As you can imagine, when tour guides get together we “never” talk about our clients… Well maybe a little bit once in a while. Here are some anecdotes of my life as a tour guide! I have changed the names and nationalities of my guests.
In four days we should have started the SAN FERMIN festival here in Pamplona, unfortunately, it will not happen this year (I hate COVID). So, my first “Life as a tour guide ” post is going to be the Running of the Bulls Edition!
BUCKET LIST KIND OF TICKED
We know that for a lot of people, San Fermin and specially the running with the bulls in Pamplona, is on their bucket list issues. During San Fermin of 2018 Michael´s story really touched me.
Every day during this week I guide a class on how to run with the bulls. It is a lot of fun. My guests are either young kids full of adrenaline or middle-aged married guys, whose wives are not happy at all. No matter who they are, they all have one thing in common, the spark in their eyes. I must say that it is a very special glow, half fear, half anxiety.
On July 12th Michael and his girlfriend (Sue) joined one of my classes. It was a small group of 5. Everything went great, but I could see something going on between Michael and Sue. They were not happy, I couldn´t find the spark in their eyes. At the end of the class when I said goodbye to everybody and wished them luck on the run, I took the couple on a side and asked them what was going on.
Michael explained that his best friend from college (Sam) always dreamed of running with the bulls. In fact, Sam was the one who convinced them to come to Pamplona. The two couples prepared for the trip for over a year. They were going to visit Barcelona, Madrid and the high point on their Spanish stroll was going to be the Running of the Bulls.
About a month before the trip, Sam didn’t feel well and visited his doctor. After some tests he was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer and the trip to Spain had to be cancelled. Michael and Sue almost cancelled the trip too, but Sam convinced them to come to Spain and make a daily report for him.
The next day of the class, I was watching the run from one of our balconies with some other guests, and as I always do, I filmed the run. It is always so fast that you really don’t know what you are filming, but when I made it home and re-watched the video, I realized that right in front of the bulls were Sue and Michael, making the perfect run.
Sam, although I don´t know you. I want to see you next year here in Pamplona running with the bulls. You have the best friends in the world.
Never too late
We all think that San Fermin is just for young kids. And you are right, it is for young people, but for young people at heart. In 2016 I lived one of those incredible San Fermin experiences that touches any tour guide´s heart.
Early in the year, a young man contacted me asking to book a balcony for 9, hotel rooms, and a guide with a lot of patience for the 3 days they were going to be here. By the end of April, everything was booked, prepared and paid. But the question was, what do you mean with a “very patience” guide?
Well, what happened is that this group were 8 grandkids who were inviting their 82-year-old grandfather to party at San Fermin. When he was a kid, It was Mr. X’s dream to come here with his wife and some friends, but life, work, kids…. didn’t let him come.
I was expecting a nice old man who couldn’t barely walk, but that was far from the truth. Grandpa is the one with more energy in the group. He is unstoppable, always the first one at the lobby, even at 6:30 in the morning. Mr. X would dance, eat, drink, and enjoy life like a teenager. He is uncontrollable, I want to be like him when I am 82.
The love and respect that all the grandkids have for this man, is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. They were always there for him. Every morning each one kissed him at breakfast. If he wanted to use the toilet, 2 of the kids would always go with him. One of the granddaughters (a doctor) was in charge of his medicines. The youngest one (16 years) was instructed to hydrate Mr. X, and would always carry a bottle of fresh water ready for grandpa.
On the second day, Mr. X asked me if I could arrange a mass for that evening. It was all prepared in less than 2 hours, I can’t believe I even found an English-speaking priest to celebrate. When we arrived at the Church, Mr. X took out of his pocket a little metallic box, and all the kids kissed it. I was surprised so I asked, the youngest one explained that it was the ashes of Mrs. X. Before grandma died, she made grandpa promise that he would enjoy life as fully as they used to do when she was healthy, and his duty was to keep the family together. What is a better way to have all the grandkids close to one another than traveling every summer with grandpa?
Days like this makes a tour guides’ life amazing!
