Cláudia has deep roots in Lisbon and, with a background in radio and theater, a gift for communication. When a teacher mentioned that she could put her skills and her knowledge of Portugal to work as a tour guide, she gave it a shot — and more than 20 years later, she hasn't looked back. As a lead guide as well as local guide for Rick Steves' Heart of Portugal tours, she loves to help tour members experience the best of her hometown and country. Cláudia also offers private tours of Lisbon and the surrounding area.
Tell us about your background.
My family has a long history in Lisbon: Both of my grandmothers lived in Lisbon's historical neighborhoods; my parents (who grew up in the north of Portugal) came here to work, and I was born here and have lived here all my life. My father was a postman, so my sister and I helped distribute the mail. Because of that, I know Lisbon like the back of my hand.
You've been a tour guide in Portugal for many years. How did you first start leading tours?
When I had to choose a profession, I felt a little bit lost. I was thinking of doing law school or maybe being a teacher until my French teacher told me, "Cláudia, why don't you study to be a guide?" I didn't know exactly what that was, but as I did theater and radio, I thought that being a guide would be a combination of all that, with the plus of being able to show my beautiful country with all its rich history.
What do you like best about leading Rick Steves tours?
While I guide Rick Steves tours, I enjoy the freedom of choosing the best for our tour members. If there is something I would like to offer or show them because I think it will enrich their experience in Portugal, I'm able to do it. I can be spontaneous — I can be the real me!
Do you have a favorite stop on our Heart of Portugal tour?
Obviously, I have to say Lisbon is my best stop on the tour. It is my cradle! The city is cosmopolitan with a great history. I also love the central part of Portugal: Nazaré, with its fresh fish and barnacles, the amazing Batalha Monastery — where the Portuguese defeated the Castilians, and the romantic town of Óbidos, with its whitewashed houses and bougainvilleas.
What have been some of your most rewarding moments as a guide?
It's so rewarding when my tour members tell me, "Your country is amazing! It is safe, and it has friendly people and delicious food!" I also love when people who traveled with me contact me saying that they are coming back to Portugal and they would like to be with me again, or when they recommend me to friends!
You were featured in an episode of the Rick Steves' Europe TV show. What was it like being on camera?
I loved the experience of participating in an episode of Rick Steves' Europe! I was nervous (very nervous!) by the fact that I was doing it with someone who is a travel expert. But it was fun! And when I see it (I was so young!), I remember what was behind some scenes and I laugh! And it is rewarding to watch my beautiful city on TV.
Rumor has it that you're a big reader. What do you do when you're not leading tours?
When I'm not leading tours, I stay with my boyfriend and our dog. We don't have much time together because he is also a guide. I also read. I was raised among books (my mother is a book binder) and since I was a little girl, I was told that the books can be our best friends. Reading was my first way of traveling.
Lately, I've been walking the different caminos to Santiago de Compostela with my friends. Maybe one day Rick Steves will have some tours focused on "The Ways," and I will be prepared!
Tell us something about yourself that no one would guess.
I was a sonâmbula (sleepwalker) when I was little. My parents had to find a different way to lock the door of our house because, in the middle of the night, I would open the door, go downstairs, and start walking on the street — still asleep!
Here's what Claudia won't tell you…but her tour members will:
"Claudia was always professional and did a marvelous job of keeping us on time without feeling rushed. She has a terrific knowledge of her country and delivered the information laced with delightful personal stories."
— Joan in Tampa, FL