Monthly Archives: December 2009

Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act – Review

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Rick Steves deliver a presentation on “Travel as a Political Act” as a fundraiser for Twin Cities Public Television.   Rick is an icon in the world of European travel advice. He shared with us his insight from years of travel, and challenged us to travel with an open mind, and not be dumbed down by a narrow world view. 

Rick is a great storyteller, and has that gift for drawing the audience in, spinning a great tale, weaving anecdotes with education, and opening our eyes to other cultures.

 You can download the presentation as a series of podcasts from iTunes.  Just search for Rick Steves Lecture Series.  You can also watch the lecture here on Rick’s You Tube channel. 

And now Rick has just released a book which fleshes out the theme of his presentation and provides background that has shaped his political views. 

 Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the first chapter:

  •  To get the most out of your travels, plan to get out of your comfort zone, meet the people, seek out new experiences, and view other cultures – as well as our own – with an open mind
  • Seeing how smart people overseas come up with fresh new solutions to the same old problems makes me more humble, open to creative solutions, and ready to question traditional ways of thinking.  We understand how our worldview is both shaped and limited by our family, friends, media and cultural environment.  We become more able to respectfully coexist with people with different “norms” and values.
  • One of the greatest rewards of travel comes from the people you encounter – especially if you’re open to letting them show off a bit and impress you with their culture.  Stow your preconceptions, and relish the opportunity to meet and learn from local experts, whether it’s cheese makers, or owners of a 5th generation family vineyard.
  • Take history seriously, and don’t be dumbed down.  I believe now that if more Americans had a history degree and put it to good use, this world would be better off. Those with a knowledge of history can understand current events in a broader context and respond to them more thoughtfully.
  • My travels have taught me to have a healthy skepticism toward those who peddle fear.  And in so many cases I’ve learned the flip side of fear is understanding.
  • Thirteen thousand people die in the U.S. every year from hand guns.  But we’ve deemed that’s an acceptable trade-off for enjoying our Second Amendment rights.  Europeans (who suffer less than 25% of the per capita gun killings we do) laugh out loud when they hear Americans are staying home for safety reasons. 
  • Every time I’m stuck in a long security line at an airport, I reflect on one of the most concerting results of terrorism:  the very people who would benefit most from international travel – those who needlessly fear people and places they don’t understand – decide to stay home.  I believe the most powerful things individual Americans can do to fight terrorism are to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home with a new perspective, and then work to help our country fit more comfortably and less fearfully into this planet. 

 Other chapters in Rick’s book include:

 –        Lessons from the Former Yugoslavia:  After the War

–        Europe Unites:  Successes and Struggles

–        Resurrection in El Salvador

–        Denmark:  Highly Taxed and Highly Content

–        Turkey and Morocco:  Sampling Secular Islam

–        Europe: Not “Hard on Drugs” or “Soft on Drugs” but Smart on Drugs

–        Mission:  Understand Iran

 I encourage you to check out the book or Lecture Series for Rick’s though-provoking ideas.  And as Rick says:  Keep Traveling!

 Enchanted Traveler

Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act

I’m headed to Minneapolis tomorrow to hear European travel expert Rick Steves deliver a speech on “Travel as a Political Act”, sponsored by Twin Cities Public Television.

As the undisputed expert on travel to Europe, Rick spends 4 months every year traveling and working throughout Europe, recording episodes for TV series, and updating his travel guidebooks.

Spending one third of his adult life living out of a suitcase in Europe has shaped Rick’s thinking. Today he employs 80 people at his Europe Through the Back Door headquarters in Edmonds where he produces 30 guidebooks on European travel, the most popular travel series in America on public television, a weekly hour-long national public radio show, and a weekly column syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.

Rick’s website is a treasure trove of trip planning and advice. You can also download his free audio walking tours for many top sights from iTunes.

I’m so excited for the chance to see Rick again, and I’m bringing my two children with me to hear some of Rick’s wit, wisdom, and insight. I’ll provide updates after the speech!

Rick’s presentation is Sunday, Dec. 6 at 4:00pm at the Riverview Theater. Tickets are $30 at the door (if any tickets remain), and benefit Twin Cities Public Television.

