He’s hosted a PBS TV show, written books and been a regular speaker at travel expos, focusing almost entirely on Europe. Now, Rudy Maxa is launching his own guided tour company. So of course it takes him only about five minutes to start talking smack about Rick Steves.
“If you like carrying your luggage up three flights of stairs, sleeping on the train overnight and making a ham and cheese sandwich in the morning to take for your lunch,” Maxa says in a tone as dry as some of his favorite wines, “then Rick’s your guy.” A downtown St. Paul resident for the past dozen years — he followed a girlfriend here and stayed after they split — Maxa defies the stereotype of Minnesotans as cheapskates. His long-running public radio show, “The Savvy Traveler,” and subsequent PBS series, “Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa,” usually found the fast-talking Maxa staying at four- or five-star hotels instead of the quainter hideaways in that other PBS fixture, “Rick Steves’ Europe.” He often dined at fancy restaurants and would order a rare bottle of wine; then maybe another.
Maxa wears the distinction proudly, with one exception: “My wines usually aren’t all that expensive,” he says during a (wine-free) lunch at a sidewalk table outside Meritage, St. Paul’s nearest thing to the kind of French bistro you’d find on Maxa’s old show.
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