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Exclusive interview with Rick Steves on Europe Awaits for Public Television

Rick hitches a cart ride with a farmer in Maramureș, Romania
Rick hitches a cart ride with a farmer in Maramureș, Romania. (Pic credit: Rick Steves’ Europe)

Everywhere in the news, Europe is looking to be opening back up for American tourists. This is music to Public Television star Rick Steves, a beloved American tour guide, and host of his many travel specials airing on public television across the country.

Travelers are itching to book trips and dream of where they’ll go post-COVID.

This new two-hour public television special with travel expert, author, and host Rick Steves is an amuse-bouche for the mind as Rick shares his favorite European destinations to visit when you can get up and go.

You can look forward to watching Rick in action during this montage of travel highlights: Sicily, Mykonos, Porto, the Cotswolds, Tuscany, and Romania. It’s an adventure with sunny white-sand beaches, incredible cuisine, and even a proper English countryside hike; Rick even pays a visit to an eccentric lord and gets to visit a Tuscan pig farm.

Stunning vistas, romantic beaches, river walks, and countryside that is as picturesque as a postcard, these locations offer inspiration to travel lovers who have spent the past year dreaming of their next trip when the pandemic ends.

Co-produced and presented by American Public Television (APT), the leading syndicator of content to public television stations nationwide, Rick Steves Europe Awaits is guaranteed to be a huge driver during their big fundraiser.

Where does Rick go?

Steves will explore the intense cuisine of Sicily, a place that has been a cultural crossroad between the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Next, he will visit Mykonos, the romantic Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Finally, he will hop a donkey cart in Romania for a folksy tour.

Then it is time to head back towards the Atlantic ocean as he visits rustic and historic Porto in Portugal’s northern region to see how port wine is made.

The walkabout in England will be in the lush and lovely Cotswolds, where a pub crawl will commence. Then he heads to Tuscany for an authentic taste of la dolce vita.

Exclusive interview with Rick Steves:

Monsters & Critics: Europe awaits. Now, I guess the most obvious question is, there’s still confusion about masks and what’s protocol. What do Americans who are traveling to Europe this summer need to know with regards to COVID and precautions, and if certain countries are more strict than others?

Rick Steves: I’m not advocating everybody jump over to Europe right away. I think Europe is on a glide path to normalcy just like we are, and it may take a few months, and I would not go to Europe until it is basically past the pandemic.

So this is not a program about how we can get to Europe before everybody else. I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea to think of this as a great time to go to Europe because there’s no crowds. I think the first thing that needs to be done is we need to get our herd immunity and Europe needs to get into immunity. So Europe can be wide open and there’s no concern about quarantines or certain borders being closed or anything like that.

I’m just very excited that things are looking like it’ll be solid for travel between the United States in Europe later on in 2021. And certainly, in 2022, I think that’s important to ask. Having said that, if people are supposed to wear masks, we feel it right now, when you go around our country, I was just on a little road trip for the first time in a year I slept in a bit that wasn’t my own.

We went out to dinner, went to shops, and did our tourism thing in another city, you wear your mask when it says to wear masks and can go inside. So it’s something we’re used to, but that’ll be the interim kind of thing. We’re not doing testing and social distancing going forward.

We got our shots, and I’m not paying all the way to get here [Europe] to sit in a bubble and not get somebody’s germs. When I go to Europe, I want my cheeks kissed in Paris! I want to crowd into the squares and Rome and have my gelato and dance in Spain. I want to pack into those bars in Ireland and clink glasses with people who really believe that strangers are just friends they have yet to meet and that’s going to come. It’s going to come.

M&C: I can tell. Anticipation is 90% of the fun, I think, for anything.

Rick Steves: I would like to say that, especially when it comes to travel because we have the shortest vacations in the rich world here in the United States, but we can extend our dream experience by planning for it and getting excited about it, and getting our ducks in a row, knowing what our options are and studying up on it.

The more you get out of a country, that’s determined to a great extent, but how much do you take into it as far as understanding the cultural context, knowing what your options are, and understanding what you want to experience.

M&C: Well, before there were travel blogs, the internet and Instagram influencers were a thing. When did you realize, ‘Hey, I can do this a hundred percent of the time for a living’?

Rick Steves: Well, all of that stuff to me is not travel writing. That’s just kind of clickbait. I’ve noticed a huge change in the travel writing industry. Of course, everybody’s got to earn their living, but what I do, I measure my profit by how many trips do I impact than, how much money do I make, or how many people’s perspectives can I broaden?

