Born and raised in the French region of Normandy, Linda has shared her passion for her homeland with travelers for decades. After spending many years as a tour guide in the canals and vineyards of Burgundy, she moved with her family to Brittany to work as a teacher. But the call of guiding was strong, and she returned to the industry in 2015. As a guide with Rick Steves' Europe, she's led our Loire to the South of France and Paris & the Heart of France tours as well as our My Way® France vacation. In that time, Linda has become well-known among tour members for her wonderful sense of humor and love for France.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you became a tour guide.
Twenty-five years ago, I left my native Normandy for the beautiful wine region of Burgundy to work as a hostess on a hotel barge cruising the canals and rivers mainly with American clients.
Several seasons turned into years as a barge manager and tour guide, driving my minibus through the vineyards, visiting castles and abbeys, and, of course, discovering the gastronomy and delicious wines. I even met my future British husband (24 years of marriage and two boys). After 15 happy years in Burgundy, the call of the coast and the ocean urged us to move to Brittany, where I worked initially as a special-needs teacher in an elementary school — which was rewarding but too static.
I had heard about Rick Steves' Europe through existing guides (old friends from the barging industry). I sent in my resumé and a few months later I was an assistant tour guide. I was so glad to get back to the tourism industry and show off my lovely country!
What do you like best about leading Rick Steves tours in France?
What I like the most as a guide at Rick Steves' Europe is that, despite a well-established itinerary and a precise schedule, I have a lot of freedom on the subjects covered; depending on the questions of the tour members, it can cover anything from history to current affairs. I really enjoy giving talks on the bus between sites and hope this adds to the tour members' enjoyment — I try to keep it light-hearted and entertaining!
Do you have favorite stops on the Loire to the South of France and the Paris & the Heart of France tours?
On the Loire tour, I prefer less-touristic places like Chinon, a charming little town in the Loire Valley where you can easily visit the château in the early afternoon, followed by a wine tasting and then an excellent dinner. In the Dordogne, I also enjoy Sarlat and its market (one of the largest in France).
On the Heart of France tour, my favorite stops are of course Normandy (my roots!), with vast beaches free of construction and small villages where all year the English, American, and Canadian flags fly in the middle of the French flags. Also, Monet's magnificent garden in Giverny (before painting, Monet's first obsession was his garden), where the blooms are spread out differently every season and you feel like you're part of a painting…at least I do!
You've also led our My Way® France vacation. What should travelers know about this type of trip?
The My Way France tour is really a very complete tour of some of the best sites in France, starting in Paris and ending in Nice via the Alps; it's a superb trip! The My Way trips offer tour members more time and flexibility, and there are lots of options to fill your day with the ever-present advice from your guide.
What have been some of your most rewarding moments as a guide?
I would say those of explaining and sharing French culture with the tour members, answering their questions about the French lifestyle, and seeing the wonder on their faces when Mont St-Michel appears in the distance! At this moment there is silence on the bus, as the tour members are captivated by the beauty of this incredible "mountain of granite stones" coming out the sea. I could try to say something, but I know they wouldn't listen at that moment! I really love my country and honestly, it's not difficult to share this feeling with travelers!
The moments that remain in my memory are those such as an aperitif on the banks of the Loire, a game of pétanque with the locals, kayaking down the Dordogne, and a picnic in a small village. One emotional memory is the burning of Notre-Dame — my tour group was eating our dinner in Mont St-Michel when we heard the news, and we were all in disbelief, having only been there three days before! On one My Way France tour, I also had a very moving moment at the Pont du Gard: A young couple in our group got engaged! L'amour!
What do you do when you're not leading tours?
In the winter I take some time for myself and family of course. During the COVID crisis, I have been working locally as a real estate agent; we have beautiful stone cottages for sale — even a 16th-century manor house! But it doesn't come close to the pleasure I take from touring with Rick Steves, and I am counting down the months before we can all be touring again and sharing wonderful moments together.
Here's what Linda won't tell you…but her tour members will:
"Linda was incredible from start to finish — we wish we could have toured with her for many more weeks. She was extremely knowledgeable, had a great sense of humor, was very responsive to questions, and set the perfect tone for the trip; I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed our time with her. The quality of the guide can make or break the trip, and Linda was truly exceptional!"
— Thomas in Savage, MN