Rick Steves Tour Experience


Rick Steves: Hi, I’m Rick Steves. Every year, my staff and I
take thousands of travelers on dozens of different
itineraries all over Europe. I’ve put together a great staff
of guides, all of them passionate teachers, wonderful travelers, and
as you’ll see, they love their work. Now, our tours aren’t for everyone. The purpose of this video
is to help you decide if our style of travel
is right for you. For the next 45 minutes,
you’ll join us on one of our classic Best
of Europe itineraries. The guides, buses,
tour members and experiences you see here, are representative
of every tour we lead. Travel is great living. If you like what you see,
we’d love to have you along. Now sit back, relax,
and enjoy a little taste of the Rick Steves
Tour experience. Thanks. [music] Ben Cameron: Welcome to Paris.
I’m Ben Cameron. I’m going to be your guide. Usually, when we start the
tours, we have an introductory meeting
where we introduce ourselves, get a first impression
of each other but also to explain the way the
tour is going to work on a practical level once
we’re over here; and by and large, it’s just
reinforcing the more important things and really just
getting on the same page and getting excited
about the tour together. It’s really one of the best public transportation systems
anywhere in the world. There’s, like I mentioned last
night, 300 stops. From there,
we usually go out and get acquainted with our neighborhood
and do some sort of walk, get some fresh air,
and then sit down for a typical dinner together
that first night. It’s really one of the fun
starts when we really have a chance to start to chat
with each other a little bit. [background chatter] This is the way that most
of Paris looked for the next several hundred years after right
around the 1100 and the 1200s. It retains this character
until the 19th century. For most tours,
the first full day of the tour,
that’s when you really start to learn about the place, or to experience whatever
city that you are in. 1242 to 1248,
six years it takes to build this. What that means is we’re
right in the heart of the Middle Ages —
what we were just talking about. How are they building it? They’re using a state-of-the-art
construction technique for that period of time,
what we now call Gothic. Chris Hugues: As soon
as we started talking about Paris,
it was immediately obvious that he does a ton of
research, he is passionate about what
he’s talking about. Tom Raffy: Very
tenured, very relaxed, easy to be with, very flexible. Ben: There’s that quote from
Victor Hugo that says, “Great buildings, like mountains,
are the work of centuries.” This one was 200 years,
just in the initial construction you can say as it looks today,
you could even say 700 years. They say it was on this job site
that the wheelbarrow was invented. Usually, we have a pretty full
day that first day, where we can set the stage for everything,
and then usually, there’s also some free time that day where we’ve
given options for what people can do in their free time and go off
and make their own discoveries. Linda Hugues: He was also
constantly telling us how to orient ourselves
in this city in terms of, “This is the way the metro
works, this is what you need to look
for.” He was interested in helping us to learn how
to do this ourselves later, so that on our free
time, we were sort of more comfortable in the city
and we could find a way around and next time we
could do it even better. Bob Kyle: Ben is excellent. Ben is it is just the epitome
of grace under pressure. But you know,
I’ve had five tour guides now, and they’ve all been excellent; they’re not cut
out of a cookie cutter mold. Karin Kibby: So Florence builds
this magnificent church, Arnolfo di Cambio dies, and there’s
a big hole in the ceiling. There’s no dome.
They don’t know how to build a dome. Ben: There is a wide,
wide range of different backgrounds that we all come from. There’s plenty of guides that are
from Europe, there’s plenty of guys that are from the United
States or Canada, or elsewhere. The common denominator, I think,
really is that sense of wanting to provide a good
experience for travelers, I think, that sets them apart. Elisabeth van Hest: Rick Steves Tour guides, I think they
are like in a family. We share our knowledge,
our experience with each other. Cecilia Bottai: The philosophy
of the company is different. This is why I like the idea of becoming a tour guide
for Rick Steves, because you really want the people
to have the real experience. Trina Kudlacek: I
think something that’s very different is this
teaching philosophy. We’re trying to teach people to
become independent travelers. We want people to come on our
tours, but we also want them to learn how to travel on
their own and be independent travelers, because we want
them to go out and have their own adventures and
have their own experiences. Ben: My motivation is
to make sure people have a good experience
and have a good time and get out of
their travel experience, whatever it is they’re looking for. Different people look
for different things. Some people want to learn
more about the history. Some people are more
interested in the art. Some people are really
interested in the food and wine. Some people just want
to meet new people. Whatever it is that
people are looking for, that’s my primary concern
is that they find it. Elisabeth: It is really
a pleasure when you see on the face of
your people that they like it,
that they discover something, that there is something
new in their life. Cecilia: What really
I like very much and gives you a lot
of satisfaction is when I see the people getting back to
their roots if they have them here. We say that blood is not mineral
waters, that it’s in yourself. You should never,
never deny your roots. Arnaud Servignat: It’s when
I see the joy in tour members’ eyes, and I have this
very precise example here: We go to Mont St-Michel. And I remember being there with a group. After dinner,
everybody was out on ramparts overlooking the tide
going up and saying, “Wow. This is really amazing.” When I see an entire group on the ramparts enjoying that,
it brings me some great joy. Ben: Having a chance
to get to meet people that come from different parts of
the country, or different backgrounds different age groups, and then to share those experiences together,
