Monthly Archives: July 2014

Rhine Runaway – Park Hyatt Zurich

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich to Munich

I just realized that I failed to include a review of our hotel! So before I describe the last legs of my flight home, here’s the scoop on the Park Hyatt:

For our two nights in Zurich I transferred 44,000 Ultimate Reward points to the Hyatt Gold Passport program. The points have since devalued and it now costs 30,000 points per night for the Park Twin room we had.

We were greeted promptly and assisted immediately at the desk. The desk clerk then escorted us to our room and showed us how to work the lights and the thermostat. It sounded basic enough as she explained it but we did have to play around with it a bit to get the hang of things!

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin

The room was pretty spacious at 387 sq. ft. (36 sq. m.). In addition to our large twin beds we had a desk with chair, a small credenza with a flat panel TV on top, a small vanity with a lighted mirror as well as a small bar area with the safe.

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Desk

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Desk

As is typical in many hotel rooms, the bathroom was immediately accessible when coming in from the hallway. The toilet had a small room to itself with an opaque, textured, sliding glass door. The bathroom vanity was large and had a small TV embedded in the mirror over the sink. There was no door between the vanity area and the tub & shower area but the showerhead was far enough away from the door that water splashing into the vanity area wasn’t really an issue. The tub was quite large and the wall beside it was actually wooden, sliding panels that opened up into the bedroom. A little awkward if you’re staying with a friend and not a romantic partner! Fortunately the panels fit together snugly so there were no embarrassing moments between friends. The large showerhead was not over the tub but in the far corner of the room. It wasn’t directly overhead but on the wall. I know a lot of people love overhead rainforest showers but personally I prefer ones that pound down on me like a constant mini-massage. This shower didn’t do that but neither was it so soft that I had a hard time getting the shampoo out of my hair.

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathtub

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathtub

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom Vanity

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom Vanity

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom

The bath products were Laura Tonatto and the scents were made especially for the hotel. I really enjoyed the hair products and brought them home to finish off the bottles. I wasn’t crazy about the scents of either the hair or bath products. Just a bit too “perfumey” for my personal taste.

Park Hyatt Zurich Toiletries

Park Hyatt Zurich Toiletries

Two bathrobes were provided. I’m somewhat tall for a woman and these fit me fine. A larger person would have trouble with the robe but I’m told that larger sizes are available for the asking at the desk.

A couple of things I almost always have trouble with in other countries are the bedding and the thermostat. At home I like a sheet, a light blanket and a comforter. I can sleep with that setup all year-round and throw covers on or off as needed during the night. Here (and on the river cruise as well) there was a fitted sheet and a duvet. It’s great that the duvet cover can be easily changed between guests but a top sheet would have been most welcome. Since we couldn’t turn the thermostat down as low as we wanted we were constantly throwing the duvet off and then pulling it back on. Really, hotel designers, let middle-aged women tell you how cool the room needs to be at night! Most people I know prefer to sleep in a cool room and then they don’t mind the heavier covers – but nobody likes to wake up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night.

On our last night we walked back from our Italian dinner and felt we’d walked off enough calories to indulge in one last dessert for the trip. We went to the cafe area in the lobby and browsed the menu. Naturally we were hoping for chocolate melting cake again but did not see it on the menu. However our excellent waiter started describing a chocolate dish to us and soon we knew he was describing exactly what we wanted. One last round of cake and ice cream for the trip!

The staff was fantastic and the location made it easily accessible. It was in a very quiet neighborhood and inside was peaceful as well. I wouldn’t hesitate to return on my next trip to Zurich.

View from our Park Twin room at the Park Hyatt Zurich

View from our Park Twin room at the Park Hyatt Zurich

Categories: Lodging Review, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich to Munich

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II

I had a 2-connection flight back to Memphis from Zurich, connecting in Munich and Charlotte. That meant an early start to the day since I had a 9 AM flight. My roomie, who lives in a much bigger city and was on a paid ticket, had a much later flight but decided she might as well come on to the airport with me rather than just sit around the hotel for a few more hours. With her single-connection flight she’d be back at her home airport – if not her house – before I would, even with my head start. Ah, the joys of living in a mid-size city!