How many people can I help learn from my mistakes rather than their own, so they can have a more economic richer experience? So this is what I do. I spend a hundred days a year in Europe. I’ve done that until COVID for the last 30 years.

M&C: What’s your method when you research?

Rick Steves: When I make a mistake, I celebrate, I take notes. I learn from that. So other people can learn from my mistakes rather than their own and have a better trip. If I get ripped off, I celebrate, they don’t know who they just ripped off. I’m gonna learn about their scam and share it with everybody else.

So this is what I do. I think that’s why people recognize my guidebooks are helpful and they’re the leading guide books for every country in Europe, I think lately, and as far as American guide books to Europe goes, that’s my mission, to help is to inspire Americans to venture beyond Orlando.

And for me, Europe is the waiting pool for world exploration. So it’s the biggest market and it’s what we dream about. So I’ve made that my beat and that’s a lifelong project, just being the best in Europe.

M&C: Do you think Europe is awaiting American tourists?

Rick Steves: First of all, patience is a tough thing. Patience is not an American forte. It’s certainly not a Rick Steves forte. But lately, patience has been my middle name.

And I just thought we’ve got to get a grip on this pandemic. And so does Europe. When that happens, we’re going to enjoy an enthusiastic animal warm welcome in Europe.

M&C: What are some of the highlights on the special?

Rick Steves: What I wanted to do was cobble together some of my favorite places that are going to really be good for your soul after being locked up in a pandemic and to have a wonderful celebration of what Europe has to offer with a perfect sort of balanced variety of, European highlights.

There are six destinations. So to be able to dream about going to Sicily, I mean, if you like Italy, Sicily is Italy in the extreme. It’s got the best food in so many ways, and its history is a story of different civilizations sweeping in with each invasion over thousands of years, and it shows itself in the food.

And then in Mykonos, we’ll jump ship and we’ll enjoy a nice cloudy glass of Ouzo to accompany fresh seafood and see these beautiful beaches. And then up in the Cotswolds, we’ll pop into the pubs and we’ll enjoy the nature like the English do when they want to really connect with their countryside.

As a travel writer, you tend to overuse the word quaint. But for me, Cotswolds is where I used the word quaint, just a thatched wonderland. For anybody that likes to walk from pub to pub and village to village, it’s just great.

In Northern Portugal, this is where the port is made and will be in the Douro river valley. And then it’s aged in the second city in Porto. So it’s just got an amazing patina of age, and we’ll enjoy that city.

Then we go to Tuscany and, you know, Tuscany is just so many people’s favorite, and we’ll get that rural rustic slice of just quality living countryside, Italy. So we will stay in a farmhouse BNB, and we’ll enjoy a sleepy passage out in the village, and we’ll have what they call a zero kilometer meal where everything is made right there on the farmer, in the village.

And then we finish in Romania and how many Americans have been to Romania? Not very many. Romania, to me, has got the most vivid folklife of any place in Europe. And it just reminds us that if you know where to travel, you can find these wonderful slices of life.

In Romania, you hop on a donkey cart, you can pitch hay with a pitchfork. You can pull up a bucket out of a well and pass that water to the animals. And you walk down these village lanes in Romania, and you feel like it’s an open-air folk museum in actual life.

M&C: Rick, your work IS travel. What do you do for fun?

Rick Steves: I love my work so much, and my work is an ongoing challenge. It’s a mission to get Americans to reach out and celebrate the diversity on the planet and get to know the other 96% of humanity. So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about vacationing.

My idea of a good time is to go to Europe and scour these towns to find new, exciting opportunities to bring home. I’m sort of in a weird groove, but I’m a lucky guy that’s found my niche. And that is learning about Europe. So I go over there, make all the mistakes, take careful notes, come home, and hope people can learn from my mistakes rather than find themselves in trouble later.

So I suppose if my big ‘what’s my vacation’ [answer] is to sit here on my deck and watch the sunset and be thankful I get to live in this beautiful corner of the world.

M&C: So many shows are talking about Americans relocating to Europe for the cost of living. If you had to leave America, is there a country you could find yourself living in?

Rick Steves: If I had to choose one spot, my problem is I speak only English. So it would be a disadvantage. But apart from the language barrier, I’d probably choose Paris.

Paris is just like the cultural capital of Europe in so many ways. Still, I’d be thankful that in Europe now they’ve got the deregulated airlines so that you could play anywhere quickly and easily and inexpensively. I would constantly be on the road in Europe. So that would be my answer is that I haven’t changed. Maybe I’m cheating, but I can’t say one spot. I really can’t.

New two-hour special premieres June 7, 2021 on public TV stations nationwide

April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer more

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