Rick Steves' series of European guidebooks is my favorite. He offers great tips on affordable hotels and restaurants; useful maps and walking tours; and personal recommendations on some very special experiences.
These are my three favorite Rick Steves recommendations:
1. St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London
|St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London|
This church is centrally located in London's Trafalgar Square near the National Gallery. The excellent accoustics have made St. Martin a popular venue for concerts and we attended a 2010 performance of Vivaldi and Pachelbel works by London Concertante. The church web site displays a comprehensive list of musical events. Tickets can be purchased in advance online and picked up from the Box Office upon arrival in London.
|London Concertante at St. Martin-in-the-Fields|
But that's not all the church has to offer. Café in the Crypt offers delicious meals at reasonable prices in a convenient location for concert-goers. And diners enjoy a unique ambience among the tombstones, beneath a brick-vaulted ceiling. Service is cafeteria style and wine is available. It was named Les Routier Café of the Year 2012.
There's also a gift shop, which we were able to visit during the concert intermission.
2. Foreigner's Club (Circolo dei Forestieri) in Sorrento
I first fell in love with Italy's Sorrentine Peninsula south of Rome while watching an episode of the Rick Steves' Europe TV Show on public television. And when my 2010 European train tour concluded in Rome I followed it with a 3-day tour to Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento.
|Mount Vesuvius from the Foreigner's Club, Sorrento|
After a day spent on the Isle of Capri we had a lovely dinner at the Foreigner's Club, including a live band. From our seats on the outdoor terrace high on a cliff top we could see Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples.
|Insalata Caprese at the Foreigner's Club, Sorrento|
|View from the terrace of the Foreigner's Club, Sorrento|
But the best part of the meal was the unforgettable view– a magical way to end our tour of Italy.
3. Villefranche-sur-Mer and the Welcome Hotel
Last summer we took a river cruise through Burgundy and Provence and followed it up with a few days on the Cote d'Azur. The small coastal town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, midway between Nice and Monte Carlo, is the ideal base for exploring the French Riviera. The deep harbor is also a major stop for large ships cruising the Mediterranean.
From Villefranche-sur-Mer we enjoyed a boat trip to Monaco and return.
|Boat trip from Villefranche-sur-Mer to Monaco|
Another day we made an easy trip by bus to the hilltop town of Eze-le-Village.
|View of Cap Ferrat from Eze-le-Village|
And thanks to Rick's map and detailed instructions we were able to walk to the Belle Epoque Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Cap Ferrat.
|Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat|
After wandering through the villa's nine theme gardens we recharged with a scenic lunch on the tea room terrace, which overlooks the Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
|Lunch at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild|
After lunch we continued our walk to the other side of the peninsula and along Promenade Maurice Rouvier to the town of St. Jean Cap Ferrat.
|Harbor, St. Jean Cap Ferrat|
At the end of the day we caught a bus back to Villefranche-sur-Mer and the Welcome Hotel. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the staff friendly and helpful, and the hotel is close to tourist information, the cruise ship terminal, bank machine, shopping and many restaurants. And there was an excellent gelato stand right across the street.
|Welcome Hotel, Villefranche-sur-Mer|
The hotel's location on the waterfront offers exceptional views of the harbor, best enjoyed at dusk with a glass of chilled rosé on your balcony.
My last two trips to Europe were made so much more memorable thanks to the advice and recommendations of Rick Steves. I'll certainly be looking for more of his tips for my next adventure abroad!
The Isle of Capri