We’d debated the best method of getting to the airport. We checked out the train/tram maps but part of me was concerned about missing connections and we’d be lugging our suitcases along. I just didn’t trust myself to read the maps correctly at 6 AM. I thought about a taxi but then checked Uber and noticed there was a driver fairly close. I contacted him just before we left the room. By the time we’d checked out he was just arriving. This was my first time using Uber and it was nice that the app showed a photo of the driver, so I could be sure we had the correct ride. I was also thinking about how nice it was that I had a credit on my Uber account so the ride wouldn’t cost as much as the estimate they’d given me. After I returned home and saw that the full amount had hit my credit card I contacted Uber to find out why. It turns out that for a credit to apply, the charge must be in the same currency. So my credit was in USD but the charge was in CHF (Swiss Francs) so no credit for me on this ride. That was disappointing, but lesson learned.

My flight to Munich was on Lufthansa in a regional jet with 2×2 seating. Since I was in “business class” that meant I had the two seats to myself. I recall selecting a seat on the website and it showed the seating as 3×3 with the middle seats blocked so I guess their had been an equipment change. We had some light refreshment – nothing too heavy as it’s only an hour-long flight to Munich – and soon enough we were touching down.

Lufthansa Logo

I made my way to the Lufthansa lounge. Unlike some of the bloggers who’ve been doing this awhile, I realized I don’t take nearly as many photos as they do so I don’t have any pictures. But I found a table and was able to relax in relative comfort for about a 30-45 minutes until it was time to head to the gate. I don’t recall hearing any boarding announcements in the lounge. There were light refreshments available but nothing to qualify as an early lunch. That was OK with me because I’d get plenty of food on the plane.

Our gate was all the way at one end of the terminal. They had the entire end blocked off with a podium manned by a Lufthansa employee who was checking tickets. There was a huge line of folks in coach but fortunately I saw that the other side of the podium was reserved for business & first class passengers and there was no line there. And, just as fortunately, by staying on that side of the building after passing the podium I avoided having to go through screening again. No PreCheck here to save me!

However, getting to the gate area the way I did left me as far from the front of the plane as could be, naturally. I bobbed and weaved through the crowd until I was near the correct doorway. There was a bit of a delay with the boarding and when they finally started allowing people through there was no one checking that only first & business class passengers were using that doorway. I realize we’re all getting on the same plane and it’s not going anywhere without us, it was just annoying. And frankly, after all the German effiency I’d witnessed all week (and loved!) it seemed odd that it would disappear at this point. Fortunately, as we approached the plane first and business passengers were allowed to board through door 1L while the folks in coach went to 2L. My vacation was truly starting to feel like it was over. But there was an ocean to cross first.

Categories: Lufthansa, Star Alliance, Uber | Leave a comment

Win 140,000 Hawaiian Airlines Miles!

2014-07-22 Hawaiian Airline Promo

If you don’t have plans for a trip to Hawaii you might wonder why you’d care about Hawaiian Airlines miles. But you may be surprised at where they can be used!

Not only do they offer intra-Hawaiian islands flights and flights to the US mainland but they also fly to other South Pacific islands (Pago Pago, Samoa, Papeete, Tahiti), to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. Intra Hawaiian island flights start at only 7500 miles in economy and only 20,000 miles to the US Mainland. I’ve read that Hawaiian has some of the nicest coach seats available from the mainland to the islands with seatback entertainment for everyone as well as an actual meal. That can be hard to find on mainline US carriers!

Their international destinations start at 27,500 miles between Hawaii and the other South Pacific islands and 40,000 miles between Hawaii and Asia or Australia/New Zealand. First class seats, while not lie-flat start at 15,000 miles intra-island, 40,000 miles to the US Mainland, 47,500 to other South Pacific islands and 65,000 to other regions.

But what if the object is to just get to Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t fly to your city? The good news is they have a number of partners so you can redeem flights on those airlines. Their partner airlines are: All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air, JetBlue, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and select Virgin Australia flights. That opens up a world of possibilities to get to Hawaii.

