Monday, 11 May 2015

Local travel: Seeing the best of Madrid with Trip4Real

Here's a preview of my latest piece for Flush the Fashion...

If you’re an independent traveller, the phrase ‘guided tour’ probably conjures up images of a busload of backpack-wearing, camera-toting tourists being shepherded round a city’s top five sights. And the guide themselves? No doubt a strident umbrella-waver feeing their flock with facts. You’ve likely observed many such scenes around the world as you sloped past, preferring to retreat to a nearby café.

Locals can show you where to take the best photos...

But by opting out of tours, are we missing out? Guide books, blogs and websites can give us pointers, but their inanimate nature can’t make up for the human touch. What if the guide wasn’t a shouty tourist board official, but a friendly local – maybe someone you’d be friends with if you met them back home? And what if they offered the tour in a group that’s less-than-bus-size – maybe even private?  Well, not only does such a tour sound highly unlikely, it also sounds expensive.
Step in Trip4Real. This Barcelona-based business counts Catalan chef Ferran Adrià s one of its investors, and connects savvy European locals with travellers who expect more from a tour. Research can tell you where those top five sights are, but it can’t necessarily show you the city’s quirkiest street art, its most Instagram-worthy angles or its coolest cafés. Residents with a particular expertise or just a desire to show off their city at its best can offer tours and experiences via the Trip4Real website: from photo walks to cooking classes to country hikes. The range of activities varies from place to place but is ever-expanding, as is Trip4Real’s list of cities. And what do they all have in common? Invaluable local knowledge at a reasonable price.

For my first Trip4Real experience, I thought I’d put this local knowledge idea to the test and see what difference a personal insight makes. I skipped the tapas tours and personal shopping services in favour of a walk around my current home city, Madrid. The ‘From Madrid to Heaven’ experience is offered by lifelong resident Montse, and takes the popular local saying 'De Madrid al cielo' as a starting point for showing you what she believes to be the best of the capital city. But would her ideas teach a resident of three years anything new?

You can find the rest of the article, including the best views of Madrid and a surprisingly good tapas spot on the Plaza Mayor here

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