It was great catching up with Mary & David from London Walks yesterday. I first met them when they visited Sevilla two years ago, and this time I got to take them out on a proper Sevilla Tapas Tour. Happily they were up for anything, so we were able to squeeze into one of my fave places that I can’t usually go to on my tours, as it’s too small and crowded for most people’s idea of comfort. If I have time I hope to go out on one of their London walking tours when I am there next month.
I continue to meet wonderful people thanks to Twitter. This time it was Rome-based food goddess Katie Parla. On Friday morning I was doing my usual social media stuff and attempting to catch up with my massive To Do list of reviews, photos and blog posts before the big #LondonGetaway next week, and up popped a Twitter notice from @jengonroff suggesting that @katieparla get in touch with me. I’d heard of Katie and was keen to help out, thinking she might be coming to Sevilla soon. Turned out she was in Sevilla in that exact moment and was STARVING, so we made plans to meet up later in the evening. What followed was a fun (and sherry-filled) impromptu Sevilla Tapas Tour...
I immediately felt at home with Katie and was pleased to discover we share a similar philosophy when it comes to our food & wine tours (Katie also offers Art History & Archeology tours in Rome), which is to keep it simple and real. We’ve both noticed the recent influx of food tour opportunists showing up where we have lived and loved and worked for so long. It’s sad to see these people ruining what we have helped to build with them scheduling regular touristy-scripted tours that clog up and destroy the natural ambiance of the places we love. Progress? I don’t think so.
But we had a great time, starting off with sherry and jamón at Las Teresas, then moving on for some fusiony-fun at La Azotea in barrio Santa Cruz (with unexpected guest appearance by Ania – see silly selfie). Then a quick stop at Casa Morales – Katie had to see the tinajas! – before finishing up at Bodeguita Romero. And finish up we did, closing the joint sometime just before 1.00 am! Loved watching Katie experience her first pringá, and we were totally spoiled by Alejandro, offering special sherry pairings. Pretty much a perfect night out.
It’s always such a pleasure to meed kindred spirits like Katie and I look forward to visiting her in Rome soon.
Twitter magic strikes again! Thanks to the wonderfulness that is Twitter, Sarah and Derek booked a tapas tour with me. And then I found out that they run Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies in Norfolk, UK – home of THE perfect pork pie. And they brought me THREE PIES as a gift. And so I couldn’t just give them my usual tour, and offered them a Deluxe Tapas tour. Five bars in four hours… lots of tapas, lots of chat, lots of fun. And now I can’t wait to try those pies!
Sara, Ania, Delia, Aldara, Alessandro
Remember back in December when the fabulous Aldara and I put together Sevilla’s first Craft Beer & Tapas Tour? Well, we’ve been waiting for a good moment to get the rest of the WLT team together (a bit like herding cats) so they could start their craft beer training. And lucky for us, Alessandro – owner of Sevilla’s first craft beer store – offered to give the chicas a craft beer masterclass. It was also a perfect opportunity to welcome our newest member Sara into the fold. Good times. Great team.
Last week while Anna @annalibera was here I also had a long-awaited visit from Naomi @gingergourmand and her husband Andrew @andrewknill. Naomi and I have been Twitter pals for years, so I was very excited when I found out they were coming to Sevilla to celebrate Andrew’s birthday. The night they arrived Anna and I crashed their first meal at Eslava and then we dragged them over to La Pepona because, well, Anna ALWAYS has to go to La Pepona. It’s a beard thing ;). Next day I met up with Naomi & Andrew in the evening for a spontaneous “gourmet tapas tour”, which took us to a few of my fave places. Usually I like to mix things up a bit, but that night we ended up at favourite traditional bars since N & A had already visited a few trendier places. It was lovely.
The cool thing about all the Twitter pals I’ve met over the years is that not only do we have a love of travel, food & wine in common, but usually we’ve been in touch for ages, and know a lot of the same people (either virtually or in person). So when we do finally get to meet up it’s like we’ve known each other for ages. Especially because ALL of us post photos of what we’ve had for lunch. 😛
Gotta say that the concept of competition has become a bit ugly lately. I’ve been running my Sevilla Tapas Tours for five years now, and my Sevilla Tapas website has been going for eight years. Along the way I’ve met many like-minded people doing similar things and for the most part we have seen each other as colleagues rather than competitors and have helped each other out. Okay by me.
To be honest, the growth of my business has been very organic, with one natural step leading to another, then another… even my latest venture We Love Tapas came from the basic concept that I am not able to clone myself, yet I still want to offer people a fabulous food experience here in Sevilla. So a new brand was born, offering a shorter but just as tasty version of my already established signature tour. And my friend Victor in Málaga, being in the same boat, also saw the sense in that, so he joined me in creating We Love Tapas Malaga.
Unlike five years ago, there are now whacks of people offering tapas tours, jumping on the bandwagon. Fair enough, but for many their main ambition is clearly to make a buck. Don’t get me wrong, I am also offering my various tapas and food & wine tours in order to make a living, but I was long ago involved in the tapas scene in Sevilla, knew everybody, had a well-established website, so doing tapas tours was the obvious next step.
And so I have become a bit “whatever” when it comes to having competition here. I reckon there’s lots of work out there if you are good, and good luck to you. EXCEPT. A couple of years ago someone here started using my name – Sevilla Tapas Tours – all over social media. When I asked why they were using an already established brand their response was to REGISTER my name. WTF? More recently someone trying to break into the food tour biz in Sevilla actually bought Google Ads and used Seville Tapas Tours as their heading (though they had previously told me to my face they weren’t actually doing tapas tours here, they were doing “food tours”). Again… WTF? What the hell is wrong with people? Why not try making a name for yourself based on your own experience and credentials instead of copying others? Do you think people will be fooled when they see that Google Ad next to my Trip Advisor reviews? Is that what they want? To get a booking by mistake? The mind reels…
Some say I should feel flattered and that it’s inevitable that people are trying to cash in on my success… except, wait a minute. I have worked long and hard over the past eight years building my Sevilla Tapas site (long before anyone was talking “brands”). It was – and still is – a labour of love. And it is still probably the best English language resource on tapas in Sevilla. My Sevilla Tapas Tours have been mentioned in various international press articles, countless travel blog posts, inflight magazines, and last year the Sevilla Tourist Board asked me to be a member of their expert panel to develop the Seville Gastronomy Heritage website. This is because they know that I know what I’m talking about. And of course I am honoured to be acknowledged in this way.
Bottom line… there’s ambitious and then there’s, well, that image up there. Hey, I’m ambitious too, which is why I work 14-hour days, 7 days a week. But I also love what I do, and for the most part don’t worry about “competition”. Heck, having competition tends to keep us on our toes and I always learn a lot by reading about ways to improve my own biz. But what to do about people using underhanded tactics to promote their new biz by piggy-backing on your own well-established name? Now that it’s happened more than once, it’s beginning to piss me off. And you know what? You REALLY don’t want to piss me off. 😉
Today’s first ever Triana Tapas Tour was a resounding success, in spite of The Weather, which decided to turn very wet and a bit nasty. But we managed to mostly dodge the worst of it and had a great time visiting the market, having a picnic, and then carrying on to two very well-known bars in Triana. Looking forward to many more!