Lake Powell Houseboat Trip: Dave and Mary and Eight Close Friends!

Several months ago Tom and Katie Bonn asked us if we would be interested in a houseboat trip. Laura Barry and Tom Rude had joined them two years ago and were enthusiastic about their experience except for the fact that a bigger boat was needed. If Tom B could come up with five couples to share costs, a 75 foot Excursion would be affordable especially at the end of the high season when rentals were half price. We agreed and the deal was made. Early in September I started making lists and planning the one evening meal that Dave and I were responsible for. Emails and texts between the participants flew as the September 21st gathering date neared. We packed up the little Buick with food and stuff and instruments and headed for Page AZ.

This is the view looking towards the Grand Canyon as we climbed the red rock mountain south of Page.

The chasm in the top middle of the photo is the Colorado River deep into the earth at this point of it’s journey south.

In Page we checked into the hotel and waited for the others to arrive. Tom R and Laura we’re already there and soon we heard Katie Bonn’s voice; then Martin and Carla Fewkes arrived and our company was almost in full force. Cheryl and Perry Shirley would join us the next day at the rental dock. Those of us wishing to fish walked to the local liquor and fish license store to buy our $40 licenses. Dinner at a great Mexican place with margaritas all around and back to the hotel to play some music in the courtyard and to bed.

We formed a convoy of vehicles with Tom B and his truck and fifth wheel in the lead. We parked temporarily at the unloading area of the Wahweap Marina boat rental and shortly a porter came by on a four wheeler pulling rolling bins into which we loaded our stuff. He had our reservation and the berth number of our boat so pretty soon we were unloading those onto our houseboat. Pretty luxurious looking accommodations! Big refrigerator and a pantry!

This is the dock for rentals. There were several houseboats of various sizes in the process of loading; people hauling stuff in carts, four wheelers lumbering along with carts in tow, porters loading and unloading, lots of excitement. Rental papers had to be signed; each of us signing our name, then a wait until someone from the rental company could accompany us to the boat and do an orientation.

The rental building, bathrooms and gift shop with a Starbucks coffee shop. The water was clear. We could see fish swimming.

Orientation finished, we gals put groceries away in the really big kitchen, divvied up the staterooms while the guys drove the cars to the parking lot. Perry and Cheryl arrived with their boat and Pandy, their elderly dog.

Our room had a decent queen sized bed was two steps down. Two drawers held our clothing with small shelves along one wall for small stuff and a small shelf on the wall above the bed with a fan plus reading lights and two windows that opened. Open areas under the bed held our suitcase and instruments. A closet down the hall held hanging clothes. Above our bed was another bed in the next room down the hall. That bed had two steps leading up to it with much the same arrangement as ours except that it had a door opening into one of the two bathrooms. The arrangement of rooms across the hall was exactly the same. At the end of the hall on the right was a master suite and to the left, closets for linens and hanging clothes.

The guys returned and we were under way out of the Marina with Perry’s boat tendered to the back of the houseboat.

Dave and Martin enjoy the scenery. Katie and Laura enjoy a snack. Cheryl and Dave seem content.

It was a beautiful sunny day for sitting in the shade but we do need to explore the boat a bit.

A view from the front of the boat.

Perry’s boat bouncing along behind.

The slide off the back. I didn’t get to go down as the weather was a bit chilly. I had my suit and swim noodle ready.

Dave sitting at the back on the top deck. The top deck looking towards the front. An eating and food prep area which included a sink, refrigerator and ice maker. A propane grill is nearby. Farther forward is the hot tub with padded seating, sunning area, a bridge for navigation and at the very front a covered horseshoe shaped table/seating area that could be made into a bed. Carla installed twinkly lights above the hot tub for ambience. Ahead of us is Castle Rock and Warm Creek Bay where we will dock on the sandy beach.

Castle Rock. The channel narrows and boats have to mind the channel markers.

The map at top shows the entire lake and the map below (red star) is where we docked the first night.