and then to bring everybody’s background and
personal experiences together, I think that adds an element to traveling that’s
really a lot of fun. Trina: I get to take
people through these kind of quintessential peak moments. Maybe in their lives, finally,
they get the opportunity to come over to a place that they’ve been
dreaming about for a long time. So I’m the person that gets to
facilitate this amazing experience. I get to see it through their eyes
and get to share in that excitement, and I think that’s probably
the best part of being a guide. [music] Sarah Blakemore: There’s so much
life to the city and it’s so busy. There’s always something going on and
you can always find something to do. Bob: Getting to be a Parisian for a
few days, knowing where to go, thanks to the guidance of the tour guide, makes all the
difference in the world. You’d be hard-pressed to find a city that has more to
offer than Paris does. Rick: On Day 1, your guide sets the tone and standards
for the entire trip. You’ll have a thoughtful
balance of structured time with your guides to cover
the most important sites and museums,
like the Louvre in Paris, combined with
plenty of free time to rest and explore on your own. This allows you to get the most
out of your time and energy in any one location before
moving on to the next stop. In this case, that’s the town of
Beaune in the heart of Burgundy. [music] Margaret Bryant: Beaune,
it was just a small village. It was nice to walk around. The people were very friendly. The place where we stayed was just — just wonderful,
the folks that ran the hotel. It just couldn’t have been
any more warm and inviting. Bob: You know, I’ve stayed in
some of the best hotels in the country —
in the United States, and you walk in and you say, “This is nice.” I’ve stayed in a lot of
these hotels on the tour. And when you look back a few years
later, I can’t remember the five-star hotels, which was
which, but I remember these hotels because of the charm. Amanda Hynek: The hotels
on this tour were great. Always well kept,
fabulous staff, always clean. Some were a little more
modern, but then we’d stay in some local ones that
had a lot of character. Tom: They’ve been very unique. They haven’t been
same old saying, “You don’t feel like you’re
stuck in an American hotel,” you definitely
feel like you’re in a local hotel with a
very European flavor. Margaret: They’ve opened
smaller hotels, which I like. It’s not the cookie-cutter American
hotels transplanted to Europe. It all felt very, very authentic
to the regions and to the areas. Ben: One thing is always the same, and that’s that they’re,
in some way, unique. Trina: They’re going to
be a little bit different than what people would
experience in the US. Sometimes you’re
going to have stairs. Sometimes they’re going to
have really small elevators. Sarah: I like that they’re
not super commercialized. They’re really kind of intimate,
so the staff is really friendly. Cecilia: They give you a feeling of a private home,
which is very, very nice. Elisabeth: The employees,
they are working in the same hotel for many years. It’s a bit like a family. Ben: For the most part,
they’re always going to be central,
really placing emphasis on that being well located
close to different sites but also close to
public transportation. Kate Donovan: They are located in the heart of the area
that you want to be in. Just like with real estate, location is the most important
thing for a hotel, particularly when you’re
in a town for two days. You need to be where the
action is and where you can get to the major sites
conveniently and easily. Amanda: You could tell a lot
of thought was put into them, because a lot of times we
were right near a bus station or a metro station, definitely next
to a public transportation site, which becomes vital
when you’re traveling. Ben: One of the reasons
to stay in a city rather than the outskirts
or rather than on a cruise ship, for example,
is to be able to see the city after dark or
early in the morning. To be able to get around
easily is essential. That is, I think for me,
one of the most important things, having just a
nice and comfortable place to come back to at the
end of the day or during the middle of the day is
really an essential thing. You need a good place to be
able to rest up and to feel comfortable at night,
and the hotels always provide that. Rick: On this
itinerary, it’s time to shift gears,
from the French charms of Beaune to the more
rustic and invigorating high altitude fun
of the Swiss Alps. On our tours, the smoothest
and most efficient way to get from one destination to the next
is, generally, by bus. Robbie Kyle: I actually
was more anxious about the bus part than any
other part of this tour. I thought, you know, I don’t want to
be on a bus the whole time. And it was nothing like that. Amanda: I was very
hesitant about the bus. When I saw the amount of
bus time on this tour, I was like,
“That’s not going to be good.” But, y’know, first stepped on that
leather seated, well-lit coach, like I was thinking,
“This is going to be okay.” Sarah: We get off the bus and
I’m thinking, “Was that really four hours?” because it felt
like an hour-and-a-half. Bob: I hate to say this,
but you almost look forward to the bus rides because
it is so relaxing. Cecilia: The bus, especially in
this part of the world, are fabulous because you travel 20, 30,
40 miles and the landscape changed. You have views that you could
never enjoy being on a plane. You have views you
could never enjoy being on a car because the
car is not high enough. Trina: On a Rick Steves’
tour, the buses are really, I think,
probably different than other tours, because we use
a full-size bus but we only have a maximum
of 28 people on it. Ben: There’s always plenty
of room to move around and feel comfortable,
and if you feel like sitting next to somebody you can,
but if you feel like having a seat to yourself,
that’s usually a possibility. The buses are all comfortable. They’re air conditioned. Margaret: We’ve all
got plenty of room. We can stretch out in
two seats ourselves. The bus is big enough
that we all have our own little aisle to
sit in if we want to. Tom: You can stretch out. You can ask questions,
have long conversations with people around you
and get to know them. Margaret: You can go to sleep. You can watch the sights.
