Travel Director: Victor Cartin
Regions: European Discoveries; Italy and Spain
Trafalgar’s Travel Directors play a key role in providing each of our guests with a truly memorable experience. From the moment your Trafalgar journey begins, our Travel Directors share their local knowledge and provide a personalised, one-of-a-kind insider’s view of each destination. They are experienced travellers, learned historians and culture buffs whose job is to help you become immersed in the places you visit.
This week, Travel Director Victor Cartin took a few minutes to talk to the Trafalgar Blog to share some of his experiences and give some insight to why he loves what he does.
What is the best part of your job?
I am paid to do what I love – to meet people and to travel! The best part is happy guests that enjoy every new experience they encounter. I love making them feel as though they are part of the place they are visiting. To watch them experience the trip as ‘real travellers’ not just ‘tourists’!
What’s your best Hidden Treasure?
Many come to mind; the squares in Avignon, sausage stands in Salzburg, chocolate in Athens… but above all, it has to be the painting of the ‘Calling of St. Matthew’ by Caravaggio. It is in the Contarelli Chapel inside the church of St. Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. During the tour of Rome by night, between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, there is a rather unassuming Renaissance church. This church is not officially part of the evening tour, but I insist the Local Guide takes our guests inside. Once they are in front of the sombre chapel, I switch the lights on and the painting comes to life before their eyes! I love hearing them gasp in emotion. It is a triumph of the chiaro-oscuro style (dark and light) of which Caravaggio was the best. The funny thing is that they go in with an attitude of, “oh… another church”, and they find a hidden treasure!
What is your favourite place to take guests?
Budapest! I love Hungary as a whole, but its capital city never fails to impress. It is the city on the Danube; it is the colour of paprika, the smell of freshly roasted onions, the music of the clavicorn, the hills of Buda, the boulevards of Pest. My favourite part of Budapest is the evening River Cruise and the view of the Elizabeth Bridge from the boat. I think after Hammersmith Bridge in London, it is the prettiest Bridge I have seen! In Budapest you’ll find a hidden treasure in every street corner and even with such a foreign culture, strange language and people unrelated to any other European group, it is a city that you can easily own, that you can get INSIDE, in a very short time.
What is your most memorable ‘on the road’ moment?
It’s difficult to choose; my memorable moments include everything from a field of sunflowers to the taste of the first cappuccino in Italy. However, it is the people that create the best moments! Many years ago, I had two American couples, one from Redding, Northern California and the other one from Mahopac, New York. After the third day, the Californian couple arrived last to an included dinner and they sat in the only spare seats, with the couple from Mahopac. After ten minutes, the two women were crying and hugging! They were long lost sisters! The lady from California was twelve years older and had left home at the age of sixteen, when the lady from Mahopac was only four years old! It was the first time they had seen each other in 42 years. It was magical!
What vacation photo would you recommend our guests have to take?
The view of Positano from the ‘Madonnina’ stop. We stop at that vantage point just before we start our descent to Positano town. I always have a bottle of chilled Limoncello handy to toast the lovely weather, or to forget the bad weather! Another great photo is from the New Bridge and the ravine in Ronda, Andalucía, Spain, from the top terrace of the Parador (National Hotel).
Your staple travel items?
My walking shoes, two mobile phones and four sim cards, plenty of oat-bran and my pencil case full of all the tools I need for my art work!
What is your tip for feeling like a local when travelling?
Don’t be shy! Talk to the locals, if they don’t want to talk back or ignore you, it is their loss! Always smile, it makes you look approachable and…younger!
A favourite local saying you need to know is:
The word ‘really’, in any language you can remember! You see, when anyone is telling you a story, even in a language you don’t know, you look at them and from time to time let out the word for ‘really’; veramente? (Italian), C’est ne pas vrais? (French), wirklich (German), de Verdad? (Spanish), gerçekten? (Turkish). They will actually believe that you are listening and understanding everything and they will simply love you!
What is your favourite food within your region?
I work in European Discoveries, so there are lots to choose from! But it has to be Monika’s Kaesekrainer in the Salzburg Markets, for its simplicity. It is a boiled pork sausage, and when Monika pulls it out of the water and cuts it into half inch pieces, it oozes the most wonderful melted cheese! You eat it from a paper plate; with plenty of strong mustard and a crusty poppy seed roll. It is to die for, and one of my Hidden Treasures in Salzburg!
Must buy souvenir?
Chocolate! But not the industrial kind, it has to be really good, hand-made chocolate, or what I call: Top Quality Calories! I tell you, it is not Switzerland or Belgium that has the monopoly on excellent chocolate; in Athens, a city you would not relate to chocolate, there is a whole street full of lovely chocolate shops and in one particular shop you will find a tray full of ‘dollies’; the most wonderful bitter-sweet chocolates topped with chopped pistachios. There is a love story behind the dollies, but you have to come to Athens with me to find out what it is!
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
Positive feedback. It can come in the form of a wide-eye expression, a gasp of surprise, a smile or a laugh from the belly! Any indications that my guests are having a good time!
What is your best travel tip?
Travel lightly! Regardless of the length of your trip: never pack for more than a week. No more than 7 pairs of underwear, 7 shirts, 5 trousers. Within a week you will find somewhere to do laundry, or realised that you don’t need fresh clothes every day!