- How did you get into the tour guiding and walking business?
I originally started by organizing walking and biking trips for a large group of Spanish friends almost 30 years ago. After completing some career-change courses as well as business management, tourism, guiding and group dynamics (!) my hobby then became my profession in 2001. Having studied a fair amount of art history, history and social sciences at university I have also been able to offer quality cultural content in my tours and have continued that learning process ever since. As I love talking to locals I’m constantly picking up wonderful stories and quirky details that enrich my tours.
- Where are your favourite walks and areas of Spain to visit?
Well, I love El Camino/Road of St. James; the Northern coast; Navarra and the entire Catalonian province of Girona. Also North Central Spain (Castilla-León) where there are some beautiful cities and great walks, on and off the Camino trail.
- How has this city changed you?
I’m from a small town in Iowa, so just learning to live in a big city was a challenge, almost more than the cultural things.
- What does sport mean for you?
Actually I don’t really regard walking or cycle touring as sport. Both are slow-track travel, a fabulous way to really experience the countryside, villages and contact with locals. Surprisingly, with good choices and organization, this kind of travel does not have to be a tremendous physical challenge.
- Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid?
Hmmmm. I’ve been here too long to remember adapting. Nowadays what I find amusing is when locals who don’t know me panic, thinking they might need to speak English before reverting to Spanish when they realize I’m actually a local (or almost).
- What is your secret Madrid?
All of my neighbourhood La Latina, Casa de Campo park, the cheese shop, Los Andes,75 on calle Toledo and pockets of the Chamberí neighbourhood.
- If you could wave a magic wand where would you go next in your life?
I’d like to have a big old house in a small village in Northern or Northeastern Spain . Maybe a Bed and Breakfast but more likely make cheese or have some kind of crafts center.
- What’s unmissable for you in Madrid?
Everyone should go to the outdoor fiestas: San Isidro in mid-May and especially La Paloma in mid-August; watch for people in traditional dress strolling and doing traditional dances. The monthly farmers’ markets in the Casa de Campo and the Matadero are a great gastro-cultural treat. In summer, I recommend in one of the best natural swimming holes near Madrid such as La Pedriza near Manzanares el Real or Las Presillas in Rascafria. For people who like history or historical fiction, the Capitan Alatriste books by Arturo Pérez-Reverte are great, about a 17th century soldier of fortune and his sidekick.
- When you’re not outside braving the elements what else do you like to do?
I love reading, writing my own blog amongst other material and I love knitting and sewing, time permitting!