Interview with Carlos Galvin
|Carlos flies over the canyon of the Riaza river.|
Carlos Gavin leads several different Spain tours for Rick Steves, and is featured in Rick's television show on Madrid. He and his wife have two young children who, according to Dad, "will someday grow up to be great tour guides!"
How did you meet Rick Steves?
"I met Rick at my brother-in-law's house a few years ago. We got to talking about travel, and Rick said, 'You should take me to lunch and we'll talk more!' Not long after that, I found myself assisting on a tour to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. The lead guide wasn't going to be able to meet with the tour until the second day, so I had to meet this group of 25 people all by myself in Toledo. But that first night we had a lot of food and drink and so it worked out. I had a really great time in the role of tour guide. So that's how everything started, and now I've been leading tours for Rick since 2000."
Which tours are your specialty?
"Most recently, I've enjoyed leading Rick Steves' Barcelona & Madrid and Basque Country of Spain & France tours. I like how those tours pack so much into a fairly short trip. I've done a few Best of Europe tours as well."
What were you doing before you led tours?
"I did marketing for food companies in Spain. I would drive all around to small sausage operations or cheese factories, and I just loved learning about the food traditions of Spain. Now as a guide, I take tour members to show them how olive oil is made, or how particular kind of cheese is made. It's one thing to go to a market and buy something, but I like to take tour members to a market and have the artisan explain the effort behind the product."
You appear as Rick's local guide in his Majesty of Madrid TV episode. What was that like?
"It was fun. I came back from a wedding in London on a Sunday and Rick and I were meeting on Monday about filming. I thought we were just going to have a conversation about logistics, but we began filming right away! So after a long weekend I had to go on TV! I had never been on a TV show before. Rick is a very talented man, but he's also really intense. But his ideas were clear that I think the result for me was okay."
What do you think — from a tour member's perspective — is the best thing about taking one of our Spain tours?
"It varies. Most people really like the architecture, friendliness, traditions, the food, the energy, and they love seeing the horses. They don't just travel through Spain, they enjoy it. Most people who take one of Rick Steves' Spain tours — whether it's Barcelona & Madrid, Basque Country of Spain & France, or the Best of Spain — they've been to Europe before. Lately I have been hearing, 'I love Italy, but I almost like Spain better.' Spain is so different from what they expect. When they order tortillas in a restaurant they're not going to be like the ones they've had in Mexico. The art and architecture is more European than Mexican. There is also a sophistication to Spain that surprises them."
Have you been to Rick's Tour Alum Reunion in Edmonds before?
"Yes, several times. I love to see and share memories with so many people who have been on my tours before. And I think it's fun for tour members to meet guides from other countries they want to explore."
Anything else you'd like to add?
"I think Spain is one of the undiscovered countries of Europe. It's a country that offers so much contrast. We have all the artistic trends of roman arts, gothic, and baroque, but we also have the more oriental art from the Muslim world. The influences of the Sephardic Jews and the Moors make it have a very colorful history. I would say that Spain 500 years ago kind of looks like the United States today — it was a very colorful and diverse nation. There were many ethnicities, and it was very prosperous. But then the Catholics expelled the Jews and the Muslims...and for a long time it fell into the dark ages."