Music was played inside most of the time but sometimes on the front deck. Dave played the fiddle mostly but he, Laura and Martin took turns-playing guitar. Laura, Martin and Katie are fiddlers. Martin is a great back up guitar player. Carla is solid on the bass. Katie made it a priority to learn Dave’s new tunes. She and Dave worked on some twin fiddle tunes for contests this winter. Cheryl was an active listener and beginning fiddler. We all encouraged Martin and Carla to winter in the desert when they retire.

When beaching the boat, four anchors have to be deployed and entrenched in the sand and affixed to cleats at the back of the boat so the boat is stable. Tom R, Martin and Perry were good at digging in the anchors and throwing the ropes up to the top deck to be caught, transported to the back and dangled down for Tom B to wind around the cleats. When that was done we were free to pursue other things.

Tom R casting for bass.

Canyon wrens greeted us. They seemed to think that treats would be on offer.

More music after a yummy dinner of pork tenderloin medallions. Tom B is playing guitar here. Carla is crocheting. I am reading a book. A big first day.

Tom is peering at water leaking from somewhere on the side. Those who slept on that side of the boat heard the noise of it all night. There is another problem which seems to be electrical. A call is made to the rental maintenance people and soon a Mr. Chee arrives in his cute fix-it boat.

Mr. Chee goes to work and has the problems sorted in no time.

In the meantime, Perry is working to fix a problem with his boat. Cheryl gets her kayak out and goes for a paddle taking Pandy with her. Pandy has her own life preserver.

Pandy was a good old girl. She was quiet and stayed on her bed by the door most of the time.

Another day goes by with enchilada dinner hosted by Tom and Katie. Everyone helps with cleanup and dishes. Cheryl has brought along her “snakebite” kit. Always good to try something new! The little partitioned shot glasses hold tequila and lime juice. Mouth puckering. Don’t try too many! Although, I must say Tom and Laura’s rhubarb vodka went down smoothly another night.

Tom B makes breakfast each morning and we all find something for lunch in our well stocked refrigerator and pantry.

Repositioning day today. Tom drives the houseboat and we will meet him at the next location. Dave, Laura and I ride in one boat driven by Shirley’s daughters friend and others follow in Perry’s boat.

Glen Canyon Dam and bridge over the river gorge near Page then around to Antelope Point. Amazing scenery that you can see no other way.

We stop at Antelope Point for a bathroom and a break from the choppiness of the small boat. It is a beautiful Marina with a restaurant and gift shop plus boat rental and boat storage docks. There are some incredibly huge houseboats here costing in the millions of dollars.

Carp and other fish have learned that handouts are sometimes available around the dock at Antelope Point. They surface greedily for chips.

Another location near Rock Creek Bay. More sandy beach. More music. Brisket dinner by the Shirley’s and a rousing game of “Left, Right, Center” complete with dimes for chips. Laura and Tom instruct us. The winner is the last one having a dime and gets all the dimes in the center of the table.

Carla has a crochet project to work on.

Tom works on Sudoku.

Lots of fun and even some fishing. Dave and I do beef burrito bowl one night and Carla and Martin furnish pulled pork and all the fixings. If you eat good you play good and more fine music was played.

The houseboat takes us all the way to Hanging Rope Marina and then back toward Page so we won’t have so far to travel on the last morning.

Dave even gets a shot at steering the boat. Lots more scenery. The houseboat can be driven from the upper deck on a beautiful day. The hot tub did get used. At one point in the tub were five women and Martin. Cheryl enjoyed the heated water after kayaking which she did almost every day.

All of us who bought fishing licenses did some fishing and everyone caught something. Perry and Tom went out in the small boat and caught he most of any of us. Perry cleaned and filleted them and Cheryl fried them for a delicious treat our last evening on the lake.

There was eve a rainy night and part of the next morning. The rock canyons were beautiful in the rain.

We did get off the boat to do some exploring but the sand and rocks didn’t make it easy.

The last morning, enjoying the sunrise.

A nice picture of our houseboat on the rocky beach the last day.

Perry and Tom navigate back to Wahweap Marina where we add fuel as required then dock and unload; reversing the process from a week ago.

