The Pictures Are The Same – The Story Is Different

Oct 2, 2013 by

What do you do when you visit a place again and again?

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During my trip to Madrid this summer with Saj, I found myself compelled to take photos of the landmarks we saw, the buildings we walked past, the neighbourhoods we visited, the countless beers we sipped. As we went about our business, I realised I already had a lot of these photos – of these same places and these same activities. I can no longer tell you how many times I’ve walked through the Plaza Mayor, or glimpsed the royal palace, or laid in the grass in el Parque del Buen Retiro. I can’t tell you how many afternoon beers I’ve enjoyed in the hot Spanish sun, or how many times I’ve visited La Reina Sofia and enjoyed Picasso’s Guernica. I don’t mean to sound pretentious in writing this. I mean to say that I’ve enjoyed much of what Madrid has to offer, and I’ve done it several times over. That’s just what happens when you love a place like I love Madrid and when it becomes a priority to continue visiting these much loved cities as our lives and travels progress.

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So. What do you do when you visit a place again and again?

It would seem that the logical solution is to “get off the beaten track” we travel bloggers so very much love to talk about. You know, explore side streets, visit new neighbourhoods, step into even smaller and harder to find cafes, talk to more locals. I’m quite happy to do this, and I like to think I have to some extent.

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Before Saj and I arrived in Madrid, I wondered how I would feel about Madrid in going back, how Madrid would feel about me. After such a passionate love affair and a bit of time and distance, I wondered if the softly tinted glasses were about to come off. I wondered if my former lover would reveal himself in some way to be a brute, an abuser, a jerk.

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Well, none of these things happened. I found that I was still madly enamoured with the city, but one thing struck me as odd. In walking around with Saj, I couldn’t help but feel completely surprised by Madrid’s busy-ness. I thought back to 2011 and couldn’t recall feeling the hubbub and chaos of Madrid then as I had this time around. Had it not been this busy then? Had I been more accustomed to its big city vibes then? None of this made sense. In all of my photos from 2011, there are loads of people around. As for being more or less adjusted relatively speaking, I thought maybe it was from my visit to wild and expansive (and obviously less populated) Iceland before going to Spain. But no, this made no sense either. Just as I had spent a few quiet days in Iceland before going to Madrid, I had spent a few quiet days in Newmarket in 2011 before flying to Madrid. No, it was for none of these reasons that Madrid surprised me in this way. With a bit of reflection and contemplation I realised this: I had been living in a bubble in 2011. Either I was alone, walking around in a happy little I’m-In-Madrid-La-Dee-Da bubble, or I was galavanting around with friends who knew the city as well as I did, and we knew where we were going and what we were doing, and the only thoughts we had were to laugh and share stories and beer and sunflower seeds and nail polish.

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So really. What do you do when you visit a place again and again?

Around this point in my thought process I realised something else. The story was different, sure, but so were the photos.

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For the first time ever, I was sharing Madrid with someone I love.

In visiting the city again, what I did was see it through fresh eyes, and for once, stepped outside my bubble.

The best part of all was that he loved Madrid too.

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28 Comments

  1. Emy

    I’m really happy that you had once again a great time, and with the person you love ! 🙂
    It’s actually funny, because I felt the exact same way this summer when I went back to Budapest. I was SO surprised at how busy it was the first day I got there. I didn’t remember it to be like that at all!
    Eventually Budapest became Budapest again and I fell in love again, but still this first day was really odd!

    • Colleen

      I’m glad you know what I mean about the busy-ness. I was so surprised, and I thought people might think I’m crazy because of it. But I’m not alone! Thank you! It’s nice that you were also able to fall in love again with Budapest. I know how much you love that place. x

  2. Funny how you can fall in love with a place, all over again, when you get to show it to them and re-see it through their eyes.

    • Colleen

      It was such a special trip. I can’t wait to go back with him again, both of us now having seen Madrid!

  3. Zhu

    I love this picture of you drinking coffee… so European!

    I used to dislike coming back to places I had visited in the past because the novelty was gone and I was afraid to ruin good memories. But I realized that places changed, circumstances changed and that no trip was exactly the same, regardless of the destination.

    • Colleen

      I definitely have a little European in me!
      And you are right about circumstances and trips changing. I think I would have been happy to be there no matter what.

  4. Sam

    Interesting. My partner and I will do exactly this in just under two months: visit Madrid for the second time after really enjoying it the first time. What will be different this time, is that we won’t be staying with someone who’s living there (my partner’s sister the first time), and we’ll be going through much more quickly. I’m looking forward to seeing how the experience differs!

    • Colleen

      Oh, that’s awesome! Let me know if you’d like to connect with any locals/expats while you are there. I have some friends there who could take you out! I’d be happy to connect you.

  5. Oh visiting a special place with someone you love is so magical!!! When I revisit a country I usually skip the touristy stuff and just eat and drink myself silly.

    • Colleen

      Never a bad idea!
      Well let’s just say this: now that Saj has seen Madrid, our next trip will be very different (read: more eating and drinking silly)!

  6. Aw!! You can see a familiar place in a whole new way when you introduce someone else to it.

  7. Life is all about sharing great time with the person you love. Happy to see that Colleen!

  8. This is happening to me a lot recently. Me and my partner are traveling to places I’ve already been on my own a while ago and the experience is completely different.

  9. These pictures are wonderful, Colleen! And they definitely painted the picture for me as to your love affair with Madrid. I’ve never been there but it looks beautiful and sounds like a fantastic place to visit. The last picture of the two of you is my favorite, though 🙂

    • Colleen

      I’m so glad you could see what a wonderful place Madrid is through these photos. It really is one of my favourite spots in the world.
      Thank you so so much for a kind comment!

  10. Completely agree. Seeing Europe with Conor was so much better than without, even if I had been to the Louvre four times before.

    • Colleen

      So so true. I’m so glad we got to hang out the 4 of us (plus 2) in London. So spesh.

  11. Awww love this. 🙂

    • Colleen

      🙂 Thank you! I love when you take the time to read and comment. Means a lot!

  12. So sweet! There’s no better way to re-visit a place than through the eyes of someone who’s never been there. It’s always so much fun!

  13. Each time spent with someone you love is always unique regardless of where you do it, it can be the same place but no time resembles the other

  14. Maria Griffin

    You make me want to get on a plane. Love your travel photos.

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