You can read. You can chat with those around you. We’ve shared food up
and down the aisles. Somebody will pick
up chocolate at one stop and it goes up
and down the bus. Kiel Hynek: I really liked
having that free time to catch up on sleep or study up on the
next place where we’re going. Bill: We’ve all taken some pretty
good naps I think, along the way. The trips really well coordinated
with frequent rest stops and nothing’s felt
like it was an all-day trip. Ben: Usually,
we’d try to stop fairly frequently. We try to stop every two hours or
so, either find a little town to stop in or just use a
regular rest stop along the way. Chris: That gave us plenty of time
to get a snack if we wanted to. Some people even used it as an
opportunity to buy little souvenirs. Linda: And coffee. Chris: And coffee. Linda: They broke it up beautifully. There was no big
stretches, and all us women had time to go to the
bathroom when needed to. Ben: Bitte. All: Bitte. Robbie: Before you get
to a destination, you already know what to
expect, you’ve already got a lesson in the language of the
town, or culture, or country,
wherever you’re pulling into. Ben: I like to give
a mix of quiet time and also take advantage of the fact that we’re together,
we have a microphone, to talk about what’s coming up next. Bill: Almost every
day, Ben comes in on the bus for us and
talks about what’s going to happen that day, where we’re
going to go, where stops will be. He usually goes through
the history or background of where the location
is we’re headed for. It’s always really interesting
to get that information up front. Ben: There’s a hike that you
can do from Kleine Scheidegg called the North Face Trail that walks directly under the
north face of the Eiger. Margaret: He always gives
us tips about places to go and things we
might want to think about doing,
and places we might want to eat where we might get the
most authentic food. Ben: The great thing too,
is it’s easy to answer questions, to go
around, to move through the bus and to see if
anybody has more specific, personal questions that
they need answered. Robbie: It’s been
informative, it’s been fun, and it hasn’t
really been intrusive. Ben: We know the drivers,
they know us, and we have a good working
relationship with them. Margaret: Our driver, oh my
gosh, he’s been great fun, Joe. He’s wonderful. Amanda: Our bus driver, Joe, was
such a charming man, a lot of fun. He’s an amazing driver, got us
through some tight squeezes in Italy and some really steep alps in
Switzerland, so he knows his stuff. He was a great addition to our tour. Ben: He is always fun to work with. He’s professional.
He knows the route. He’s always full of
suggestions, different options. For example, we had a situation on this tour where a detour came
up, they were doing some road work, and he suggested that we
take the scenic route. I think that, for a lot of
people going up and over the Swiss Alps and just
seeing the side of Switzerland that we, in a normal situation
would have completely missed, I think was a
highlight for a lot of people. Robbie: It’s amazing
how he can get this coach through these
little narrow passes. Katie is terrified of like heights
and being on the mountains. She was watching as he took these
sharp turns up in the Alps but- Kate: I wasn’t watching. Robbie: -he let us
up on this path that took us pass the tree
line in the alps. It was amazing.
It added so much to the trip. We got out and we
got to see something we wouldn’t have regularly seen. Ben: That’s the nice thing
is that we’re flexible. Having our own buses
allow us that flexibility, and having drivers that are willing to go above and
beyond what’s expected from them is a huge
advantage for us. Kate: Switzerland was remarkable. The pictures don’t capture it. It’s like Disneyland for grownups. Ben: There in Switzerland,
they were completely on their own to do what they wanted. They had lots of different options,
lots of different possibilities. We had a great time. We had a
beautiful day up in the Alps. Bill: It was great. From the
moment we got off the cable car, up on the ridge and
started walking down through the trails they have
there, which are wonderful,
the whole thing was magical. It was a great to
hike across the ridge, and then down through the
valley all the way back. We stopped and went to the
waterfall inside the mountain. That was great. It was the
perfect day in the Swiss Alps. I think the balance we have on the
tour between what we have to do with the group and what we have
for free time has been really good. It’s one of the main reasons
we picked the tour was we knew we liked to wander and
we like to do our own thing. Ben: We spend a lot
of time together. We usually see the whatever
the “most important sites in town might be”,
get a chance to get a little bit of the background of the history,
but then we also have a lot of time where people can go off
and make their own discoveries. Quite often,
I find that people’s best memories or some of
their most interesting memories are those discoveries that they go out and they
make on their own. Arnaud: There’s a Jewish
proverb, which is, “You can only bring two things to
a child: roots and wings.” As a guide, I’m trying to
bring wings to tour members so they can really enjoy
themselves on their free time. Trina: Everybody comes to Europe
or on a tour with their own objectives, their own kind of idea of
the things that they want to do. And so it’s really important for us to
provide them with that free time, so that they can make the tour
as individual as they want to. Chris: I found that that balance
was perfect because there’s definitely things you want to
see, and the structured part of the tours address all those key
things, I think, and then if you’ve got specific interests, you can
cover those in the free time. Kate: First of all,
any of the structured activities, you do have the option
to not participate in. If you really aren’t interested in
something you can opt out of that. Margaret: The structured
time shows us the area. It gives us a feel for the area. The guide, Ben, has been really good
about pointing us and telling us in relation to where we are, where other
things are and hitting the high spot. Chris: He would give us
options every day, “Here’s the top options,” and if we
weren’t interested in those, we could talk to him
separately and he would give us additional ones that
might be of interest to us. Linda: It was like
having a friend in each city, somebody that knew the city and knew your interest
and was willing to help you figure out what
you wanted to do. When you went to the big
sites, they’d take you there and show you all the good stuff, and then send you
off on your own, “Have some fun.” Ben: Some people like to be
ambitious and go out and see whatever museums are in town that we haven’t
seen already together as a group. Sometimes there’s churches
that are little gems that you just sneak
into for a few minutes. Some people like to
just go sit in a park or go and just walk
around, go sit in a café. Kate: You can go off
and wander and get lost in Venice, or go to a beer hall in Munich, or you can sit on a piazza
in Italy and watch the Italians go. I think a lot of people come
to Europe for the art and for the history, and that’s what
the structured time allows for. I think a lot of people fall in love
with Europe for just the culture and the people, and that’s what
you get in the unstructured time. Robbie: Munich is
another great city. We had a great tour of
the city and really got a feel for the history,
of which there’s so much. Kate: Another great
experience to be enjoying in Munich is obviously
the beer halls. It’s just an environment that
there’s no place like it, anywhere. Margaret: I think that was probably the best thing to me
about Munich and Bavaria. I enjoyed the food.