Tom and Katie Bonn, Laura Barry and Tom Rude, Carla and Martin Fewkes, Dave and Mary Brinkman, Cheryl and Perry Shirley

Our 2017 cruise is done. Last goodbyes and hugs all around. Bonn’s and Fewkes back to Idaho, Tom and Laura to Tucson and then back to North Dakota, Shirley’s to Flagstaff , Dave and I back to Surprise. A fun trip!


We travel: Luci stays home; Amsterdam

Bags were packed and left by the door of our stateroom by 7:30. We had time to eat breakfast in the restaurant before the bus came at 8:30 to take us to the Hilton Amsterdam. Bags were identified and we got on the bus and to the hotel where they held our bags for check in at 3PM. We were scheduled for the walking tour of Amsterdam at 9:30 and everything worked like clockwork. Amazing. No lost luggage or passengers left behind.

The tour guide met us in the lobby and off we went. In the parking lot outside the hotel she told us to look up at a window on one of the top floors and if we squinted we could see writing on the window. It said HAIR PEACE and BED PEACE. This is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their honeymoon (Bed-in for Peace) for a week in March 1969. Most of us on the tour remembered when that happened. The guide says that the hotel keeps the room as it was in 1969 and rents it out for weddings and such.

This photo is hanging in the lobby of the hotel.

Just across the street from the hotel was a green space where the city sponsors sculpture exhibits. This year there a modern sculpture exhibit extending in both directions for several blocks.

The areas we walked through were high density with apartments and condos. Our guide told us a little about the government’s help for low income residents and how their apartments were located in regular residential areas. Those residences were well made and architecturally interesting. There is universal health care and high taxes. She indicated that this was the way the Netherlands took care of its people and they were used to it and were satisfied with it. She took us into another area and told us that some of the royal family of the Netherlands live here but they are not bothered by photographers or news people. There is a regularly scheduled photo and question opportunity for the media to interact with the royals and privacy is respected at all other times. The streets are narrow and there are few parking spaces for cars. She said that cars are taxed heavily and parking fees and licenses are expensive so most everyone rides a bike. That was very evident. Bikes were parked everywhere, chained to bike racks. Young families have bikes that have a box-like structure (that had a bench seat and room for bags) affixed on the frame in front of the handlebars with the front wheel beyond that. You might think this would be awkward loaded with a couple of kids and groceries and a baby in a back pack but we saw it done with seeming ease. There are dedicated bike lanes and pedestrians are warned not to walk in them for fear of a good scolding.

The guide took us into a pretty ritzy area of shops and boutiques. She told us that there is a covenant that storefronts had to be constructed of brick so when Chanel redid their store they used glass brick. It must be pretty at night.

Another interesting tidbit of information from the guide was that at some point in the fairly recent past, possibly during WWII, the government was bent on collecting information on the citizens. In order to show that there was nothing to hide, people stopped using window coverings. She said that is still practiced.

We walked along the edge of a large park near the fashion and museum district that she reported was used extensively by the hippies back in the day. Another turn and we were in a large open area.

The tour ended in this space called the Museumplein which is surrounded by a concert hall and three museums, most notably the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

This is the area where we spent most of our two days in Amsterdam. We need to return. There is a lot to see that we just didn’t have time for.

What do you do next on your first day in Amsterdam? A canal boat tour. Of course. Our map showed us just where to find the Blue Boat Tours.

We waited for the next canal boat along with lots of other folks. It is a very popular thing to do.

You can look on the above map and see that the Amsterdam canals run in a circular pattern much the same way the streets do in Sun City, AZ. So if you have tried to navigate the Sun City streets you might feel as mixed up as I was as to what canal we might have been on.

Our tour guide talked about the unique stone carving on the buildings and the interesting doors and architecture of the buildings. It was hard to take it all in and remember to take pictures too.

Closer to the harbor we saw some larger buildings. One was a huge parking garage for bicycles!

There were houseboats along all the canals, some in good shape, some not. Some were pretty exotic. One was supposed to house a shelter for stray cats.

The canal guide assured us that the canal water was clean and that the canals were dredged at various times. The main items that dredging produced were bicycles. Just across the canal from the Blue Boats was the Amsterdam Hard Rock Cafe.

