Interview with Roy Nicholls

Roy Nicholls likes the "human touch" of Rick Steves' tour program.

Roy Nicholls has been guiding for Rick Steves' tour program longer than any other guide. For 22 years, Roy and Rick have been exploring Britain together to bring tour members its lovely "back doors." Roy spent so much time on the road that he even met his wife while leading a tour for Rick Steves.

How did you get involved in guiding for Rick Steves' tours?
It's a long story. I met Rick in 1981. I was managing a youth hostel in the south of England, and he came in with one of his first tours. I think there were 8-10 people in his group. They stayed with us at the hostel, and we stayed friends over the years. In 1988, he asked me if I would like to do a tour with him, and I said yes. It was the first tour Rick did in Britain, and we took 20 tour members around in a minibus. We did the same tour again in 1990, and after that we've been doing it every year since.

Where do you guide for Rick and is it a full time job?
Well, for the first 15 years or so I led tours of Britain only (the first 10 years they were all 21 day tours that covered much of our island). Later I added London city tours, Ireland tours, and more recently I have been leading a few Best of Europe tours and Scotland tours every year. I no longer guide in Ireland (wrong accent). With my kids now grown and after two years of studies in archeology, I have loved leading Rick's Best of Europe tours, where I can teach others about the wonders of the Etruscans and other civilizations.

And yes, it feels like full time work — we guides work like crazy every April through October and collapse November to March and reacquaint ourselves with our families. But now with new winter season tours that Rick offers, I am able to spread my tours out a bit better.

Explain what a typical Rick Steves tour member is like.
I wouldn't say there is necessarily a typical one, but I guess there are a few shared traits. For one thing they're very enthusiastic and very curious, but they're not always natural travelers. Some are just at the beginning of getting the travel bug, others have been there, done that and seen it all. There tend to be a lot of first timers to Europe on the Britain tours. They are different from the other tour groups in that they're more discerning. They want a little more, and want something more real, less predictable.

Where do you travel, when you're not guiding?
I do a lot of traveling in Britain. I've also enjoyed traveling to France, Tunisia, New Zealand and America (my wife is from Seattle). My archeology studies have taken me to Italy — a nice benefit! And someday I plan to go to India.

What is your favorite country in Europe?
I do love France. I'm likely to make jokes about France just like any other Brit, but there's a romance about it. I particularly like the south of France — the Dordogne region especially.

Where do you live?
In a little market town called Blandford Forum. It's medieval, and such a lovely town of about 8,000 people. It's in the county of Dorset which is one of the most beautiful counties in England.

Here's what Roy won't tell you...but his tour members will!

"Roy was a delightful guide. He led our group with enthusiasm, knowledge, humor and genuine kindness. He may be the most calm man I have ever met, and is clearly an expert at what he does. Can't say enough good things about Roy."

— Sarah in Denver, CO