I enjoyed the beer. I enjoyed the
camaraderie of the city. Kate: The food on this
tour is fantastic, so you certainly need to
pack your fat clothes. Trina: I was looking
forward to the food on this trip and I
wasn’t disappointed. I never had an empty
stomach by any means. Cecilia: I’d say the
one complaint that we might get is that we
have too much food. Elisabeth: Love goes through the stomach
here, so we hope that everybody falls in love with our country,
so we hope to give good food. Robbie: Eating out when
you travel alone can be stressful, but on this
trip, that’s never the case. Every meal has been
exactly what I wanted. Linda: For me,
the best thing is I don’t have to figure out where I’m
going to eat every night. I just want something
that’s going to be good. Ben: On our tours, we always
provide breakfast, every day. Breakfast is usually
served at the hotel. Usually, people are free for lunches
and we’ll give suggestions for that. For dinners, we have half
of our dinners included. The breakfasts in the hotels are
really different from place to place. A lot of places, like in Italy,
for example, the local customer, local tradition would be to have
a relatively small breakfast. A typical breakfast might be a cappuccino and a
croissant, for example. The hotel, they usually have that,
but then they’ve also expanded it out and have a variety of different
cereals and cold cuts, and so on. From place to place,
it’s totally different. When we were up in Munich,
we had Weisswurst — what we would consider Bratwurst —
was on the breakfast table and complete with sweet mustard; delicious, but I think a lot of people were a little
bit surprised by that. Rick: For all your
lunches and half your dinners, you’ll enjoy the freedom to
choose your own restaurant. Margaret: Ben has been
really great about pointing us to
restaurants in different places and telling us about some of the local specialties
that we should try. He’s been right on
the mark every time. Robbie: If you have a
meal on your own, there’s the book or your guide to point
you in the right direction, so you can end up eating
with the locals in family-run restaurants and small
places, off the main drags. Rick: The other half
of your dinners will be group meals,
organized by your food-loving guide. Sarah: The restaurants
we’ve been to have literally been some of the best
meals I’ve had in my life. Kate: The group dinners are
actually the best because in many towns or countries, maybe you
can’t decode the menu or you don’t know where to go, what to
order, you usually have a few choices, it’s narrowed down,
but you get multiple courses. They’re usually family-run,
local, authentic restaurants. Trina: We go where the locals go. We don’t go to the big,
tourist-oriented restaurants. We pick, as guides, restaurants that
we hear about from other locals. Cecilia: It’s the real food. The food we get on the Rick
Steves Tours is the real food. Bob: We don’t have the
experience of eating Americanized food,
food that they think we want. I haven’t seen a ketchup
bottle in a couple of days, but I’m sure they’d bring
one if I ask for it. Arnaud: Normally,
we always try to give some choice. We always have some side
options for those who are vegetarians,
have some dietary restrictions. Ben: We know what regional
specialties are unique to each place. Certainly,
we try to take advantage of that. I always like to order
things for the group dinners that people wouldn’t
necessarily order on their own. That’s one of the great
things, I think, about travel, that is just having the chance to try all the local
goodies, all the local specialties. Tour member 3: We are headed,
finally, for Italy. Tour member 4: We’re going to Venice,
and then Florence, and then Rome. Ben: Probably in Venice,
you’ll use this word a lot, where is. Where is, “Dov’è”. Female: Dov’è. Ben: Dov’è Rick: Venice is one
place where you’ll have a bit of a trek to get
from your bus to the hotel. In stops like this, you’ll be glad
you packed light and are mobile. Tour member 5: Hey, Sarah. Tour member 6: Yeah? Tour member 5: Do you wish
you packed lighter? Tour member 6: Yes.
I do wish I packed lighter. This was a bad decision. I blame it on laziness. Tom: If you’re on a Rick Steves
Tour, the way to pack is to pack with a basic
carry-on and a backpack. Don’t do a big, old suitcase. Do not do a big, old suitcase.
