Rick Steves' Travel Blog

I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

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Montmartre is in many ways the Paris cliché — red and white checkered tablecloths, artists and easels filling petite squares, bohemian night spots. Imagine the storm of artistic creativity from 1870 to 1910 that put Paris’ little mountain on the map for most of us. I like to think of cities that hosted storms of artistic creativity: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael all rubbing paint-stained elbows 500 years ago in Florence…or Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Haydn practicing their pianos late into the night in Vienna 200 years ago. And, just over a century ago, Montmartre was the gathering place for struggling artists whose canvases now sell for millions of dollars (Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Maurice Utrillo). It was a neighborhood where nonconformists and misfits would sit around drinking absinthe, wondering who their fathers were. And the museum that re-creates that age is tucked away on the far side of that hill overlooking the only vineyard in Paris. Here’s an excerpt from the write-up for the 2017 edition of our Rick Steves Paris guidebook:

The Montmartre Museum’s collection of paintings, posters, old photos, music, and memorabilia is split between two creaky 17th-century manor houses. You’ll see artifacts from the butte’s 2,000-year history: a headless St. Denis from the hill’s religious origins to photos of the gypsum quarries and flour-grinding windmills of the Industrial Age. Learn how Sacré-Cœur’s construction was an act of national penitence resulting from the Prussian invasion of 1870. And you’ll see the gorgeously lit studio of Maurice Utrillo looking as if he had just stepped out for coffee.

Utrillo grew up on Montmartre’s streets. He fought, broke street lamps, and haunted the cafés and bars, paying for drinks with yet-to-be-recognized masterpieces. His simple scenes of streets, squares, and cafés in a vaguely Impressionist style became popular with commoners and scholars alike. Utrillo’s mom, Suzanne Valadon, was a former trapeze performer and artist’s model who posed for Toulouse-Lautrec, slept with Renoir, studied under Degas, and went on to become a notable painter in her own right.


This is Day 33 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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So often we travelers only hang out in the historic old quarters of Europe’s great cities. Join me today in this little clip from my TV show to see the contemporary side of Paris. We’ll visit La Défense, a forest of skyscrapers nicknamed Paris’s “petit Manhattan.”

Watch my complete TV episode about life and art in Paris for free on our website.

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Old timers remember Les Halles as Paris’ gigantic central produce market. Demolished in the 1970s, it was replaced with an underground shopping mall. And for a generation it’s been a mess. But now the complex is being transformed into a modern underground shopping center and a huge city park all sitting atop a massive underground transportation hub. Here’s a peek at the latest (complete with my horrible French pronunciation):


This is Day 32 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Brows are it! I’m in my favorite European city researching our Paris guidebook with co-author Steve Smith, and I’m feeling a bit amused by the très chic dimensions of this city. If you happily waited half an hour in line for “the cupcake to die for” when that was the craze, you’ll love the many new fads here in Paris. Here’s my favorite — the notion that my eyebrows need rearranging. But apart from that, I’m loving Paris.


This is Day 31 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Rick Steves speaking

Along with kittens with soft whiskers and crisp apple strudel, one of my favorite things is giving travel talks. A few years ago I drove through America’s heartland, giving sold-out talks to large crowds of enthusiastic travelers. From towns high in the Rockies, through our country’s breadbasket, and into the Deep South, Rick Steves’ Road Trip USA was a huge success and lots of fun.

Since then, many have asked me to make stops in their cities. Well, I’ve listened. Next March, I’ll embark on Road Trip USA 2017. But rather than drive, I plan to fly in order to visit 10 cities in 10 days — and I’ll pick those 10 cities based on which organizations can gather the most travelers. Do you work with a library, university, performing arts center, or town hall that would like to host me for a travel lecture? If so, please email my publicist, Ashley Sytsma, at ashley@ricksteves.com, or call her at 425-608-4293.

Thanks for helping make my next Road Trip USA a hit.

