Photo: The Travelphile
My life’s mission is teaching Europe to Americans in a meaningful and challenging way that is economic, efficient, unforgettable, and wildly fun. (With my staff, we do that three ways: for independent travelers — with guidebooks; for travelers who want an expert guide at their side — with our tours; and for those who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not travel — with our TV shows). I’m in the Netherlands today with 27 great tour members from across our country and I’m doing exactly that — teaching.
For many people in my group, this is their first time in Europe — and for some, it’s their first time out of the USA. Passport virgins! And I have the honor of giving them their first experiences and the challenge of making it even better than they imagined.
It’s been zero to 60 in a blitz, and two days into the trip, we’re collecting eureka discoveries like mad: Carillon players have 1-inch callouses on their little fingers after years of playing their church-tower glockenspiels (fists on wooden pedals); cityscapes are wide open and clean here as they have no electrical wires strung up (they’re under the pavement stones — easy to dig up, fix/replace/augment, and then put the street back together); French fries aren’t called “French” in the Netherlands and they’re dunked in a rich and creamy mayonnaise; with an all-day tram pass you can swing like Tarzan on vines through the urban jungle of Amsterdam; clubs of Dutch windmill enthusiasts are renovating and maintaining classic windmills and will drop what they’re doing to climb through a mill with visitors from the USA; of the dozen or so people a year who drown in Amsterdam’s fabled canals, a good portion of them are dredged up with their zippers down — having drunk way too much, staggered over to the canal to relieve themselves…and taken a fatal tumble in the wee hours.
And, after a 20-year break from personally guiding our tour groups, it’s even more fun than I thought it would be to get back into the saddle and join my legion of committed tour guides doing what we do with such passion and style in our tour program — help people vividly experience Europe…the Rick Steves way.