Having had a full morning of sightseeing, we looked for a likely lunch spot and found it right around the corner from the boat tour. We ate at an Asian place called MoMo.

Dave had a bento box. The restaurant was an open, airy place that seemed quite popular. The food was good but not so memorable that I can say what I had. We decided to walk back to the hotel and see if our room might be ready. On the way back we walked through the Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sculpture was. The Reijksmuseum is in the background.

Our hotel was on a canal. This is a picture of me on the bridge over the canal and the back of the hotel.

This is a picture of the hotel’s private dock. I watched ducks and coots swimming around. Our room was ready so we checked in and enjoyed resting from a day full of walking. Since it had started raining again, we decided to have a light dinner in the bar overlooking the canal and call it a day.

On our last day in Amsterdam we went to the Rijksmuseum. We had purchased tickets on the internet. It was suggested that to avoid long queues, to visit early in the morning or after 2 in the afternoon. We’re early folks and we’re at the museum when it opened.

The information from Viking Cruises stated that the original museum was founded in 1800 at The Hague to exhibit the private collections of wealthy Dutch families. It was decided to move the collections to Amsterdam in 1808 but there was no adequate space. A building design competition was won by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. Construction began in 1876 and was completed in 1885. Since then the Rijksmuseum has been added to and renovated extensively. The latest renovation was started in 2000 to restore many original design elements and create a graceful, unified space. It was finished in 2013 so the entire museum and art history research library is available to the public to enjoy. Dave is standing in front of the museum. The archway is a pedestrian cross-through and divides the museum in half. Here is a drawing of the museum that appeared on the museum guide.

We entered the museum into an atrium and avoided the ticket line by having our barcodes scanned by an attendant.

Pictures of the atrium.

Dave and I had downloaded the free app for the museum to our smartphones. It helped us navigate the museum and learn about many of the artworks. By inputting a number associated with a painting we could listen to a narrative about the painting and artist. It was very helpful.

The museum had a wonderful spacious feel. As the day progressed more and more people, individuals, families and tour groups flocked in. There are four levels starting with 0 level which had special collections, everything from Delftware to ship models plus art from 1100-1600. Level 1 was the entry level and contained art works from 1700-1800 on one side of the atrium and art of 1800-1900 on the other side. We started on level 2. We wanted to see Rembrandt’s Nightwatch before the gallery became busy.

There was so much to see we had to just skim some of the areas just taking in the more important works that could be identified by the numbers beside them.

Level 2 had paintings and sculpture from 1600-1700. Level 3 had art of all kinds from the years 1900 to 2000.

On towards noon we descended to the bottom level where the cafe was located and had a nice lunch in this light and open space.

This is a Delft-like ceramic vase holding silk tulips in the cafe. I can imagine what it might look like with real tulips in season.

After the meal we continued to see the museum which became busier and busier. Finally we could not take in any more. We spent a little time in the museum shop and then walked through a flea market located in the Museumplein area. There were food vendors and lots of people and dogs but it didn’t seem especially crowded. It is a large area.

Back at the hotel we took a much needed rest. Later we looked for a nice restaurant within walking distance from the hotel.

The Oud-Zuid restaurant on Verhulststraat fit the bill. It was a cozy corner bistro serving nice food and wine with indoor and outdoor seating. It was evident that this was a restaurant that locals favored. Most folks strolled up, looked at the menu posted near the entrance and came inside. Others arrived on bicycle. Kids played outside on the street. It was fun and the food was excellent.

Our airport transfer was scheduled for 7:15 the next morning. The hotel had a sack with breakfast items and snacks for us since their restaurant wasn’t open until 7:30. A nice van came and collected four of us. The other couple was headed for Tucson but our routes were totally different. And many, many houses later we arrived at Sky Harbor. An hour later we were home.

No more travel for a while!

We travel: Luci stays home; Kinderdijk, Netherlands

Our cruise is coming to a conclusion as we sail into the Rhine delta. We see the land flatten out into farming country.

We pass industrial areas and bridges and towns.

