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

Exploring England’s Industrial Might at the SS Great Britain

Hello from Bristol! This is a city that we haven’t covered in past editions of the Rick Steves Great Britain guidebook — but I’m writing it up now, starting with a fascinating sight: Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

This massive ship was built here in the 1830s, when Bristol was Britain’s gateway to the Atlantic and a critical link between London and New York City. The SS Great Britain is a museum now, serving up lots of Industrial Age thrills. If you visit, be sure to tour more than just the hull. Inside, you’ll experience a snapshot of life on board, 175 years ago. 

By the way, Bristol is like Belfast, Glasgow, and Liverpool — one of those rusty old port towns that are now emerging with a special creative energy, and well worth visiting. When I first researched and wrote my original Britain and Ireland guidebooks 25 years ago, I didn’t cover these cities at all. But in the last generation, they’ve all emerged as important destinations — and they are well-covered in my guidebooks. A guidebook is always a work in progress, and we keep hard at it, so you’ve got the very latest to design the smartest trip.  

On a Natural High at Bath’s Baths

It’s the first full day of my summer trip to Europe, and I’m on a natural high. (No, it’s not last night’s snuff!) Here, at the ancient baths that gave this city its name, I’m learning a lot — and just taking it all in: the music (Hallelujah!), the medieval minster, the nice light, and a great local guide.

Join us now as Mike shares some of Bath’s many-layered history, beginning with 2,000-year-old Roman lead and some green muck.

My guide today was Mike James. To get the absolute most out of each of my days researching and updating my guidebooks, I generally work with two guides every day: one in the day and one in the evening. If I like the guide, I list them in the next editions of the books so others can enjoy their services, too. Mike’s a good Blue Badge guide in Bath who charges £150 per half-day (mike@mikejames.org).

The Star: For a Little Tobacco Twinkle in my Nose

After a quick trip home, I’m back on the road again, diving headlong into Part II of my 2019 travels.

I’m kicking off the second half of my 100 Days in Europe series in Bath, England. And to celebrate on my first night here, I thought I’d try something new. Join me in this clip as I sample a bit of the complimentary snuff that’s offered at the Star Inn. It’s just a little tobacco twinkle, right out of my very own anatomical snuff box.

Even in a touristy town like Bath, you can find a good spit-and-sawdust pub with no screens and no music — just chat and a convivial vibe, where the stray tourist is a welcome guest.

Rooftopping, Anyone? Looking Back at the Best of Europe in 21 Days

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, thinking back to the days when our “tour program” was just me driving a minibus with eight other travelers, and at particularly scenic spots — to enjoy the views to the absolute max — we’d take turns riding on the rooftop. (I’m back in Europe now, and I drove some of these same roads today. The views are beautiful as ever…but I stayed inside the car.)
We’ve come a long way since those early days — and these days, more than 30,000 free-spirited travelers come together each year to explore Europe on nice, big buses in a more comfortable version of the Rick Steves style. But some things have stayed the same: Our Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour still follows the route I drove in my minibus back in the ’80s, and we still have the same passion for maxing-out on the experience. The rich rewards of metaphorically “rooftopping Europe” remain unchanged.

Simply put, my 21-day tour still packs more unforgettable travel experiences than you can imagine into an amazing three weeks, covering all of Europe’s greatest hits. Check out the full itinerary — and save up to $700 per person this summer. (Or if you have only two weeks to spare, hop aboard a Best of Europe in 14 Days Tour.)

Happy travels!

Here’s to Parenting on the Road

I’m one happy dad right now — because both my kids called me today from Europe. Andy FaceTimed me from the Cinque Terre, and I got to wave to 25 happy travelers on the Rick Steves Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour he is leading. The group was all smiles, tanned, rested, and ready for their Italian seafood feast. Andy’s little sister Jackie is leading a tour of her own — a couple of girlfriends — in Greece and Croatia. Jackie texted me photos that captured one of my favorite moments in Europe: sunset on Hydra at the funky little harborside bar in Kamini. And there savoring it, ouzo in hand, was my daughter and her friends.

Of course, it takes money and a shift in priorities, but we made a point to take our kids to Europe lots — even taking them out of school for a couple of weeks each April. Today, they are young adults and — with the help of parents who have been intent on giving them a global perspective — our children are comfortable with the world. Unburdened by fear and ethnocentrism, they are enjoying our planet as their playground.

When blessed with a traveler’s upbringing, young people are more likely to understand that the world is safe and accessible, a festival of diversity, and filled with good people and love. A few years ago, we celebrated New Year’s Eve together — not at some fancy ski resort, but in Cuba. Andy has chosen to live in Medellin, Colombia (and loves it). And Jackie has found her calling as a schoolteacher, working with kids in tough neighborhoods in Washington DC and Chicago, and now bringing her global perspective into a Los Angeles classroom.

Every time I see a family traveling together, I get almost teary-eyed as I recognize the importance of the parenting going on. The hard work and love of parents on the road is key to raising caring, bold, and confident Americans with a global perspective.

This is just a stream-of-consciousness post to say, “Yes! Our kids are global citizens. The world is their playground. And that makes me a happy dad.” I love you, Andy and Jackie.