Oh, what could have been. After the Rick Steves reunion in January, the book department & I began working on my research schedule for this year. I’d expressed a desire to do more book work in 2020… although not as well paid as guiding tours, I love the flexibility + the opportunity to add my own text (when approved!). Rick has the final say in all his guidebooks, but the collaborative publishing effort every year is great fun. COVID-19 put an end to those plans. However, I’m not one to break tradition, so I thought I’d share what might have been an incredible research year.
Part 1: Basque Country
Before tour season began, the first assignment was 8 days in the Basque Country… a place I hold very dear to my heart. I was the main guide who developed the tour for Rick back in 2008, & I learned so much. Over time, I developed special relationships with lots of people there & couldn’t wait to see them all. Maybe that’s why the route looks like a small heart ;-)
My flight had been scheduled for March 17th, only a few days before the government declared an estado de alarma in all of Spain & one day after official quarantine began. I’d been on pins & needles weeks before: should I go? could I go? would I be able to do my job? The assignment changed on March 12th to remote, so they let me update everything as best as I could from home. Definitely not the same as being there, but I think I was able to get solid info from friends & contacts. You do what you can.
Part 2: Sevilla
I’d requested to update the Sevilla chapter even if I wasn’t scheduled to do any other location in Andalucía. It’s my hometown! The original idea was to dedicate 3 days for Sevilla after the Basque Country & before tours were to begin for me in mid-April. If I’d only known that COVID-19 would wreak so much havoc, I could have done this bit in February! Argh. But they allowed me to update remotely, so this became my last pay check for the year. Lovely.
Part 3: Southern Portugal
The bulk of my research for the year would have been the entire Portugal book. I loved the fact that they proposed breaking the assignment into two trips. That would allow me to fit more research in between tours & avoid having to go in July like 2018. Never again! Way too hot & way too many tourists. These 6 days were for mid-May, but later they assigned the Algarve to someone else. I know why, but I can’t tell you ;-) At least the paradise of Évora still belonged to me. After a road trip with Rafa last July, I had some great ideas for that chapter. Not meant to be though since ALL research trips had been cancelled by this time with most of Europe in lockdown.
Part 4: Northern Portugal
Aw, another heart-shaped route. These 17-ish days should have been in mid-June (along with Évora). In 2018 I started in Porto for the first time & worked my way down through Portugal… a fantastic experience, even if some of the bus connections weren’t ideal. I was really looking forward to this assignment because it coincides with the Rick Steves Portugal tour. Again, I wanted to say hi to friends & eat some fantastic meals because I did no Portugal tours in 2019. That was my choice so I could be closer to home. Oh well. Maybe all this will be my next assignment in the future. Let’s hope this isn’t the last of the guidebook research series!
If interested, here are some posts about previous assignments that actually happened: Naples & Venice 2019, Portugal 2018, Barcelona & Andalucía 2017, Andalucía & Tangier 2015, & Portugal 2014 (one of my faves).