Ever wonder what it’s like to update a travel guidebook? After writing about last year’s Portugal research, I thought I’d do the same this year during a whirlwind 3 weeks through southern Spain. Compiled below are the brief, daily Facebook updates I posted while on the road. Let’s roll!
08 Mar · So this is me for the next 4 months. About half the Spain book to update, a few clothes & as many small electronics as I can stash in this carry-on. Can’t believe I’ll be in Córdoba mañana!!! Chau Seattle!
10 Mar · 4.5 hrs of non-stop walking on a gorgeous day did me lots of good, followed by map corrections, a little typing, a quick jetlag-induced nap, a barrage of emails & at least 1.5 hrs more of walking. After breakfast I only ate a can of tuna & 2 apples… those Seattle calories are already melting away!
11 Mar · Day 2 of research and Day 2 of waking up at 04:00. Fun times. Wrapped up Córdoba after another couple hours on my feet, so I spent the rest of the morning typing in corrections. Then I had a proper meal at the hotel resto with lots of veggies. Somehow I got a 15-minute nap on the high-speed train in spite of the loud midget gypsy family in the same car. For realz. Sevilla has been fantastic as always, & tomorrow will be crazy!
12 Mar · Only Day 3? Really? Dedicated today to the Barrio Santa Cruz walk, the Hospital de los Venerables, the shopping area walk, the Iglesia del Salvador, the cathedral, climbing the Giralda, a quick beer with Andrea (yes, we discussed the guidebook so it counts as work), a couple hours of map corrections & scouting dinner options with Concepción. Time for some serious zzzzz’s.
13 Mar · A thick fog surrounded Sevilla this morning, & honestly I would have rather stayed in bed. I woke up at 05:00 instead of 04:00, so that’s an improvement, right? But I really wasn’t in the mood for a long research day… even doubting what I’d originally planned to cover. I dove in anyway. First, the Alcázar. MAJOR corrections there. Then an unexpected treat: a temp exhibit of Art Nouveau. Afterwards, the grind of checking hotels which turned out to be more interesting/fun than expected. I’d planned to skip lunch but really needed a glass of wine & something to eat… like morcilla de arroz! Yes. The sun came out, my mood improved, & I hit the Torre de Oro + the Hospital de la Caridad. Question is: when will I find the time to input all this new info? Guidebook researcher problems…
14 Mar · Today turned out to be particularly religious, but that’s often part of being in Sevilla. First, the Basílica de la Macarena with its boundless devotion. Then a stop at the Museo de Bellas Artes with enough spiritual art to turn anyone Catholic. Sure, Murillo is great but how can anyone look at Zurburán & not feel instantly connected to those he portrayed? I got so caught up in the paintings that I forgot I was working & had to backtrack 3 rooms… laughing all the way. Then after two trips to the mall, I finally got my Spain cell number up & running… surely a miracle.
15 Mar · Day off! Well, not exactly. Any day off is spent catching up with whatever went undone during the last week. I parked in Starbucks for 4 hours this morning to type, make phone calls & correct maps. It’s not all done, but I’m much less stressed. Then this afternoon, I joined Conce & family for pre-Holy Week festivities… and got to kiss the hand of the two oldest representations of Mary in the city. Amazing experience.
16 Mar · Back in the saddle again. Quick breakfast before picking up the car… 4th rental this year & some serious swag. The GPS worked well (when I listened to it), so I was in Jerez in a flash. Not so interested in horses, but sherry wineries are amazing to visit. Grabbed a quick Carrefour salad before continuing on. Ah, Arcos. Such a warm welcome, especially after 4 years away. Computer time, taking a break for views + a real pizza tonno made the day perfect.
