It seems like boutique trips are the new thing in travel. We love them, and we’ve recently highlighted companies like Nomad & Jules and Thread Caravan, chatting to their founders about what makes there trips special. Today we introduce you to Españolita Trips, tours run by Spanish-born, LA-living Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro. Her trips, mostly to the island of Mallorca, celebrate all things Spanish. From the food to the wine, to the local crafts and markets, you will visit on the trip – Españolita trips invite the traveller to experience Spain in the way it should be seen.
In this interview, we chat with Carmen about her inspirations behind Españolita, her passion for Mallorca and what Spanish-ness means to her. With stunning photos from Carley Rudd, we give you a taste of what a week on the isle of Mallorca with Espanolita is like.
What was the inspiration for setting up Españolita Trips?
In an effort to spread my love for Spain, I wanted to explore with others the cultural peculiarities that make my country so unique. It is a project following my curiosity, but also deeper emotions like nostalgia and feeling a bit homesick since I live in Los Angeles. The search for the roots and history, but also the admiration I feel towards the artisanal process which is still used today throughout Spain. Methodologies honouring the past, and dedicated craftsmen doing things sustainably and slow.
A few years ago I started a website where I collected accounts when visiting and photographing Spanish creatives working around the world. I have always been fascinated with workshops, tools and materials. Along the way, I would also photograph beautiful places in Spain, from villages to museums, to gardens… and that mixed with my passion for food, hosting friends, and just travelling in general, led me to create a more experiential approach to this philosophy: simple living, connected to nature, and honouring traditions through living intentionally at a slower pace. Spain is the heart of all this, so it made sense to share with others my discoveries and invite them to come to explore with me during these retreats.
When did you first visit Majorca? What is it about the island which attracted you to run your first Españolita trips there?
I am from Madrid but I was in my mom’s belly when my parents fell in love with the island. So I spent all my childhood summers in Majorca, where they built a house. Now I travel there as often as I can with my children because it is paradise for them and me! The island is full of hidden gems with gorgeous landscapes. The sea is out of this world, and to be able to sail to small inaccessible coves make the coastline exploration really special. Underwater is really incredible too and inland, the villages are pure texture with sandstone buildings, and old pebbled streets, where life happens at a sweet Mediterranean pace. Then the countryside in all its glory, the Tramuntana Mountains, with roaming sheep in between long grasses, and almond blossoms and ancient olive trees and rustic farms from which one can enjoy a very simple approach to seasonal food by sourcing directly from the growers. To me, this is the perfect version of rustic living on an island. Being able to experience this while hosting a group of guests makes me very happy, and I hope I can spark their own love affair with the Mediterranean.
How has your experience living abroad make you feel about your Spanish heritage?
I think seeing things with a certain distance has refined my interpretation of Spain and its culture. As years passed living abroad, I longed for more Spanish life, small villages and walks on charming streets, epic meals and connection to the past in general. But past is what pulls Spain back, as the country faces challenges moving forward as a modern society. That is why I like to focus on people and brands that take on the Spanish heritage concept with a fresh mindset, and produce quality work with pride. It makes me extremely proud to see Spaniards doing well their work, and work ethic is something I have learnt well in the US. I am a citizen of the world and I am raising my American children with my English husband in LA and Spain. And I wish they grow up with a mix of identities that make them more understanding towards all cultures.
What I love about the design of Españolita Trips is that you have a great desire to celebrate Spain and all things Spanish. On your website, you talk about the idea of ‘Spanishness’. What do you hope to show to other travellers about Spain and this idea of ‘Spanishness’?
In my opinion, Spain is a unique country, made of incredibly diverse cultures and traditions and with a huge aesthetic appeal. But despite the diversity, there is one common element, and it happens at the intersection of tradition and craftsmanship in every possible field, from food to architecture, to anything… It is my mission to find places and people that I feel represent this sense of ‘Spanishness’ and make them part of the Españolita experience for my guests.
