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

  • We are monitoring this blog carefully for inappropriate posts. Before you post, read our Community Guidelines.

Throughout England, the countryside hides an amazing history that goes back literally thousands of years…to prehistoric times. Glastonbury — a modest market town today — has long had a holy aura. It was a religious site back in the Bronze Age (that’s about 1500 BC). It’s also considered the birthplace of Christianity in England, and the burial site of the legendary King Arthur.

Centuries before Christ, a hill — called a tor — marked Glastonbury. Seen by many as a Mother Goddess symbol, the Glastonbury Tor has, for thousands of years, attracted a variety of travelers and seekers.

A highlight for me was to sit atop this hill, look into the camera, and explain the tor’s biblical connection: “For centuries, pilgrims have come here, to Glastonbury, on a quest for the legendary Holy Grail. You see, Joseph of Arimathea, who was an uncle of Christ, was a tin trader. And even back in biblical times, Britain was known as a rare place where tin could be mined. Considering that, Joseph could have sat right here — with the chalice that Jesus drank out of at the Last Supper in his satchel.”

Glastonbury was just one part of a wonderful whirlwind day of filming in this corner of England. These four photos capture our day of mysteries:

stonehenge

At Stonehenge, we kicked things off with some private time (as our filming permission required us to arrive very early). We were all alone in the stone circle before the masses hit.

Cows

As we were filming the Glastonbury Tor from a distance, all of the cows in the fields photobombed us.

Glastonbury Tor

Climbing the tor, we found a community of people expert at finding their god within.

Rick Steves and Roger Wilkins

And we capped our day visiting a hard apple cider farm run by my old drinking buddy, Roger Wilkins.


This is Day 86 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




We’ve just finished a delightful scramble, filming three half-hour episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe (West England, Cornwall, and Southeast England) — which, along with seven other new shows, will debut on public television this fall. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some photos as I review some of my favorite memories from traveling through much of England.

The Cotswolds are dotted with elegant, Downton Abbey-type mansions. Today, with the high cost of maintenance and heavy taxes, some noble families have opened their homes to the public to help pay the bills. Stanway House, home of the Earl of Wemyss, is one such venerable manor house.

The earl, whose family goes back centuries, welcomes visitors two days a week. Walking through his house offers a unique and surprisingly intimate glimpse into the lifestyles of England’s nobility. I’ve been dropping in on the earl for about 20 years, and the gracious and likably eccentric host agreed to show us around for TV.

Simon Griffith and Peter Rummel and Stanway House

Stanway House

 

Stanway House living room

The living room at Stanway House

 

Fountain

The Earl of Wemyss has rebuilt the old fountain in his backyard. And today — as one of the highest gravity-fed fountains in the world rockets 300 feet into the sky — it’s a talk of the Cotswolds. For commoners, the lord’s sprawling parkland backyard makes for a jolly good day out.

 


This is Day 85 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




Canterbury is famous for its magnificent cathedral. But a pleasant surprise for me was this relaxing little riverboat ride. Our captain said lots of locals hire them as a kind of therapy…it’s so relaxing to glide along the shallow, pretty Stour River. The water’s so clear because it flows over chalk. You can see here our crew at work – Producer Simon trying not to get into shots, and cameraman Karel getting a close-up gliding over the water. I expect this will be one of the most beautiful little bits in our show. (It cost the equivalent of $22 per hour per person for this little boat tour. But you can see the show for free on public television this fall.)


This is Day 84 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




While traveling through England, every night I’m eating at pubs and restaurants I recommend in my England guidebook. And I have to say, the eating has been excellent. Here’s a peek at the Dolphin Pub in Canterbury. (Notice the energy — things feel pretty good in England wherever we’ve gone.)

We’re just finishing our third TV episode in England this month, and we’re coming home with three brilliant shows. As usual, elements I really like need to be deleted, as 30 minutes of TV is only 3,000 words. Here’s the text that was in our Southeast England script but had to be pulled:

“England’s pubs offer a warm, friendly welcome and, for many, an essential part of any visit to Britain. Pub is short for “public house” — it’s the neighborhood’s extended living room. It’s a multi-generational affair and, while children aren’t served beer, the entire family is welcome. Whether you’re drinking or eating, don’t wait to be served. Go to the bar to order.

England loves its brews. Each village seems to have its own microbrew. Beer aficionados go for the real English ales and bitters. They’re from the long-handled pumps literally hand-drawn from kegs in the cellar. For a lighter, colder, and carbonated brew — ask for a lager. They fizz out of the short tap handles.

The standard serving is a full pint. While women routinely order a half pint, when a man does, it can make you the butt of jokes. But, if you don’t know the various beers and want to double your experience (and can endure the ridicule), ordering by the half pint (which costs exactly half as much as a full pint) lets you double your beer-exploration experience.”


This is Day 83 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




Dover is a godforsaken little town with piles of transit energy and mountains of history. Sometimes I like to stay in places that aren’t cute (and affluent because of their cuteness). Dover certainly fits that bill. And after dinner, I enjoy walking the long way home — along the port’s beach.

Being mindful of what’s around you enriches any walk in Europe. Here, I’m thinking about the ancient Roman lighthouse that caps the white cliffs. From the top of their lighthouse, the Romans would burn wet wood by day (for more smoke) and dry wood by night (for a brighter fire) to send their signals.

Much more recently, in World War II, those same white cliffs also protected Churchill’s men as they furiously defended their skies against the Nazis in the Battle of Britain. Hermann Göring would eyeball these cliffs from France, 23 miles away, aching to cross the English Channel. And it was “all hands on deck” as every boat owner in town mobilized to rescue more than 200,000 troops stranded in Dunkerque (or, as the Brits call it, “Dunkirk”).