[chuckles] Cecilia: Have only what you
really, really need. What I find out is
very often we have 50% more than what we
really, really need. Ben: One of the things
that’s included with the information that the people
receive is a packing list. It’s different from person to
person, everybody has to find their own balance,
but the key thing is you have to pack light,
because traveling light, being able to move around easily,
really makes life easier. Sometimes when we park the coach,
we have a bit of a walk to get bus, or sometimes we have to take public transportation from
the coach into town. For example, in
Venice, we have to park the coach, we move from there to the boat,
we’re on the boat for a bit, and then we move from
the boat to the hotel. Quite often, the hotels are
deep in the center of town, which is fantastic because
you can be anywhere in town relatively quickly,
especially early in the morning or late in the evening
when Venice empties out. Venice is really at its best,
I think early or late, but the other side of that is, yes,
to get there to walk a little bit. When people have over-packed,
it really is a bit of a challenge. Either using a wheel bag
or a backpack, I think the essential thing is to
keep it down to the minimum. Tour member 7: I’m lost. Rick: It’s easy to
see why Venice has been called “La Serenissima”,
the most serene. It’s not long before the
daytime crowds and density of the place make you grateful
for our smaller groups. Tour guide: This is still the
Greek community of Venice. Cecilia: The smaller groups on the Rick Steves Tours
make the difference. You cannot take care of 50
people if you really want to satisfy and to meet the needs
of all the tour members. Elisabeth: It is very
important to have a small group,
very important, especially on the streets and
even in museums, you still have a relation
to every person. Ben: We know who we are. We get to know each other’s names. We get to know about each other. Trina: You wouldn’t have the
opportunity, as a guide, to give as much individualized
attention to a larger group. We have the opportunity,
when we’re on a bus, to spread out. Everybody has their own seat. Ben: With that relatively
small group size, we can go into restaurants
where locals eat. We don’t necessarily have
to go to the factories that might have good
food, but it’s just not going to be the same
atmosphere that you might encounter getting to
know a local restauranteur. Arnaud: It allows us, also,
to stay in smaller hotels, because large groups would end up in chain hotels
which are located, very often,
on the outskirts of each town. Ben: Also,
just moving around museums, you see sometimes larger groups that just really seem to struggle
to move from Point A to Point B. Trina: We also can maybe
get into different types of museums or the different
kinds of maybe hands-on activities or walking
tours that we do, which just really wouldn’t
work with a larger group. Ben: We’re taking
public transportation, is a great example, too. We take buses, we take the
metro, we take whatever the locals do to get around,
quite often, once we’re in a city. It is just impossible if
you had a bigger group. People that may not be
familiar with it, it gives them an opportunity to learn how
to use it as a group, and so when they have their free
time or when they come back on their own, individually,
they’ll be more comfortable. Trina: I think the small groups
are an absolute cornerstone. We wouldn’t be able to be as
effective with a larger group. Rick: With our small
groups and guides eager to maximize your experience,
we’ll be out late in places like Venice,
which take on a completely different character when the crowds
depart and the sun goes down. You can go on an evening pub crawl,
enjoy the music on Piazza San Marco, and maybe cap your evening
with a romantic gondola ride. [singing] [music] Rick: In Florence,
the home of Michelangelo and Botticelli,
all our groups take a Renaissance Walk through the city center,
as well as a tour of the Uffizi
and Accademia galleries. You’ll appreciate the passion and
expertise of your guide when it comes to understanding the art and
history in a place like Florence. Trina: I love teaching people
the art and history of Europe. Arnaud: I love to
teach history and art. I think all of us are willing
to teach in a relaxed way. Robbie: This tour has done an
excellent job explaining the art, and the history, and the architecture
of all the places we’ve been to. It can be daunting when traveling
in Europe because it’s everywhere. If you don’t know what to look
for, you feel like you’re missing
out the whole time. Kate: Obviously,
if you come to Europe, you’re going to see
quite a bit of art. Whether you appreciate
art or you don’t, coming over here, you will certainly walk away with a great appreciation
for the European art when you leave. Linda: I think the
guides made a great job of making the art
accessible to people. They were able to put it in
perspective and also show the interesting parts about
the important paintings. Ben: This was lost,
completely, during the Barbarian Invasions,
and it wasn’t uncovered until 1506 when
a farmer dug it up in his fields– Bob: It was just not dry,
“This is this, and this is the movement in this,” and so
forth, it was, it came to life. Ben: On most tours,
we’re going to spend some time in museums or going into churches, and just having a chance to
see wonderful works of art in situ. When we’re here in
front of the actual sculpture or the
painting, it’s a good opportunity to, certainly, deal with the numbers and the raw
facts, but also to try to draw some connections
between them, from country to country,
from era to era, and try to give the tools that people
can take with them, wherever they go. Kate: I think that was, at least,
my third time to the Louvre, and this was by far the
most significant experience. This time, we had a local
guide that took us through to various pieces and
pointed out what we were looking for, what period it came from,
why it’s significant, why we would
even want to study this. Robbie: You get really just
the best of everything without having to spend a whole day
there and not knowing what you’re taking in,
so it’s been awesome because you really know
you’re appreciating the best of what there is. Karin Kibby: They’re in the church. It’s during the moment
of transubstantiation when the host and the
wine turn into the blood and the body of Christ,
and the killers take out their daggers and
start to stab away. Giuliano falls
immediately to the floor. Lorenzo’s friends were able to
crowd around him and keep him safe. Chris: I think the tours really
do make history accessible. In the US,
I don’t think we get a very good perspective of history at all. When you come to Europe,
first of all, you get to see it firsthand,
which is great. Arnaud: Europe and
France, and in my case, is old, it’s over 2,000
years of history, and you cannot explain
anything that we see outside without having
to go through history. Ben: When we go down
to Rome where we stay, we’re actually staying
across the street from the largest of the
Roman bath complexes that could have
accommodated 3,000 people. Chris: They’re really bringing
out the links between things. We started out in Paris, and Ben
was already talking about, “When we get to Rome, you’re going to
see how this all ties together.” Ben: At first,
they may seem far removed from our present day, but then just
draw the connections between past and present,
I think everybody can latch on to that and everybody can
understand that quite clearly. Those sorts of moments where you do understand that the
past and the present really do coexist in many
cases, I think that is a great way
to teach the history. Rick: With the intensity
of Florence, and of Italy, in general, your bus provides
a comfortable refuge. After all that Tuscan
sun, a dip in the pool back at the hotel provides
a delightful break. While there’s plenty
of time for rest, our tours are definitely
more active than most. Kate: There’s a lot of go. They’re trying to pack as much
art, history, culture, food, wine into every
experience as possible. Trina: You have to be in
some type of good physical condition to be on a Rick
Steves Tour, because if you’re not in good shape, you’re not
going to be able to really take in everything and enjoy
it as much as you would. Ben: Our tours are a little bit
more active than other tours. We do a lot of walking.