And now Hawaiian Airlines is giving away 140,000 miles on their Facebook page. To enter, you must first like their Facebook page and then fill in your name and email address. Pretty simple! Good luck – though I hope I win!

Categories: Hawaiian Airlines | Leave a comment

Hilton HHonors Triple Your Trip promo

Hilton Hotels and their related brands like DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Conrad, Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites are usually very easy to find wherever you’re traveling. Their rooms can often cost what seem to be a lot of points, but Hilton points are easy to come by, especially if you have one of their co-branded credit cards.

2014-07-21 HHonors Triple

Right now they’re running a promotion on paid stays where you can earn double or triple points per night. Double points are awarded for stays on Monday-Thursday nights and triple points for weekend nights, Friday-Sunday.

You must first register for this promotion at HERE and then your paid stays between August 1 and October 31, 2014 will be included.

I really enjoy Hiltons as the lower-tier properties like Hamptons usually include breakfast with the room and even though it may cost more points, we can use those points to get larger rooms that have a sofa bed whereas a lot of hotel chains only allow standard rooms when using points.

Even if you don’t think you’ll be staying at a Hilton during this time period, go ahead and sign up for the promotion. That way if your plans should change you’ll be covered!

Categories: Hilton, Hotel, Hotel Promos | Leave a comment

Chase Sapphire Preferred changes

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of my favorites. It earns Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to a number of frequent flyer and hotel programs. The points can also be used as cash to reimburse flights or hotel rooms at certain locations. It earns double points on travel-related items (airfare, hotels, taxis, parking, tolls, etc.) and dining (which is where I really rack up the points).

CSP

One of the great benefits of the card has been that each February you receive a bonus of 7% of the points you earned the previous calendar year, even if you’ve spent some of them. So for non-bonus spends you actually earn 1.07 points and for bonus categories it’s actually 2.14 points per dollar. Sadly, this benefit is going away. That’s a shame and I hate to see it go.

But the card is getting a new benefit – one that’s actually worth something and not just a new spin on an old benefit. When renting cars with the CSP the card now offers PRIMARY rental insurance. This is a great addition! It’s especially helpful overseas where it could be much harder to fight an insurance claim, simply due to distance.

At least Chase has given us plenty of notice for this change. While new cardholders will not get the 7% bonus, those who already have the card will get the bonuses in February 2015 and 2016 before it goes away.

Categories: Chase, Credit Cards, Sapphire Preferred | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I

We’d pre-purchased a Viator half-day city tour for the next morning. The meeting location was very convenient, just around the corner from the main train station. We took the tram to the train station and walked the couple of blocks from there. We’d hoped to find a place to eat breakfast in the train station but didn’t find anything to strike our fancy.

There are a couple of small kiosks there that sell tours and we went to the one that indicated they were a Viator supplier. But it turned out that it was the other kiosk offering our particular tour. With tickets in hand we went across the street to Starbucks for breakfast. Starbucks is usually kind of wasted on the two of us as neither of us are coffee drinkers but we found museli, fruit and hot chocolate, plenty to start the day off right.

Our tour actually started off at the park beside Lake Zurich and it was just as beautiful as it had been the day before. We were really very fortunate with the weather on this trip! Our motorcoach then dropped us off at the Dolderbahn, a rack railway that runs up the side of the Adlisberg mountain. (If you’re familiar with the Incline Railway in Chattanooga, TN, it’s similar, though not nearly as steep.) Once atop the mountain we had lovely views of the region including both the lake and the city. The Dolder Grand Hotel is atop the mountain and there’s a large park/recreation area up there as well, though we didn’t spend time at either place.

While we’d been riding up on the Dolderbahn, our motorcoach had been wending its way up the mountain so we were able to ride it back down. Kudos to the driver because some of those roads were very narrow and lined with parked cars!

Back in town we stopped at Fraumünster, one of the three main churches of Zurich, which is known for its five large stained glass windows designed by the artist Marc Chagall. They were just lovely but unfortunately no photos are allowed. That was the end of our tour and we were left to explore Aldstadt (Old Town) on our own.

