Tag Archives: river cruise

I really don’t want to leave

I begged and pleaded but in the end they were very firm.  I had just spent an amazing week on Avalon River cruises and it was time to get off.  I tried every excuse under the sun

They wouldn’t accept any…. so I had to pack my bags and get off.

What a great vacation.  We flew into Amsterdam and had 3 nights in Leiden, a lovely little dormitory town filled with cobbled streets and canals.  While there we did a lot of sleeping (jet-lag) and went for some early morning runs (jet-lag).  We also had a wonderful private canal boat tour with beer, wine and snacks.  Now that’s the way.

Then on the train and into Paris for two nights.  Paris has had a bad rap lately and yes I did notice the heightened level of security which actually made me feel secure.   We must have walked 30 kms on the one day taking in the left bank, the Latin Quarter including a visit to Notre Dame to light a candle for my parents.  What a gorgeous church.

The river cruise on Avalon was exceptional and I loved my room – the new panorama style room with massive sliding doors.

But the best thing of all was the optional tour we took when back in Amsterdam from our cruise ship – a 20 km bike ride.  Now if you have been to Amsterdam you will know that everyone and his dog (literally) rides a bike.  In fact, the bike lanes are very crowded and the Dutch are proficient bike riders.  Ladies with skirts and high heels on their way to the office – really!

So here goes The Travel Lady – first of all I asked the cruise director to make sure they had bikes for short people.  At home here in Calgary I ride a kid’s dirt bike style – not that I want to become a stunt rider but one of our neighbours gave it away and I thought why not?  I have been dying to get into bike riding again.  After having taken a couple of good falls in Fish Creek Park I felt I was ready to go biking anywhere.

However, our cruise director on the Artistry II was no fool.  He gave us a lecture before we signed up for the bike tour.  “Now”, he said.  “You need to be sure you can actually ride a bike and spin classes don’t count.  In order to make sure there will be a short test ride along the canal in front of the ship.”   They are serious about this – in fact the City of Amsterdam even put together a rather funny video explaining to tourists the rules of the road –

Oh no!  Let’s not talk about pressure now.  You mean I have to get on a strange bike and ride in front of people.  Come on, Lesley, I said to myself.  You can do it.  Well it turns out that the Dutch bike was more of a town bike.  What some people would call a sit-up-and-beg bike compared to my squat lean-forward-and-grip bike.  I was a bit worried and very wobbly but somehow I passed the test and I am SO glad I did.  We cycled past the main train station and then took the ferry to the quieter Northern side of Amsterdam and spent a glorious few hours cycling past small villages, over wooden bridges, past sheep (which actually talked to us) and cows (one of which was woefully stuck in the small canal than ran adjacent to the field).  I have always thought that cows are some of the most intelligent creatures and this one’s mates were circled all around while she sat in the watery ditch up to her chest.  I could imagine them saying to her – “Come on Doris – how many times do you have to do this before you learn?”  And Doris would reply “Well I am not as bad as Bruce”


No coffee – no walkie or talkie

coffee intravenousCall me an addict if you like but I really need my morning cup of coffee to get me going.  The stronger the better.  My coffee of choice is a short Americano (got nothing against tall ones…. Americans that is) because I like the maximum punch for my money – lots of caffeine and not too much water.

That’s why it really, really makes me ugly mad when I am staying in a top class hotel with no coffee maker.  Where would this be?  Well Vegas is the biggest culprit of course.  There is rarely a coffee maker in a Vegas hotel.  The whole thing is to get you down to the lobby where you have to run the gauntlet of the slot machines in order to get to Starbucks.  Don’t they realise that if you could have had a cup of coffee in the room first you might be more inclined to drop a few coins on your way out of the hotel.  Don’t they also realise that if there is any city in the world where you are likely to desperately need a coffee in the morning it’s Vegas.

Another big culprit is the cruise line industry.  There is very seldom a coffee maker in the cabin.  (NCL suites have a Nespresso machine in the suites).

The Owner's Suite on NCL

The Owner’s Suite on NCL

You can however easily call room service for coffee in the room – and room service on the cruise lines is free, which is a bonus;  but don’t think you can just wander out and grab a latte or an Americano and not have to pay dearly for the privilege (unless you are sailing an all-inclusive cruise line such as Regent).  There are those who will bring their thermal “to go” mugs with them from home and nip upstairs to the Lido deck to fill up from one of the numerous coffee and tea stations.  Me – not so much.  Not really a fan of the thermal cups.  Somehow they always seem to be a bit grubby looking.The river cruise companies have a great alternative – a central coffee and tea area with modern coffee machines, cookies and early morning muffins.  Of course a river cruise vessel is a great deal smaller than some of these monster cruise lines so it is easy to provide a facility like this.  It’s easy to use as well.  After just a couple of days on my Rhine river cruise I got to feel so relaxed and at home that I would just throw on my robe in the morning and pad my way up to the lounge to grab a couple of coffees.  It really is as intimate as a small country B&B.

And honestly – I am not the only person out there addicted to coffee.  Even jolly old England has turned the corner and can provide a pretty decent cup of coffee Barry's teain its hotels and restaurants.  There’s really only one thing that can beat a good cup of coffee and that’s a steaming mug of Barry’s Irish tea.  Maybe it’s the water, maybe it’s because they warm the teapot beforehand or maybe it’s because they don’t use teabags but loose leaf tea.

Maybe I’m partial because I am partially Irish.  Weird!