’ve really succeeded in something that takes a lot of grit. En Hora buena, and keep the posts and pictures coming!

    • Thank you, Jodi! I’m greatly looking forward to a newish start, and having the language, some know-how and lots of contacts has made the landing a bit softer. My husband is Spanish and was transferred here for work, and that’s what started everything! Thankfully, I’ve integrated nicely with his help.

      Have you ever considered coming over here for a year or two, now that you’re retired?

      • Jodi Schafer says:

        It’s hard, I have a husband, kids and grandkids, a couple of weeks here and there is good for me. I’m ready to go back, I go about every 2 years. Seville is my favorite city. Spain is wonderful, especially when you’re young. I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now. Looking forward to your new adventures in Madrid. How lucky to have a Spanish marido!

      • Wishing you all the best, Jodi!

  5. Craig Briggs says:

    What a wonderful piece – All the best for the future.

  6. A rolling stone gathers no moss and neither do you .
    I am happy for you and all the new experiences waiting for you!
    Here’s to meeting up with you in Madrid. …much success and love !

  7. Melanie Murrish says:

    Whoa-that brought a tear to my eye…….I had a few goosebumps reading the intro. Onwards and upwards as they say-can’t wait to hear about the next stage in your Spanish journey Cat. :)

  8. Rena Dunne says:

    The very best of luck to you Cat. I’m so surprised, I had become to think of you as a constant in our beloved Sevilla. I’m less than 3 years gone and I hardly know anyone left there! Madrid is a wonderful city and I hope you come to love it as much as you do Seville. There is room for both as they are so different. I guess you’ll get used to the Mahou. Say hello to Lindsay.

    • Yes, no one thought I would ever leave, and Kelly is gone, too! I know I will enjoy and learn to love Madrid for its differences ( was in heaven with an onion bagel and a green smoothie this morning, ha!) and the Mahou isn’t terrible. I must say I’m more into vermouth, though! Sending lots of hugs your way.

  9. amelie88 says:

    I really loved Madrid when I lived there. I was deeply unhappy with my job which is why I had to leave but I’d move back if I could find something worthwhile. It’s interesting where life takes you–you end up in places you never would have imagined. Good luck with the move! Sevilla will always have a special place in your own heart. I know it’s where you fell in love with Spain and the Novio (marido?).

    Out of curiosity, are you working for Middlebury or St. Louis University? I know it’s not NYU since their campus is in El Viso. Good luck with everything!

    • I’ll be working with SLU! The opportunity came at a time when I was disenchanted with Seville and getting restless with my job. In fact, the decision was easy to make, and I think I’ll be happy in both the new gig and Madrid. We’re keeping our house, so we’ll always have a place to go home to. Mil gracias for the well wishes!

  10. Cat, once again your blog brought me to tears–you are what I associate Sevilla with, and now you won’t be there :(! Bitter sweet, but I’m so excited to hear about your new adventures! Good luck! BSS!

  11. Congratulations! An acquaintance of mine will be studying abroad at that university this fall (if I’m right by guessing SLU).

    I don’t really love Madrid, either, but there’s lots to do and so many people to meet. Good luck!

    • You guessed right! Definitely get us in touch! I’m sure I’ll love Madrid in a very different way than I love Seville, and I’m looking forward to exploring (and, uh, grocery shopping on Sundays).

  12. No me lo puedo creer!!!! Te deseo all the luck in the world and I know you’ll find a way to make LA Capi your home!

    • RIGHT?! Big changes ahead, but it was an easy decision to make between the Novio coming and finding the right job. Now to adjust to the price of a beer…! Are you stopping by at all on your trip thru?

  13. All the best with this next phase in your life Cat. How exciting.

  14. Congrats, that’s a big step and it’ll be awesome, buena suerte!
    Liz recently posted..Hanging out in the MaldivesMy Profile

  15. You know that I am thrilled for you. I’ve always been one for new adventures while also keeping our favourite places in our hearts so I’m always excited to see someone else grab the opportunities with both hands. Is Madrid ready for you? Probably not – but what a wild ride you’ll both have.
    The very best of luck for the future my sweet – exciting times are ahead!!
    Elle xxx

  16. A big change! Lots of luck to you both in your new home! I’m sure you’ll love the new adventure.
    Ashley recently posted..Hitting the street art jackpot in Ordes, GaliciaMy Profile

    • Thanks, A! Hopefully we’ll make it to the Colacho or whatever it’s called. Think they allow babies from outside the village to participate?!

  17. Love letters to Spain?? We really are media naranjas. Best of luck with your new vida, and if you’re ever in Salamanca look me up! I’m changing places for the fourth time in my four auxiliar years.

  18. Courtney Grady says:

    I just read this on my bus commuting to work in Boston and I almost started crying on the bus. These words hit so close to home – even though I only lived in Sevilla for a year and a half! It’s incredible how it captures your heart, but leaves little room for professional growth. I look forward to seeing how your dreams are fulfilled in Madrid – but you’ll always be mi ángel sevillana, for guiding me back to my favorite city in the world! Wishing you the best on this next adventure!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m sorry we never got to meet up when you were here, but I’m sure great things are in store for you in Bean Town!