Later, back at my hotel’s bar, I chatted with a local about how Brexit will make the English Channel just a little wider. Talking with him (and many others throughout my trip), I get the impression that most Brits seem to be — if not in favor of the idea — at least getting used to it.


This is Day 82 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




Last year I spent two weeks traveling across South England, researching my Rick Steves England guidebook. At the same time, I collected lots of great ideas for this month’s TV shoot. For example, I fell in love with a tiny hamlet called East Dean, with a classic medieval village green and a darling little pub that rents rooms. So this year I’m back with my TV crew.

In this clip, we’re just setting up to record a bunch of promos for public television stations. (With me are producer Simon Griffith and cameraman Karel Bauer. I’m thankful to have such a talented and hardworking crew. For a behind-the-scenes look at how we make our show, you can join the three of us in Milan for our “The Making of Rick Steves’ Europe” special.)

In our scripts, I always find an informative way to slip in what month we’re traveling in. For this show, I’ll walk across this fine green and say to the camera, “We’re here in August. In Britain, I prefer traveling in peak season — long days, the best possible weather, enough people out and about to keep things lively…and there are rarely any tourist crowds.”

We’re here in the most crowded months in one of England’s favorite tourist regions. And, while there are plenty of tourists, I’m impressed by how few American travelers we’ve seen. In fact, in the last ten days of travel across South England, I’ve probably seen only 20 or 30 Americans. (I think they’re all in London, Bath, York, and Edinburgh.)


This is Day 81 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




Forget the White Cliffs of Dover…I love the white cliffs of Beachy Head. Beachy Head is the scenic high point of the popular South Downs Way — a hiking path an hour or two south of London…and a world away from the big city.

We’re just finishing up 18 days of filming three brand-new public television shows in England, and I’m so thankful for the sunny weather we’re enjoying. The shows are looking just great — as you can see here.

In this clip, I just filmed the “tease” to start our Southeast England show from this queasy perch. (The “tease” is that goofy little clip before the formal show open, where I say hi and explain where I am — usually with something crazy or striking going on around me. For example, on this spot, I said, “We’re just hanging out on the South Coast of England.”)

Stay tuned. We’ll be releasing this show and nine others — Rick Steves’ Europe Season 9 — on public television starting in October.

By the way, hikers love Beachy Head and, sadly, so do distraught people ready to end their lives. As we filmed here, the Beachy Head chaplain was parked in the nearby lot, ready to counsel people ready to take a suicide leap. (About 20 people a year used to take their lives by jumping off these 500-foot cliffs. Now, in part because of the work of these chaplains, the number is lower.)


This is Day 80 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




The PBS series Poldark shows the heyday of Cornwall‘s tin-mining industry. But in the late 20th century, that industry collapsed. And today, the last mine to close is now open to visitors — dedicated to telling the miners’ story.

The Geevor Mine, which closed in 1990, represents the last hurrah not only of Cornish tin mining, but, in a sense, of Britain’s Industrial Age. Exploring it, I gained a better appreciation for the simple yet noble lives of miners. And my visit nudged me to consider more thoughtfully the plight of miners in the USA.

Causing you to see things differently — whether you tend to be liberal or conservative — is a powerful value of travel. If you travel and don’t find yourself reconsidering things you thought you understood in at least a little different light, perhaps the value of your experience is being needlessly blunted by a closed mind.

What are some ways that your travel experience has shaken your strongly held ways of seeing things?


This is Day 79 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




I just finished filming a TV show about Cornwall, in the far southwest of England. And when the sun is shining (as it does off and on most days in the summer here), it’s hard to imagine a more dramatically beautiful place in the British Isles. The constant wind made the scenes even more strikingly beautiful, as the entire coastline came with a lacy border of crashing waves.

In filming this clip, I’m quite exhilarated because I had just sat on the edge of a cliff, looked into the camera, and opened our show by saying, “Set on a rocky peninsula, Cornwall is a fascinating land. It’s a pirate’s punch of Celtic culture, legends of smugglers, and mining heritage. It has a rugged appeal that makes it a favorite among English holiday-goers.”

Tin mining was long the dominant Cornwall industry. This evocative coast is dotted with 19th-century Industrial Age ruins. The two desolate engine houses you see in this clip once pumped water out so they could mine a half-mile down — and then, under the sea bed, far out to sea. Below me, the ground is honeycombed with mine tunnels. At its peak, there were hundreds of tin mines in this part of Cornwall. (The PBS series Poldark is filmed right here and features the tin-mining culture of Cornwall.)


This is Day 78 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest




Filming our Cornwall episode in southwest England, we enjoyed a play at the amazing Minack Theatre. Here’s how our script describes it:

The big draw here is the Minack Theatre, carved out of rock high above the surf. This open-air theater — with 700 seats — is gorgeously landscaped and set in a rocky cliff with a terrace stage perched hundreds of feet over the sea. A visit by day lets you marvel at the garden-like setting and the story of Rowena Cade, the visionary theater lover who created it.

If the weather’s fine and you’re here at lunch or dinnertime, get a Cornish pasty and a bottle of elderflower pressé (a local herbal drink) and grab a grassy seat at the high end of the theater for a memorable picnic. Watch the gannet birds dive for a fresh fish lunch. They hit the water at 70 miles per hour. (Sadly, many of their children follow their parent’s lead and dive for a fish before they understand how to do it safely…and later wash up on the shore with broken necks.)


This is Day 77 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.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest