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Monday, February 12, 2007

Bravo Mr. Steves!

I am a longtime fan of Rick Steves' travel show on PBS for a variety of reasons. Although a bit tacky at times in the past (he has gotten better with age -- and children to deal with), he is practical in his advice and easy to listen to in the half hour segments. And at the time we watched him in the past we were not really travelers at all, but had dreams of taking the kind of trips he laid out for folks. (We have done quite a bit by now, but not as much or in the style of Steves....)

My positive impression of Steves went down a couple of notches while I was residing in Northern Ireland between 2003-2005, mainly for the short shrift and negative coverage he gave Belfast and Northern Ireland in one of his Ireland shows. If I recall, in a show that was probably done in the 1990s he was essentially saying: interesting spot for a one night stop over, but you certainly would not want to visit for longer -- and it is best to head out for the west or south....

But last night I got my first viewing of Steves' revamped show on "Belfast and the Best of Northern Ireland" (filmed in July 2004, from what I can gather) and all I have to say is: bravo! Not only was it a fair and treatment of Belfast and the North Antrim coast (see especially the Wikipedia article on the Antrim Coast Road that features one of my Randi's pictures of the area....), but it is perhaps the most effective presentation of a mixture of sights and politics I have yet seen in any travel show.

What is unique about Northern Ireland is that you cannot visit or tour the place without immersing yourself in knowledge about the Troubles (and even earlier history). Between "Norman" the Black Taxi driver (who I am certain is someone my colleagues and I met and used as a guide during our stay) and Steves' official tour guide, Stephen McPhilemy, you get a really straightforward view of the place -- from bustling Belfast's downtown and Port Rush to the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills.

Bravo Mr. Steves!

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