Looking from above, you can see blocks of land that look uniform. Much of this area is called polders and lie below the level of the riverbanks. The land has been reclaimed by building dikes and draining the water. The outing today is an afternoon excursion to Kinderdijk, a village community located where the Lek and Nordic Rivers meet. There are 19 well preserved 18th century windmills here.

This is the vista from the dike as we hike to the museum where our guide gives a lecture on how windmills work.

Then we hike along the canal rich with birds and vegetation. Families on outings walk and bicycle here toting picnic lunches and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

And we get to go inside one of these working marvels with its blades called sails.

This windmill was built in 1740. The operator was required to live in the mill to keep it in running order. The Miller and his family had quarters on several levels. These bonnet mills are built from brick with large sails that can be positioned for best efficiency. The sails come within a foot of the ground. At one time there were more than 150 mills in the south Holland area; today the total is only 28, and 19 in the Kinderdijk area.

Space was at a premium. This closet bed was practical as was the rack for hanging and drying shoes. Narrow stairs took us practically straight up into the top of the structure. We climbed up and backed down in very tight quarters.

Modern pumps keep the polders dry these days. We enjoyed our country hike and seeing all the windmills.

We passengers had our disembarkation briefing today as we will be arriving in Amsterdam in the morning. We got information on the process and colored tags for our luggage; where and when to have the luggage outside the stateroom door and when we would leave the ship. Those not staying in Amsterdam for a Post cruise extension were given information on their transportation to the airport and flight numbers. This is all carefully thought out.

Our ship leaves Kinderdijk in the evening before dinner. We dine one last time in the restaurant beside the floor to ceiling windows, watching the countryside slide by as dusk falls. Then back to our room and pack.

We travel: Luci stays home; Cologne

The Tialfi cruised into Cologne and docked. Cologne is a busy city with new buildings including these pretty spectacular residences known as the “Crane Towers”.

In the lower right of this photo, the windowed building is a chocolate museum. We didn’t go there.

As sometimes happens, the Tialfi double-docked with another Viking ship. When this happens, both ships share a gangway and passengers from the outside ship cross the lobby area to access the shore and their tours. Tialfi was the inside ship and since our “balcony” was on the side toward the other craft, we kept our drapes closed (so did the stateroom opposite).

Our walking tour was scheduled for 9:15. The tour guide met us at the ship as the old city was nearby.

Only a few blocks away was the 14th century cathedral, Great Saint Martin Church. It was built on the remains of a Roman chapel. The architectural style is Romanesque.

On into the city which has a pedestrian shopping area, lots of restaurants, boutiques and pubs.

The area looks pretty empty in this view. Restaurants don’t open until 11:30 and shops only a bit earlier. As in many cities, Cologne has fountains too and pretty flowers.

And yummy Curry Wurst!

Around the corner we can begin to see the Gothic Cologne Cathedral. A World Heritage site which was started in 1248 and finished in 1880 but refurbishment continues. The acidic rain damages the statues and carvings which have to be removed and replaced so they don’t become a hazard. Fortunately, the cathedral escaped much damage in WWII bombing.

The outside is spectacular but the inside is splendid.

We returned to the ship for lunch since our next scheduled tour wasn’t until 6PM. After lunch and rest, we decided to return to the city and visit the Roman Germanic Museum which was near the cathedral.

The museum was built around this 220 AD Dionysus mosaic. It was discovered in 1941 by workers building an air raid shelter. The museum preserves and features this mosaic as well as other Roman artifacts.

After visiting the museum, we ambled along enjoying the nice day. We visited a church and churchyard that was close to the ship.

The churchyard had a lovely garden with flowers and water and garden art.

The rusty garden art reminded me that there was a Fragrance Museum that documents centuries of fragrance history as well as the House of 4711 another celebrated fragrance house. It would have been interesting to see those.

This splash pad was a favorite of the little folk.

Many buildings had slate roofing but I was fascinated by the roofs with fish-scale tiles.

Our evening tour was Cologne’s Beer Culture Dinner Tour. It started at 6PM with a walk to a restaurant/pub Bauhaus zur Malzmuhle, established in 1858, where we sat around a big table and were served a meal and beer.

