>Final Entry: Odds & Ends

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The return home went exactly as planned. Up at 5am, bus to Lyon airport, flight from Lyon to Paris, a four hour layover, then the flight from Paris to Dulles. I watched two completely forgettable films, Duplicity and 17 Again. Flight got in maybe 15 minutes late, just around 7pm. We got fairly quickly through Passport Control, then waited for our luggage, which came out almost last. With everything, we were still home and with our great Tibetan Terrier Colby before 9pm.

A few things that slipped by along the way:

The vineyards in the Rhone valley are full of rocks…and they love it that way. The rocks were deposited at the various times that the Rhone has flooded the valley. The rocks absorb the sun during the day and then release warmth during the night, giving the grapes a chance to grow and sweeten quicker. It is odd to see the rocks, but it makes a lot of sense.

With this our second Viking cruise, there was a reception for “Explorer Society” members a few nights into the cruise. The hotel manager told us that 40 of the 130 passengers were repeat customers, and the marketer in me appreciated the analysis of loyalty in their customer base. They offered us a shot of akvavit, a Nordic drink that was strong and warming! They served it in these really nice Viking shot glasses. Ellen talked me out of walking away with them. When we returned from dinner that night, they had left two of the glasses in our room, a nice loyalty reward. Made me glad I hadn’t taken one too!

One of the funniest things that happened was at the last wine tasting. The guide asked during the tasting “what two meals don’t go well with wine?” Instantly one man in our group volunteered “Breakfast!” The guide quickly corrected herself and said she was looking for 2 foods that don’t mix well with wine. The answer was asparagus and salads with a vinegar base. Not sure if it was a question of a French speaker not finding the right English word or if she did it on purpose, but it was very funny nonetheless.

So we ended up taking our last 3 dinners on shore instead of on the ship. Our feeling was one of the highlights of Southern France is the food. It is a part of the world we are unlikely to go back to, so it made sense to soak in the best of what they had to offer. On our way off the ship the last night, the hotel manager acted somewhat offended that we were skipping the Captain’s dinner. I didn’t feel so bad, we hadn’t bonded with anyone on the trip as closely as we had on our first Viking cruise, so we didn’t feel like we were missing much. Others we talked to had started to complain about the food. Evidently this ship had just lost it’s chef of 20 years and our chef had only been on for a few weeks. We thought the food was better than our Danube cruise, but we didn’t have too high expectations to begin with. I just didn’t like the 4 courses taking almost 2 hours every night for dinner, although if we were cruising there isn’t much else to do on the ship after dinner anyway. We did especially like the lunch in the lounge, which allowed the meal to take much less time and be much less formal.

The addition of Wi-Fi to the cruise was a huge plus. It allowed us to check email, post to the travel blog and keep up with news of the world. It was sometimes overwhelmed by demand and would fade in and out occasionally. The spottiness issue became clear when we docked for the last time in Chalon and we saw the first officer manually adjust the direction of the sattelite. I had assumed that it was on an automated directional system. It makes sense that as we went around curves in the river or something on the shore was blocking things, that we would lose the connection. In any case, having Internet meant that we never had to use precious shore time looking for Wi-Fi or an Internet cafe. Big ups to Viking for adding the connection and a huge cheer for making it free (or as the lawyers always try to make us marketing people say, at no extra charge!)

I enjoyed putting each day’s info up with pictures. I have even more respect for the work done by Jim Brady in the Fred and Hark Mark America blog he kept up. I realized it takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication to write interestingly and descriptively. I was sometimes just too tired to go into too much detail over and above the basic facts. I would have liked to have repeated more of the history and stories we heard along the way, but that would have required paying closer attention along the way. In addition, I would have loved to have included links to various places to add more detail, but the slow Internet made me happy to be able to get my entry and a picture up, anything else would have taken that much more time.

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