FollowTheBaldie.com: Town and country walking and study tours in Barcelona and the Western Med
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  • Why FollowTheBaldie?
    • Language All our guides are native English speakers and speak the local language fluently.
    • Knowledge Our local and subject knowledge is profound and up-to-date.
    • Interactivity See someone interesting? We'll interpret. Tired/full of energy? We can adapt the programme.
    • Individuality We don't do herd tourism. No silly flags. No headsets.
    • Responsibility Unlike most "green" tour businesses, we only use public transport--cheaper and generally more interesting.

FAQs

My walk

My guide

Payment

On the day

The rest

My walk

Am I fit enough?

Walks labelled “easy” should present you with no problems if you can walk 10 miles without difficulty. If you’ve got any doubts about the suitability of a walk, please ask us in advance and we’ll make every effort to ensure that you make the right choice. Note that the release of liability and assumption of all risk requires you to certify that you take all responsibility for your physical condition, and allows us to stop you going on a walk if we think you won’t make it. Fortunately we’ve only had to do this once - a Swedish girlie wanted to go tarantula hunting at full moon in stilettos. (top)

Can I bring my pitbull?

We generally don’t take along pets, but feel free to ask. (top)

Can I bring my toddlers?

By age 14 or 15, most folks can cope with our easier walks. We’ve got a secret stash of routes suitable for younger people, so do ask. (top)

Can we do the walk the other way round?

Yes, transport and other considerations permitting. We’ve just chosen the direction that we think work best for views and so forth. (top)

Can we take our clothes off?

This is the only listed route I’d recommend. We don’t meet many other people on most routes, but if we get it wrong once then bars won’t serve us next time and the local police may bother us. On customised trips to the Pyrenees, suitable routes can be devised. (top)

How many people in a group?

You must know the 1990s joke about the Kuwaiti minister of defence, who could count to 10 in the winter and to 20 in the summer. We don’t wear sandals, and we don’t generally travel with groups into double figures. There is no minimum. (top)

Isn’t it too hot to go walking in the Mediterranean in the summer?

See this blog post. (top)

What if I can’t find the walk I’m looking for?

Use either the route catalogue to find something suitable or just tell us what you’re looking for, when. (top)

What if I haven’t got my boots with me?

There are various walks that you can do with a decent pair of shoes. Tell us when you submit the form and we’ll try to find something suitable. (top)

What kind of customers do you normally get?

Clients are generally extremely generous billionaires, aged 2-72 and in reasonable health. Most are English native speakers, but we get quite a lot of Yorkshire folks, as well as the odd Uzbek some very odd Uzbeks. (top)

What about my wheelchair/pushchair?

If you’re pretty strong, reasonably ambitious and in Barcelona, you’ll find that this country jaunt works well. City excursions are manageable in varying degrees - tell us what you want and we’ll suggest something. (top)

My guide

Who/what is Baldie Enterprises?

The Baldie is a musician, then a software person, then a suit in a tower who got sick of corporate bollocks and being assaulted by taxis and riotous infants as he cycled down the Kingsland Road. Installed in Barcelona, friends started coming out hill-walking, one suggested putting up a website with a dotcom-style name, and FollowTheBaldie.com has since 2003 turned out to be an exceptionally pleasant way of getting poor slowly. We have since grown to a network of geezers and geezeresses with varying degrees of hair cover, and operate along the Spanish coast, with outposts in France and Italy. The indefatigable Mr Emperor Wu provides us with administrative assistance and scolds us every now and again. We make most of our money doing city tours for cruise operators, but we enjoy the country and crazier walks immensely, any marginal liver damage being more than offset by coronary-pulmonary gains made running to catch the last train home. (top)

Will my guide be shaven too?

As part of our ongoing programme to build the baldie brand, we provide financial encouragement for all guides to shave their heads (or wear skin-colour swimming hats) and learn the trombone. This is not, however, something we can enforce, and with regret and the closest we can manage to respect we provide refuge to several 70s guitarists of a hirsute disposition. See greebo.  (top)

Is he/she the hot Latin lover of my sangria-fuelled dreams?

A wealthy but somewhat innocent single lady traveller once removed her clothes with amorous intent while her guide was having a mountain-top nap, but this kind of thing is fraught with difficulty and horrible cases of sunburn, and we discourage it and will apply Sharia law where appropriate. If you fancy someone else on a group trip, please wait till we get back to civilisation before you ask them for their phone number. Sweet old gents we meet en route are usually single for excellent reasons. (top)

Is he/she a local?

We have thought hard and long about the pros and cons of emic and etic (ie insider and outsider) anthropology and guiding, and we tend to lean to the latter. Local guides have often spent good money on a worthless piece of paper from the government which makes them “official,” but their English is usually terrible and their appreciation of their birthplace is often confined to the patriotic histories taught in schools. They rarely understand the Weird Shit concept (see below). Our guides have generally lived locally for at least a decade and often do this kind of thing as a sideline to humanities-related university or college teaching. They know what they are talking about and they know how to make it interesting to you. (More on official guides here.) (top)

How are guides trained and evaluated?

