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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Most Americans touring England go to the romantic Cotswolds — rolling hills with quaint villages hidden in its ravines. The area is very popular with English hikers, but it seems that most American visitors barely get out of their cars. Every time I take an actual walk here — even just 30 minutes from any road or trailhead — I’m richly rewarded. Join me for a quiet moment on the Cotswold Way, where the soundtrack for my grand view is sheep pulling their dinner out of the turf. How do you best appreciate the Cotswolds — or any other rambles in Britain?
This is Day 72 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
We’re making a new TV show about England’s charming Cotswold villages, and that gave me a few moments in the Stanton village church. Stanton is one of those once-upon-a-time-wealthy little towns that owed it all to sheep’s wool. After all, in the 12th century, they said, “In Europe, the best wool is English. And in England, the best wool is Cotswold.” This church offers a fun opportunity for a tour guide to demonstrate how, when you know where to look, there’s plenty of history hiding out.
This is Day 71 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
As a traveler, I’m excited to have a president who respects and enjoys our world (and I prefer a president whom the world respects and enjoys).
As a writer, I want a president who reads.
As a pragmatist, I wish idealism worked…but have learned to be patient, collaborative, and incremental.
As a Christian, I care about the world’s poor, and believe people of every nation are of equal worth.
As a thinker, I want someone who celebrates being thoughtful.
As a capitalist and a job-creating entrepreneur, I want a government that will give my peers and me clear parameters for being good corporate citizens.
As a father, I want a president who will inspire my children.
As a member of a diverse society, I need a president who respects people who see things differently.
As a man, I’m excited to have a president who’s a woman.
As a voter, I want to be not ruled, but governed.
I posed for this photo with Hillary as a Democrat. Today, I support her as an American.
We are producing a new one-hour special on great festivals in Europe. To represent Scotland in the line-up, we flew to Edinburgh to take in the nearby Highland Games at Airth. It was a delightful, charming, and homey carnival of delicate lassies dancing and giant blokes tossing heavy things. And foreign visitors were welcome to join in. I did not win the lifting of the 250-pound Smithy Stone. But my personal victory: not to get injured trying. What are your Highland Game memories?
This is Day 70 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
Some of my best travel memories are of early-morning sightseeing. Throughout Europe, the local scene comes alive while tourists sleep, when the best sights are blissfully crowd-free.
In this clip from Rome: Baroque Brilliance, I spend a morning rambling through the heart of Rome.
Travelers often struggle to find someone interesting to interview to better understand local issues. I find cabbies are a great resource. I was wondering why Belgium finds it challenging to keep its Flemish- and French-speaking regions from splitting up the country. Here’s my cabbie’s three-minute take on things as he drove me to the Brussels airport. How do you find cabbie chat while on the road?
This is Day 69 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
I’ve said goodbye to the My Way Alpine Europe tour I’ve been leading, and am now researching my guidebooks in Holland. While I miss my friends from the tour, I enjoy the contrast: Chamonix in the Alps one day, Amsterdam the next. In the nearby town of Leiden — the last home in the Old World of the pilgrims before they sailed the Mayflower to the New World — I stumbled upon a group of pipe organ aficionados experiencing the organ in Leiden’s big church. Check out this cool scene. (This is a fun reminder that you can weave your passion into your sightseeing in Europe. How have you made your personal interest part of your itinerary?)
This is Day 68 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
There are few travelers whose opinions I respect more than the co-author of many of my books, Cameron Hewitt. And in my office, Cameron is Mr. Eastern Europe. When I hear Cameron explaining why Budapest is one of his favorite cities on earth, I listen. And when Cameron reports from Hungary, I know I’m in for some fascinating vicarious travel fun. Sure, Cameron’s soaking away all his troubles in a series of luxurious Hungarian spas on company time. But I’m so glad he is. Because he’s sharing that joy vividly in his reporting. Check out Cameron’s blog today.
I absolutely love our My Way Alpine Europe Tour itinerary. Imagine enjoying the Alps in Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France — all in 12 memory-packed days. (While My Way tours are officially un-guided, I took some liberties with the group I led this summer and threw in a few extras.)
I enjoyed surprising our group with fun ad-lib stops during our driving days. (The tour is designed to be a series of two-night stands, alternating between driving days with stops and days where we’re set up and free to explore on our own.) We took a group shot at my favorite ruined castle with its new suspension bridge (Ehrenberg Castle, near Reutte in Austria’s Tirol, just a few minutes over the German border from Neuschwanstein Castle).
Our Alpine Europe Tour group came ready to hike. Here we climbed to the hill-capping ruined castle of Ehrenberg. Trish and I snuck up bottles of beer and pop to surprise the group with a little party at the top. I “discovered” these castle ruins as a teenager. Ehrenberg was one of my original Back Doors, which I collected for the first edition of my first book, Europe Through the Back Door (in 1980). Back then, I never dreamed I’d be coming here with busloads of travelers. It’s always a treat to show off my favorite little spots in Europe, and I’m thankful that my team of guides are just as enthusiastic as I am when it comes to sharing with their Rick Steves tour groups the countless magic moments Europe has to offer.
