After moving to Spain for graduate school, Amanda Buttinger fell in love…with the city of Madrid. More than 20 years later, she still enjoys this vibrant city, where she lives with her husband and two sons. As a guide for our Spain tours, including the Best of Barcelona & Madrid in 8 Days tour, Amanda gets to show tour groups the lasting magic of her adopted country.
Amanda, tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. In college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid. A year later, I returned to Madrid to pursue a master's in Spanish language, literature, and history. After earning my degree, I applied for teaching jobs in the US. But before accepting an offer, I thought, "I have no furniture, no dog…if I want to live in Madrid for a year, this would be the time to do it." And so began a series of different reasons to stay in my favorite city. Now I have been here for more than 20 years, married an Argentinian, and have two boys who speak beautifully in English and in Spanish with Madrid accents.
How did you become a guide?
My enthusiasm for Spain — and a bit of luck — brought me to the guiding world. I heard about Rick Steves for the first time when I was in the Picasso Museum in Paris with my family. My grandma spotted Rick and called him over to take a picture together. Then, on a visit to Seattle to see my sister and niece, I met a Rick Steves guide who heard my story of living in Madrid and told me to stop by the office in Edmonds with a CV.
What do you like best about leading Rick Steves tours?
There is always something more to learn, be it about a site, history, food, or the people who are traveling on the tour.
Do you have a favorite stop on the Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour?
My favorite parts are arriving in Madrid on a high-speed train and introducing tour members to the city on the first afternoon and evening we are there.
Do any moments stand out from your time as a guide?
I once had a woman who was sick and knew she would probably not be able to travel again in the future. I organized a flamenco show reservation for her group. She came out of the show dancing and smiling, and she said, "This is why I have come here." Seeing her live like that and soak up absolutely every moment up — and helping her do so — was probably the most rewarding moment as a guide. I think of her often, and it helps me remember how I would like to live each moment.
What do you do when you're not leading tours?
I take care of my two young boys, which allows my husband to focus on his restaurant business. He becomes sort of a single dad when I am on tour, so he needs my down time to catch up!
Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
I love mathematics, and I thought about pursuing a college degree related to it.
Here's what Amanda won't tell you…but her tour members will:
"Amanda was an incredibly thoughtful and caring tour guide. She wanted to give us the best experience possible. She was easy to joke with, had a good personality, and was incredibly knowledgeable about Spain, the tour, and things to do during free time. Rick Steves' Europe has yet to disappoint, especially with their guides. Truly going to miss traveling through Spain with Amanda by our side!"
— Michelle in North Chelmsford, MA