For me -- and my amazing team of guides at Rick Steves Europe Tours -- the great joy of guiding is to take tour members' lifelong imaginings, transform them into actual experiences, and then into lifelong memories.
On a recent evening in Venice, my merry gang of Best of Europe tour members and I did just that. We shared a family-style feast at Trattoria da Bepi as Loris served us the seafood bounty of the lagoon with deliciously grilled local vegetables and polenta. Then, twinkling from our sprightly Venetian white wine, we wandered through back lanes musty with history, paused on lonely bridges to watch gondolas glide silently by, and then, just a few blocks farther on...
This all brought back vivid memories from when, as a very young tour guide, I would bring my groups out of the tangle of back lanes and suddenly onto Piazza San Marco, perhaps the most beloved square in all of Europe, where the age-old glories of Venice still swirl. I watched the wonder sweep over my travelers' faces...years ago...and again tonight. The sun was down and the lights were on. The crowds were gone and, at the last corner before St. Mark's, I blitzed ahead so I could turn around and watch every one of my travelers' expressions as they arrived on the piazza. A "wow" moment, amplified two dozen times.
As my re-energized group dispersed to enjoy the dueling orchestras on the piazza and to make their own after-dark discoveries in this magical city, I popped into Gran Caffè Lavena, which our guides use as a rendezvous point on the square. Tonight there happened to be six Rick Steves tours staying in Venice, and I joined a group of our guides and bus drivers as we compared notes and stoked our collective guiding skills over drinks together.
Other companies have tour managers. We have guides who both manage our tours and teach our travelers. They create lifelong memories with talent and passion unmatched by other tour companies. Our team of guides makes me proud and thankful. (And I believe that Judy, one of our current tour members -- who's been on 17 of our tours and enjoyed 17 of our guides -- would agree.)
(This post originally appeared at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/tour-memories.)