  19. Congratulations on your new role! At least Sevilla is still only a few hours away by Ave, so you can always go back if you’re suffering from withdrawal. I hope you love Madrid as much as you’ve loved Sevilla — it is my favorite city in the world for good reasons! Good luck with everything!
    Kirstie recently posted..Where to Stay in Taipei, Taiwan: The Taipei MarriottMy Profile

  20. Victoria Gundrum says:

    I have been reading your blog & following you on Instagram for the last 2 years ever since I found you on the Internet and you were gracious to discuss my 2 teenage girls studying in Seville during the summer. You helped alleviate my fears of them being “on their own” and not with me in Chicago. When I said goodbye to them in Seville, I remained in Seville for several days and loved it! I then traveled alone in Spain for the next month until their school was over, and I too enjoyed Madrid. But like you, Seville always tugged at my heart. Thank you for continuing to share your love of Andalucia and and all of Spain. I wish you all the best in your new adventure and look forward to reading all about it. All of Spain is tugging at my heart to return – Seville, Madrid and all the other cities I explored and have yet to explore. Congratulations on your next adventure!

  21. Laura Cerezo says:

    Best of luck to you and the novio, Cat! I took the LSAT at the SLU campus in Madrid…it’s a beautiful area and I am sure you will love it. Hopefully we can grab a caña next time we’re in Spain :)

  22. Cat, The Scoopettes wish you the best!! We look forward to hearing of your new adventures.

    Nancy and Regina

  23. Christine says:

    I wish you both the best in this next chapter. Meghan and I were just saying how we needed to met up with you while I am here in Madrid especially since you were my inspiration for making Andalucia (Malaga) home although for a short time. Ahhh…next time. Again all the best.

  24. What a heartfelt post, Cat. You are an amazing young woman. I wish you all the best in this new adventure called life.

  25. Felicidades! I’ve followed you for years but never reached out as I’m not in Sevila often. Now that you’re in la capital I’m sure I’ll be hearing more about you — I work with Lauren Aloise! — and hopefully finally meeting you! Keep us posted on your need for copisterias (literally my first though was copas-shops, now I’m thinking more locutorios?) and mucha suerte!

  26. Hola Cat, i imagined that something was happening because of your blogging absence!

    i hope that everything goes well in Madrid, and if it does not, Sevilla will always be there.

    by the way the blogpost is written beautifully!

  27. Love your breakup. I’ve neither been to Madrid or Seville, only Barcelona. Honestly, growing up in NY I love the big cities but there really is something about the charm of the pueblitos.

    • Seville is beyond charming, but it ultimately was too small. Madrid is ore my style, as a city girl myself, and I’m loving the opportunities it’s presenting! Thanks for the well wishes, Tawanna.

  28. Thank you for sharing your Seville farewell. Wishing you the best of luck with your second Spanish love. I hope Madrid is everything you hope it will be and more.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..GO GREEN TIP #116: Travel Packing Tips for Long Term TripsMy Profile

  29. Such a big deal, but sounds like it’s the right move for this point in your life. Can’t wait to read the next chapter of your adventures!
    Lillie recently posted..Block Island, Rhode Island: Wild Beauty and RelaxationMy Profile

  30. Wow, this post gave me goosebumps! Beautifully written and reminded me of the way I felt when I visited Sevilla for the first time 2 years ago.

    I found your blog while desperately scouring the Internet for any real information on teaching English in Spain. As a South African, my hopes of receiving a work visa aren’t high, but I’ll be coming back to your blog for a regular dose of the country that stole my heart!

    All the best for your new adventure!


  31. Antony de sousa says:

    I lived in Madrid for a while and with a (family history there) I honestly loved every minute, I am British Residing in Mexico for the last 9 years and recently visited Seville with my wife who is Mexican – We both really fell for Seville and seriously looking for a move there, and why not hey!
    Do you have any links to starting this journey or even some tips.
    Many Thanks


    • Hi Antony – I know a lot about moving to Seville! Send me an email with your specific questions, and I will happily answer them! sunshineandsiestas @ gmail .com

  32. Patti Bouck says:

    I’ve always enjoyed your blog Cat! It will be just as wonderful to hear about your experiences and perceptions in Madrid! Congratulations and all the best on your new job!

  33. wow! I’m so behind in my blog reading. But I hope you’ll enjoy Madrid, one of my favorite cities in the world. Of course I am biased because I spent my junior year of college there and have many fond memories. I still get emotional upon returning too. Apparently it’s not for everyone but will always hold a special place in my heart, siempre………Okay, NOW I’m going to bed.

    • I miss Sevilla daly (am here now to deliver my baby), but Madrid has been good. I sincerely believe that it’s been good for me to love Sevilla again by leaving it and missing it. And I really like my job, plus the Novio and I are together!

  34. Enjoyed reading this. 😉 I’ve also realized how much of a small-town girl I am haha.

    • Smaller cities have their encanto, too! Looks like you have a great deal down in Sanlu, too. May need to pick your brain about things coming up!


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