11 days in Europe: “We’d do it again’

What an amazing cruise we had in Europe.  We have been talking about it for months and I promised to get the story out to all of you.  Well, here it is.

It was a 10-hour overnight flight which put us into Paris and finally to our hotel in time for lunch.  Wanting to adapt to the time change as quickly as possible, we elected to tour with a friend from Edmonds who lives in Paris for a month every year.

Our first stop: Montmartre and the beautiful Sacre-Coeur.  This magnificent church was erected in 1876 and stands at the highest point in Paris. From here, the city runs for miles around you.  Follow the Seine and find the Eiffel Tower, spot the Arch de Triumph and the Champs Elysees, and move on to the Louvre.  You can see them all.

This is an artist area, and we walked among them as we headed down picturesque winding roads to the bottom of the hill for a glass of wine among the locals. A quick light dinner and we were off to the river and an evening cruise to see the lights of the city. The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame light to perfection, along with the bridges and other ancient buildings.  It was breathtaking, but we needed sleep and called it a night.

Day 2 took us sightseeing. How different things look during the day. We saw the Opera, LaMadeline, Place de la Concorde and the Grand Palais. Some took the ride up the Eiffel Tower, as it was just steps from our hotel.  In the evening, we once again met with our own private guide at Luxembourg Gardens.  Day 3 was the first “moving” day of our tour.  It was a rather long drive from the middle of Paris to the city of Luxembourg, where we had a tour, time for lunch and then were able to spend time at both the American and Germany cemeteries. Two of our ladies had lost fathers in World War II, one at each cemetery.  We were able to make arrangements for them to visit the graves. It was an extremely moving time and one we will all treasure.

Day 4 began in Trier, founded around 16 B.C. There were Roman ruins, including the best-preserved amphitheater in the world. Here, gladiators and animals both fought for their lives. The farmers market dates back to the 10th century and is still functioning today. Karl Marx was born in Trier in 1818. His house is now a museum.

Day 5: The village of Cochem, where six creeks spill into the river, vineyards creep up the steep hills, and traditional half-timbered houses abound. The Reichsburg Castle dates back to the 11th century. In 1689, it was razed to the ground but was restored in 1866 and now offers daily tours.

Day 6 began with the drive through the countryside to Koblenz and the stunning Marksburg Castle.  What a thrill to see rooms set up as they were 700 years ago. With tapestries on the walls and fireplaces in each room, the castle seems to have been quite livable.

Day 7 had us docking at Aschaffenburg, a short ride to one of Germany’s oldest and most romantic cities, Heidelberg. This is a true university town, and we were lucky enough to be able to have lunch with several students. One had even been an exchange student to Puyallup. Education is free, but you must not only have a good GPA but be able to speak and write fluent German in order to attend. The university was founded in 1386 and continues to be one of Germany’s elite institutions.

Day 8 started after another night of leisurely cruising on the Rhine River. We arrive in Karlstadt and took a coach into Wurzburg to visit the renowned Bishop’s Residenz. Oh, how I wish they would have let us take pictures. This is more than fairytale perfect. It was built between 1720 and 1744 and is now a UNESCO listed site. The grand staircase, with its unsupported vaulted ceiling, features the largest ceiling fresco in the world. The opulence is everywhere with a combination of marble, gold stucco, mirrors and glass. It was so hard not to sneak a photo. The gardens, however, are open for cameras and are extensive.  It is fun to dream of what life must have been like for the royalty that lived here.

Day 9 kept showing us that there was always another castle around the bend and more vineyards up the hills. This time our stop was Bamburg, one of my personal favorites. It is here that “The Nutcracker” originated, and smoked beer became something to talk about (not necessarily the best to drink, in my humble opinion.) Another picturesque village with Roman ruins and stories to tell.

Day 10. The cruise portion was over and we were now headed to Prague. Our first stop of the day was Nuremberg, site of Htlter’s fanatical party rallies, where the boycott of Jewish businesses began and the infamous Nuremburg Laws outlawing Jewish citizenship were enacted. We visited the parade grounds where Hitler stood above the people and watched as they goosestepped in parade before him. They have been left as a message to all about what happened here, with the hope it will never happen again.  We drove past the site of the Nuremberg Trials and then left it behind us as we toured the actual city and ended at a wonderful market square.  It was fun to shop the small booths, visit the stores and enjoy a local sausage. We reboarded the coaches for a four-hour journey to Prague. It worth every ounce of the drive. Prague is a magical city. It is one of the most beautiful in the world.

Day 11 was our last day. We enjoyed a more organized tour of the city with an actual walk through the grounds of Prague Castle, a tour of the Jewish center and a walk through the main square with the glockenspiel clock that goes off every hour. We had enjoyed a true adventure with beautiful weather, great food and spectacular service by Viking River Cruises. It is certainly something we would do again.

Remember that we have other things planned that you can join . The Cuba trip on March 19 still has space available. It is a one-week cruise out of Miami with three stops in Cuba. We also have a 15-day round-trip  cruise out of Vancouver to Hawaii departing April 21. For further information, please contact me at 253-927-8207 or linda.finch@gmail.com.


Linda Finch writes the Senior Adventures column.

With the Eiffel Tower in the background, a group of American travelers pose for a photo during a visit to Paris.
With the Eiffel Tower in the background, a group of American travelers pose for a photo during a visit to Paris.