Fraumünster

Fraumünster

One thing our tour guide had mentioned was that each spring there is a holiday that celebrates the end of winter. Called Sechseläuten, it’s usually held on the third Monday of April but apparently was a week later this year. The high point of the holiday is the burning of Winter in effigy in the form of Böögg, a snowman figure filled with explosives. In preparation for the festival a large pyre had been built and we could see the back of the Böögg figure. There were lots of folks willing to pay the charge and climb up to see him up close however! It had been a tough winter in many regions and apparently the good folks of Zurich were ready for it to be over.

The Böögg figure that will be burned to celebrate the end of winter

The Böögg figure that will be burned to celebrate the end of winter

Aldstadt Waterfront in Zürich

Aldstadt Waterfront in Zürich

We spent the afternoon and evening wandering through Aldstadt and collecting a couple of souvenirs. We ended up dining at Ristorante Toscano, a small Italian place. The meal was excellent and it felt more like a locals place than a tourist place though they spoke English very well.

It’s worth noting that everywhere we went in Zurich we had no problems with people not speaking English. Although my friend’s parents are from Germany and so she does speak and understand some German, it was nice that it wasn’t a struggle.

We were quite full from dinner and decided to walk back to the hotel to get in a little exercise since we knew we’d be sitting for hours during the flights home the next day. By the time we reached the Park Hyatt we were ready for dessert so we stopped in at the cafe there. As we perused the menu we didn’t see our favorite but found other options that would suit us. As the waiter answered our questions about one of the menu items he described something that sounded supiciously familiar. With a bit of clarification we realized one of items we’d overlooked was, in fact, chocolate melting cake! It was the perfect end to the trip.

Categories: Europe, Switzerland, Viator | Leave a comment

Upcoming Changes to Life Miles

Life Miles is the frequent flyer program of Colombia-based Avianca Airlines which is part of the Star Alliance. While the routes it flies are not currently on my radar, I always keep an eye on their frequent flyer program. They frequently offer sale prices on buying their miles and these miles can be used on virtually any Star Alliance carrier for travel anywhere within the network. Not only that, but often they require fewer Life Miles for a particular routing than other programs require for the same flights. To take advantage of these sales, your Life Miles account usually needs to have been open for a specified number of days. So go ahead and open one now and if/when the need arises for buying miles, you’ll be set.

Life Miles logo

A word of warning though: their call centers are located in Central America and from what I understand it’s often very difficult to find someone to speak English. So if you don’t have a Spanish-speaker on hand, it might help to find one before making your calls to them! Also, when traveling on a Life Miles ticket, all flights must be in the same cabin and it doesn’t matter if a certain cabin is not offered on a specified flight. In my case, our only Star Alliance carrier is United and since UA only offers 1-cabin regional jet service out of my airport all my flights using Life Miles must be in economy. That’s OK if I’m planning a domestic trip but if I wanted to fly overseas it means I must make a positioning flight via some other method (other miles or cash) if I want to use Life Miles for a business or first class ticket.

Effective October 15 there will be changes to the number of miles required for certain flights. While nobody likes that it will take more miles for certain flights, it’s nice that they’ve given us some warning. They’ve provided a charge of changes to flights on Avianca and that can be viewed HERE. They also include this verbiage about flights on Star Alliance:

Flights with Star Alliance member airlines

As for changes in air ticket redemption with Star Alliance member airlines, these include increases up to 13.000 miles in Economy Class and up to 26.000 miles in Business Class. Both cases apply for round-trip flights from North America.

For round-trip flights from Mexico, there will be reductions up to 15.000 miles and increases up to 14.000 miles in Economy Class, also reductions up to 20.000 miles and increases up to 28.000 miles in Business class.

So the changed number of miles depends on your origin and destination. You can find the current mileage amounts on their mileage calculator, which can be found HERE and then click on the link for Star Alliance.

This is a great example of unexpected program changes and the reason why the common wisdom is not to buy miles speculatively.

Categories: Avianca, Star Alliance | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II

The Viking cruise officially ended in Basel, Switzerland on a Thursday. I wasn’t in any hurry to get back just to save a vacation day, so my cruise roomie and I decided to extend the trip through Saturday. We took the train from Basel to Zurich, which is about an hour away.