17 Mar · One reason I love Arcos is because people remember me regardless of how long I’ve been away. I had the same conversation 3 times today… when asking if anything had changed in the guidebook, the answer was universal: the only thing that’s changed is us. True enough. I started working for Rick when I was 29. Now I’m 44. Lots to think about there. Anyway, dark clouds loomed this morning. By the time I got to Zahara, the weather gave me wind, rain & sun all at the same time… hence a rainbow. Grazalema was impossible with the downpour, & it got even worse in Ronda. But I made it work. That’s what I do ;-)
18 Mar · My clothes surprisingly dried out from yesterday’s downpour, good thing since today’s forecast called for the same. I woke up to fog rising & falling between the cliffs + a little sun, but as soon as I left the hotel it began to rain. Great. I ducked between museums & hotels in order to stay dry… and it worked. I had many fun interactions today, but the town itself stole the show. Ronda rocks.
19 Mar · Gibraltar is one of those places I’ve always been fairly meh about. I love the history & the geography, but the Disney-fication of “the rock” makes it a bit much to bear at times. Caught in the rain going 40 km/hr behind 4 trucks on a twisty road from Ronda gave me lots of time to think about how to tackle the day. When I finally got to the Spanish border town of La Línea I couldn’t believe it had become even worse than my last visit in… 2007? Really? La Línea makes Tijuana look like paradise.
I’d just missed the bus to the center, so in spite of the rain I decided to walk across the runway into town. That’s always fun. But the rain & wind didn’t let up, I scouted restaurants quickly, got a quick bite then headed to the hotel to dry off. Fortunately my day improved when I met John at the Gibraltar Museum. Nothing like having an insider’s point of view… especially from someone so kind. I might have even changed my opinion about Gibraltar :-)
20 Mar · If I say every day was the rainiest yet, then it kinda loses emphasis, right? Well today was. Honest. But first: Costa got into the Gibraltar game & recently opened a mini-shop in Casemates. I had coffee with John & his husband Andrew before walking across the border… only to be stopped by two planes. As the rain poured down, both Monarch & EasyJet had flights landing. Fantastic to watch if only I hadn’t waited 25 minutes in the rain *drip, drip*
Once I got to La Línea/Tijuana, I stopped in the Europcar office I saw yesterday… Really? You mean I could have turned the car in here? But the webpage doesn’t say so. At least the guy was nice enough to explain in detail where to return the rental car in Algeciras. Complicated but he was spot on. I wish I could buy him a drink.
Continuing on. Bus to Tarifa, arrival & check in but with no internet connection. A break in the rain gave me time to get a few things done while my suitcase was drying. Then it let loose again. At least I have Turkey (not turkey) in November to keep me motivated ;-) Update: That trip has since been canceled. Boo.
21 Mar · I got soaked this morning, but there were several periods without rain that let me get work done! Woohoo! Looking at Africa & listening to the waves break on the beach did me a world of good. So did a long talk with Amanda… hey, it gets lonely out here on the road :-)
22 Mar · Morocco! Africa! A whole new world. And every time I return, Tangier gets even better. After a damp departure from Tarifa, by the time we docked the sun streamed through the clouds. Needed that break in the rain. Couldn’t have asked for a better morning: good conversation with the local guide, great guidebook material, a glass of mint tea & lots of walking. Lucked out with the hotel this time too, owned by a long-time friend. They even named a room for my boss!! But I like my coral-themed room more ;-) Couscous with chicken provided the energy I needed to continue. Ah, Morocco, how I’ve missed you.
23 Mar · Day off! When scheduling my 2nd day off, I thought I’d be wandering around aimlessly, taking photographs of 1950s architecture, capturing an aspect of the city I love. But no, thanks to all that damn rain last week! Instead, I had a leisurely breakfast on the hotel terrace then sat at the computer all day. The only time I left the hotel was to have lunch with Aziz… but that’s ok. I got tons done, including 22 maps with corrections. I’m sure my feet appreciated the break too.
24 Mar · I know y’all are tired of these posts but hey, this is my life… less than a week to go before I’m done ;-) So I wake up ready to check hotels when bam, the rain begins. Seriously? Haven’t I done this already? But duty calls, & I finished Tangier with the idea of returning to Spain on an earlier ferry. In spite of being wet, I loved reconnecting with German, French (Philippe!) & Moroccan hoteliers. The sun came out as soon as the boat left for Spain, & I spent the next hour typing away. I needed to make up for lost time, so I left my suitcase at the hostal of guys I’ve known for 15 years. They crack me up because we’ve all aged the same. Imagine that. I checked out everything I couldn’t a few days ago & had a wonderful afternoon. Two continents so close together, yet a world apart.
