I'm spending several weeks in Europe right now, visiting Paris, Athens, Milan, Florence, Venice, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam. Each time I think through this list, good things happen in my body…it's like I can feel my synapses crackle and pop.
While I'm mainly working on our guidebooks and TV shows, nearly every day I cross paths with Rick Steves tour groups. These days, fist bumping is like a triumphant high five: We're traveling again…and it feels great. In fact, our tour members seem to be embracing the spirit of "revenge travel" — after two years stuck at home, they're hellbent on not letting that darned virus clip their wings.
It's fascinating to be in Europe during this transitional period. Just like Americans, Europeans are working hard to find their way out of the pandemic. In most places, precautions are still taken quite seriously, even if they're loosening up some. I find it's become an automatic reflex to pop on my mask anytime I go indoors: public transit, airplanes, hotels, restaurants, and museums. I'm taking careful notes and passing them along to the home office, as we continue to adapt our style of touring to the COVID reality.
Lots of things are different…but not necessarily "worse." For example, restaurants have more outdoor seating than ever before — a pandemic-era change that could become permanent, as many city governments are realizing that having a thriving al fresco dining scene is worth losing some parking spaces.
Shared meals — meze boards in Greece, smorgasbords in Scandinavia, aperitivo buffets in Italy, and tapas lining the bars in Spain — are being curtailed in the interest of health and safety. But restauranteurs are coming up with some clever alternatives. I just stopped by a bar in Florence that usually has a wonderful spread of salumi (cold cuts), cheeses, and marinated veggies to go with your aperitivo. Instead, now they're preparing a miniature sampler board (tagliere) for each table. Not a bad trade-off.
Of course, especially when things are in flux, everything is so much easier when you're in the hands of a great tour guide. For nearly every single day over this five-week trip, I'm working with two different guides: one during the day for sightseeing, and another during the evening to check out restaurants. It reminds me how invaluable a great guide is — and it makes me so thankful that we have such a top team of talented guides to lead you through Europe in 2022.
In this month's Tour News, you'll get to meet one of our many great Italy guides, Sarah Corfield, and tag along on a day-by-day preview of one of our most-popular tours: the Best of Venice, Florence & Rome. We'll also glide on a gondola through Venice's romantic canals and share why so many past tour members love Italy's greatest cities.
In spite of the anxieties and inefficiencies caused by the pandemic, a stroll through Europe's old characteristic quarters — which I've already done in several great cities, from London to Paris to Rome to Venice — is as lively as I've ever experienced…and it's still only spring. It seems like in 2022, "revenge travelers" and locals alike are determined to get back to the simple joy of being together, safely.
I'll fist-bump to that.