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The Paris Ferris Wheel offers a 200-feet-high view of the City of Light from its location at the bottom of the Champs-Elysées. This transportable wheel (with 11,000 gallons of water in its footings for ballast) has traveled the world, and has a permanent-for-now home on the Place de la Concorde, next to the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre (open long hours daily, €12 for two slow revolutions). Ride with me to get a peek at the amazing view from the top.


This is Day 30 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Over the past couple of weeks in Italy I’ve visited several noble and aristocratic manor houses. As I connected with the fine families maintaining their blue-blooded traditions (against stern headwinds), I imagined their ancestors’ lives a century ago when their grandparents weathered the same changes many of us watched the nobles of “Downton Abbey” endure. (I imagine that Lord Grantham’s grandson, assuming he was still trying to balance Downton’s books, would be renting out rooms, selling pork, or perhaps offering horse rides around the family estate.) And on these visits I kept finding myself walking behind the families’ dogs, which gave me “Downton” déjà vu. This little clip is shot at a wonderful house with a wonderful family who will be in our new TV episode on Tuscany.


This is Day 29 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Nearly every evening I’m out prowling the streets in search of the latest places to eat for my guidebooks. (I’m usually with local guides who help me find and understand what I’m seeing.) I don’t think there’s a restaurant anywhere in Venice that could survive without tourism. In other words, they’re all touristy. Still, while many restaurants are tourist traps, some offer far better values. Follow me down a dark alley to my favorite discovery of the evening. Here’s the write-up (one of five such new recommendations) that will appear in the 2017 edition of Rick Steves Venice:

[$$$] Taverna al Remer is a creative place with its own square overlooking the Grand Canal (across from the Rialto Market). Its restaurant seating is deep in an old candle-lit warehouse and its happy hour “yard” offers a chance to sit on their private pier and enjoy the Grand Canal action. They put out a good lunch buffet (€20 plus drink, Mon-Fri 12:00-15:00). They offer an “aperi-cena” (happy hour with a free buffet accompanying the drinks — sit in restaurant, on pier, or stand in square, daily 17:30-19:00). And then, at 19:00, they shift into restaurant mode for the evening with live jazz after 21:00 (closed Wed, meals €35-50, Cannaregio 5701, tel. 041-522-8789). From Campo San Bartolomeo, head north (behind the statue) over one bridge and past the pink church (San Giovanni Grisostomo), and then about 10 yards before the next bridge, venture down the tiny dark lane on your left.


This is Day 28 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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For 30 years, I’ve been fascinated by all the goofy gimmicks sold by immigrants on the streets of Europe. The flaming Manneken-Pis cigarette lighters, the “How many more minutes of George W. Bush’s presidency are left?” digital countdown clocks, the fluorescent launchers, the click-clack crickets, the selfie sticks. One year it’s tripods and the next its 4-inch cartoon figures that magically dance against a wall. It seems they all have a season and the next year there’s something different. You could fill a museum with them. Lately, a favorite is the blob. These guys are peddling this stuff illegally and are generally camera-shy, but I found a young man in Venice willing to demonstrate his goods on camera. Can you imagine buying this mysterious glob of chemical goo for your child? Yummy!

What are some of other bits of silliness sold on the streets of Europe over the years that you recall?

 


This is Day 27 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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When I opened my eyes after a delightful night’s sleep, it occurred to me that this is pretty good living — a four-poster bed, in a 16th-century monastery, a block from Michelangelo’s David, with a farmers market going on just outside my window on the most venerable Renaissance square in Florence (Piazza S. S. Annunziata). I’m in a nice guidebook work rhythm: two or three days spent learning, and a day in the hotel inputting on my laptop before heading to another great city. Today I’m leaving my favorite hotel in Florence (Loggiato dei Serviti). But I’ll be back in September with 25 fellow travelers when I’ll be guiding our Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour. If you’re on my tour, I have a hunch we’ll have a great time together.


This is Day 26 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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