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Rick Steves' New Travel Mag
Just like Rick Steves the person, Rick Steves the magazine is dedicated to traveling in Europe. The 104-page Eurofest breaks down into 24 articles that describe Europe's "Top 20 Destinations" which mixes up the obvious (Florence, Prague, Rome, Paris, and Venice) with the obscure (Denmark's Aero Island, Bosnia's Mostar, and the tiny Austrian village of Hallstatt). As an unapologetic advertorial, the magazines flips between a few scant full-page ads for Smithsonian Journeys and Rick Steves Tours. For a mere five bucks, you can buy a still-warm copy from the 100,000-strong print run at a newsstand near you.
Now honestly, I know nothing about Rick Steves other than he's quite famous for helping regular Americans take tours of Europe. Also, many travelers who I respect swear by his travel guides, and once upon a time, a bunch of his fans mistook me for his assistant at a book signing. After reading his entire magazine cover to cover, I made the amazing discovery that the masthead lists only one writer. Yes, Rick Steves wrote the entire magazine all by himself, so... respect. The guy works hard and is way gutsy... gutsy enough to publish a print travel magazine in 2010.
Nevertheless, for someone whose entire identity involves leading America by the hand through Europe's backdoor, it's hard not to ignore Rick's hearty embrace of cliché. His magazine's titles highlight "Storybook" England, "Sound of Music" Austria, and "Heidi's Switzerland" before trailing off into a slew of earth-shattering travel tips such as "David is a must-see visit in Florence".
Now, if I wrote travel copy like that, my editors would shove it through a shredder. Twice. All you would have is a bunch of little squares of paper-like confetti thrown at a quaint Italian wedding that I just happened to run into as I was strolling down a cobblestone street under a buttery Tuscan sunset.
I much preferred Rick's more honest and authentic articles like the "Best Little Street in Paris"--a candid Polaroid narrative about Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement--and his heartfelt discovery of Danish island life. I was also happy to see some of the Rick Steve love shine down on Blackpool--a northern British seaside resort that very few Americans ever visit.
If Rick Steves and Smithsonian want to feed our dreams of Europe, then mission accomplished. I want to go to all the places listed and now that I've read this sunny version of their Top 20 list, I'm so there. My only conjecture is that the "quaint folksiness" Rick so adamantly warns travelers against might also be the very product that he's selling.