Traveling (and filming) with Rick Steves

Thirty years ago, Bob and I took our first trip to Europe with packs on our backs and 50 bucks to spend per day on food, transportation, and shelter -- for both of us together. We spent many nights sleeping on benches or trying to sleep sitting upright on trains as we traveled to our next city via our Eurail passes. We stayed a month and, to say that the experience changed our lives would be an understatement. We were hooked on travel, and hooked on Europe. Not a lot has changed in the way we travel now and the way we traveled then. No, we don't sleep on park benches anymore, but in order to be able to afford to travel (almost) as frequently as we would like to, we keep costs down by shopping for inexpensive flights, picnicking as often as possible, and rather than staying in expensive American hotels, we opt for small locally owned pensiones and inns. A lot of what we've learned about how to keep costs under control we've learned from our travel guru, Rick Steves. You may know Rick from his travel series on PBS, or from his books that he's been writing for years and years. Or you may have visited his website.

To us, he is something of a celebrity.

So, when we checked into our room at the Hotel Kranenturm yesterday in the beautiful little Rhineland town of Bacharach, and Fatima, our host, asked how we had come to be there, we said we had read about the town and hotel in a Rick Steves book. "Oh," she said, "Rick is coming here today!"

We were hoping to catch a glimpse of our travel hero. But, much to our surprise, he approached us at dinner and asked if we would come out for a wine tasting with him later in the evening. He then went on to explain that he is filming a new show for his series and asked if we'd like to be a part of it.

Um, yes please.

So last night we found ourselves crowded into a small dining room at the Bastian Weingut here in Bacharach with nine other travelers, Rick Steves, and the Travels in Europe film team. There were three tables and each table was presented with a carousel of assorted wines from the region. Sharing glasses, we all tasted the 16 or so wines, chatted about what we liked and didn't like, and generally had a fabulous time. Bob and I were seated with a woman from Ohio and one of the camera guys. It was a hoot-- and all the time the cameras were rolling. So much fun to see the behind the scenes workings of the making of Rick Steve's show. I hope we don't end up on the cutting room floor, (yes, I know it's digital these days), but even if we do, we still had a wonderful experience. And we got our book signed by Rick Steves!


Pictured above -- Bob, Rick Steves, and me.