My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – A Beautiful Day in the Black Forest

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It had been a glorious week on the Viking EIR, (courtesy of Viking River Cruises).* Our voyage on the “Rhineland Discovery” river cruise would soon be coming to an end. There was one last day to savor — with a morning excursion to the medieval village of Colmar, France and an afternoon exploring the beauty of Germany’s fabled Black Forest.

A Walking Tour Of Colmar, France
“Welcome aboard,” said our tour guide Rhona as we readied for the bus trip to Colmar. It was a brief ride and Rhona provided a history lesson on the way. She told us that this area of France was occupied by Germany during WWI and WWII.

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Colmar, France is a quaint village.

As we neared the roundabout there was a replica of the Statue of Liberty. “We have a tiny bit of New York City here,” said Rhona. “In 2004 an honorary statue was placed at the entrance of Colmar to honor it’s hometown creator Bartholdi, who designed the original monument as a thank you to Americans for their help in WWII.” Continue reading

My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – A Best-Ever Full-Day Feast in Strasbourg

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Are you ready to join me for my best-ever day in Strasbourg? If you are hungry now, you’ll be ravenous when you’re done reading about and viewing all the pictures from the “Taste the Best of Alsace” excursion I went on during my “Rhineland Discovery” river cruise (courtesy of Viking River Cruises).* Better yet, I guarantee you’ll want to book a visit to the Alsace region of France during your life after 50.

Arriving In The Alsace Region of France
It was the next to last day of our cruise on the Rhine and activities were reaching a peak. Following visits to Bruges, Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, Cologne, Heidelberg, and Rudesheim, the Viking EIR arrived outside Strasbourg, the largest port on the Upper Rhine and the center of France’s Alsace region. Since Strasbourg borders on France and Germany, it boasts a unique cultural blend of both countries.

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Food and City Tour of Strasbourg
While my boyfriend L stayed back and rested, I departed our ship early morning with five fellow female foodies for what would be the most ah-may-zing day of eating — literally ever, ever, ever from 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m. — with Food and City Tours Strasbourg.

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Bonjour,” said our guide Virginie as she greeted us for our bus trip into town. We each were given a shopping bag to fill with foods for our lunch at a local wine shop. Continue reading

My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – The Great Castles of Germany

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It’s a raining and cold outside. But my thoughts are elsewhere. I’m thinking about my river cruise on the Rhine this past summer on the Viking EIR (courtesy of Viking River Cruises).* The days on “Rhineland Discovery” were sunny, tranquil, and full of dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery — from our time in Bruges, to our stay in Amsterdam, to our visit to the windmills of Kinderdijk and the vibrant city of Cologne. Each day was better than the next.

Conquering the Marksburg Castle
“Are you ready to conquer the castle?” asked our program director Daniel as we arrived for our tour of the Marksburg Castle in Koblenz, Germany. My boyfriend L and I climbed the cobblestone steps up to the hilltop.

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Marksburg Castle was high up on the hill

Our guide Sasha opened the gates and led us through the rooms. We saw the wine cellar, the kitchen where big oxen were cooked centuries ago, the chapel, and the seated chamber or living quarters. “People in the Middle Ages were smaller,” said Sasha. “They slept sitting up because it was superstitious to sleep lying down, which was the position of death. They drank a lot of wine. It was safer to drink the wine than the water.”

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We toured the rooms in Marksburg Castle.

We maneuvered up narrow staircases. Sasha told us that these slim passageways were built to slow the enemy so only one person could go up at a time. We toured a room filled with heavy armory from the different time periods. “Would anyone like to try on a helmet to test how heavy it is?” Sasha asked. My Lancelot’s head was too large to fit, so guess who offered hers? That helmet was really heavy!

Marks burg Castle; Germany; Rhine river; Viking River Cruise; castles; Rhineland Discovery

Guess who?

Sailing to Rudesheim
We spent a relaxing afternoon sailing along the Middle Rhine, one of Germany’s most scenic regions. According to Viking, “castles and wines take center stage, particularly along the Middle Rhine, brimming with remarkable beauty, history and culture.” L and I had a chance to partake in the best Rieslings during our dinner in Rüdesheim that evening. Continue reading

My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – Welcome to Kinderdijk and Cologne

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50After a fabulous five days on the “Rhineland Discovery” pre-trip to Bruges, Ghent, and Amsterdam, it was time to set sail aboard the Viking EIR (courtesy of Viking River Cruises).*

Welcome to Kinderdijk
By Saturday morning we arrived in Kinderdijk, a village community in the Dutch countryside, home to the largest concentration of windmills in The Netherlands. My boyfriend L and I were ready to go exploring.

“I’m very proud to have you in this area,” said our guide Hans as he led our group across the dike to the windmills. “There are 19 mills. Everything is automatic with computer systems. The pump stations do what the windmills used to do,” said Hans. “However, the windmills are in working condition if needed.”

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There are 19 windmills in Kinderdijk.

He told us about the millers, who live in the mills. “They must complete schooling to operate the mills. The millers have regular jobs and maintain the mills,” said Hans. After touring outside, we went inside, climbing up narrow ladders to reach each floor. It was amazing to think that centuries ago a family of 13 lived in such a tiny space.

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A very large family lived in the mill centuries ago.

Before leaving Kinderdijk, I bought a few delft blue china souvenirs and made L take a picture of me with my feet in the big wooden clogs nearby the gift shop.

