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personal: becoming a tour guide

Robert Wright, Rick Steves, tour, Portugal, 2018
• Telling the tragic love story of Pedro & Inês inside the monastery complex of Alcobaça, Portugal · 2018

Help me celebrate a very special anniversary: my first tour as lead guide with Rick Steves twenty years ago. I’d hoped to invite tour members to a surprise party right now, but coronavirus has us in quarantine around the world. At least we can raise a toast together online! To commemorate these past two decades, I thought I’d answer in detail one of the most-asked questions for every guide: how did you get started with Rick? Get comfy cuz this is the long version…

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sevilla: semana santa, favorite moments

Andalucía, Sevilla, Semana Santa, Holy Week

With Holy Week on hold due to coronavirus, there’s no better time to relive some of my favorite moments from previous years. The Vatican may allow a grand procession after quarantine is over, & there’s even talk of celebrating Semana Santa in September. Whatever. Festivities should have begun today. It’s a moment many sevillanos look forward to all year long, including me.

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sevilla: monumento al sagrado corazón de jesús

España, Spain, Andalucía, Sevilla, San Juan de Aznalfarache, Sagrado Corazón, monumento

Perched on a hilltop with commanding views over the Guadalquivir Valley, the Monumento al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús reigns over Sevilla’s suburbs. Its tall tower in San Juan de Aznalfarache forms part of a larger complex & is often visible on the way to either IKEA, El Corte Inglés or Leroy Merlin… all those special trips. Obviously from the Franco era due to its scale & size, the monument followed part of a worldwide Catholic trend of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus & was sponsored by the cardinal-archbishop of Sevilla, Pedro Segura y Sáez.

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spain: arcos de la frontera

Arcos de la Frontera, panorama, Iglesia de San Pedro

Founded by Romans as Arx-Arcis & later the capital of an independent Muslim taifa, Arcos de la Frontera entered a golden age after being taken by Christian forces in 1264. The city & surrounding area first became part of a lordship then moved up to a countdom, gradually increasing in importance. Catholic Monarchs Fernando & Isabel created the Dukedom of Arcos in 1493 for the Ponce de León family while reorganizing noble titles after their consolidation of power in Andalucía. Their grandson, Carlos V, made the Dukes & Duchesses of Arcos automatic Grandes de España in 1520… ranking just underneath any possible heirs to the throne. Amazing to think that the title is still passed down today, & that the castle on the main square continues to be their private property:

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road trip: borders

borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal
● See enlargement below…
borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal

Whether you call it a national border or la raya, this trip had a several motivations: spend time in places Rafa & I had been individually but not together (awwww), visit new spots that are best accessed by car & see how permeable —or not— the Portugal/Spain border has been over time. We beat the heat until the last couple of days of the trip, but overall we were very lucky with weather considering the time of year. Join us for a crazy week on both sides of the border…

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sevilla: spring blossoms

España, Sevilla, Andalucía, primavera, spring, flowers, blossoms, flores

Spring has sprung! With a mild climate for most of the year, plants love Sevilla… if they can survive the intense heat of summer. The city is filled with a huge variety of flowering plants & trees, so the winter blues disappear quickly. While this post isn’t a compendium of all we’ve got blooming now, let it inspire you to stroll the city & enjoy one of nature’s great displays.

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sevilla: heliópolis

España, Spain, Andalucía, Sevilla, Heliópolis

The 1929 Iberoamerican Exposition radically transformed the city of Sevilla, with major projects such a large public park (Parque María Luisa) & the creation of cortas (artificial canals) in the Guadalquivir River. Cortas served several important purposes: shortening the river’s course, providing a means for more rapid water flow & thereby reducing sediment deposit, allowing for better flood control, creating new port facilities & opening new land for development. Although plagued with constant delays, this new infrastructure turned Sevilla into a modern city.

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spain: sevilla day trips

España, Spain, Sevilla, day trips

When I moved back to Spain in 2016, I resolved to visit all places near home in Sevilla —big or small— that I’d never had time to see during a work trip. Part of this ambitious plan also included re-visiting places I knew well but felt I needed to explore more… and write trip reports for this blog. Well, that was the plan. Life has a way of making plans go astray so… no time like the present to start.

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spain: osuna

España, Andalucía, Osuna, panorama

Countless day trips exist from Sevilla, but larger cities like Córdoba, Cádiz & Jerez get all the press. After moving to Spain in 2016, I’ve started to think of Sevilla as a hub… it’s easy to make the grand city your home base, then explore from there. Smaller, equally important destinations like Écija, Itálica & Carmona lie nearby, all less than a couple of hours away by either bus or train. Rafa wanted to show me around Osuna, so off we went…

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discovery: 1929 expo tiles

Spain, Portugal, Espanha espera a nossa visita

Many tourists are told an old, tired tale that Spain & Portugal merely tolerate each other… as if turning their backs to one another at the border. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since early medieval times, intermarriage between the Portuguese & Castilian courts formed the cornerstone of foreign policy for both kingdoms. The 1385 battle at Batalha established a fairly permanent border between them, but soon afterwards the Discoveries era brought them into frequent contact again. Portuguese captains worked for Spain with ship crews almost always a mix from both. To the chagrin of other European countries, Spain & Portugal divided the world. Even in the 20th century, both had decades-long dictatorships. Spain & Portugal have much more in common than most people realize.

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