Europe Through the Back Door hosts travel teach-in

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Friday, April 6, 2012 3:52pm
  • Life

Tidal waters haven’t surrounded the island fortification of Mont Saint-Michel since the early 18th century.

Nearly 1,000 years after people first settled the strategic island off the northern coast of France, a levy was built providing easy access to what has become one of the popular tourist destinations in Europe.

This year, the levy was replaced by a new floating bridge that allows the tide to once again rise around the island, said Steve Smith, a tour guide with Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Smith is a frequent guest on Steves’ PBS travel show.

“The water will circulate the way it used to,” Smith said. “That’s really exciting. I can’t imagine.”

Smith, who has been traveling to France each summer for 20 years can’t wait to see the tide rise at Mont Saint-Michel.

New ways to get to Mont Saint-Michel is just one of the topics he’ll discuss April 14 at Rick Steves’ European Travel Festival, a free day-long event in Edmonds.

In addition to 14 talks about destinations throughout Europe, there will also be special deals at the company’s travel store, and opportunities to ask experts for travel advice, Smith said.

“Everybody’s all-hands-on deck to answer questions and do whatever we can,” he said.

Each year, Steves’ company leads dozens of tours to Europe. Through best-selling guidebooks, a robust website,, podcasts, TV and radio programs, the experts also dispense plenty of free advice.

“Things change fast, so we are on top of it,” Smith said.

Here are some tips for traveling this year: Book flights and hotels as soon as possible. Airlines are reducing capacity, leaving fewer seats available at lower rates, Smith said. Be wary of deals offered on flight-discount websites. They may be cheaper but likely have many more restrictions than purchasing directly from an airline or through a travel agent.

With hotels, it’s always better to book more nights than you may need, then cancel later. Extending your stay closer to the busy season often is impossible.

“The good news is that the dollar is stronger than it has been,” Smith said.

Still, even a tumultuous economy hasn’t resulted in steep savings in most of Europe. Problems in Greece have kept many tourists away, so bargain hunters may be able to find some deals, especially farther from Athens.

“The problems are more publicized in the newspapers than really exist,” Smith said.

Each of the 10 speakers at the event are co-authors of guidebooks, tour guides themselves and frequent travelers.

“We actually go every year,” he said.

The festival isn’t just fun for the people who attend. The travel experts enjoy themselves too.

“It’s rare that a guidebook author gets to talk about his work,” Smith said. “We’re very passionate.”

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447;

Rick Steves’ European Travel Festival

Travel seminars are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 14. It’s free, but registration is required at

Special deals at the Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door Edmonds Travel Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Travel classes

Edmonds Center for the Arts 410 Fourth Ave. N. Edmonds

9 a.m. France with Steve Smith

11 a.m. Ireland with Pat O’Connor

12:30 p.m. Packing Light and Right with Joan Robinson

2 p.m. Italy with Heidi Van Sewell

3:15 p.m. Michelangelo’s Italy with Gene Openshaw

Tour Overviews

Rick Steves Travel Center 130 Fourth Ave. N. Edmonds

9 a.m. Turkey Tours Q &A with Mary Ann Cameron

10 a.m. Best of Europe Tours with Lisa Friend

11 a.m. Spain with Morocco Tour with Dave Hoerlein

Noon England and Scotland Tours with Lisa Friend

1 p.m. Village France and South France Tours with Steve Smith

2 p.m. Athens and Heart of Greece Tour with Cynthia Ballard

3 p.m. Eastern Europe and Adriatic Tours with Ben Curtis

4 p.m. Germany, Austria and Switzerland Tour with Tara Swenson

5 p.m. Best of Italy and Heart of Italy Tours with Heidi Van Sewell

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