I have known Robert for many years and watched as he began his studies in Provençal patrimony, then completing his degrees in Medieval history and now in his studies for his doctorate. I have even had a chance to read his Master’s Dissertation which was written on the Provençal and Italian regions. It makes for fascinating reading for anyone who has an interest in history. While Robert has developed a very complete background on the history of the region, what is most impressive to me is his local contacts and his ability to insert me into the local community in a way that I have never considered from a guide, more like what I would get from a close friend, and one who knew where all of the skeletons were buried.
Although I have extensively traveled, I do not enjoy visiting what I am « supposed » to visit: the eternal monuments and museums which we are suppose to see (and which reflect someones idea of what is important). Nor am I very much interested in shopping at the same stores we can now find anywhere in the world. What interests me is getting to know real people when I travel and getting to understand their way of life, what made them the way they are and at least a glimpse of how they think. While sometimes it is very difficult to imagine trading places with them, what makes traveling exciting for me is getting intimate with real people. People who can expose me to a new way of thinking. People who can educate me and who leave me with a lasting impression. I don’t always understand everything I see, but I get exposure. That is what I find so different in Robert. He doesn’t go off spouting all kinds of facts, dates and figures about people I never heard of. He brought me into contact with others who were experts in their fields and who spoke from passion.
Sometimes people in the travel industry seem to present to their clients what they « think » they want to see. Often based on their past experiences. But as I have extensively lived and traveled throughout the world, I want to make my own impressions and I want to see things through many different people’s eyes. Robert concentrates on giving me this chance, with people who are not involved with tourists or foreigners and usually don’t speak English. That is rare for me to find and it allows me to go much deeper into the places I visit. With Robert, I got to meet people, yes who are local, and yes, who don’t normally communicate with tourists, but more importantly, people who had developed professional expertise or who had lived themselves through important moments in their own lives and were now sharing it with me. That is quite different than just meeting a local and going into a local pub. That is what makes travel unforgettable and that it what Robert does. He allows me to experience, to see, smell, taste and hear a side of Provence and Italy, which I would as a foreigner not normally get a chance to see and experience. Greta B.