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
I just wrapped up a wonderful visit to Denver, where I joined the Colorado Symphony for a live performance of my public television concert Rick Steves’ Europe: A Symphonic Journey. Together, we shared seven stirring anthems from the Romantic era that celebrate how different European countries mix a love of music with patriotism. I got to be the tour guide, setting up each piece with historical and cultural context — and then, as gorgeous images were projected on a huge screen, the orchestra took us there musically.
In this clip, you’ll join me on stage for the dress rehearsal and see a few of the happy faces I met after the show. If you enjoy this little taste, you can find the entire original show streaming online — or just grab the bit with your favorite composer using my free video database Classroom Europe. Just go to classroom.ricksteves.com and search for Beethoven, Grieg, Wagner, Strauss, Smetana, Verdi, Elgar, or Berlioz.
Leaning back on my bench, I marveled at the floodlit facade of Chartres Cathedral. Munching on my baguette with brie, I was pondering how, for centuries, nobles and peasants alike have been awestruck by this view. Then in my periphery, I noticed a bum on the next bench, reaching toward me — and offering me a swig of red wine from his battered 1.5-liter plastic water bottle. Backlit by the floodlighting and with a twinkle in his friendly eyes, he looked like a character in an over-the-top romantic painting of folk characters on sale at a French town market.
Even though we hardly talked and I politely rejected his wine, we were both there — connected, sharing the moment. It was a fleeting, yet very human, encounter — and it added to my experience of Chartres.
The essence of good travel is people. If I’m leading a tour or writing a guidebook, the mark of a job well done is how well I connect people with people. If I’m making a TV show and it doesn’t have local voices, the show will be flat. And when I’m enjoying a European vacation, my journal is more interesting when it includes stories of people I’ve met along the way.
Developing a knack for sparking such experiences is our challenge as good travelers. I like to take it a step further — to be a keen observer, connecting experiential dots that may seem random by putting them into cultural and historical context…and then learning from them. As a travel writer, that’s my challenge. And that’s my mission.
What about you? How have you connected with people in your travels? I’d love to hear about your own bum and baguette moments.
I was just in the Alps with my TV crew, filming three new episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe. We spent a couple of days hiking (and filming) on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail, in the French Alps. It’s a whole parallel world there, away from the tourist crowds and intensity of the Alpine resorts, and really peaceful.
After just a taste of this classic long-distance hike, I am dreaming of coming back and doing the entire loop — and once again, I’m reminded that you can never run out of rewarding corners of Europe to explore.
What’s your favorite long-distance hiking experience in Europe?