Why I became a Guided Walking Holiday Tour Leader
I was born with the travel bug and 60 years later, I am delighted to say that I have not been cured!!
I am incredibly lucky that I have been able to indulge my passion for travel with earning a living. I have sailed the seven seas and in my previous job, I worked as a Tour Manager across Europe & Asia with guests from the UK, South Korea, USA and Canada.
There is something incredibly special about having coffee beside a canal in Venice one morning and then the next, after a strenuous walking tour around central Florence, sitting beside the Pita Palace with a nice cuppa. But one thing that I noticed during all my years of travel work was how congested our city centres were. We were spending a lot of holiday time in traffic jams and only able to drop off at designated points within the city. Once we were back on our coach and off to our next destination, my group were so exhausted from Verona or Paris or an over enthusiastic local guide’s monologue on the Moorish influence in Southern Spain. My lovely guests were sleeping through the hilltop villages of Tuscany or the fields of bright yellow sunflowers in Southern France.
So why not actually walk along a path next to a field of sunflowers instead of speed past in a coach - not just see them - savour them!
Although I loved my job as a Tour Manager and met many lovely people from interesting walks of life, I felt that not only were we contributing to the polluting of the planet but we were failing to really “savour” with all our senses the essence of the country we were visiting. So that’s when I decided to become a Guided Walking Leader for Ramble Worldwide. What especially appealed to me about Ramble Worldwide was the fact that they use small family run hotels and restaurants where possible. Our guests have dinner where granny might still do the cooking and her son is the waiter. It’s clear that our visit really does make an incredible difference to a small community. Also it is so fantastic for our guests to eat home cooked meals that really are part of a nation’s character and heritage, and I feel really does add enjoyment and authenticity to a walking holiday.
Home for me now is a tree house in Southern Portugal on the edge of an orchard full of fruit trees and beautiful flowers. It keeps me fit and in good training for all the walks in my life!! I lead a number of guided walking holidays here in Portugal for Ramble Worldwide.
There is something quite incredible about waking up to a clear blue sky, lacing up your walking boots and walking along narrow Portuguese coastal paths. On one side you have the swell of the wild Atlantic crashing onto the beach below and looking inland you have nature at its very best - an incredible assortment of wild flowers like poppies and daisies vying with each other for the warm rays of spring sunshine. You can’t help but really feel alive!!
But my first tour was not on the coastal paths of the Portuguese Algarve but more in the backstreets of Venice at Christmas. There can be no more magical time than winter to visit the city on the lagoon. At night the wee narrow alleyways are lit up by festive lights and when the mist comes down you feel like you are on the set of “Death in Venice.” The local market at the Rialto Bridge belongs to the Venetians again and you see housewives out buying the fresh ingredients for the day’s lunch. We did have “agua alta” or high tide every morning except 2 during our 1 week stay but this actually added to our experience of this incredible city. Who can say that their waiter wears his wellies for work? Everybody has photos of St. Mark’s Square but what about St. Mark’s Square underwater? We have dinner in small backstreet restaurants where we are sometimes the only guests and the owners ply us with Lemoncellos!! Christmas Day is bright and sunny. As we have no programme today we meander round the Jewish Quarter and enjoy lunch at an out--of-the-way hotel beside a canal. Its lazy but lovely. We can get lost in Venice and discover cute little gems. Of course, we don’t just stay in Venice, we go into its hinterland to Padua, that city of St. Anthony that often gets overlooked. We get all emotional at the Scrovegni Chapel - I mean how could such a masterpiece be created by human hand? Christmas Eve is spent on St. Mark’s Square (now dry!) and we join the Venetians for Midnight Mass in the Basilica. We have well over an hour to just simply savour its vast breathtaking interior because after all we are Venetians for a week…….
How lucky I am to be able to visit some incredible destinations and meet some fabulous people along the way, it really is a great way to spend a week, walking new paths, meeting new people, and learning so much about the culture of each place we visit. I'm looking forward to my next adventure!