Sauerbraten, beets, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, applesauce, sauerkraut and maybe a pork steak. Not really remembering now about a month later. I’m pretty sure that I enjoyed it. The beer was the thing. One of the most famous beers is Kolach beer and is served chilled in 7 ounce glasses, not steins. The waiter carries beer on a circular tray that is called a crown which was specifically designed for the Kolsch glasses. Kolsch beer is brewed only in Cologne and is delivered fresh from the barrel to the table. He will keep bringing you a full glass and remove your finished glass until you cover the glass.

The beer kept coming but we had other pubs to see.

The German pub or brew house is a place to drink a few with your friends and visit. There is no music playing or TV blaring sports. Just a quiet space. The one we visited next had plank seating along the wall with a high counter like table and stools on the opposite side. After a round of beer here, Dave and I excused ourselves. Enough.

Back at the ship we took in some light classical music by a Cologne harpist and violinist. These two ladies played and sang several selections. They were very accomplished and a joy to watch and listen to.

We travel; Luci stays home: Castles on the Rhine, Marksburg Castle tour

This is Wednesday, July 26th. The forecast is for light rain and temperatures around 70 degrees. The ship will be cruising the middle Rhine where there are many castles and ruins. Dave got a printout of the castles along the river and the Program Director, Boyen, was in the wheelhouse letting us know what castle was ahead and where to look.

The direction of travel is from the bottom of the map to the top. Because of the rain and blustery conditions on the top deck, I remained in the lounge and took pictures from there so some of these landscape pictures are not the best quality. I will post some castle pictures and landscapes of the Rhine valley as seen from the ship but won't try to identify any of them.

The hillsides are covered in wine grapes, mostly Rieslings and Chardonnays. In places the hills are so steep we couldn't see how the grapes could be picked without some kind of harness to keep from tumbling downhill. As the day progressed, the rain stopped and some blue sky could be seen.

This is the 700 year old Marksburg Castle. It was built for protection of the town of Braubach and to reinforce customs facilities that supported the town. This castle was not a royal residence. It did house prisoners and disabled soldiers in the 1800's.
After we docked in Koblenz, those of us going to the castle boarded buses and were driven back to Braubach. The castle sits 500 feet above the town. This meant for some climbing although an incline had been built for easier access on foot. At the top of the incline were great views of the town and of the Rhine.

We waited our turn for the guided tour. Rough stone walkways and passages made for horse access made for dicey footing.

Rough stone and rough hewn doors reinforced with iron was what castles were made of. We went inside to see what the living areas looked like.

They had a wine press and other wine making equipment.

This was in the scullery area of the kitchen.

The hearth area where meat was roasted and most of the cooking was done.

The common gathering area with a rug made from a pig skin. Tapestries and art work would have signaled that people of wealth lived here. The bedroom was located above the kitchen and had a small window. Warmth from the kitchen and a wall without a window where the bed was located kept the inhabitants from intense cold. The guide pointed out the short and narrow bed. People of those ages slept propped up so beds didn't need to be as long as beds of today. They feared laying flat as that was the position of death and they didn't want to go there in their sleep.

There was a chapel for religious observance.

This room showed what armored fighters would have worn over time starting with full body armor and ending with a man in uniform with a long gun.

The tower where prisoners were kept and a tapestry showing the types of torture used to elicit a guilty plea.

The torture room and some implements that were used.

The smithy. Note the large bellows for stoking the fire. This area was open to the courtyard for good reason.
When the tour was over, we took the stairs down to the bus. That was a lot faster than following the incline.

This was a nice selfie, I thought.

That evening Viking presented for dinner: A Taste of Germany, accompanied by musicians. I am in the background here, looking at the dessert table, I think.