There’s a lot of steps. You end up standing in museums. That all is something that
you have to be prepared for. Elisabeth: Especially a city
tour, of course, we walk a lot. We go from one place to another by
public transportation, in metros. There are staircases up and down. Kate: There are hotels that don’t
have elevators, so you’re going to be carrying your baggage up
and downstairs occasionally. There are towns where the
bus has to park a fair distance away and you
may walk on cobblestone. Trina: You’re going to
be maybe doing hiking. There are going to be long days. Rome is an amazing city.
You want to see the Colosseum. You’re going to be walking up
the stairs at the Colosseum. There’s no way around it. Bill: I think you do have
to be able to carry your bag and walk several miles
during the day for the tours. If you want to do your own
activities, you certainly need be able to be
adventuresome and do that. Margaret: If walking
is an issue for you, I don’t think it’s the
right tour for you, but — But I don’t think you have
to be a mountain climber. I don’t think you
have to be an athlete. I just think you have to
be able to do some walking, and be okay, and make sure you
have your comfortable shoes. You throw fashion out the window
and have the comfortable shoes. Robbie: There are a number of
people on this trip that are in their 60s and 70s that get on
just fine as well as anybody else. Bob: I think you need
to have a certain degree of fitness, but I’m certainly not what I would call super
fit, but you need to be in reasonably good shape. You don’t want to come over here
and be a couch potato and miss out on some things because you’re not
physically able to participate. Cecilia: You need to be
physically fit enough to do the tour, but you could also be prepared
to skip some activities. If you can’t do everything
because you have little issues,
you can do the tour in any case, but just be
prepared to not do some activities and that
would be perfectly fine. Chris: There are
some strenuous days. There are some relaxing days, too. We had this relaxing time
in the Tuscan countryside, which was, there was hardly
any exertion that day. I think most the exertion
was with our hand. How is the pool, Bill? Bill: The pool is wonderful. After a hot day in
Florence, it can’t be beat. Chris: The Tuscan countryside
was just beautiful. Joe, our bus driver, had to
maneuver down this narrow driveway with hairpin turns and worrying
about cars coming towards us. Not until we got there did we
appreciate how beautiful it was. We got out and went to our
rooms, and they were little individual cottages separate
from the main house. The olive trees and the
wine vineyards were just fantastic,
just a really picturesque place. After everybody got
there, we all went out by the pool and
relaxed, had fabulous dinners there,
very Tuscan dinners where we sat underneath a
black walnut tree. Amanda: Tuscany was like a resort. We had a pool.
