Christine van Blokland getting curious at Caernarfon Castle in Wales (Curious Traveler)
Why bother going all the way to Paris, if you’re just going to eat a crêpe and snap a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower? Travel expert Christine van Blokland knows there’s so much more to discover, even in one of the world’s most-visited destinations. For example, why that iconic tower almost was torn down, why the Louvre’s treasured Mona Lisa once got carted on a mule, and who flew into the Pantheon’s oculus.
Van Blokland, the Emmy-winning host, writer, and executive producer of PBS’s “Curious Traveler” series suggests that visitors approach a new city exactly as she does when producing her show: as a mystery to be solved. That sense of investigative adventure can yield plenty of information and insights that add to your enjoyment as you see the globe.
For example, curious travelers can uncover why Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica looks like Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia; who got hitched at Bordeaux Cathedral in 1137, and why the union was so important; why Vancouver’s historic district is dubbed Gastown; or how that red dragon got on the Welsh flag.
For van Blokland, it all comes down the willingness to ask questions as you travel—and knowing how to craft the ones that can produce the most interesting, rewarding, or offbeat answers that can make your experience a richer and more memorable one. In a program designed to introduce you to a whole new way of traveling, she offers plenty of practical strategies, guidance in getting the most out of your pre-trip research, and some unexpected but effective tips (such as knowing when you should politely second-guess your tour guide).
It’s all wrapped in a virtual tour—using clips from her series—that offers glimpses of the hidden histories of some of the world’s most intriguing cities for curious travelers. The evening’s itinerary includes destinations in Italy, France, Scandinavia, Montenegro, and the British Isles, as well as stops in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.