Among my favorite offerings in Rick Steves’ city guidebooks are his recommended self-guided walking tours. I love to walk, so right off the bat I’m a fan. But his walks also point out unusual and unadvertised highlights that I would never know about otherwise. I’ll read his tidbits aloud to anyone in my party that is willing to listen, and even to those that aren’t (such as my youngest daughter when she was a teenager). Here’s an example.
On our trip to Paris last winter, Bob and I took several of Steves’ Paris walks. One favorite was the Montmartre Walk. On this stroll, Steves’ offered specific directions on how to find often unmarked historic sites, which included the La Maison Rose Restaurant, made famous by a painting from artist Maurice Utrillo. We saw Pablo Picasso’s studio, the home of Vincent van Gogh, the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and nearby Pig Alley. All accompanied by interesting facts and histories.
Steves’ Left Bank walk led us through the delightful Luxembourg Gardens, a 60-acre park complete with a palace, beehives dating to 1872, 600 varieties of fruit trees – each with identifying signage, chess tables, ponds and more. The walk included a stroll across the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge, apparently a popular meeting point for lovers, so thanks to Rick I was able to sneak a kiss from my main squeeze (really he’s my only squeeze, unless you count a good book and a soft blanket). And it was fun to stop in the oldest toy store in Paris, Tikibou Jouets, where in addition to unique items for sale, you can browse the collections of antique die cast toys, such as Tintin, Babar, the Little Prince, the Michelin man, and so many more.
And I can’t write about walking tours from Rick Steves’ Paris book without mentioning his Pére Lachaise Cemetery tour. 70,000 people are interred in the cemetery, and Steves’ tour gives specific directions on how to find the tombs of famous artists including Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and Frédéric Chopin, to name a few. The cemetery is stunning in its own right, with beautiful art deco signage, cobbled streets, and narrow walkways.
Steves’ self-guided walking tours tell you exactly how long you should expect to walk, when the best time of day is for each particular tour, and the hours of museums and other spots along the way. He also guides you to nearby places for a snack, coffee or beer, many with their own intriguing histories. The included tour maps are spot on, and Rick’s witty jokes and puns aren’t so bad either. If time permits, Bob and I try and take as many Rick Steves’ self-guided walking tours as we can, for every city that he publishes books. The tours are free (but for the price of the guidebook), you can take them at your own pace, and if you’re lucky, you might just get a kiss from your partner.