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

Video: Tacky, Touristy Choo-Choo Trains

I know, those little touristy choo-choo trains you see all over Europe are tacky. But they are cheap and easy: You can just hop on, pay the driver, enjoy a (skimpy) recorded narrative in English, and get to places you wouldn’t want to trek to on your own. Here in Collioure, in southern France, I hopped on one to get out of town and up to a little castle overlooking the coast. (You never know who you’ll be sitting next to on these little trains. Here in France…it just might be a little pooch.)

 

 

By the way, here, as in so many cases, you’ll be given cheap little disposable earbuds to hear the audio. If there’s a standard jack, you can get better sound (and a longer cord) by using your own earbuds instead. In museums, audio tours are more and more common and, rather than holding the “wand” to my ear for an hour, with my own buds I can be more comfortable and hear better. And if you have a splitter, you and your travel partner can share — cutting your costs by 50 percent.

Stow a set of buds (a pair that fits into a standard headphone jack — not the kind that plugs into an iPhone’s Lightning connector) and a splitter in your day bag. They’ll come in handy more than you imagine.

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Video: My Dinner in Carcassonne

It’s Day 24 of my 100-day trip to Europe, and I’m in Carcassonne, updating the Rick Steves France guidebook with my co-author, Steve Smith.

Surveying this touristy town, we were very happy with the variety of great-value restaurants we recommend in the book. As usual, our favorites are personality-driven. Here at Restaurant L’Escargot, the owner, Thomas, is hustling all night serving his diners. Our challenge is not only to find the good places but to describe each restaurant vividly, so our readers can choose smartly. Eating, soaking the experience in good wine, making friends with the proprietors, and taking notes…it’s tough work, but we manage.

After dinner, we got to meet Thomas’ mother and father. They were proud of their son, and we were thankful for his cooking.

Rick Steves and French family

 


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Video: Something Old, Something New: Nîmes’ Museum of Romanity

Romanity! It’s Roman humanity, and there’s a shiny new museum about just that in Nîmes: The Museum of Romanity is opening on June 2, and I got a sneak preview (shared in this clip). I’ve never seen southern Europeans scramble so hard — because in a few weeks, it’s the grand opening.

Nîmes is famed for its ancient ruins but, until now, it had no appropriate museum. This is big news. Wandering the unfinished rooms of this museum, I was thinking about how Europe loves to invest in — and share — its heritage, and how it’s the world’s heritage, too. When you pay $10 to go into a great museum, remember what it takes to make that experience possible.


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Video: Going to Market in Nîmes

Bonjour! It’s Day 22 of my 100-day trip to Europe, and I’m in Provence, France. Each city here has a great market hall, and Les Halles de Nîmes has a special extra touch: The merchants’ names and photos are hanging from the ceiling. In this clip, with my good local guide Silvie, I share a special budget tip: Eat at the diners in the markets — the quality is great, prices are amazing, and you might even meet a politician trying to win your vote.

The south of France is so comfortable in May (no crowds, great weather). Expensive? $100 hotel doubles, $10 lunches, and lots of free fun if you know how to travel. Tips? You’ll find about 600 pages of them in the Rick Steves guidebook for this corner of Europe.


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Video: Good Morning from Arles

Waking up with the church bells in Arles is a fine start to another Provence day in the south of France. I just had to share my groggy stream of unconsciousness…the smell of the sheets (Who slept here?), that lovely confusion before you first open your eyes (Where am I?). Then, throw open the shades and greet the world — it’s Provence!

When on the road (and traveling well), each day is a cornucopia of learning, images, people, new ideas, and memories. Inspired by this hotel balcony view, I’ll slog happily through another day of research to make our Rick Steves’ France guidebook work even better for our travelers.


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