Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011-Basel to Dusseldorf, to Chicago to HOME

Today is travel day. At this point I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up at home. I really dread travel days! My first flight was at 9:25 and the van was scheduled to depart for the airport at 7 am.  I showered and had everything ready to go Friday night so I just need to get dressed and pack my last minuted things. The dining room opened for Breakfast at 6:30 so I was able to eat and send a quick email to the kids before I headed off.
My last glimpse of the Rhine River as we drive away to the airport in Basel,  Switzerland

Things went smoothly in Basel at the airport. I had plenty of time before my plane was to leave. I was shocked that the airport didn't have a single drinking fountain! I looked everywhere.  Here I experienced my one and only rude "local".  I went to the coffee shop and asked the lady if there was a drinking fountain. At first she ignored me, then she glared at me and rattled of something that ended in "France' So I assumed she was telling me she only spoke French.  I found another gentleman who told me there was none, so I bought a bottle of water and poured it into my water bottle that I had taken. No sense in carrying around two bottles of water! 

My flight from Basel to Dusseldorf left a few minutes early, and arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. 

FInding my way thru the Dusseldorf airport was fairly simple, everything was very clearly labeled in German and English. The only glitch so far, my flight has been delayed by about an hour and ten minutes. Instead of departing at 12:05, we are estimated to leave at 1:15. I should still be ok since I have a six hour layover in Chicago! That should give me plenty of time to get through customs and find my way to my connection. 
Customs in Chicago was a breeze.  My bags had to be claimed, rechecked and all the security stuff repeated since this was my entry to the US. 

 I shouldn't have worried about getting to my connection in time. Turns out, there was a technical problem with our plane and they had to bring in a replacement. So I got to sit in the Chicago airport for 8 lovely hours! If I had known, I would've gone sightseeing or to dinner, or something!  It was freeeeeezing in the airport, so I finally resorted to buying a little blanket at the gift shop. Eventually boarded the plane about 10 pm, and back home after a 5 hour flight.  It was soooo good to be home!! 

Friday, May 13, 2011, Strasbourg, France

Friday morning we were in Strasbourg, France. We were taken by Canal Boat through the canal system to see the Old Town and some political area including the consulate buildings.  It is right on the border between Germany and France, and throughout history had changed hands between Germany and France numerous times. So almost eveything was in both German and French. It didn't really look that much different than the German towns we visited other than the French in the stores and on the signs. 

After the canal ride, Christie and I wandered around in the shops and found a cute little candie store that had some great nougat and caramels, among other goodies. We bought some candy and then later a pretzel from a little bakery and made our way back to the bus, to return to the ship for lunch.


Ann, our cruise director gathering us up for the bus ride back to the ship
 There was this one lady from Canada that was also traveling alone and she was sitting by herself so we asked if we could join her, thinking maybe she would like some company. She answered but neither of us really understood what she said, so we asked again, if it was ok for us to sit with her. She said no one was sitting there, so we sat down and Christie started eating her salad, and I went to get something from the buffet. As soon as I sat down, she literally threw her napkin on the table, got up and raced off. Christie said she just sat there with her head down, eating her salad as fast as she could; and she tried to talk to her but she wouldn't answer. So we don't really know what her problem was... apparently she wanted to be by herself, but she could have just told us. She was also eating alone at dinner that night, so I guess she just wanted to be by herself because there were lots of tables where she could have sat, and everyone was very open to people joining them at dinner so we could all meet new people.

After lunch it was time to pack... ugh I wasn't looking forward to the journey home. Although I was ready to be home, the thought of the long flights and hours in airports wasn't very appealing. I was worried that my luggage would go over the weight limit because of the things I bought, so I had been getting rid of things along the way that I didn't need. I dumped my "Germany for Dummies" book at the Ausburg train station, and a half empty box of peanut butter crackers at the train station. I also left Mrs. Loeffler's coat, my old curling iron, a couple of half-empty tubes of various hotel lotions, an expired container of tums, and tons of papers in my bags. I was able to fit everything in my suitcase and carry-on plus a small canvas bag that I had taken along. 

They had a Pastry demonstration in the lounge in the afternoon where the Pastry Chef and the head chef showed us how to assemble a Black Forest Cake. They had a passenger from the crowd come up and help her. After putting the cake together, the cut and served it to us at Tea Time. 

Dinner was the Captain's Farewell Dinner and they served filet mignon and shrimp with some vegetables and potatoes. For dessert it was their version of Baked Alaska. After dinner we went to the lounge to chat for a bit and then it was time for bed.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 -Heidleberg and Speyer

Our evening in Rudesheim was really fun. We went by mini-train to a restaurant on the main tourist street and sat outside. There were about 24 of us that went. I sat with a couple from Anaheim and two couples from Florida. There was a band for entertainment but I was a little disappointed that they didn't play any traditional German songs. Most of the songs were in English! But they were talented and there were a few couples dancing, and it was fun to watch them.

For dinner we had salad, a cream of something that might have been celery with a chicken base, and the main course was a pork roast with gravy, potato salad (but the potatoes had been mashed so it didn't really look like potato salad) saurkraut and a vegetable dish that tasted like it had cabbage and maybe cauliflower in it. Dessert was an apple cake. 

