In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been back to work in March. I’ve already posted a bit on the craziness of Las Fallas in Valencia, and yesterday I got back from guiding an Easter tour of Paris. I’m exhausted already and the proper summer season is still a month away.
To make up for my lack of blog posts when working, I’ve been instead taking as many photos as possible and posting them on Instagram. I also post one a day called ‘View from the Office’ to give a bit of an example of how varied a typical day at work is for me. Here’s a look at my first ten days of tour guiding for 2013.
Day 1: Snow on the Pyrenees on the way to Valencia for Las Fallas.
I always get a window seat if a flight’s duration is less than four hours, and my Rotterdam-Alicante flight was no exception. About halfway through I peered out and saw snow-capped mountains, and readily snapped away. The pilot was pretty excited too; he got on the microphone and identified them as the Pyrenees, on the border of France and Spain.
Day 2: Fireworks and a bald head, Las Fallas.
My first proper day of tour guiding for 2013 was mayhem: meeting the group, taking a walking tour through insane festival crowds, feeding them paella and sangria, taking them on a pub crawl and finishing off with 1am fireworks. It was at that moment that I’d almost failed my View from the Office project on day two so I took a pretty crappy shot of the nocturnal fireworks. Don’t believe this photo; the nightly fireworks displays at Las Fallas are amazing.
Day 3: The sky after today’s Mascleta at Las Fallas.
The only thing which outdoes the nightly fireworks at Las Fallas is the daytime versions; the Mascleta in Plaza Ayuntamiento. On the last Sunday of the festival the fireworks (held at 2pm) turned downtown Valencia into something awakening from an Apocalypse. The sky was an eerie faded orange, the sun shone brightly through the haze and debris from the fireworks show fell throughout.
Day 4: Hunchback of Notre Dame falla, Valencia.
The main stars of the Las Fallas show are of course the fallas themselves. Pictured here is one of my favourites; the Hunchback of Notre Dame falla, located just outside the inner city on the far side of the Turia Gardens. Here the crowds were tolerable and you were able to get quite close to the masterpiece, created by the immediate surrounding community.
Day 5: The Cremà. AKA Valencia goes crazy.
The climax of the Las Fallas festival is the Cremà, which takes place on the night of St Joseph’s Day. All of the fallas are burnt, with many filled with fireworks. On this occasion, the crowd was a little too close, which we figured out a microsecond later when the crowd turned and collectively fled backwards.
Day 6: Had a couple of hours to spare in Alicante, so I went to the beach.
Sometimes when tour guiding, you get a rare moment of solitude. I got mine in Alicante; my train got in a few hours’ before my flight so I escaped to Alicante’s city beach. Here, I enjoyed my last few minutes of Spanish sun before returning to sub-zero temperatures in Northern Europe.
Day 7: Cruising past the Moulin Rouge, Paris.
Fast-forward a week and I’m back at work, this time in Paris. The highlight of our first day is a night tour of Paris; one of my favourite parts of tour guiding is seeing the looks on people’s faces when they first lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower. The ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ never get old. I also build up my favourite building in Paris, the Opera Garnier, which has a similar effect on people. Here I’m pointing out the famous Moulin Rouge as we zip by.
Day 8: Locks on the Pont des Arts, Paris.
The best way to see just about any city (bar the hilly ones, hello Madrid) is by bike tour. We headed off early the next day to push our pedals around central Paris, dodging cabs, buses and tourists alike. I brought up the rear with my group, conscious of leaving behind any stragglers. About halfway through we stopped on the Pont des Arts, my second-favourite bridge in Paris after the Pont Alexandre III. Made famous more recently by the last episode of Sex and the City, the bridge is covered in lovers’ locks.
Day 9: Sunset at Sacre Couer, Paris.
Clutching dozens of bottles of wine and the prerequisite plastic cups, I led fifty people up the only hill in Paris, Montmartre, to view the sun setting on a gorgeous city in front of the Sacre Couer. We chatted, spilled our wine and posed for pictures; the perfect end to a weekend in the City of Lights.
Day 10: Macarons on the way back to London.
I love a good macaron and there’s plenty of high-end options in Paris; some lovely passengers bought our driver, Nick and I a sample of the offerings of Aux Delices de Manon. OMG. I was suffering the effects of a minor chocolate coma as we boarded our ferry back to Dover.
Coming up: Days 11-20 will see me head out east and will feature the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.