My old Bristol pal Kate Hawkings has just published this wonderful new book – Aperitif. Very happy to be mentioned (thanks for the photo Lizzie). Can’t wait for my copy to arrive! You can get yours on Amazon. 🙂
Pretty much the only fluids I drink are water and wine. Okay, I have a cup of coffee and small glass of juice each morning, but really that’s about it. During the winter I drink room temperature water, and a lot of it, at least two litres a day. And sad to say, I drink mineral water, which makes me feel guilty about ALL THAT PLASTIC (even though I do recycle). It’s just that at room temperature the tap water can taste a bit weird. But in summer I do this! And I love it. Jugs of chilled tap water filled with lemons and limes. It’s not only delicious but I can drink it guilt free. Though I still take a bottle of mineral bottle to bed with me at night…
This photo was taken in March 2016. It was the first time I’d seen The Dude since the previous winter started and my heart leapt when I found him basking in a sunbeam on a warm spring morning.
Most of you know by now that The Dude has “retired”. He was taken in by a lovely and caring neighbour at the beginning of this past winter and, given his present frail state, would not have survived otherwise. I’m going to visit him and Beatriz again tomorrow.
Hey Sevilla! This little tuxedo cat is presently being fostered by a friend and is looking for his forever home. Honestly, if Casa Azahar wasn’t already at peak cat capacity (I always say that I am one cat away from becoming a Mad Cat Woman) I’d be seriously tempted. The laundry hamper pic says it all. Anyhow, if you are interested, or know someone who might be, just get in touch.
Many of you know that I consider Málaga to be my second home in Spain. For awhile I even toyed with the idea of moving there. But for now I am happy in Sevilla and always look forward to seeing my Málaga friends when I go to visit. This last Málaga getaway was a bit different in that I got to see dear friends that I don’t usually see there. And it was great.
When I first arrived I met up with David, Kasha and Kyra for an impromptu snacky lunch and quick visit. We went to a small local bar and had a lovely time catching up and then ended up at a nearby playground. Good times.
Then in the evening I FINALLY got to hang out with Thane and Bob IN MÁLAGA. We’ve met up in London and in Sevilla but it was the first time we have coincided in Málaga even though we all go there a lot, and we had a fab traditional dinner at Los Mellizos with our mutual friend Victor.
Finally, I found out that Anna & Jorge had also been invited to the Premios Andalucía de Gastronomía (which is why I was there in the first place). So after the presentation and cocktail lunch we got to spend some time together in town before I had to catch my train home.
And then there was Victor. Always Victor. Victor is always there for me when I’m in Málaga and he is one of my dearest friends. So yeah, it was a great visit. Spending time with all of these amazing people that I am privileged to call my friends – and even more amazingly – they call me their friend too. Love you guys. See you soon! xx
This image comes from a much more detailed article about TripAdvisor, written two years ago (and well worth reading). What started as a type of extortion directed at hotels and restaurants back then has now extended to include local tour operators.
I recently noticed that the listing info on my TA pages, such as website links, phone numbers and email addresses, had disappeared. I also dropped 3 ranking spots overnight. Also, you can no longer answer direct questions from readers with any of that information in it – just like on AirBnB it gets filtered out.
So now only people who list their tours with Viator (TripAdvisor’s online booking app), and pay them a 25% commission, will end up with top ranking. They are also going to start factoring in monthly Viator commission earnings into their ranking algorithm, so the people paying the most commissions to TA will end up on top.
Well, I certainly can’t afford to pay a 25% commission to these bloodsuckers. For each tour I already pay 21% VAT, 15% income tax, admin fees, guide fees, and of course all that fabulous food and drink. My profit margin does not allow me to give 1/4 of it away to TripAdvisor just so I will show up at the top of their lists. Yes, I could put up my prices like many have… except, no way am I going to do that. I am totally against ripping off my guests just to appease that greedy beast, even though I know it would probably bring me more “traffic” and tours.
I can only hope that discerning travellers are going to see through this vile ruse. Many already tell me that when they see promoted Google ads they go right past them and look for the organic search results, even up to 3-4 pages. Happily I am still on the first page when people google “tapas tours seville”. Likewise, I think people are going to realise that the listed TripAdvisor “top food tour companies” in Sevilla and elsewhere are simply those who have paid to be there and have nothing to do with genuine quality.
Equally vile to me is when I see new-on-the-scene corporate food tour companies in Sevilla boasting that they “promote small local business”. No. They don’t. It’s obviously the other way round – these companies wouldn’t have a job without the bars. All the places I go to on my tours don’t actually need my business – they are all thriving family-run establishments that are always packed out. Though these days many of them are often full of copycat food tour groups, which is actually destroying what made these places special in the first place. I’ve even heard of one company that demands that bars PAY THEM to bring in tapas tour clients. WTF? It’s like living in the Upside Down.
So much greed. So little integrity. Me? I’m holding my own and working on ways to develop my food and wine experiences so that people can pay honest prices and get the best quality I can offer, as well as allowing me to make a living. I am playing the long game, even though at my age I’m not sure how long that game will actually be. These short-term opportunists disgust me, and I am certainly not going to play their game. Well, let’s see what happens.