The countdown has started: my next France vacation is a few weeks away.
When the wanderlust hits again, I get the urge to shake things up, to pack a small bag, to head out, to explore. An airplane would do, but if I can’t fly, I’d go for a train, or, (I live in the Pacific Northwest,) a ferry.
Today, I did not let the chilly, damp Seattle weather deter me from getting out and driving to the shore. A bientôt, la banlieue! So long, suburbia. No airplane, train, or ferry needed. I headed to a favorite local town of mine, Edmonds, WA. I have already dedicated several stories to that special place by the Puget Sound. I like to think of it as “European travel central.” When I am in the mood for travel, especially before a France vacation, I can get my fix there. For one, Rick Steves’ business, Rick Steves Europe, is headquartered in Edmonds. Even if I spent several months last year trying to get hired by his company – and failed – I don’t hold a grudge. I was happy to attend another of Steves’ travel presentations today. It covered his “spring vacation,” the first half of the 4 months he spends in Europe every year. While out on the road, Steves researches his guidebooks; tests a couple of the 900 tours his company runs every year; makes connections with local tour guides and old friends; or shoots new episodes of his popular travel TV show series, now in its 8th season, with season 9 on the way. Rick Steves is the ultimate traveler, in and outside Europe. Over the last 40 years, he has built an empire and has convinced many Americans it was safe, fun, and empowering to get a passport and visit the world. An enthusiastic and charismatic communicator, he is also a consummate salesman, and manages to plug his guidebooks, tours, travel bags, TV and radio shows effortlessly and convincingly in the 10-minute introduction he delivers before all of his free presentations. Hats off, Rick. You are the Master. Today, I joined over 250 travel enthusiasts in Edmonds, and we all crammed inside the venerable Edmonds Theater to hear about Steves’ recent travels through Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria and Romania. I may be planning my next France vacation, but when given a chance to *visit* 6 European countries in 90 minutes, and for free, I take it. Merci, Rick!
Rick is the Bruce Springsteen of travel shows: His presentation – originally scheduled for 1.5 hours – was over 2 hours long. He never missed a beat. Neither did the audience. Steves shared some of his trip photos. He also discussed new trends in European cities (e.g. industrial-age markets catering to foodies and hipsters and offering locally-grown products and wine,) crowds in the “new age of travel,” (the result of the rise of emerging markets like India or China,) terrorism, travelers’ scams, the refugee crisis, and more. The goal was clearly to reassure his audience (his customers,) and encourage them to “keep on traveling.” His short but heartfelt rant against American media, too focused on entertainment, sensationalism, and fear-mongering drew a round of applause.
As I traveled vicariously through Europe thanks to Steves’ photos and stories, I could not wait for the section dedicated to France. Steves took us to Normandy (Bayeux, D-Day landing beaches,) then Brittany (Mont St Michel, Dinard, St. Malo,) and finally to Paris. Sans surprise. There were no big scoops, but it was interesting to listen to Rick’s discussion of social unrest in France (and in Europe.) He even went as far as sharing a photo of his beloved rue Cler in Paris – a.k.a. “Rick Steves’ Central” – lined with riot police cars during a demonstration on nearby Champs de Mars. He encouraged his audience to keep visiting Paris, and to do as the Parisians do: Following last year’s terror attacks, they refused to be scared and keep enjoying life en terrasse, (out on café terraces,) as a sign of resistance. I could only agree. I learned several facts during the 2+ hour-long presentation: Steves manages to communicate with locals all over Europe, but still can’t pronounce some French words (“Bayeux!”) in spite of the free French language classes at his travel center. 😉 He loves escargots (this word he pronounces perfectly,) local tour guides, Uber drivers, and train travel (not necessarily in that order.)
After sitting for so long in a dark room, I was happy to step outside and walk around Edmonds. Saturday is market day. However quaint and worth a visit, most markets in the Seattle area are a far cry from French and European outdoor markets. They always seem to be heavy on local crafts, not so much on fresh produce. I did find Rainier Cherries and fresh flowers to take home with me.
The day was not over yet. Rick Steves Europe has some competition in town in the “best travel supplier ” category. I have owned one of his wonderful carry-on size bags for years, but for smaller travel accessories, I visit a local store, the Savvy Traveler. What better way to get in the mood for a France vacation than to look up travel gear? I also had to find a gift or some dresses for a friend who is taking a sabbatical year in Europe this month. Useful or not, the Savvy Traveler has it all! First, the classics:
Then, the “I-don’t-really-need-it-but-I-want-it” category…
A full clothing line, complete with travel underwear and hats, but unlike Rick Steves, I would not invest in a piece of clothing I won’t wear when I return…
I found my friend’s gift, and a few things to bring along with me when I hit the not-so-friendly skies in a few weeks. Mission accomplished. Outside, the rain had stopped. It was time to leave lovely Edmonds, but first, ignoring the overcast Northwest skies, i enjoyed some salted caramel gelato, en terrasse, as it should be.
Merci, Rick Steves Europe
130 4th Ave N
Edmonds, WA 98020
112 5th avenue South,
Edmonds WA, 98020
All photos, unless otherwise noted, by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use without permission.
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— Merci. FGIS