We had gorgeous weather. The people at our
hotel were amazing. I felt like at that point, like,
“Wow, we’re on vacation here.” Chris: It was just wonderful. It was just the perfect respite
before we headed to Rome, which we knew was going
to be a very busy finish. Joe: It’s a very good group
like always. I’m enjoying it. Next week another one;
Germany, Switzerland, Austria. Rick: As the bus pulls
in to Rome, this tour’s final destination, it’s time to bid
farewell to our bus driver, Joe. In Rome, that restful break in
Tuscany pays off as we hit the ground running on a tour of the major
ancient sites with a local guide. Linda: She was fabulous. She really brought alive the
Colosseum, and the Forum, and just made you think
about, not only what the Romans built but the
people that lived there and the life they had,
which was very different than ours. Ben: I’m with the group for the
duration of the tour, but we also bring in a lot of outside
voices, local experts that will come and share their
passion and their knowledge of the city that they’re from and
the city that they know best. We have a chance to be with
them for several hours. Usually, we do that in the major
cities where we’ll go into museums with a local, or just do walk-in
tours throughout the streets. Bob: I’ll never forget the
things I learned and the things I saw in the Louvre because
of that local tour guide. I learned more and I saw
more, and I was in the Louvre for an
appropriate amount of time. You could spend the
summer in the Louvre. Tour guide: Michelangelo’s rival, Bandinelli,
did a very muscular pair of Hercules and Cacus, the Florentine
snub call it the sack of potatoes. Chris: It was the same
of all the guides. We had a great guide in
Florence and we didn’t have to decide where to
go, or what’s the most important thing
to see at this museum, they took us there or
they explained it to us. Kate: I think one of the
best parts of the Venice portion of the trip is having
that local guide, first thing in the morning,
it’s before any of the crowds get there,
and you really see the backstreets. You see the workers unloading
into the shops and you get a real feel for how the Venetians
live and how the city works. Tour guide: Can you
imagine 2,000 years ago, a person who has never
seen the photograph of a leopard,
and then they see the first leopard ever pounce
out of the floor, live. Amanda: She just was
so passionate and made us feel like Rome
is our city as well. Tour guide: The latest estimates
that I’ve read said that between 270,000 and 500,000
people died at the Colosseum. “Oh my goodness,” is
the right response. Amanda: A lot of people on the
tour said she brought tears to their eyes, and she did
evoke this emotional experience. Tour guide: A contrast between
how beautiful and intelligent the building is, and how
infamous and barbaric its uses. Kate: I love Rome,
I think just because of the blend of the history, and the religion,
and the art, and the new and the old, the food, the people. It has everything.
It’s the whole package. Rick: Our groups
enjoy a full art and history package
at the Vatican Museum. Ben: What do you think? Does it remind you of
anything we’ve seen? David, Isn’t it? This is exactly what the
Renaissance is a rebirth of. The Belvedere Torso; no
arms, no legs, no head, but significantly one of
Michelangelo’s favorites. Raphael comes back into this
room, and he scrapes off a section of the image
and he adds a new figure. He adds another figure and
he adds a representation of Michelangelo,
the highest tribute. Rick: Followed by a baroque
finale at St. Peter’s Basilica. All over Europe, the efficiency of
our tours is critical, especially in Rome, where there’s so much
to see and every minute counts. Bob: I’ve traveled on my own and I’ve
traveled on five of these tours now. I think the efficiency
is immeasurably higher on a Rick Steves Tour. You can use every single
minute if you choose to do so, and there’s
just no wasted movement. Margaret: You arrive in Europe
and then you depart from Europe. All the rest of your
transportation is planned; how you’re going
to get around, where you’re going to stay,
so that you’re not constantly fumbling around
for what to do next. Tom: First of all,
you don’t feel lost. That’s huge. Second of all, you can just relax and
enjoy your day, not plan your day. Kiel: We really about travelling by
ourselves, which is why we did this. It was so much easier in
a lot of ways that I think we might just want to do another tour
instead of traveling by ourselves. Elisabeth: Well, it’s obvious
when you follow Rick Steve’s tour that you get more out
of it than on your own. I don’t say that people who
really prepare their tours can’t do a nice trip, of course,
but it is often a matter of time. Ben: It just saves an
incredible amount of time. I always feel that it would
probably take you 50% more time if you were to travel on
your own versus traveling as a group, just simply by the
transportation options, having that all arranged, having the
advantage of reservations. Chris: You don’t have
to worry about hotels. You don’t have to worry about how
you’re getting from place to place. That’s a lot of work, and we
don’t have to worry about that. Bill: It’s all planned,
so we’re able to focus on the activities and then really
enjoy the time we do have. Kate: Having personally
done some backpacking and spending a couple weeks in Italy with my parents,
using the Rick Steves’ guidebook, which is extremely helpful, but still trying to figure out
when the trains are going to run,
where to be at the right time, and then wandering
in circles trying to find something
when you don’t know. You’re not acclimated
to some of these cities. Arnaud: You won’t have to think of
how to go from one point to another. You will not have to think,
“Where is the ticket booth,” and wasting time to find
it before you get inside. Linda: You don’t have
to wait in lines. We didn’t wait in
line at the Louvre. We didn’t wait in
line at the Accademia in Florence,
we didn’t wait in line at the Uffizi or the Vatican City, and the lines are huge
at some of those places. It really saves a
tremendous amount of time. Chris: You got some of the structured
activities, which take you to the key things, and then the guide gives you
some great ideas to do on your own. It’s very efficient. Ben: I always enjoy asking
people when we have our free time, what they’re interested
in, and making sure that they’re pointed in the right
direction and giving them little tricks that I’ve
accumulated over the years. That’s really what I consider one
of my main responsibilities to be is to use people’s
time efficiently who’ve travelled this far and