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I had big shoes to fill.

Setting Sail For Germany
I spent the afternoon on deck while we cruised to Germany. The Rhine was just as the Viking brochure had described it, “bucolic waters, lush landscapes, Friesian cows, and tidy villages with their neatly laid farmhouses.” It was a very relaxing ride.

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Bucolic views on the Rhine.

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My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – A Lovely Last Day in Amsterdam

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It was hard to believe that almost a week had passed on our pre-trip on “Rhineland Discovery” (courtesy of Viking River Cruises). We had enjoyed our time in Bruges, our stop in Ghent, and our stay in Amsterdam.* Soon we would board the ship for our week-long river cruise on the Rhine.

“We have a few hours before we have to check out of the hotel,” I said to my boyfriend L. “I’m going to squeeze in another museum. Then we can grab lunch at De Bakkerswinkel cafe before we leave.” L packed while I spent the morning navigating my way to the museum area where the “i am amsterdam” sculpture stands tall.

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The “I am amsterdam” sculpture welcomes visitors to the Dutch capital.

There are so many fabulous sights and attractions to see in Amsterdam and I had 120 minutes to spare. I deliberated. Do I visit, as the Viking brochure says, “the remarkable light-infused building that venerates the short and productive career of tortured 19th-century artist Vincent Van Gogh?” Or do I go see the “lush paintings of Rembrandt and other Dutch masters that adorn the Rijksmuseum?”

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The Rijksmuseum houses the paintings of the Dutch masters.

A Visit To The Van Gogh Museum
I chose Van Gogh Museum and am so glad I did. I purchased my ticket in advance so I didn’t have to wait on line. (Note: I highly recommend you visit this museum when in Amsterdam and definitely buy your ticket online or in advance.) Continue reading

My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” — Adventures in Amsterdam

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50After two glorious days in Bruges, Belgium, it was time to leave for the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. The sun was shining as we boarded our bus during our pre-trip on “Rhineland Discovery” (courtesy of Viking River Cruises).*

“First, we’ll stop in Ghent, the second largest city in Belgium,” said our tour director Fred. “We’ll have a walking tour of the city, you’ll have a few hours to enjoy lunch, and then we’ll continue on a 3½ hour drive to Wyndham Apollo Amsterdam Hotel, your lodging for two nights before you embark on the Rhine.”

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We stopped in the university town of Ghent, Belgium, on our way to Amsterdam.

A Guided Tour of Ghent
“Ghent has 65,000 students. It’s a big university town,” said our guide Charline. She shared stories dating back to the 14th century as we walked the cobblestone streets and visited an old meat house, now a restaurant and bar, where hams were hanging to dry. She showed us special wood frames designed for Quack beer glasses. “After a few beers you see pink elephants,” said Charline.

Ghent; VIking River Cruises; boomer travel; travel and leisure

Our tour guide Charline showed us an old meat market, now a popular bar with Belgian beers.

Charline took us to the Cathedral where the Mystic Lamb is on display. We saw the replica and the original 12 panel altarpiece, which is currently being restored. If you ever saw Monuments Men with George Clooney, the artwork was one of the masterpieces captured by American soldiers after the Germans hid it during World War II (WWII).

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The Ghent Cathedral and copy of the Mystic Lamb masterpiece.

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My boyfriend L and I enjoyed our brief visit in Ghent.

Arriving in Amsterdam
My boyfriend L and I had never been to Amsterdam and were excited to explore what the guidebook said was a “city of charming canals, elegant gabled houses, splendid museums, and abundant bicycles.” I couldn’t wait to see and experience it all.

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A view of the Amstel canal from our hotel room.

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My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – First Stop Beautiful Bruges

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Our first stop for our pre-trip on “Rhineland Discovery” (courtesy of Viking River Cruises) was the beautiful medieval city of Bruges, Belgium. My boyfriend L and I spent time exploring on our own and with a Viking guide.*

The night before we left home we watched In Bruge, a comedic thriller with Colin Farrell. (Note: It was the movie that prompted me when I arrived in Bruges to attempt to climb the 346 spiral steps up to the top of the Belfort. I never made it to the top – I was too dizzy after the first 173 steps. I still gave myself an A+ for the awesome view halfway up and allowed myself a few extra pieces of chocolate for the calories I burned climbing.)

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The Belfort at night is breathtaking.

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My Travels On “Rhineland Discovery” – A Delight for the Senses

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50“We would like to see if you would be interested in beginning a conversation about a potential press trip in 2016,” said the Viking River Cruises PR team last December. “OMG, OMG, OMG!,” I said to my boyfriend L. “Last year’s “Portugal’s River of Gold” was amazing. How will we top that trip? And now Viking is inviting me on another river cruise.” My heart was pounding with excitement.*

Did I say I love being a blogger during my life after 50? I do. I do. Did I tell my boyfriend L how lucky he is to be my boyfriend during my life after 50? You bet! You bet!

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The “Rhineland Discovery” EIR Longship.

Which River Cruise Should We Choose?
“There are many wonderful river cruises where should we go?” I said to L. We narrowed our choices to “Cities of Light” with romantic Paris and medieval Prague on either end; “Romantic Danube” with stops in Budapest and Vienna; and “Rhineland Discovery,” with highlights of the legendary Rhine.

Can you guess which trip we chose?  Continue reading