26 travelers representing 9 states and 2 countries + 2 guides + 1 equally beloved and hated selfie stick
Several in our group had traveled before on Rick Steves tours—and at least a couple had 10+ tours under their belts! Only a handful of us were first-timers.
our fearless leaders
Throughout the tour, Cristina Duarte, a veteran Rick Steves guide, and Fatima Bugarin, apprenticing for the first time, guided us with expertise, wisdom, and humor. They enlightened us with a tremendous amount of history about each destination (if I could only recall a small fraction of it!). It was especially interesting to get both their perspectives‚ sometimes differing, on Portuguese society and cultural. The two certainly contributed to a fun, successful tour!
getting to know you
On our first evening together in Lisbon, as part of the orientation, we chose "buddies"—one person we'd be responsible for ensuring was present whenever the group gathered. Our assignment that night was to learn a few facts about each other over the following days. Then on day 4 in Évora, we would introduce each other to the rest of the group.
For the party, Cristina provided local wines and a lovely spread of local meats, cheeses, and olives. It had been a hot, hot day, and the chilled Alentejo white wine tasted heavenly! We gathered in an outdoor space overlooking the hotel's pool, with a view of the ancient aqueduct turning golden in the late-day sun. It is one of my fondest memories of the trip.
However! I am an introvert and never relish the idea of speaking in front of a group—or being spoken of, as was required this night too. Wine and the group's friendliness eased the anxiety of the moment, though, and it passed without too much trauma. Aside from the necessary introductions, I appreciated the buddy system: It was a fast, efficient way to make sure no one was left behind.