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Romancing the Rhine

Author: Margaret P.
Date of Trip: April 2006

We spent eight romantic days aboard the new Avalon Tapestry as it made it’s second cruise. Boarding at Basel, Switzerland the small 160 passenger ship headed northward with the help of the Rhine River’s strong current, ultimately ending up in Amsterdam, Holland.

Along the way we visited Strasbourg, France with its Medieval La Petite France section. In Germany, we stopped at Speyer, known as the resting place of several Holy Roman Emperors and Kings. It also is home to a thousand-year old underground Jewish Bath, one of the few Jewish structures not destroyed by the Germans in WWII. In Heidelberg, we marveled at the massive castle standing above this picturesque city. In Mainz, we saw a beautiful Romanesque cathedral and Cloister. Rudessheim afforded us a tour of a musical museum and a wine tasting in a local restaurant, including a lively band. Coblenz gave us a lesson in the destruction of war, as many of its structures had to be rebuilt after WWII. Cologne’s Cathedral, the largest in the world, was also one of the most beautiful. And Amsterdam, Holland had its own ambiance with its many canals and quaint streets.

Add to all of this sightseeing, which is included in the price of the cruise, several talks by the cruise director on topics of interest. The morning we sailed through the dramatic Rhine Gorge, home to many castles perched atop hills above small villages, that was perhaps the most romantic of all. That day was overcast and a little misty, which added to the mystique. The cruise director kept pointing the castles out, mile by mile, and told stories about their legends. It was the best sightseeing of the trip.

Sounds Busy? You bet it was. We had local guides waiting for us most mornings about 830 a.m. to tour the cities. We walked, bussed to Heidelberg, cruised around Strasbourg and Amsterdam, rode small trolleys in Cologne and Rudesheim. Some time was allowed for shopping or sightseeing on your own.

To pamper and romance us more, the ship provided beautiful rooms. They are all the same size, except the 2 Junior Suites, which I did not see. The top two floors have floor to ceiling windows which can be opened. The lower level has two large portholes which afford a good view, too, but they cannot be opened. All rooms are individually climate controlled. They have very large fluffy pillows with a high threadcount cover. Instead of a sheet and blanket you have a high threadcount duvet with a light, fluffy quilt inside. It all had a very European, luxurious feel to it when sleeping.

Plenty of closet and drawer space abounded. The glass enclosed shower had a very strong spray and was regular sized. The television played several German speaking stations, but also had English CNN and two movie channels. Everyday one movie selection was geared toward history, such as “Martin Luther,” which we enjoyed.

Adding more romance was the food. It was surprisingly plentiful and excellent. Breakfast was a buffet with an omelet and egg station, fresh fruits, pastries, meats and pancakes. I am not much of an egg eater, but the scrambled eggs they fixed everyday were delicious, made with brown eggs. The best part for us were the cheeses and the breads. We had a great variety of both and tried new ones every day.

Lunch was also a buffet with usually three entrees, one being something local like Goulash, Beef in Wine Sauce, or Sauerbraten. Also included was a salad bar, appetizers, vegetables and again the cheeses. They were great. The dessert table constantly had people lined up to try the great ice cream, cakes and strudels.

Dinner was usually an appetizer, soup, entree and dessert. It was a sit down affair, served by waiters. During the week the next day’s dinner menu would be on your bed in the evening. You were asked to choose what you wanted so the chef knew how much to make. Along with the beautifully prepared foods were local red and white wines, served freely during the meal. They were delicious.

Looking for nightlife? It was not on this ship. There is a lovely lounge with a musician. But most people either spent their evenings on the top of the ship, which is set up as a Observation or Sun Deck, or elected to rest in their room to prepare for the next day.

The trip totally romanced me. Maybe it was the bartender in Heidelberg who explained to us the different ways one needs to prepare beer for drinking and the proper glasses for different ones. Maybe it was the fabulous Apple Strudel we ate in Cologne which was like no other. Maybe it was the candle I lit before the wooden Pieta in the Cologne Cathedral, praying for my father. Thousands of mile away…maybe it was the miles of castles we viewed, wondering what life was like when they were first inhabited. Maybe it was the massive cathedrals which people worked on for 500 years to complete.

We came home in awe of what we had seen, learned and experienced. I can think of no better way to see Europe as it used to be than to travel its rivers. We were totally romanced.

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