My tablemates at dinner. 

The band did some group participation things and got us up in a conga-line type thing where we were winding all around the restaurant, and they had this long pole with 5 or 6 pewter shot glasses connected to it and they would get a group of people to line up and hold the pole, fill all the glasses with Schnapps and at the count of three, tip the pole so everyone took a shot at once. It was quite entertaining! They also had various sized bells and got a group of 6 or 7 ladies from the crowd to sit and each got a bell. Then one of the band members stood in front of them like a conductor and had them ring their bell when he pointed at them, and they were actually able to play a song! It was very cute.  

The gal on the end was our cruise director, Ann

We took the mini-train back to the ship about 9:30 and I found out that one of the Egyptian ladies had been taken to the hospital by ambulance, I think it was a heart-issue. The Captain was talking to a group in the library and said they were keeping her overnight for observation and if all goes well, they will bring her to the ship by taxi at the next town. One of the gals at the Reception desk  went with her to translate because she didn't speak any German.  I had talked to this Egyptian lady earlier in the day and she said they had been sailing for three weeks already and she was tired and ready to go home. She had boarded in Budapest.

We are parked next to a pier in Mannheim waiting for our turn to dock. They will take us by bus to Heidleberg, which is supposed to be about an hour. We will have a bus tour through Heidleberg  with some free time in town afterward for lunch. While we are gone, the ship will relocate to Speyer. After we are done in Heidleberg, the bus will bring us to Speyer where we have a walking tour and then back to the ship and on to Strasbourg, France. 

I have to say, I'm glad that I only did a one week cruise. The little towns are starting to look alot alike and everyday they seem a bit less authentic. In my mind I compare them to the quaint little villages from my first week here, and they don't compare! In these towns, the shopping area is row after row of gift shops with the same kind of tourist gifts that you see in any other tourist town. Although luckily they take us to a museum, monument or other local attraction to make the stop worth-while. 

We are still having a great time, the crew onboard pamper us like crazy, the food is amazing and I've met some great people. Oh and this morning I put on a pair of jeans that I haven't worn since I was in Aufhausen, and they still fit! I was thrilled because that means that I haven't gained too much weight yet, with all this food!

Today is the day that Xavier has his assessment at Kaiser and he and Tabatha were supposed to get back from Oklahoma yesterday so I have been thinking about them alot but haven't been able to get online to see if she's written. I'm starting to miss him alot now that I know he's back home! 

Thursday evening

Well, it rained on us in Heidelberg! When we got there it was overcast and by the time we got halfway through our tour of the castle grounds it started raining. Luckily I had a rain hat and had brought my waterproof vest. We didn't have much free time in Heidelberg after the tours, barely enough time to have lunch and get back to the bus to Speyer.



ahh.... the sausages and saurkraut!

In Speyer we had an older German woman for our guide and she was very blunt and almost demanding. A couple of times some people wanted to leave the tour and look around on their own and she got really upset with them! The tour took longer than I think it should have, there really wasn't that much to see here. Mostly a cathedral and the historic Jewish area which was probably the highlight of the tour. We walked around for a little while then headed back to the ship.

Tonight before dinner we have the disembarkation talk where they give us all the info we need to get ready to leave the ship on Saturday. 

Tomorrow we will be in Strasbourg, France. That should be fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rudesheim, Wednesday May 11, 2011

 We sailed all morning and finally reached the Rhine River. It is much larger than the Mainz. We docked in Rudesheim about 1 pm and they took us in these little mini-trains through town and up to a gondola ride that took us up above some vineyards to a huge monument that was erected to commemorate the unification of Germany after the war in the late 1870's. I obviously didn't pay enough attention to the guide because I don't remember all what she told us about it.

Rüdesheim Coffee, which is exclusively made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy,
whipped cream and traditionally served in an authentic Rüdesheim Coffee Set

Georganna, enjoying her Rudesheim Coffee :)

We rode back down to the town and walked around, looking in the various shops in the tourist area. I have to say out of all of the towns I've been to so far, this one is my least favorite. It is very touristy and commercialized and doesn't seem to have much historical significance. This photo is one example... This glass top table with a dragon body was being sold for 395€, which is about $600.  My daughter-in-law bought one from a "nik-nak"catalog last Christmas for about $100. 

We came back to the boat and changed clothes because it was much hotter than we were dressed for; they had told us it might rain today and it was windy and cool out on deck this morning, but it definitely wasn't windy and cool this afternoon!
We sailed past a huge "herd" of swans!
They were beautiful.
This evening is the dinner in town at a local restaurant with entertainment. I am looking forward to doing that!
Yesterday I copied all my pictures onto a thumb drive just so I would have a back up in case something happens to my netbook. I was looking at a picture of a duck that I had taken and tried to find it in the bird book onboard the ship. I think I found it, and if I'm right, it's not a duck, it's a grey egyptian goose. I can't wait for Dan to look at the pictures and tell me if I'm right!
YAY, I guessed right :) My brother said it's
a grey egyptian goose
They have the IT people onboard right now trying to figure out why the internet has been so bad. I hope they fix it. I was able to upload a couple of pages to my blog but I still can't access Facebook or AOL.