25 Mar · Not many pics because I spent most of the day enjoying the view from a bus. But what a view! Rolled into Nerja sometime late afternoon, grabbed a quick salad & began to do my thing. With such beautiful water & gorgeous countryside, it’s easy to see why so many people love the Costa del Sol. I can’t say I like it —doesn’t really feel like Spain to me— but I understand the attraction. Give me Tarifa any day ;-)
26 Mar What a day. When this job goes well, there’s no greater reward. Knocked it out of the park this morning in Nerja, & I know readers will appreciate it. That’s what motivates me most… I’m not doing this for only a paycheck. It’s making sure that anyone who buys this guidebook will have the most accurate info out there. And the opportunity to add my own two cents ;-) I met a couple in Tangier who asked for info about Madrid & they said: Talking to you is like talking to Wikipedia. Had to laugh. The bus ride to Granada was particularly gorgeous this afternoon. I got in so late that I spent the evening typing in changes… and catching up with my fellow Iowan, Kathy. Hoping tomorrow will be just as productive!
27 Mar · Another good day, getting the handle of public transportation in Granada. And visiting monuments. But I realized that my brain is reaching a point where it starts to spin like a computer program that refuses to close :-) I’m thinking of about 400 pages of text all at once, how they connect + maps… so I guess it’s understandable. I should be out checking out restaurants now, but that will wait until tomorrow. Need to get the text corrected YA. Of course, Granada is as stunning as ever!
Oh, yes. A little anecdote for all those who think this job is so glam. There are some Moorish baths, currently free of charge, that are owned by the Alhambra powers that be. As of this coming Monday, they’ll no longer be free, the hours will change, etc. At least that much the staff guy told me. Of course my next questions were: what will the hours be? How much will be charged? That kind of thing. His answer: well, we don’t really know. Seriously? There’s a major change happening next week & you don’t know anything?
I put on my patient face; I know the routine. So I ask who I can contact for the info. I have to talk to the head office. Ok, so where’s that? He thinks… and thinks… well, there’s one at the Alhambra (duh) & there’s one on Calle… uh, well, they’d know. Ok, so where is it exactly? Ummm… Those 5 minutes seemed like some of the longest of my life. One of those Abbott & Costello moments *sigh*
28 Mar · I knew today would be rough: visit all hotels, check remaining restaurants, do the entire Alhambra visit, cover loose ends. Somehow it all got done. I enjoyed the lovely weather, 31ºC & brilliant sun. This evening I took a quick break to have a couple beers with José… just to remember I’m still a human being after all this :-) Whatever you do, visit the Alhambra. Your life won’t be the same.
29 Mar · Technically it’s been a day off, but I underestimated the amount of work updating half the book would take. DST didn’t help matters either. So I did absolutely nothing today except type, reorder text, make phone calls & correct maps. Fun, fun, fun. But being Palm Sunday, I found it irresistible to listen to processions go by & not watch. At least I caught one. Early bus to Madrid mañana…
30 Mar · Complete, kinda. I had a 07:00 bus to catch in Granada which meant I woke up at 05:45… that was really 04:45 to me because of DST the day before. I barely made my plane to Lisboa, where it’s an hour earlier than Spain. My body doesn’t know what time it is!! Turned in most of my files today, but I’ll finish the rest tomorrow & reward myself with some grilled sardines. Lisboa welcomed me back with open arms… as always.
31 Mar · DONE! All files & all maps turned in! A big gracias to everyone who commented or liked over the past 3 weeks. Updating a guidebook is odd because you’re out in the street all day, talking to dozens of people, but in the end it’s work… always thinking of the next thing to do instead of being in the moment. These posts were a way of keeping my sanity during those long days & nights! There’s still the budget to turn in, receipts & maps to send, queries to answer & more. But the most difficult part is over. Until next year.