LAST TEAM INTERVIEW – MARTA, THE BOSS
During 2018 I’ve been releasing interviews to our team of tour guides, approximately once a month. I hope it’s helped you getting to know these wonderful women (and some men) better. Do you have a favorite yet? Then wait, because a bit late but I’m finally publishing my own auto-interview, too! Are you curious about getting a bit more personal with me, the owner and founder of ForeverBarcelona and writer of this blog? Today is your chance! Let’s get into it!
Tour guide Marta is on the spotlight today:
What’s your favorite moment in a tour?
Like for many other tour guides, the moment of awe when entering the Sagrada Familia with clients is wonderful: seeing their reaction and keeping silent until they overcome their own feelings and “come back to earth” is priceless. But that has already been discussed in previous interviews. I do have one more favorite moment: when I show my guests something they’d have not seen on their own and they go “Wow, I would never have seen that!”. My eyes brighten as I smile and tell them back: “Well… that’s why I’m here!”.
Because my job is not just parroting things learned from books and conferences, but to bring the city to live and help people notice those small elements that make Barcelona special and that make part (or should!) of the locals’ everyday’s life. These moments of discovery make travelers connect with their destination, and that’s when they realize that the investment they made booking their tour was way more than a transaction: they bought their love for the city and I helped them falling in love with it.
What’s your favorite tour?
Wow, that’s such a difficult question to answer! What I really love is the variety our tour portfolio offers. See for instance our Gaudi Tour: I love the Gaudi sites but if I was to do only Gaudi sites, in the end it’d be a bit boring. Or maybe not, because it is true that towards the end of the season when I’ve done sooooo many Gaudi Tours already (it’s our best selling tour, after all), when in the morning I checked my calendar and I see there’s yet another Gaudi Tour I have a tiny moment of “Again?”, but then meeting new people that have never been to Barcelona before instantly melts that momentary boredom as I get excited with them about the sites we’ll be visiting. I am grateful though that there can be a bit of variety and in between Gaudi tours I get to walk around the alleys of the Old Town one day, take someone to the Mountain of Montserrat or the Dali Museum, go on a food tour and even more occasionally give specialty tours of subjects I love like contemporary architecture or gardens.
What’s the story you love telling in your tours?
There’s the soldier of King Herod killing babies in one side of the Nativity Façade of Sagrada Familia. The scene is quite realistic and crude, with baby bodies at the feet of the soldier – said to be modeled from dead babies from a nearby hospital. Gaudi loved using locals to pose for the sculptures, and it seems that the soldier of Herod was a local waiter that matched the character because he was big and strong. However, when the guy came in and dressed up a a Roman soldier and started posing, Gaudi and his colleagues realized the waiter had 6 toes in one foot!
And Gaudi decided to keep this anomaly in the sculpture because it was also an anomaly to kill babies – so there goes the symbolism of the sixth toe. I always carry a picture of the foot with me, because it’s so tiny it’s hard to see from the ground level. And I am proud I did get to see the real thing from close when I was still working in the church as a protocol tour guide and one day they were setting up some scaffolding for cleaning: I asked the operators to please let me up to see it by myself, and they were happy to do that.
What’s your favorite place in Catalonia?
I remember when I was starting giving tours and I was visiting the Penedes Wine Country, I used to tell myself: I wouldn’t mind living around here. And I eventually married someone from there! Now we don’t live in the Penedes (I love Barcelona too much!), but we come often visiting my in-laws and my husband’s friends at least once a month. There’s something magic about seeing the vineyards get green, push fruit, go through the harvest and eventually die to be reborn with the next Spring. Here in the Penedes pretty much everyone is involved (directly or through family) with wine making, they grew up helping with the harvest, some even make their own wine at home, and they know the ins and outs of each local winery. I’ve learned so much from all of them! And I love to be now part of their local celebrations and wine festivals.
What’s your favorite shop?
I love sweets, specially chocolate. And my favorite shop for chocolates, that I recommend to anyone staying in the area that mentions they like cocoa as much as I do (and that is of course part of our Chocolate Tours), is definitely Cacao Sampaka on Consell de Cent street. I don’t even remember when I discovered it, maybe even before I was a tour guide. They have a chocolate shop at the front with the most genius flavors (they managed to get me, a 70% cocoa lover to enjoy white chocolate with one of their seasonal creations that mixed it up with citrus!), but my favorite is the café at the back of the shop.
When I’m not touring and my kid is at school, you are likely to find me there sipping one of their cold chocolate shakes (the one with orange and saffron is my favorite). I sometimes also use it for work meetings, because it’s usually quiet and they have wifi. Or go there for a quick lunch in between two tours – nothing fancy but a salad and sandwich and some chocolaty desert for a very affordable price. The manager and the shop assistants and waiters already know me, and they are always happy to see me back, and ask how my daughter is doing. And every Christmas they hold for me one of their SPECTACULAR chocolate panettones, that they import directly from Italy.
AND BONUS! A last question where Marta shares her personal connections with the city:
What city site are you most attached to?
Sagrada Familia was very important for me during the 2.5 years that I worked there as a protocol tour guide – I learned everything I know about Gaudi there, and entered a world of architects, builders… and tour guides that has shaped my professional career. However, I’ve never lived in that district and I don’t hang out there outside of work.
Instead, I feel more personally attached to Park Guell: my grandparents lived less than 10 minutes walk from it, and I have memories of playing there as a kid. Now that I’ve been living in the area for over 10 years, the Park has become part of my daily routines. There was a time when I’d get up early to see the sun rise, other times I’d go with my husband see the sunset.
When my baby was born, I took her to the sandy playgrounds in a secluded area of the park to play (now we tend to use more the parks near her school and on the way back home). I love the park nature: it’s one of the few places where with a bit of luck you can get to see hoopoes, and I’ve also found weird mushrooms that inspired Gaudi for the cupolas of the Park entrance pavilions. One of the pictures of me that I used for the home page of our website for years was taken by a friend of mine, with me seating next to the Dragon fountain. And the mosaics of the Park continue to be one of the recurrent themes in our website. Yes: at Park Guell I feel at home.
What question would you like to ask me?
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