Alex is our smiley Spanish guide and the man who’ll shepherd us along the Camino de Santiago. We caught up with the Spaniard to learn why he’s excited to get back in the tour guiding saddle.
Hola! Please introduce yourself to our travellers.
Hola, my name is Àlex Porras and I’m in my early 40s. I’ve mostly worked as a tour guide over the past 10 years but also have been involved in movie productions and skiing. I love animals, both wild and domestic ones, and I enjoy most of my free time practising sports while enjoying nature.
You were born in Barcelona so I assume you’re Catalani (Catalonian? Cataloni?). Can you tell us a bit about what makes Barcelona (and Catalan) unique from the rest of Spain?
I believe the English word for the citizens of Catalonia is “Catalan”, but don’t trust my English. hahaha
Well, Catalonia is the region you can find in the north-east corner of Spain, and Barcelona is the capital. Probably everyone believes their own region, country or city is special and different than the rest. I don’t think we’re more different than other areas are from the rest, but we’re very proud of our own language (Catalan) which is a Romance language similar to Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese… Also in our traditions we have the very iconic “Castells” (meaning castles), that are basically human towers often involving more than a hundred people for each castell. It’s an activity that symbolizes teamwork to accomplish goals.
I’ll be very happy to tell you guys more about us Catalan when we meet 😀
Where do you live currently?
I spent the last 4–5 years of my life based in Vigo, Galicia. A city that belongs to one of the many routes of the Camino de Santiago.
And how did you end up becoming a guide? What drew you to the profession?
When I was 25 I studied horseback tour guiding, first in Barcelona then in Chalain, France. But ten years ago I became a safari guide in East Africa, and it was through my passion for wildlife I discovered how wonderful it is sharing what I love with the groups I lead.
What would you say is your area of expertise in guiding—active tours such as hiking and/or cycling? Or are you more of a culture and history buff?
I am also a sports instructor (horseback riding and skiing) so I love sports and activities in the nature. But I believe the best way to enjoy any trip, including active trips, is making the most of everything you find wherever you go, such as culture, history, nature, food…
How many times do you suspect you’ve hiked the Camino? And what does this famous pilgrimage mean to you personally?
I’ve probably walked over ten times, specifically the French route. But also in Portugal and sections of the Camino del Norte which goes along the northern coast of Spain. And I find it’s a mixture of enjoying nature, meeting lots of different people from all around, but also finding moments on your own just walking, which is great. Galician food is something that I never get tired of, it doesn’t matter how many years I spend here.
Our tour follows the final 100km of the Camino de Santiago in Galacia. Can you tell us a bit about the region and why it’s special?
On Out Adventures’ tour you’ll go through the hilly Galician part of the Camino which is full of rivers, oak and eucalyptus forests that will delight your eyes. But also all the tiny little villages with their old stone houses are some of the gems you can’t find in other sections of the Camino.
What can our travellers look forward to seeing/experiencing along the Camino?
Everybody feels differently after walking the Camino. But one of the joys is accomplishing the Camino and the satisfaction earned from overcoming the physical and mental components. Especially among all these astonishing landscapes, meals and local wines.
Aside from the Camino, our travellers will also be spending time in Madrid. What makes this metropolis so special/unique?
As you know, Madrid is the capital of Spain, the biggest and most populated city in the country. This means it is a place filled with diversity, but I think also inclusiveness. It is a cosmopolitan town where you’ll find old history in their monumental buildings, modern and classic art. But most of all, a great urban contrast to the rural parts of Galicia on the Camino.
Do you have any insider tips for Madrid? For example a favourite cafe, restaurant or bar…
Recently I found this beautiful gem called La China Mandarina at Cascorro Square. It’s a nice cafe where you can enjoy a coffee or beer with a really nice meal in a modern but still local environment.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in Madrid on a Sunday morning, you’ll love the hectic El Rastro (Madrid’s flee market) which is placed right in the square and all the way down Ribera de Curtidores St.
The Spanish are internationally known for their passion and ‘zest for life’. Where do you think this comes from?
Spaniards enjoy community, family, long meals, socializing… they truly enjoy a human connection and I think that’s really apparent when you visit Spain.
What aspect of Spanish culture or history do you love to share with travellers visiting for the first time?
The last 50 to 80 years produced massive change in Spanish people’s lives and you can see it as you walk through the Camino. But also visitors will be able to see the footprints of the different pilgrims since the 8th century. It’s very special to know you’re sharing this pilgrimage with so many people throughout history.
Anything I might have missed that you wanted to share? Maybe a funny or inspiring anecdote you might have from past Camino experiences?
Let me keep some stories for when you guys come to Spain. lol. But an inspiring thought I had a few years ago while guiding pilgrims on the Camino—I’m re-discovering the country I grew up in thanks to your fresh point-of-view. Visitors help me see Spain from different angles. This is a fact that I LOVE. It is also one of the main reasons I continue to guide! So thank you for coming and helping me fall in love with my home again and again!!! ;D
*This interview was edited for clarity.
Join Alex in Spain this coming autumn on our Spain: Gay Madrid & The Camino de Santiago tour.
Header image courtesy of Àlex Porras. Castells imagery courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. El Rastro Market photo courtesy of the market. All other photos courtesy of Andaspain.
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For the first time ever, Out Adventures touches down in Madrid, then Spain’s northern province of Galicia for an active gay adventure along the Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James. Today this landmark Catholic pilgrimage is just as popular with secular wayfarers including LGBT trekkers, and Spain is already one of the most gay-welcoming […] Read More