The Viking concierge arranged a taxi for us and one was waiting for us at their terminal at the appointed time. I don’t recall the price but it was very reasonable. Inside the station we didn’t try to use the automated ticket machines but the man at the ticket window was quite helpful and got us the correct ticket we needed. Fortunately there was a train leaving in about 15-20 minutes so we hopped aboard. I finally pulled out some reading material I’d brought for the trip. It was the first time I’d seen it since I packed it up on the plane! This was a terrific choice for getting to Zurich. The ticket cost 32 Swiss Francs or just over $35 USD.

Zurich’s main train station is very convenient for tourists. The local trams (on-street trains) are super-convenient and the whole area is very walkable. We picked up tram tickets at the tourist information office in the train station and only had to just walk outside to pick up the tram that would take us near our hotel, the Park Hyatt. We didn’t have to wait long and even lugging/rolling our suitcases (one large case apiece) it was easy enough to get them on/off the tram. Our tram stop was about two blocks away from the hotel. It was an easy enough walk with the suitcases though there was some construction in the area. (We have a running joke that we’re going to invest in a scaffolding company in Europe because it seems everywhere we go some building or tourist site is covered up with it!) We walked a couple of blocks and then couldn’t find street numbers though we knew we were close to the hotel. As we chatted about it on the street corner, a local asked what we were looking for and then indicated we were right across the street from it! The signage was so subtle that it was easy to miss during the daytime. At night the sign was lit and easier to see. More on the hotel itself in the next installment.

After getting settled in the hotel we got out and started exploring. We first walked around the immediate area of the hotel, looking for a place to eat. We eventually wandered into an Italian place and both ended up ordering pizza. If we’d only known how big they were we’d have split one! We ended up spending way too much on food – and because we hadn’t checked the tipping rules, we overtipped like crazy too. (At the hotel later we did check the tipping rules and realized our faux pas. That didn’t happen again but I’m sure the pizza guy loved us!)

Flower clock overlooking Lake Zurich

Flower clock overlooking Lake Zurich

It was a gorgeous day and we ended up near Lake Zurich. We enjoyed just walking through the park there and sat for a bit enjoying the sunshine and the water. There’s a small aviary there and we looked at the various birds housed there. We passed through the souvenir stands and wandered around looking at the architecture and some of the older buildings. After awhile we decided it was nap time and headed back to the hotel. While we never felt we had to rush while on the ship, we were glad to have some extra rest time.

The dancing fountains of Lake Zurich

The dancing fountains of Lake Zurich

That evening we wandered out again for dinner. We took the tram down to the train station and then meandered around the city from there. It was a lovely evening and we found a delightful cafe, Cafe Kranzlin. The food was quite good and the dessert…well.

Our one “complaint” (and it wasn’t a serious one) about the food on the river cruise was that there was no chocolate melting cake available. We even talked to Chef Imre and he said that while that dessert was offered on some of the longer cruises, it was not offered on ours. We’d had it before on a Mediterranean cruise and just loved the chocolate cake with the warm melted chocolate center. We’d had it several times during that earlier cruise and were looking forward to it again so we were disappointed when it wasn’t available. But Cafe Kranzlin had it! It was called by a different name but it was just as good. It was so good we had to send a photo back to our friends who had just landed back in the States. They were jealous!

Mmmm...chocolate melting cake!

Mmmm…chocolate melting cake!

One thing we’d read about, and found to be absolutely true, was that Zurich is a pretty expensive town.  Dinner with dessert, regular water to drink, no alcohol plus tip (a reasonable one this time!) – this came out to over $50 USD.  Just something to keep in mind if you plan on visiting.

But it was the perfect way to top off our first day in Zurich. We headed back to the hotel prepared for a good night’s rest.

 

Categories: Europe, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I

 

The next day we visited Heidelberg Castle followed by a visit to the town of Heidelberg. The castle was very interesting as it had once been left idle for decades but had since had a lot of restoration work, some of which was still on-going. It houses the world’s largest wine cask – large enough to have once had dance parties on top of it! – though it hasn’t held wine in many years.

