Tag Archives: Viking River Cruises

Day 8: Return Home

Not a lot (at least interesting) to say about the return trip home. We lost an hour of sleep overnight, as Europe went to DST. Viking had their act together, so it was easy to get our luggage out, pay the bill and eat a light breakfast.

Viking planned for 2 hours to be enough at Charles de Gaulle (CDG). It was not, at least to provide comfort. Ellen hates CDG with the passion of a million suns. It is sprawling, confusing, poorly run, and the French work hard to keep it that way. Separate lines for boarding passes, luggage check, border control and security make it quite the gauntlet.

We ended up at the gate only 10 minutes before boarding. The plane was full. We closed doors on time, but didn’t move. After a few minutes, the captain announced we’d be 10 minutes late. Ten we sat for a full hour, with no further explanation. Taxiing took 30 minutes. Then we took off.

In air, I watched a lot of movies. Hitchcock, Life of Pi and all but the last 10 minutes of Trouble Wth The Curve. I had ordered kosher meals, and they were indeed a kosher for Passover. Quite pleased with that.

Dulles was easy getting through immigration, but we had to wait awhile for our luggage. Customs had a line but it moved. A bus to long term parking, sitting in beltway traffic, then straight to PetSmart to get Colby.

All in all, an okay trip home and a great vacation overall.


Towel Art

We understand that towel art is a “thing” now at hotels. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed coming back to the room each day to find out what shape our towels might be in. We especially liked when they used our items (hat, iPad, apple) to complement the towel art. This is making a difference and creating customer satisfaction at very little cost!ImageImageImageImageImage


Day 7: Last Day, Best Day, Versailles & Paris

With an extremely slow collection, I will add Versailles pictures when we get home.

It was a long day, but a very good day.

Up early, early breakfast, 8am bus to Versailles. It was cold and windy when we got there, even a snowflake or two. Hasn’t France gotten the memo that spring is here?

We waited in the group line to get in, but not very long. I had been to Versailles with Ellen, but it was back in 1986, so I don’t remember it well.

We started the tour, with our tour guide leading us from room to room. At first I was wowed by it all. But after awhile, the excess and the vanity of Louis XIV got to me, and my end takeaway was that the place is vulgar, in the same way Donald Trump places are. Excess for the sake of excess, especially when king and ruling over subjects who are paying for it all, is just too much.

We got to go back to the gardens briefly, which was about all we felt like, as the cold and the wind were really uncomfortable.

We were then faced with the easiest decision in the history of decisions: do you ride the bus back to the ship and sail 5.5 hours to get to Paris or do you hop a train and get there in 1/2 an hour? I think we all know what choice we made.

We took the train and then transferred to the subway, getting off near the Bastille. We walked along, entering the Marais district, stopping into churches, chocolate shops, grocery stores, whatever struck our fancy. After all, we were in Paris!

We made it to the Pompidou Center, the strangest building to ever grace France. It is no wonder that the Parisians hate it. After a bit more walking, we found ourselves within sight of Notre Dame. Ellen wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to see her favorite spot. Allas, it was closed in the early evening to prepare for Easter services, so we couldn’t go in.

We found a cafe to stop at on the Left Bank for a glass of wine and to set a dinner strategy. Ellen had of course done some advance planning and had a list to consider. We read through TripAdvisor reviews and selected one, Boucherie Rouliere, known for their meats.

I gotta give a plug now to a TripAdvisor feature. They have something called “Point Me There.” Instead of putting a street map in front of you with a blue dot to follow, it has a compass and the number of feet to your destination. You just walk, turning when the compass points and watching the distance decrease. We used it to and from the restaurant, it was fabulous.

Dinner was great, a small restaurant with tables impossibly close together, so they had to pull them way out so you could get in. Ellen had steak, I had lamb chops, and we shared a 1/2 bottle of wine. It was such a great dinner, just to watch the waiters hustle, the patrons come in, the food being served. It was so French!

We took the subway back to the Eiffel Tower, and walked to the ship, in the same place as when we left Paris on Tuesday morning. We packed and prepared for the trip home.

I hope you enjoyed reading along. Leave a comment or a like so I know you dropped by.

I’ll update this post with pictures and do a brief post on our trip home.

Look forward to our next trip, Sweden & Iceland in July.


Day 6: Les Andelys

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A calm day today. Too calm for Ellen, but we had no choice in the matter.

We finally left Rouen this morning. Breakfast on the ship, disembarkation briefing at 10, lunch at noon, all on the ship.

We got to Les Andelys just before 1, and took off on our own. The town had not much, a nice church in the center, a few shops and restaurants, and a Richard The Lionhearted castle on the top of the hill. It was a steep walk up, but worth the climb for the views of the town and the Seine.