obviously, time wasted is time lost. Kate: The Rick Steves Tour really
combines the efficiency that’s necessary to see as much as you
need to see in a limited amount of time that we all have now, with
enough free time to enjoy the culture and not feel like you’re just
rushing from one place to the next. Amanda: Two weeks’ time, we visited
a lot of different countries. There’s no way I would
have been able to do that as smoothly
as we did in the tour. Rick: After nearly two weeks
together, anyone seeing this group in Rome could easily
mistake them for lifelong friends. There’s something about our
travel philosophy that often creates this sort of esprit
de corps in our groups. Ben: For me, I can’t imagine
working anywhere else. I can’t imagine working for a
different company, simply because I love our groups and I love the
sorts of people that take our tours. Bill: I just enjoy meeting people. Half this trip, for me,
is about the people, both the ones on the tour and the
ones I meet along the way. Kate: To me,
it’s enhanced experience actually being in a
group, because two weeks with any one person or any one family,
maybe that’s not the best idea. Amanda: I don’t meet new people
easily, so I was hesitant. You pile in on the first day
and meet everybody and you’re checking everybody out, but I have
to say, I was just blown away. We had a fantastic group of people. Ben: You meet for the
first time with strangers, and by the end of the tours,
you’ve got to know each other very, very well,
and you’ve shared these experiences, you have made
a little family of sorts. I’ve always found that on our
tours, every single one of them. There’s always been a really
positive bond that’s been formed. Trina: It’s amazing
to watch it happen. Sometimes I feel like as a
guide, what I need to do is just
step back and stay out of the way,
because they do tend to develop good relationships
almost immediately. After we do our introductions,
immediately at that dinner, the volume level of the conversation
sometimes is pretty loud. Linda: I was surprised
that both of our Rick Steves Tours,
in terms of how the group started out a little
tentative, and then after a while,
it sort of just meshed together. People broke off into little
groups, but everyone also had a sense of
camaraderie as a whole. Trina: They all seem to bond
very well very quickly because they’ve all joined a Rick
Steves Tour for a reason. I think they may be coming with
the same kind of travel philosophy. Ben: I think what ends up happening
is you have a group of people with a similar philosophy
who enjoy the process and the types of
tours that they are. I think it makes for
a very cohesive group. Robbie: This has been a really
fun group to get to know, and everybody adds their own
perspective to what you’re seeing. Kiel: They ranged from
all these different personalities, and
ages, and experiences, and every time we hung
out with different people,
we got a different experience. Amanda: Different
people have strengths, different people have weaknesses, and I think when you’re in a group,
you all complement each other. It just makes your experience
a lot more enjoyable. Kiel: You come together as
individuals, but you end up meeting people that could
have been long-lost friends. Amanda: We definitely made
some friends along the way. Hope to keep in touch with them. Very, very happy.
Sad to leave them all. Ben: Big cheers that,
here we are, 13 days later. We’re almost to the end. Rick: As this group takes
a final walk through the city, visit centuries-old fountains, has just one more gelato and tries to guarantee they will return for more gelato, they finally say their goodbyes. It’s obvious that the experience
they’ve shared has forged bonds and friendships,
many of which will last a lifetime. While we can’t guarantee great
travel partners, we find the kinds of people who are attracted to our
tours add an extra dimension of fun. I hope you can join us too. Whether you’re looking
for a one-week great city getaway, a three-week
multi-country adventure, or anything in between,
we’ve got an exciting itinerary for you at ricksteves.com. Let’s experience Europe together. [music] Ben: Sweet, sweet voice
coming through the microphone. I’m trying my best, by the way. Trina: It’s like
being at the doctor. They check your batteries. They check your mic. Crew Member: I don’t
think we paid you guys. Linda: You are going to pay
us, aren’t you? In gelato, right? Tour member 10: I bought
the hat because I didn’t want to look like a
silly American anymore. I really want to fit
in with the native culture, and this is how I do it. Tom: Did the camera go? Crew Member: It’s calm
and swirling around. Tom: Is it ruining my Oscar moment? [laughter] Margaret: I’m sorry. Bill: The two ladies– Trina: Feels like a job interview. Crew Member: Is that all? Trina: It is. Crew Member: Just a little, yes? Crew Member: What
are your weaknesses? Kiel: You got used
to just taking turns going to the bathroom or cleaning up in the bathroom, and normally,
you take turns going to the bathroom. Crew Member: How was the zip line? [applause] Ben: The first things I ordered were these little octopus
or little octopi. First things I ordered
were these… octopuses? Crew Member: I think octopi. Ben: Octopi. Arnaud: It’s very smooth. That’s why tour members
fall asleep very quickly because they’re too smooth. I think it should be more bumpy so
people could keep their attention. Crew Member: Ben,
can you please explain this? [laughter] Ben: It’s been a heck
of an eight days. That’s all I can say. Crew Member: Look like
you’re enjoying yourselves. Crew Member: Yes. Please pretend you’re having
fun on a Rick Steves Tour. Margaret: It’s going to
look like we’re crying. Crew Member: It’s good.
That’s good frolicking. Crew Member: Some things that
you’ll remember after this trip? Tour member 11: Maybe one thing. Tour member 12: We got engaged. Crew Member: Wait a second.
What did you say? Tour member 12: We got engaged. Crew Member: You got engaged? Tour member 12: Yes. Tour member 11: It’s kind of crooked.
There you go. Crew Member: We’ll pause after that. Sarah: Ben is really fun. I heard that he was 34 or mid-30’s, and I was thinking, awesome. He’s probably going to
be like some dad, maybe like dad figure,
kind of like gray hair, no offense, you know what I
mean, like just really boring person,
and he’s made it a lot of fun. You’re a lot of fun, too. You’re not boring because
you’re a dad figure. Crew Member: Are you sick and tired
of Aaron and I following you around? Ben: No, I was just telling Aaron,
“Finally I’m relaxed, and if I could do it again I would, because it
would be a totally different thing.”

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