During the Running of the bulls festival in 2017 we had an extra VIP guest. Not a famous person, but a very, very wealthy guest. When high end travel agencies tell us that we will be guiding a very VIP, normally it means that they are going to be a pain in the …. With “Ms. T” that was not true.
She was hosted at Hotel La Perla the best hotel in Pamplona. She came with her 24 years old daughter and about 12 suitcases. They were going to be away from home traveling around Europe for almost 3 months.
These two ladies were really fun, always ready for a joke. They came prepared, they knew so much about Spain’s history, traditions, food. “Ms. T” daughter is an art major graduate and felt in love with our Gothic Cathedral. They both loved to eat and good wine was always on the table. These are the kind of wealthy people I love to work for. Just normal people with a lot of money, guests who want to learn and money is only the key to the door of knowledge.
By the second day Ms. T explained me that she owes one of the largest garbage companies in Mexico. She is expanding her company to other countries in Central America. She hires over 40.000 people.
It is incredible, that I have never realized how much garbage we leave behind during the week of the Running of the Bulls. Obviously “Ms. T” did. She was super impressed about how our cleaning crews worked. The speed, the neatness. There is so much hard work behind. Every team is perfectly organized, first they empty the trash cans, then they sweep the floor, then they wash it with some detergent and afterwards they blow it in search for small pieces of glass. They work like perfectly synchronized machines. There is not one corner in town not cleaned. Yes of course it is not a perfectly clean city, but it is as clean as it can be under the exceptional circumstances of a huge party.
At the end of their stay, she handed me two closed envelopes with tips. One was for me, and the other one she asked me to give it on her behalf to one of the cleaning crews. That same day I saw one big garbage truck stopped near the main square. I asked the driver for the person in charge of the team. He pointed towards a very serious short man, his name is Miguel. At the beginning of our conversation he was not too happy, I was delaying his route. But when I handed him the envelope, he couldn´t believe it. The crew was super happy with the 400€ tip, but they were specially moved, because somebody realized about the amazing work they do.
I took a picture of the crew and sent it to Ms. T, who printed it and placed it in her office.
From now on, our cleaning crews have all my respects.
Help me God
Once I welcomed one of those guests who could drive anybody crazy, and let me tell you, that they really did so. Thank God it was just for two days.
Mr. & Mrs. D were traveling with a very VIP travel agency. The agent told me that whatever the couple wanted, they should have it, no matter the price. They also told me to be patience…
Here is a list of weird demands from Mr. D. By the way, the demands never came in question form or with a please at the end of the sentence.
– I want 4 front row tickets in the shady part of the arena for today’s bullfight.
Hello!!! The bullfight was going to start in 3 hours, and front seats are booked months in advance. I don´t know who helped me from heaven but I managed to get those 4 tickets. Mr. D paid 2000€ for them.
– Change our reservation for lunch in the 1 Michelin star restaurant, I don´t like the name of the restaurant.
WTF!!!! Reservation cancelled.
– I want my driver driving us to the bullring.
But the bullring is that building across the street. Well, the driver came and drove us across the street.
– I don’t want to watch the running of the bulls at 8:00.
Sure Mr. D let me tell the Mayor to change it to whenever is good for you. Or you could watch it on my iPad whenever you want
–This is unacceptable, I can´t believe that in this hotel they only have cheap Champagne. Totally agree on this one, 200€ for a bottle of champagne cannot be good. As you said, unacceptable, I will sacrifice myself and take it home. I will drink it with my wife.
– It is cold. Why?
Queen Elsa from Frozen has arrived in town and you know her, she is such a cold-hearted b—
– This is not Vodka
And that is what happens when you ask for a Gin and Tonic. In fact, you specified that it had to be Hendrick’s…
Needless to say, that I tried my best to solve all the problems he found. I must say I think I did a great work according to the tip. It was in sane….
By the way if you want to experience first-hand the festivity of SAN FERMIN, talk to us about it. We can help you with almost everything : hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, balcony rental, guided tours…