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We stopped at a bakery in town and Ellen picked up a few things.

We set sail again around 3. Viking was offering a gallery tour today, so we took it and got to see the kitchen. Interesting how small it is to feed 150 people.

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In the evening, held prisoner on a moving ship, we dined aboard for the captain’s dinner. It was 4 courses, all the staff paraded around the dining room, it was quite the production. We dined with a couple from Colorado, retired educators. They made good dinner companions, and the 2.75 hour meal went by reasonably fast.

The end of the trip, unfortunately is in sight. Tomorrow we visit Versailles and return to Paris. One more dinner in town, and we fly back on Sunday.

I wrote 3 special blog posts the last couple of days, on the ship, the technology behind the blog and Passover. Check them out in your leisure.

Au revoir!


Technology

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So just a little post on the what it takes to make the magic of the blog happen while we are traveling. Wait, who said “what magic?”????

I’ve gotten the set-up as simple as possible. My Nikon D3100 has an Eye-Fi card in it, so I can wirelessly move pictures from the camera to the iPad. I use the WordPress app on the iPad, bring pictures in and voila!

You may have noticed there was no discussion of SIM cards on this trip. Since our ship had WiFi, we figured our data needs would be limited on shore. I had read about getting a French carrier’s SIM card, but it seems to require some amount of French speaking. I may have faked my way through the same exercise in Spanish when in Argentina, but Ellen didn’t feel up to it. We also know that sometimes it isn’t as simple as it seems, and you can waste time troubleshooting.

So we took the path of least resistance, and let Verizon Wireless provide us with 100mb of data for $25 each. It’s a different sensation to be minding data usage, but we were able to use our phones for Foursquare check-ins and Instagram and Facebook photo postings. You know, the absolutely essential activities! We used out iPhone data counter for the first time, and put our phones in airplane mode whenever they weren’t in use.

We might have done things differently in retrospect. The WiFi on the ship was mostly slow and sometimes impossibly slow. That made the blog postings difficult and sometimes maddingly frustrating. So I might have tried to get a decent data quota and wrestled with a French mobile company, but not upset that we didn’t have to hassle with that. In the end, I was able to get the blog up every night.

Next trip is to Sweden, where they are technological and speak English, so we are likely to go the prepaid SIM route next time.


The Ship

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Here is a view of the Viking Spirit, our floating hotel for 7 days. It holds about 140 passengers, has a dining room on one end, a lounge on the other, and cabins in the middle. There is a sun deck up top, not that it is getting much use on this trip.

What we enjoy most about river boats is that their size allows them to dock right in the middle of the towns we visit, so no time is wasted getting to see the cities along the river.

We are truly treating it as a hotel, since we most like to travel independently. We are skipping the walking tours in most cities in favor of doing our own, using guidebooks or tours from the TI office. And if all goes to plan, we will only have eaten dinner on the ship the first night, as we are taking advantage of the schedule of being docked each night and, well, being in France where the food is amazing.


Day 4: Rouen

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Pictures are going to be smaller today, our satellite Internet on the ship is not cooperating.

Today was an easier day, as we sailed in the morning. A lecture at 10am delivered the story of Joan of Arc, essential for visiting Rouen.

We were the first off the ship again, right at 1pm when we arrived in town. Up the hill to the TI office, which was right across the street from the Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Monet stayed in the building right across the street and painted the church over 30 times. Ellen had Rick Steves’ walking tour on her kindle, so that guided us around the town. The church had been heavily damaged in World War II, you can still see the patchwork in the ceiling where the spire crashed though after the bombings.

The streets had the half timber buildings we had seen in Vernon, but more of them, whole blocks long.

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The Church of Joan of Arc is quite modern, built in 1997 on the site of her burning. The shape of the roof is meant to evoke the flames.

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Walking the streets of Rouen was wonderful, it is large enough to have 2 department stores and lots of shops. There were a large number of chocolate shops, each with tons of nicely decorated, handmade Easter candy. We stopped to get out of the cold and had afternoon tea/coffee before seeing the grand clock, Gros Horologe.

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We walked back to the ship for a brief visit and to hear the plans for tomorrow’s visit to Normandy. Then we were back out to town. Ellen found a great bistro, Gill Cote Bistro, the informal cousin to a more fancy and expensive restaurant. We arrived for dinner at 7:30pm and were the only ones in the place. Everyone else who came later was French, we took that as a good sign. We had wine, veal for Ellen and chicken for David, and shared a huge dessert, thick dark chocolate with hazel nuts on the button, light chocolate mousse on the top. Yum!

We walked back to the ship, uploaded our pictures to our iPads, and are turning in early with an early 2 hour bus ride to the beaches tomorrow.

I’ll end with a picture of the Palais de Justice, whose outer walls still bear the marks of the Normandy invasion.

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