~ Enchanted Traveler

Cathedrale d’Images – World’s Most Inspirational Places

I’m very honored to be chosen a winner in the World’s Most Inspirational Places travel writing contest, sponsored by Sharing Travel Experiences, the go-to resource for travel information on the web. 

 Mere words cannot do justice to this incredible place, Cathedrale d’Images in Les Baux de Provence, France, but I tried my best to describe the beauty of this extraordinary underground art museum.  You can link to my article here.

Photo courtesy of Cathedrale d'Images website


Many thanks to the contest judges, to STE’s parent company Hayes Media Group, and their sponsors, Indie Travel Podcast, and Odyssey Publications.

 ~ Enchanted Traveler

Lyon -Fete des Lumieres – Amazing Festival of Lights

Photo courtesy of Lyon Department of TourismThis weekend, art, poetry and illumination combine with the latest technology as the city of Lyon, France kicks off their extraordinary Festival of Lights –  la Fete des Lumieres.

Over the past 11 years, this festival of spectacular outdoor urban lighting has become one of the must-see events in France and in all of Europe, attracting over a million visitors, and filling hotels rooms months in advance.  Follow their Twitter updates here  @Fete_lumieres09

While Paris has the reputation of being the “City of Light”, most people don’t realize it’s really Lyon, France’s second largest city, that is the renowned center of the urban outdoor lighting and design industry.  The 4-day festival transforms public squares, buildings, monuments, bridges, cathedrals and more into unbelievable illuminated works of art, using the latest technology in lighting and design.

The current celebration had its humble beginnings in December 1852, when townsfolk gathered in lighted procession to commemorate a new statue of the Blessed Mother, which was erected on Fourviere hill, near the Basilica.  Throughout the years citizens of Lyon marked the Feast of the Immaculate Conception by placing lighted candles in their front windows every December 8, a tradition which continues today.

In 1999, the lighting design industry decided to give citizens of Lyon a true Festival of Lights, and the modern-day Fete des Lumieres was born.  Now in it’s 11th year, the festival runs from December 5-8, with venues throughout the city.  Residents and visitors will be enchanted by the lighting displays, and collectively ask in amazement “How’d they do that?”

Photo by Antoine Taveneaux

Seven major works by noted design artists will be featured, including:

Playing with Time
– laser, light and sound showcasing effects of weather as buildings in the Place des Terreaux are covered in ice, submerged in water, distorted and then melted under the effect of heat

Garden of Light in Flower – 44 giant brightly colored luminous flowers carpet the esplanade of Montee de la Grande Cote, with the illuminated city of Lyon as a backdrop

Garden – between the Hotel du Ville and the Opera, giant plants and flowers welcome visitors

Bells & Light Panels – the façade of the Basilica de Notre Dame, with its set of 23 church bells, will be transformed into a dazzling backdrop of four genres of art: neoclassical, cubist, abstract and contemporary

The Digital Man – a giant 40 ft. tall digital man (made of a carbon fiber skeleton, transparent hoops and electroluminescent wiring) scales the TDF communications tower, a la King Kong

The Builders
– honors 300 years of builders who toiled to complete the Cathedral of Saint Jean.  Two giant hands projected on the façade of the church take visitors through the construction process, with fantastic detail and realism

Tic-Tock – stroll along the banks of the Rhone to view 9 giant lighted panels, illustrating the regular and varied rhythms of time

Photo courtesy of Lyon Department of Tourism

In addition, dozens of other works will be featured around the city by students of France’s art, architecture and design schools.  Also on the agenda is an international symposium of 300 lighting experts, visual artists and architects who will meet to exchange ideas, and learn about the latest technology in outdoor lighting of urban spaces.

But for those of us not in the lighting industry….we get to enjoy, and marvel at the brilliant juxtaposition of history, architecture, faith, and art with modern illumination technology.

Lyon is situated in the Rhone Alps region of south central France, about 280 miles southeast of Paris, 90 miles southwest of Geneva.  The Train Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) network will whisk you from the Gare du Lyon in Paris to Lyon in two hours.

Check out the Fete des Lumieres 2009  Flickr group created to share the amazing photos and videos.

(Photos courtesy of Lyon Department of Tourism unless otherwise noted.  Hyperlinks are accurate at time of publication, but subject to change by site owners.)