As the leader of our tour, I got to decide which of the summer luge rides we’d go on. They only run when the weather’s dry. On this day, the sky was heavy with clouds loaded and ready to dump — but we managed to get our luge rides in. Here’s Trish barreling to the finish line — huge smile blocked by her iPhone. By the way, Trish — who took the photos in this post — has her own blog, and is reporting on this tour from her perspective. For Trish’s take on our My Way Alpine Europe experience, visit The Travelphile.
We rode the Biberwier luge ride (just outside of Lermoos, on the Austrian side of the Zugspitze). It’s a fast one, and I always make a very strong point that you need to keep your limbs in tight, hold on to your stick, and be careful. Still, the thrill of the luge sometimes tempts kids-at-heart to go too fast. One man on our tour ended up with a very painful souvenir. What did he do upon finishing that tragic ride? He rode the lift up to do it again.
I am really nervous when leading a group through the Alps, because you can be seriously disappointed by bad weather. On this 12-day trip, we had about three rainy days. While the rain dampened our clothes, it didn’t dampen our spirits. Here we are in Chamonix — at the statue of the men who first climbed Mont Blanc back in 1786 — looking up toward Europe’s highest peak and seeing only clouds. The next morning, the sun came out…and so did Mont Blanc.
Leading a tour is more fun with a fun-loving group. And, because of the way we promote our tours, fun travelers are what we get. As I always tell my groups, “You’re the most wonderful group of travelers I’ve had the privilege to lead.” We really did have a wonderful group, with a wide range of ages and styles. Together, we were a lot like a family on the road.
My favorite kind of group shot is a group selfie. Twenty happy travelers can pack a lot of joy into one frame — especially after having spent 12 days enjoying a Rick Steves tour itinerary covering the best of the Alps. Happy travels to each of my friends on our tour, and thanks for traveling with us.
The day after our tour finished, I found myself alone again (singing that old Gilbert O’Sullivan song…naturally). I was in Amsterdam, wearing my guidebook researcher hat. For me, it’s rejuvenating to alternate responsibilities while working on the road. I normally toggle from guidebook research to TV production. This year, I’m adding tour guiding to the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed leading our group — and am already looking forward to guiding our Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour in two short months. But for now, it’s just me, the latest edition of my guidebook, and a list of things to check each day. Thanks for traveling with me.
This is Day 67 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.
I love being a tour guide. For more than 20 years, that was my primary work. But for well over a decade, I have not led a tour. (Instead, each year, I’ve signed up as a participant on a Rick Steves tour — which I absolutely love.) This year, I decided to get back in the saddle and actually lead two tours: our My Way Alpine Europe Tour (which I’ve just finished) and our Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour (coming up this September — stay tuned).
At Rick Steves’ Europe, we have fully guided tours, family tours, and My Way tours — that’s the type I just finished leading. My Way tours are un-guided, including just the bus ride, the hotels (with breakfast), and a tour manager (that’s me) to be sure everyone is organized and knows what to do. The rest is up to each tour member. My Way tours are quite popular with families, older travelers who want to take it easy, and independent types who don’t want the expense and regimentation of a fully guided tour.
As I hadn’t led a tour since we introduced the My Way itineraries — and they’ve been very popular — I wanted to have firsthand experience leading one of these. My partner, Trish, has led several. She was traveling along to make sure I understood the new standards. (Our tours have much more online support and online reporting requirements than back in the old days when I was guiding.)
My group didn’t know I was their leader until we met in person. (I was listed with a pseudonym on the roster.) It was a lot of fun to surprise the group at our orientation meeting that first evening at our Salzburg hotel. This shot is a few minutes later, as I give our group an orientation walk of Salzburg.
I am so proud of the quality of our bus drivers and their buses. Hilde was our driver. (On this tour, I learned why she’s a favorite among our guides.) And her bus is smooth and comfy — far better than the buses I remember using back in the 20th century. One of my favorite things about the way we do our tours: twice as many seats as there are travelers…and plenty of room to stretch out.
Here’s our group with their bags ready to walk to the bus from our Füssen hotel (in Bavaria). When choosing hotels for our tours, a central location (often in the traffic-free zone of the old town) is a priority. That’s why we often need to walk a couple of blocks to get to our bus. On our tours, everyone packs light (carry-on sized bags only), and everyone carries their own luggage. That requirement helps shape our clientele — attracting a hardy and fun-loving gang of travelers…and prompting high-maintenance travelers to choose another tour company.
I have to admit, it was great to get back into the guide’s seat. There’s nothing like having a mic and a busload of eager-to-learn travelers when driving through the wonders of Europe with so much to talk about and share.
Our My Way tours come with a lot of free time. Each day, our group was free to explore from the efficient springboard provided by our hotel. Here in the Italian Alps, our group had an entire day to hike and bike in Europe’s largest high-alpine meadow, the Alpe di Siusi.
One of my favorite things about our My Way tour was hosting a happy hour. Trish and I bought the most typical local liquors, schnapps, firewaters, and wines, and then made a fun tasting education out of it in our hotel’s lounge. When the happy hour was over, the table looked like a chemistry lab littered with beakers.
By the way, Trish — who took all of these photos — has been reporting on this tour on her own blog. If you’d like Trish’s take on our My Way Alps experience, visit The Travelphile.
This is Day 66 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 Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.