Mr Baldie runs through the routes with them thoroughly before they appear on the website and uses mystery tourists to ensure they’re providing a satisfactory experience. (top)

Why can’t I find the guides on TripAdvisor or other travel sites?

Our collective experience is that looking for a guide on TripAdvisor is comparable to online dating while drunk. Satisfied clients usually only write reviews if specifically asked to do so, and a lot of apparently disinterested reviewers are actually other providers or their friends - check Barcelona official guide Marta Laurent Veciana going undercover here. So we stay clear of vile deceits like the social media and sponsoring Formula 1, and advertise by word of mouth. (top)

Are unofficial guides legal?

Nothing personal (the interweb contains loads of similar propaganda), but here’s Marta again:

I'd like to warn you that in Barcelona you need to be a licensed official tourguide to give LEGAL tours.

Some of your choices (specially this Jordan guy) don't seem to be licensed (or he doesn't say so in his website) You should check up with him before hiring his services or you could get in trouble (you don't want the police arresting your guide during your tour) : ( or it could be a scam...

An official tourguide for Barcelona and the Catalunya area must have a yellow card issued by the Generalitat de Catalunya and a 4-number license code.

As any local guide (or any European citizen) should know, this is absolute rubbish. Tourist guides were first regulated in Spain (France and Italy followed similar schedules) during the Franco dictatorship: as Spain opened up to the world, the ministerial order of June 17 1952 was a way of preventing pinkos, opium-fiends and homosexuals from misrepresenting it to foreigners. Similar fascist-syndicalist legislation followed under Manuel Fraga on January 31 1964, establishing official guides as a class of poorly educated but reliable mouthpieces of the regime.

Democratic elections in 1977 brought with them a horror of central power, but instead of liberalising the labour market most new regional governments introduced Franco-style, protectionist tourist guide legislation. However, change finally came when in 1986 national goverment relinquished many of its remaining powers upwards, to Brussels. In 1991 the European Court of Justice ruled (C-180/89) that the freedom to provide services EU-wide means that member states may not require national (read regional) qualifications, except where guides are specialists visiting designated museums or historical monuments. As is customary, Spain ignored this for a couple of years, so it was hauled before the European Court which on March 22 1994 confirmed the previous judgement and threatened Spain with dire penalties if it prolonged the policy of mañana. All relevant legislation was struck down in 1995, and that, legally speaking, is that. In practice, each region has a guide guild which, with the collaboration of the regional government, uses threats and misinformation to try to enforce a closed shop - one of the great failures of the European single market has been an unwillingness to address the replacement of national with regional protectionism.

It is true that “official” guides can get you quicker into the busier museums, but these generally provide excellent audio-guides, thus sparing you the embarrassment of traipsing around after a loudmouth when the rest of the public would rather like some peace and quiet. By definition less-frequently-visited museums don’t have queues and are generally grateful for any groups they get, be their guides official or not. (More on official guides here.) (top)

Can I work for you?

If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, get in touch before you shave your head and Mr Baldie will generously allow you buy him coffee and buns. (top)

Payment

Can I pay cash?

Yes, but be aware that we work on a first come, first served basis, and your reservation only exists once we have received payment in full. Everything we do is declared to all the relevant authorities, so cash doesn’t work out cheaper for you (although it spares us a small amount of PayPal usury). (top)

How do I know you’re not going to run off with my money?

We don’t pay off travel mafias, so

  1. No financial guarantees. If we want to abscond to Bognor Regis with your money, we can. Unlike properly regulated entities - Enron and Greece, for example - we are, however, low risk. This is because we enjoy doing this kind of stuff and have no absurd ambitions.
  2. We don’t have to charge you more money to pay for their PR, their political lobbying, and their corporate splurges.

(top)

How does ordering work?

  1. When you complete and send the form, we receive mail with your details.
  2. If we can help you, we’ll agree the details with you in a short exchange of emails and then send you a link enabling you to make a secure credit card or PayPal payment. In some circumstances cash may be acceptable.
  3. Once you pay, you will receive confirmation of your place on the walk, together with full details.

(top)

Price/cancellations

What if I cancel?

If, after booking, you decide you want to change to a different walk, please email us as soon as possible. Whilst we will endeavour to help, we cannot make any guarantees.

If you cancel a walk, we will refund your money to your PayPal account or credit card subject to the following deductions:

  1. 29+ days in advance of departure: 30%;
  2. 28-15 days: 50%;
  3. 14-8 days: 70%;
  4. 7 days or less: 90%;
  5. on or after the departure date: 100%.

More on PayPal refunds here.

(top)

What if you cancel?

If we cancel a walk, we will refund you everything you have paid us. We regret that we cannot pay any expenses, costs or losses incurred by you as a result of any change or cancellation. (top)

Will you change the price after I’ve booked?

