The Bees Knees: Guidebooks by Rick StevesPosted: April 13, 2012
Once upon a time, I was nine years old and my parents took me on a trip to Germany to visit friends of theirs. By day 2, I had caught the travel bug and have yet to be rid of it. Since then I have had the good fortune to travel to a few choice destinations. My sense of prioritization has led me to Europe many times over, as well as a few fun stops across Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean; I have yet to gather up enough money for a mortgage down-payment, but, as I said, priorities…
I used to think that travelling by a guidebook was the equivalent of travelling on an organized tour bus: unimaginative, canned, and lacking in anything resembling an authentic cultural experience (no offense to those who prefer the bus). But I’ve learned that to be a snob is to almost guarantee that at one point or another you will also be a hypocrite. Case in point: I will never again travel to any European destination without my trusty Rick Steves’ guidebook in hand.
As Ace and I began to plan our upcoming honeymoon in Scotland and Italy, I knew that Rick Steves was the only one who could help me find good food to eat in Scotland that went beyond pub food and haggis (the traditional dish consisting of sheep’s organs and oats), and the only one to help me decipher between the wealth of options in Tuscany and Rome, as the country boasts as many tourist traps as not. After our trip to Provence a few years ago, I trust his taste in food implicitly. Every meal we had was unforgettable, reasonable, and as non-touristy as possible; I expect we will find the same on our travels this go ’round.
In terms of accomodation, just by comparing his recommendations to those on Trip Advisor will show you that he only selects the best in quality and value for his books. What’s more is that he’s honest and while he will recommend a hotel for it’s reasonable price and location, he is not above also mentioning that the owners are jerks and that you are not to expect warm, Best Western-y smiles. Advice that is, in my opinion, priceless.
And if having a faultless guide for where to sleep and what to eat is not enough, he also provides self-guided walking tours for every major European city so that you don’t get stuck with an annoying drone of a guide and can avoid walking around with headphones stuck in your ears that mute the intrinsic sounds of the city you’re actually trying to get to know.
So, my friends, seeing as we are on the cusp of travel season I thought I would provide my two cents on the most honest and reliable guidebooks (for Europe) around. If you’re looking to be a tourist but want to have the cultural experience of a local, look no further. The philosophy and value to be found within the pages of Rick Steves’ guidebooks is best relayed by the man himself:
“Travel is intensified living–maximum thrills per minute and one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Travel is freedom. It’s recess, and we need it.” -From Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door
The bell has rung–start packing!