We Travel; Luci stays home: Heidelberg and dining in Rudesheim

The Tialfi was docked in Mannheim on the Rhine. Tuesday's tour took us by bus to Heidelberg on the Neckar River half an hour away. There are three bus-loads of us as this is an historical spot. The forecast was for rain and high temps in the 60's. Forewarned is forearmed they say. We have our umbrellas and rain gear. Our objective was the romantic ruin of Heidelberg Castle which is on a bluff overlooking the river. All the bus tours seemed to have gotten up the steep grade to the bus parking at the same time but efficient parking staff and expert bus drivers squeeze every last bit of space out of the parking lot and we follow our fearless local guide uphill the rest of the way to the castle gates.

The castle has been abandoned for three hundred years. Originally built in the thirteenth century, it was maintained and enlarged by the kings of this region of Germany through the eighteenth century. Lightning struck it in 1764 causing devastation and ruin. It remains as an amazing tourist destination.

Our group is struggling to keep up, dodging other tour groups, the rain is starting and the guide shakes his head and laughs. He has never seen such a mess and crush of people. We press on. Not much of the castle is open to the public but what we can see is interesting and the views from the castle out over the valley and river are spectacular.

The final picture is a glancing look at the largest wine barrel in the world. It was carved from 130 oak trees and once held 50,000 gallons of wine. The guide tells that it was leaking so had to be drained. The monarch at the time, hosted a dinner atop the barrel and startled his guests when musicians inside the barrel began playing. It was that huge.

The city of Heidelberg and view of Neckar river from the castle.
Back to the buses and down to the Altstadt or Old City. This picturesque place was looted and burned and left in ruins by the French king Louis XIV. Lots of history here. The town was rebuilt in the 18th century. Cobblestone streets lined with half timbered houses and baroque buildings called to us as we sat in our buses watching the rain pouring down. During a lull, we dashed out to see the city.

We have time on our own until the buses return so Dave and I find lunch at a faux Mexican place (of all things) called the Coyote. I had avocado wedges dipped in batter and deep fried. We walked about the University of Heidelberg area (the oldest university in Germany) and came upon this plaque.

Martin Luther attended a convocation of monks here and defended his ideas for reforming the Catholic Church. We went inside the church and it was beautiful.

This figure was above the door as we exited. There was no explanation for it that we could see.

The buses collected us and delivered us to the ship which was now docked in Gernsheim and we were soon cruising toward Rudesheim. We take in a demonstration on making Rudesheim coffee. A strong coffee with a good shot of alcohol. Time to rest up for this evenings excursion into Rudesheim scheduled for 6:30PM.

A mini-train collects us and delivers us to the Rudescheimer Schloss on the 15th century Drosselgasse where music and food and wine, beer and schnapps await.

This is the band complete with singer. They know all the tunes we like to hear. The food is good and the evening winds up, not down!

Eating and drinking, music and dancing and everyone having a great time. Then the schnapps is delivered to folks brave enough to volunteer.

Yes, Dave was a brave volunteer.

Instruments that were suspended above the band were lowered and craziness ensued with a conga line and everything.

It's a good thing the next day was to be a day of cruising the Rhine looking at castles. I was ready for a quiet day.

We travel; Luci stays home: Strasbourg

We are in Strasbourg only a short time. Our ship arrives at 8AM and will leave at 6:30PM so there was little time for exploring on our own. We opted for the Optional Tour called Taste the Best of Alsace which was to take 7 hours! Maybe that's why only four couples decided to take this outing.
Dorian, our leader, met us at the front desk and escorted us to two cars which would take us into the old part of the city which is an island in the Ill River which runs into the Rhine.

The Tialfi is docked on the Rhine which is on the extreme right on the map. The part of the city we will be experiencing is in the middle left on the map. Here is another map of the old city.
The walking part of the tour started on the left in this map where you see three towers and the legend Petite France. This is a beautiful area of canals, cobblestone streets, flower baskets, restaurants and shops. Canal tour boats ply the waters here. There are lots of people sight seeing. Many languages are heard being spoken.

Dorian gives us some history of the area pointing out a special school where leaders of France are educated, including the current French President. The interesting thing is that you must be from a certain few families to be allowed to enroll here. Hmmm. Pretty exclusive territory.

Dorian explains that these canal houses can be taken apart and moved a bit like the IKEA idea of home furnishings.