The price will not change once you have paid. There are no hidden extras. (top)

On the day

Tell us about your Weird Shit Guarantee®

Some tours are just about buildings and people you’ve never heard about from a long time ago. We respect that, but we happen to think that the present may often be as interesting as the past, and that understanding the one may help you understand the other. So our unique Weird Shit Guarantee® says that if you see a local being strange and want to find out more, then unless they appear to be inclined to violence we will attempt to introduce them to you and act as interpreter while you investigate and/or participate. (We do this for sane locals as well, but you get the message.) (top)

Can we get drunk?

You’ll have a much better day out (and a much smaller chance of hurting yourself) if you turn up for the walk after a decent night’s sleep. If your party is interested in liquid refreshment en route, tell us in advance so we can select a walk that enables you to do so without getting sunstroke or falling off a cliff. (top)

What do I need to bring with me?

  1. For walks graded easy you're probably OK with any light shoe. For the rest, consider using decent walking shoes, or boots if you prefer. Some Yorkshiremen successfully did this one in flipflops, but it's not something we'd recommend.
  2. A waterproof. It rains here so infrequently that you may decide to take a chance on it. Chinese shops often sell them for a couple of euros.
  3. A sunhat.
  4. Sunscreen. You can burn here even on cloudy days in the winter.
  5. Water. Any safe springs are included in walk descriptions, but bring your own if you want to be sure.
  6. Food. Picnic lunch plus things like nuts and chocolate. Barcelona’s Pakistani shops (markup ca 30%) are open Sundays.
  7. Any medication you need, including diarrhoea tablets if you are susceptible.

Don’t bring more than you can comfortably carry. (top)

What if I have an accident?

Apart from a couple of strains and mild cases of sunstroke, we haven’t had any problems so far. However, although we may carry a basic first aid kit, we are not doctors. If you get into trouble, then the first thing we will do is to call an ambulance and/or the police. You should read our release of liability and assumption of all risk and your insurance policy details carefully. Getting a helicopter to the middle of a walk like this does not come cheap. (top)

What if I’m delayed?

It is your responsibility to get to the meeting point on time. We won’t wait for you, nor will we refund your money. For this reason we recommend that you don’t book a walk on your day of arrival or departure. (top)

What’s that flower called?

We've got a fairly good command of all the stuff you’re likely to ask, but if you are particularly interested in a particular field please tell us in advance. (top)

Where’s our meeting point?

Maps and photos here. (top)

Why do you use public transport?

Although serving often sparsely populated areas, public transport here is generally much better and much cheaper than in the UK or the US. Views from the train are usually good and fellow passengers are often a fertile source of entertainment. While we don’t believe everything the Reverend Gore says, we do believe that reducing fossil fuel consumption is good for us and for the planet. (top)

Will I get bitten by a dog?

Hasn’t happened yet. Sheepdogs are fine, farm dogs are usually tied up, and most dogs (including hunting dogs) will run away if you pretend to stone them–that’s how most of them are trained. Should anything happen, then bear in mind that it’s part of your guide’s job to get bitten first. (top)

Will a farmer shout “get orf me f***ing land” at us?

Hasn’t happened yet. Farmland isn’t as fenced-off, or farmers as territorial, as in the UK, and trespassing is facilitated by various laws. Most farmers love getting a chance to talk to strangers anyway. (top)

Will the hunters shoot us?

Only if you look like a wild boar, and then only between October and February. (top)

The rest

Do you do airport transfers?

We are delighted to announce a free, low-carbon transfer service courtesy of Shanks' Pony, Inc, which we hope to expand from the current limited selection of airports. (top)

Can you tell me where’s good to stay/drink/eat?

For accommodation we always suggest you try sites like TripAdvisor, where there's generally critical mass to drown out the self-promoting sock-puppets. We generally recommend avoiding bars and restaurants listed in guidebooks because the fact that tourists don’t come back encourages rip-offs. Even if you decide not to use us, you won’t go far wrong if you stay out of the old town and go into tourist-free places with reasonably sane-looking and well-fed locals already installed and a woman in the kitchen. Because labour costs have risen sharply and knowledgeable staff have given up trying to compete with newcomers, tapas are often poor value for money. I can feel a rant coming on. (top)

Do you do cycling tours?

Mr Baldie has cycled extensively in Spain and Europe, occasionally with a sousaphone and more frequently in a pink ballgown, and has been talking for a while about offering countryside gourmet bike tours. If this interests you, feel free to bully him a bit. (top)

Where can I buy walking gear in Barcelona?

Decathlon has a decent cheap range of own and other brands. (top)

Why don’t you do walks in Spanish/Catalan/Italian/French

Our objective is to offer a high-quality, all-round experience to clients, so the only languages we currently always offer are English and Dutch. If you want walks in Spanish or Catalan, please talk to us. (top)

Why do you take people to cruel things like bull running?

Because they find it interesting. We also take folks to watch old men drinking themselves to death in bars, Brazilian lady-boys selling themselves on the streets to pay for the op, and gypsies teaching finches to sing according to Catalan contest rules. If there were public executions we'd definitely be there. We strongly disapprove of just about everything that happens in Spain, but you only live once. (top)

Will you write a guidebook/an article for our in-flight magazine?

With pleasure. If you pay NUJ rates. (top)


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