GETTING TO KNOW MARGA’S SECRETS
Today is time for one more interview with a member of our guide’s team, and it’s Marga’s turn. A Barcelona local, she was born and raised in the Raval district and has recently moved to the nearby and now bustling Sant Antoni neighborhood. If you want to go off the beaten path and see the “real Barcelona”, she’s the right tour guide for you!
Here is our interview with Marga:
How did you become a tour guide?
Ever since high school I knew I loved Art History and languages, and realized that the tour guide job was made for me. Once in college I majored in Tourism, even if I didn’t really like many of the subjects they’d made me study, because I knew it was the way to reach my dream.
When I finally finished college and got my tour guide license, I joined a local tour guides association and started guiding in English and Italian, then I got hired to give school and tourist tours in Gaudi’s Casa Milà (La Pedrera), and that was a great opportunity to learn a lot about Gaudi, but also improve my guiding skills and expand my vocabulary.
Little by little, I started specializing in unusual routes off the beaten path, specially itineraries related to books on Barcelona. I currently do lots of private tours, but I continue to work with school groups in the low season.
What’s the question you love answering?
I love it when people asks me about the Catalan language. People are pleasantly surprised to learn that we are a bilingual society and that we want it to continue to be it – with locals naturally speaking both Spanish and Catalan. I explain them that even if at home we speak in Catalan to our two daughters, at school they have many friends that speak Spanish, so they have grown up speaking both and they see it as a natural thing, switching from one language to the other when necessary.
We’ll often jump from the language conversation to a political one where I’d be asked why do Catalan want to be independent from Spain, then. My answer is that we don’t have anything against the Spanish people, but we do have a huge problem with the Spanish State and Government. And that the Catalan independence movement is very different from the one in Flanders, for instance, because our movement is not link to extreme right wing parties, but instead it works towards a social change for the best.
What’s your favorite tour?
It’s hard to choose, because I love Gaudi. But I should probably say the Old Town Tour because while the Gaudi tour has a very clearly set itinerary, the Old Town Tour allows me to be much more flexible and customize the itinerary depending on what I think my guests will be more interested in. If I see them adventurous enough, I take them onto the Raval alleys, or in less explored backstreets behind the City Hall.
I also love taking people to St. Felip Neri square to discuss the bombings during the Spanish Civil War, and that might take me talking about George Orwell’s stay in Barcelona. And I love visiting Santa Maria del Mar and the area around it, and show my guests that Barcelona was a city of guilds and merchants since the Roman times already, with a strong port, and that our economy has always depended on the local productive network, rather than in power of the aristocracy like it happened in Castilia.
What’s your favorite Barcelona district?
I lived many years in the Raval district, until my family and I just recently moved not too far: to the Sant Antoni neighborhood. I love the Raval, although it’s not an easy area to take people to: not everyone is comfortable knowing that around the corner there might be prostitutes or even drug addicts.
But if you are traveled enough to understand that things like this happen all over the world, then the district hides many hidden jewels: The Hospital de la Santa Creu, for instance. It’s beautiful, and I love explaining what it was and what it is now, and what a miracle it is that it has been preserved despite the bombs that fell in the area during the Spanish Civil War, and that the many plans of the City Council to improve the area have always spared it. I also love watching the city views from the top of the Barcelo Raval hotel.
Tell us one more off-the-beaten-path you do on your tours
Sometimes when I see people have a strong interest in the Spanish Civil War, and want to hear more about Hemingway or Orwell, I take them to the Hotel Continental in la Rambla. That’s were the international journalists stayed during the war, and from the balcony of the hotel hall we can still see the same view over the boulevard that Orwell could see in those times.
The hotel has preserved a somehow decadent feel, with its old-fashioned wall papers, their vintage hotel sign, large mirrors… It creates quite an effect to enter it and recall what happened there.
AND BONUS! Here is where Marga loves to eat:
What’s your favorite restaurant?
I love Bar del Pla, a great tapas bar just a couple of blocks from the Picasso Museum in the Born district. Their suckling pig mini-tacos are amazing! I know their fish is very fresh too, because they buy it from the same fishmonger in the Boqueria Market where I shop for my family. The owners also have a romantic restaurant behind the City Hall called Pla, and a new brand venue in Eixample called Pepa Pla. Can I recommend some more restaurants? I also love Bar Cañete in Raval but very close to La Rambla (try their ham croquettes!) and the canned tapas at La Pepita.
What’s been your favorite Marga’s recommendation?
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