This canal area is pedestrian only, except for bicycles. We enjoyed being a small group and not having to wear our hearing devices.

Our little group follows the leader through narrow streets with shops below and apartments above, past this square with its quaint small carousel and into the rue des Dentelles. Here is the Spice shop of Mirelle Oster called Pain D'Epices. She concocts little bites of heaven using spices from all over the world. Her clerks offer us a bite of gingerbread apiece. We are asked if we can identify the seven spices that are used in making this tasty treat. We are able to name most of them but fail to guess pepper.

Dave in front of the spice shop. I bought some gingerbread here and it made the trip home in good shape. This shop is a favorite during the Christmas Market time of the year.
Next shop we visit is a bakery with wonderful smells and sights. Dorian explains how Kougelhopf is made. It is a kingly treat and looks like a crown. We all get a slice!

He also explains the decorations made of bread that we see hanging in the shop.

The bread decorations are made for Christmas. He had a story about the gingerbread man. Dorian collects baguettes here that we will eat with our picnic later.
Next up is Au Bon Vivant, a traditional restaurant where the chef prepared several tarte flambés for us. But first we were served snails with crusty bread and, of course, wine.

Hot and garlicky. The bread sopped the garlic butter left in this special snail baking pan.
Our waitress is pouring brandy on the cheese and apple tarte and proceeds to set it aflame.

Next stop was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. What an amazing sight to turn a corner, climb a few stairs and there it is. Spectacular!

Construction started in 1015 and was finished in 1439. It was once the tallest cathedral in the world, now the sixth tallest. The architecture started out as Romanesque and finished as Gothic. Inside are stained glass windows, life size sculptures, crypts of former bishops, a suspended pipe organ plus two other organs (one for the Choir and another in the crypt), busts of the Apostles, ornate tapestries and carved alters in the adjoining side chapels.

The provenance of this little dog is unclear. Maybe it belonged to the stone carver or maybe the bishop but it is popular with visitors. It is part of the ornately carved pulpit. Dorian told us that stone masons were revered and given some latitude in their carving. They often carved the likenesses of themselves or their family and sometimes included not so reverent subjects on their frescoes.

Another feature of this cathedral is the Astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world. It was constructed between 1838 and 1843 and has been renovated since. The clock sits in a side chapel beside an ornately carved pillar that one architect predicted would never hold the weight above it. He was wrong as the column was cleverly carved to distribute weight. You can see a sculpture of the nay-saying architect in the above photo. He is highlighted in the middle left beside the pillar, leaning on a balcony. The clock is said to be unusually accurate and computes leap years, equinoxes and the changing date of Easter. Another feature of the clock that we didn't get to see is the animated characters that move at different hours. The cathedral was packed with tourists and we could have spent the entire seven hours here but there were more delicacies to be tasted so off we went.

La Cloche a Fromage, our next stop was a "stinky" cheese shop. As you can see, cheeses from all over France were sold here by this very knowledgeable lady. Hard, semi-hard, semi-soft and soft cheeses made in local dairies in all regions of France of unpasteurized cows milk or goat milk. This shops specialty was Munster cheese made from cow's milk in eastern France. It is soft and has an edible rind and has a very strong flavor and odor. It is definitely not the Munster cheese you buy at Fry's Grocery in Surprise Arizona! We tried several samples of various cheeses and Dorian collected a bag of goodies that we would enjoy later. On we go through the picturesque streets.
I think Dorian was telling us about this section of the old city wall which has been removed in most places. Many European cities had walls which were deconstructed, the stones used elsewhere. The wine cask in the above photo was probably filled and used in local celebrations.
Our final destination and picnic site was Winstub Le Pfifferbriader. We got inside just as the rain came pouring down. We were safe and warm inside and feasting on good bread, cheese and slices of cured meat accompanied by flights of French wine. Bon Appetite!

This was a fun day and a fun way to see a small portion of the city in a short time. Dorian hustled us back to the cars and back to the ship. After a full day, we didn't participate in the evening Pop/Rock Music and Dance Quiz with hits from the 60's 70's and 80's. You can see the age of the audience the program director is targeting.