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

Franco Exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen

Sometimes I love it when an episode of Rick Steves’ Europe goes out of date. And that just happened with my Majesty of Madrid episode. Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, was long buried in the vast, underground Valley of the Fallen memorial, along with thousands of his victims. And now, his remains have finally been removed from that site, so sacred to Spaniards.

Federico García Barroso, one of our tour program’s wonderful Spanish guides, sent me this note:

Dear Rick,
November 25th 1975: Generalisimo Franco is buried at the Valley of the Fallen.
October 24th 2019: The dictator is finally expelled out.
People from Madrid, we were the last ones to surrender in the Spanish Civil War. Today, people from Madrid, we are the first ones to tell the world that Spanish democracy is now healthier.
Hugs from Madrid,

Below, you can watch the part of my Madrid episode that is, thankfully, now out of date. (This clip is also available in Rick Steves Classroom Europe, my free — and ad-free — searchable database of short video clips about European art, history, and culture.)

Viva España! Viva Freedom! Viva Democracy.

Video: Rick Steves on Israel and Palestine Today

In the last month, I’ve traveled to both Denver and Palo Alto to share my experiences in the Holy Land and help raise money for Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a nonprofit that promotes peace and justice in Palestine through Bethlehem’s Dar al-Kalima University of Arts & Culture. Policymaking in the US and the Middle East has been impulsive and erratic lately, making it more important than ever for American citizens to reach out and gain a little context on the Holy Land — and that was the focus of my talk.

I put this report together after traveling to the Holy Land to produce a public television special, which you can stream online — but I’d say it’s more important to watch this hour-long talk, recorded at Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto. While the production is simple, the content is both timely and important.

We don’t need a one-sided narrative about the Holy Land told by someone dug-in on this complicated issue. To understand this situation, we need a “dual-narrative” approach that respects both sides. And that was what I shared in this talk: the lessons I learned by walking with caring people on both sides of the wall that divides this land.

Introducing “Europe’s Top 100 Masterpieces: Art for the Traveler”

I’m really happy today because a tour guiding dream of mine has just come true. My newest book, Europe’s Top 100 Masterpieces: Art for the Traveler, has arrived — and it actually exceeds my very high expectations, taking our travelers on a vivid sweep through European art history.

From Venus to Versailles, Apollo to David, and Mona Lisa to The Kiss — with tight descriptions and big, gorgeous photos — Gene Openshaw and I take you on a chronological tour of Europe’s greatest paintings, sculptures, and historic buildings. Whether you’re traveling to Europe or just dreaming about it, this book—with historical context and details on seeing these masterpieces yourself — will both stoke your wanderlust and kindle a greater appreciation of art.

After this intimate encounter with so much European creative genius, your deepest cultural urges will feel strangely satisfied. It’s available for pre-order now through your favorite bookseller and hits the shelves on November 19.

Tapping Into That Vagabond Magic

When you look back on your life as a traveler, which trip do you remember the most? For a lot of us, our happiest travels were the ones we did on a shoestring, slumming around with a backpack. Why? Because these were real adventures: riding serendipity like the wind, taking risks, and enjoying how having no money forced us into the arms of strangers.

I’ve been thinking today about 1973, when my friend Gene and I first experienced “Europe Through the Gutter.” In so many ways, this trip — starting the day after my high school graduation — established the foundation of our entire Rick Steves’ Europe program. Now that we’re adults, we travel with more money, comforts, and reservations than the vagabonds we used to be…but we still tap into the magic that made those early backpacking adventures the best trips ever.

You can hear the story of our 1973 trip in this 26-minute audio clip:

As you listen, consider how you can splice some of that vagabond magic into your next trip. Then, share your thoughts in the comments here or on Facebook, so we can inspire each other to travel with a youthful vigor at any age.

Rick Steves Phrase Books: New Editions Available Now

I speak only English. But I know the importance of communicating when traveling. The best travelers make a point to connect with the people they meet, and they understand the value of a good phrase book to do it. So, over decades of travel, I’ve learned which words and phrases are most helpful on the road, along with the most important communication tips, and woven them all into a series of European phrase books. 

What’s a monoglot like me doing designing a phrase book series? The fact that I speak only English, have struggled with the language barrier for decades, and am passionate about the importance of communicating is a big part of why I have the bestselling Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese phrase books in the USA. Rick Steves phrase books are designed with the traveler in mind — I know what you need to know to travel smoothly. And with our new and improved editions just hitting the shelves, this is a great time to pick one up 

Taxi driving too fast in Rome? You can say “Se non rallentavomito” (If you don’t slow down, I’ll vomit). Food wonderful in Paris? You can call the waiter over and say, “Félicitations au chef” (My compliments to the chef). Fall in love with a German at the beach? You can whisper “Du bist meine schönste Erinnerung.” (You are my most beautiful souvenir). And there are all the practical words and phrases, too. 

 Happy travels — Gute Reise!