Last night I went to Barcelona! Virtually, that is.
I was so buzzing about it that I just had to let you all know how fantastic it was. I was transported to Barcelona and taken on a walking tour by a live guide, Josep. It was absolutely, hands-down, the next best thing in this pandemic. So while travel and light travel is really out of the question at the moment - this truly is the next best thing!
Loving my virtual walking tour of Gaudi houses in Barcelona!
How did I travel to Barcelona?
A friend on Instagram, Sue-Anne from SisterStay (an accommodation provider for midlife women), told me about this virtual walking tour you could do online in real time.
I thought, Oh, this could be another waster of time...How good would it be, really?...Nothing beats the real thing...You know that sort of brain chat we can have.
Well, I checked it out. It's called Heygo - previously known as Virtual Trips.
I watched a teaser video on their website and thought, hey, this is actually quite cool.
I logged into the website - easy sign up process - and started looking up the tours on offer. These tours are LIVE, so they are on offer all over the world at various times.
This takes solo travel to a whole new level!
I was so excited to be booked on a walking tour.
Virtual travel - the lightest travel with no travel luggage required.
I'd booked into a 10pm tour in the wonderful travel destination of Barcelona and the wondrous Gaudi houses (it was 10am local time). I was so excited. This was going to be so much fun. The anticipation built throughout the day.
As you can probably guess there are a multitude of pluses for virtual travel.
- No jetlag
- No packing dilemmas
- No travel luggage to deal with
- No 36 hour flight from New Zealand.
I simply had to lug my laptop to the lounge, grabbed myself a cup of tea and waited for the tour to start.
Meet my tour guide, Josep.
At 9.50pm I logged into the tour - I got a reminder email with a link to log in an hour earlier. There was Josep and a few others already waiting for the tour.
Here was Josep on the screen welcoming us to the walking tour. It was a beautiful clear day in Barcelona, and Josep's camera captured all the things you would see as you waited for a walking tour to start - the traffic, the noises, the waiting for others to arrive, the people walking past, the buildings...
Josep is a tour guide with 25 years experience and teaches guides as well. His experience shone through. He knew what tourists wanted to learn, how to explain things, little stories about local culture, interpretations of the Gaudi houses and the stories behind them.
To say it was an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT - is an understatement. Twelve hours later writing this I still feel as if I was in Barcelona last night.
Our wonderful tour guide, Josep!
How the tour works.
So, you log into the tour, and the screen comes up with the scene on your tour guides phone.
There's a map that you can expand on the top left corner so you can orientate yourself to where you are. You'll still hear your guide talking even when you enlarge the map.
On the right hand side of the screen is the list of people joining the group. Josep had done this tour at this earlier time to hopefully get people on different time zones. So as we joined in there were a number of us popping into the chat and letting home know we were from Australia and New Zealand. Although there were in fact, people from all over the world.
There was about 40 of us on this tour. You could ask questions in the chat, which Josep answered as he walked and talked.
In the bottom left hand corner is a link to tip your guide. This was a very easy process and can be done at any stage of the tour. It came up in my currency and I was able to pay through Paypal. I tipped about halfway through the tour and could still hear Josep talking and explaining while I did it. When you tip, a message comes up in the chat saying you've tipped - but it doesn't say the amount.
I really like this tipping feature because these are people whose livelihood was guiding. They are still doing their job, albeit virtually, and they deserve to be paid. I'm not sure what percentage of the tip the guide gets but I'll update this when I find out.
There is also a link you can click on in the lower right hand corner if you are having any technical difficulties.
I've cut the comments off here - but you can see most of the screen.
What do you see on this virtual walking tour?
You'll see exactly what you would see if you were there in person. Everything!
Josep showed us several Gaudi houses - La Pedrera (Casa Mila), Casa Battlo, and Casa Amattler.
He gave great explanations about their construction, decoration, and just so many gorgeous details were pointed out that you would miss if you were just walking past.
He would stop and give you time to take the perfect postcard photo. You could also zoom in to see the details closer-up.
The tour went for just under an hour - he was so polite - he didn't want to go over time because he knew people would be booked into other tours at 11pm.
Zooming in on La Pedrera balconies.
Seeing a place from a locals point of view.
Seeing Barcelona from a local was so much fun. Little bits of history, local culture, snippets or local information filled the tour.
So much stuff you could easily miss or even walk over - like these tiles that were replicated from one of Gaudi's designs.
I think by now, you've probably realised I'm a bit hooked. I can't wait for my next walking tour!
My next virtual trip is to Park Guell.
I think I might have found a new addiction!!!
Yes, I've booked a tour for Park Guell in Barcelona. It's at 5am NZ time so it will be an early start, but hey, what a way to start my day.
Once you've joined up there are loads of tours to go on at all times of day and night. The options are endless. I've screenshot some other tours...but there are loads more.
I think this was the highlight of my week so far.
I can't stop smiling since doing this tour. I took as many photos as I would have in reality. Although I suggest you learn how to screenshot on your device before the tour - I nearly logged myself out when I accidently closed my laptop instead of taking a screenshot.
Josep made a point to stop and hold his camera still so you could capture a great screenshot.
They also recommend you watch on a larger device than a phone. Apparently it has less technical issues.
Overall, I found this tour so much fun. The website was incredibly easy to use. Easy to navigate. Simple and logical.
Check out Heygo for your own international virtual escape.
Happy virtual travels, Katherine xo