What do you think travellers will get on a trip with Españolita which they might not from an ordinary trip to Spain? What activities and workshops are part of the trips help a traveller further understand Spain?
We stay at incredible locations where we set off to enjoy the Mediterranean Lifestyle at its essence. The trips are culinary and artisanal immersions discovering the cultural heritage of the place. All while visiting farmer’s markets, villages, restaurants and vineyards. But also through cooking sessions, ceramic workshops, olive oil tastings and magical dinners al fresco. But we also go on hikes to coves, go out on a boat, take botanical walks…
Let’s talk about food! It seems to be a major part of your trip. What dishes and local products will your travellers get to enjoy which are traditional to both Spain and Mallorca?
I have partnered with a true culinary ambassador to Majorca, Deborah Piña who has a deep understanding of the roots of this place. For her seasonability and sustainability are key when approaching the menu creation and what producers we get on board. She designs the food itinerary so the tastes fit every setting. Like gourmet canned seafood on the boat, Black Squid Paella on a rainy day, Pomadas with Gin at the cove, and so on. The wine we drink is made on the island, the sobrassada is from the Majorcan black pig, the tomatoes from the market, the olive oil produced on the Sierra de Tramuntana just a few miles away, and so are the oranges for the morning juice. The fresh bread from the bakery for breakfast, and the salt harvested in the south of the island. Every single ingredient has a reason to be at our table.
Describe a day in the life of a traveller on an Españolita trip.
Wake up in the most gorgeous old house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Breakfast on the patio. Leave to the Farmer’s market for a morning stroll and some shopping. Arrive at the vineyards. Wine tasting with cheese in a stone hut in the middle of the vineyards Artichoke and Butifarrón rice cooked on an open fire. Lunch. More wine. Ensaimada for dessert. Head back to the house for siesta. Evening at the house and drinks. Pa amb Oli dinner.
I read you have plans to run Españolita trips elsewhere in Spain too. What destinations in Spain are exciting to you and why?
There are endless destinations to be discovered in Spain. My mom is from The Canary Islands so I owe that tribute to my family creating something there. The South attracts me too, Andalusia and the horse culture, and cities like Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada… The North, all of it, from Galicia to the Basque Country. The green fairytale hills and the stone houses make the North of Spain insanely beautiful. And of course Catalunya. But really, anywhere throughout the country, I could come across the perfect setting for an Españolita Trip. In fact, I am going to be creating experiences in Los Angeles and bringing Spain to California very soon.
As well as Españolita trips, your website espanolita.net highlights Spanish creatives living both in Spain and around the world. What inspired you to set up this project and what have you learnt from meeting and interviewing so many Spanish creatives?
I have an endless curiosity about the artist’s process, and I have a deep fascination for studios and workshops, so being able to nose into these spaces, meet the artists and learn about their creative process inspires me greatly. I photograph my encounter as a way to journal the account, through images of the space, the people, the art, sometimes I also shoot video. I have found in these visits great purpose and I also try to connect people and brands all the time.
Outside of Españolita, how do you like to travel? Where are some of your favourite places in the world?
I have a real problem with the so-called luxury. So simple places with well-thought design in nice secluded locations win my heart all the time. I have a special place in my heart for Morocco, where I spent 3 months working on a film. Also Brazil, and the super tropical vibes there. But really I think my place is the Mediterranean. I have vivid memories of moments lived on islands such as Sardinia, Corsica, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and of course Mallorca. Like something tells me I belong there.
To learn more about Españolita and take a look at their upcoming trips, go to their website. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook. You can find Carmen on her personal Instagram @carmenruizdehuidobro, and photographer Carley Rudd @carleyscamera.
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Annapurna Mellor is a travel photographer, writer and co-founder of Roam Magazine. She fell in love with Asia shortly after graduating and has since spent extensive periods travelling and photographing in India, Nepal, Myanmar and many more. She shoots regularly for brands and publications and her work can be found in National Geographic Traveller Magazine, Lonely Planet, Suitcase and The Guardian. When not on the road, she is based in Manchester, UK.