World's Largest Wine Cask

World’s Largest Wine Cask

The university town of Heidelberg was a study in contrasts as it had the youth of the university surrounded by buildings dating back five centuries.

Later that afternoon we docked in Speyer and took a stroll into town where we got to visit the incredible Kaiserdom, an 11th century cathedral that’s another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sadly, many of the other sites in town were closed since it was Easter Monday, which is part of the holiday weekend in Europe.

On Tuesday we visited Strasbourg, wandering its streets and visiting yet another gorgeous, massive cathedral. Some of our group took an optional tour of an Alsatian winery and brought back a few bottles to share.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Our final day of the cruise took us into the Black Forest where we saw rolling hills and stopped in a tiny town that had once been a place where carriages stopped. The inn there was painted with a mural of Marie Antoinette, one of the more famous guests. There was a cuckoo clock shop as well as a shop selling blown glass items. In the afternoon there was an optional tour of the medieval city of Colmar, France. We had a delightful guide and enjoyed the architecture differences that he pointed out from various eras.

It was a lovely tour and I would definitely not hesitate to sign up for another Viking tour. In fact, a couple of us have our eyes on a tour in 2016…

Categories: Europe, France, Germany | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam

I must say that Viking knows what they’re doing. Our rooms were on the lower level, below the waterline and very compact, but had what we needed. A lot of forethought had been put into the design of the rooms. There were quite a few US 110-volt plugs as well as the standard European ones. That was great as it allowed us to use all of them since we’d brought adapters along.

Guided tours are included with the price of the cruise and there are optional tours available for purchase. Our longship could carry approximately 190 passengers but we weren’t quite full on this trip so they could divide us into relatively small groups which made our tours much easier. Each cabin has radios that will tune to the guide’s transmitter so they don’t have to shout. That’s great because the average age of passengers on this particular ship was probably early-to-mid 60s so I felt like a young ‘un! There’s also usually a “leisurely tour” group for folks with mobility issues so that they don’t slow down one of the other groups. I thought this was great planning on Viking’s part.

On Friday we were in Kinderdijk, Netherlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the numerous windmills found there. When we arrived, we thought all the windmills looked the same but our guide soon pointed out differences in the ones on our side of the canal vs. the ones opposite. There was one windmill restored for touring and I was struck again at how compact everything was and how difficult that must have been for a family to live in.

Kinderdijk Windmills

Kinderdijk Windmills

Saturday we stopped in Cologne and docked right next to the city. We had a walking tour in the morning and then had the afternoon to ourselves. The cathedral there is the most-visited tourist site in Germany and it’s easy to see why. It’s a huge building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and fantastic architecture. Some of us also toured the German-Roman museum and viewed a number of mosaics that had been uncovered on the site (right next to the cathedral).

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Just about every place we stopped had a magnificent church or cathedral that was several hundred years old. It just reinforced to me how young the US is! It was amazing to think how these huge buildings could have been built 300-500 years ago!

Easter Sunday found us at the port in Koblenz where we boarded motor coaches for the drive up to Marksburg Castle. It was never invaded due to its perch high on a river bend and it’s not close enough to a major city to have been damaged during the World Wars so it’s everything you might imagine a castle to be. They’ve done a great job preserving this castle and it has lovely views out over the river.

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle

Later that day was one of the highlights, cruising down the Middle Rhine. Fortunately the weather was great and we sat up on the sun deck in lounge chairs beneath an awning and watched a number of castles and towns as we cruised past. The cruise director provided narration as we passed. It made for great photos and was a wonderful change of pace.

In the evening, there was an optional excursion to a local restaurant in Rudesheim. We boarded a small tram (made up to look like a train) that wound us through the streets of the town and dropped us off near the restaurant. It’s a quaint town and I wish I’d taken the time available before our outing to walk through it.

The dinner was quite good, served by friendly staff. We were serenaded by a live oompah band and after dinner there were several audience participation activities. From a half-dozen people downing shots off the same paddle at the same time to audience members being recruited to play bass drum & cymbals as the band marched through the restaurant, the staff did their utmost to be sure everyone had a good time. All in all it was worth the extra charge for the visit.

Categories: Europe, Germany, Netherlands, River Cruise | Leave a comment

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