I was three years old and my parents took my brother and me on holiday to a place that was different. It smelled of sunshine, the people were louder and friendly. It was called Spain, and I liked it.
The next time I returned, I was 22. I had no idea what people were saying, but I liked how they said it. It was as though you had imagined a favourite place and then someone just went and turned the volume right up. That vivid light, the sounds of life, the smell of black tobacco and eau de cologne, the incessant eye contact. It was a feast for the senses and I was in love. And that was before I had even set foot in La Mariquilla’s flamenco studio, before my exchange classes with the Sevillanas teacher and her twin sons and before I met my first Spanish boyfriend, Jose Luis. I had arrived home. Now I just had to patch things up with the language.
This I did as best I could before forcing myself to leave for Germany where I had studied part of my degree and thought it a more suitable place to start working. But I never felt I’d left Spain for good. In fact, I have always compared it to every other country I have visited… just to make sure.
Several years later, much to my parents at first pride and then worry, I embarked on a solitary journey with a round-the-world plane ticket as my only limitation. That soon got changed and cancelled as I realized that the slower you travel, the slower you need to travel to find the real deal. So the format changed from catching scheduled flights to hitching a lift to a village where a lorry passed through once a week to take you over the mountains and into some remote, enchanting village in the jungle. I began to learn the unspoken code of the open road. When one thing fails, the next will pick you up. If you became disappointed, then just around the corner, there would be something or someone waiting to surprise you.
I know that this is one of life’s great secrets; but that said, I do think that Spain is one of those countries I know where you don’t have to be on some kind of odyssey for this to work. It still happens to me, and I have been here for sixteen years now. You just have to be open to it and it happens.
I suppose it was a logical step for me to work in travel. To take people by the hand and say, look here, touch this, experience this and this is why this is so great. And then, meet Angeles, she has been cooking paella for 26 years; meet Alberto, he has two great loves; tennis and jamón and this is his shop. In fact, there are so many people and places in Spain ready to welcome us; it’s just a question of having the time to find them.
Corazon is not only about offering the context and the background to the Spanish culture and meeting its ambassadors along the way, be they flamenco dancers, historians, chefs, architects or jamoneros, it’s also about the adventure, the interaction, the sense that we can all be part of it, whether we are here for a long weekend or 10 day trip, as a small family visit or part of a large group.
It is also about finding solutions. You explain what you would like to organize: an in-depth tour following the footsteps of one of Spain’s great masters, a gourmet exploration of Spain’s diversity, a focus of your association’s music programme or golf holiday for your company meeting. Whatever the angle or the context, we want to take you to the heart of the matter, with breathtaking landscapes, professional experts, spectacular food but most importantly, a sense of spirit and personal encounters. We do the work in the hope that you, too, can relax and encounter that surprise waiting around the corner.
written by: Joanna Wivell, Founder and director of Corazon and sister company Insider's Madrid
A bit about Joanna
Spain has always had a strong attraction for Joanna. While she was studying in Andalusia, she was drawn to flamenco and this in turn led her to explore the Spanish way of life.
After working in television in the U.K., she travelled extensively for two years’ in Asia and Latin America where she always sought the hidden treasures. She eventually moved to Spain in 1999 to produce programmes for the TV lifestyle channel “Canal Estilo”. Joanna then went on to work on the launch of Fox Entertainment & National Geographic Channel in Spain and Portugal. In 2004 she set up Insider’s Madrid providing tailored tours of the capital and the cities around it for families and private groups. Later, in response to a demand from clients to take them to other parts of Spain, Joanna embarked on co-hosted gourmet tours through Spain with the specialist wine company Iberian Wine Tours.
The result today is Corazón, taking you to the heart of Iberia, providing hosted tailored specialist tours of Spain and Portugal for all types of groups be it fine art, gourmet, golf, tennis masterclass holiday or music and history. No matter what the focus point, Corazon takes you to the heart of the matter with people and personal experiences that really make travel the before and after experience it should be.