Cruising up The Rhine towards Basel

Claire & Lar – my new Irish pals

Cologne

Moored in Cologne but didn’t see much of the city as had opted to go visit Drachenburg Castle, Access via an old and quaint rack railway. The castle was a bit 19th century repro and very limited access as they were preparing for a movie shoot. Trussing, lights and tripods all over the place. A tour guide who didn’t draw breath on the bus. Another 10 minutes of his psycho babble and I might have had to intervene!!! Cologne and it’s cathedral will have to wait until next year’s trip down The Danube.

Koblenz

A trip to Cochem down the very scenic Moselle River. Very steep vineyards. Great views of the river from Reischburg Castle. Still a bit repro but some old & original bits.

Back on board for lunch and then an afternoon cruising the Romantic Rhine passing a multitude of castles and ruins.

One of the highlights was supposedly Lorelei – many legends about damsel and mermaids luring sailors onto the rocks (The Neiberlungen etc). Basically just a large rocky promentory and somewhat of an anticlimax

Lorelei………

Heidelberg

A coach bound orientation tour of Heidelberg – one of the oldest University towns in Europe. Followed by a wander around the old town and cathedral etc

After a very early dinner the vast majority went off in all their finery for a Classical “concert” in a very smart Schloss. I opted out as one coach ride a day with babbling Americans is enough for me. Apparently the Schloss was very grand but the Concert wasn’t!!

Baden Baden

A walking tour of Baden Baden – a famous old spa town dating from Roman times. Now a hangout for wealthy celebs and oligarchs etc. Managed to stumble across a Faberge museum. Only one original egg but a fine collection of other jewelled masterpieces. A very fine slab of Black Forest Gateaux – massive but couldn’t resist!!

A lock or two on our way up river to Strasbourg – or at least the mooring that would be close to Strasbourg. At this point the river acts as the Franco/German border so France on the right and Germany on the left.

Strasbourg

Coach ride to Strasbourg – Pretty dull until we got into the old town – which was fabulous and very picturesque…

A gobsmacking Cathedral. Unfortunately being Sunday we could not get inside, so interior shots are again courtesy of the Internet. Managed to find an excellent museum and a charming French girl who gave me a private tour of the archives with original 12th century plans and “blueprints” etc. How they managed without Autocad is a mystery…. – No photos allowed unfortunately

A statue of Albert Swietzer and an obligatory dog shot

Basel and the start of my Swiss railway adventure

Docked outside Basel and turfed of the ship at dawn – a few fond fairwells with Claire and Lar and a very nice Mexican couple but glad to see the back of the noisy US and Canadian contingents!!

Very efficient and painless transfer to hotel and early checkin. So have updated this post and will publish while I have excellent WiFi access.

A wander around old Basel planned for this afternoon before a train to Zurich tomorrow morning and the start of my Swiss railway and mountain adventure. Bracing myself for Snow and ice and maybe for shopping for thermals etc.

More later….. R

To soggy Amsterdam by train via Paris then Scenic Opal for a spot of Rhine cruising

Very comfortable train ride from Bordeaux to Paris Montparnasse. Horrendous queue for Taxis due to rain. Made it across Paris just in time for connecting train to Amsterdam. My trusty Tumi suitcase shed a wheel at Gare du Nord so Sunday morning involved buying new suitcase and a repack. Pissing down with rain but did some sightseeing and a long walk to Rijksmuseum for lunch and an overdose of Rembrants etc.

The Night Watch undergoing some major high tech restoration to restore it to its former glory and replace some of the bits that were trimmed off to allow it to fit though the door back in the old days.

One of the problems with Amsterdam and Sat nav is there is always a canal between you and where you need to go. Major protest march going on – 10s of thousands of angry stoned Dutch people clogging (No pun Intended) the streets marching and singing “Brick 2” or “We don’t need no Education” to most of you. Very surreal!!!! And the whole city stinks of weed!!!

Back to the hotel and after some research found an excellent Indonesian restaurant for dinner.

Checked in and embarked onto Scenic Opal – Home for the next week as we cruise down the Rhine to Basel. Dropped off my bags and went walkabout before meeting my fellow tavellers. 48 on board – mainly Americans & Canadians. I am the only Brit on board so targeted, bonded & dined with an Irish couple as we are seriously outnumbered here

Dropped by the main/old cathedral. Not a crucifix, miserable Mary or bleeding saint in site. Then that’s Protestants for you!!! No gilt/guilt overload either!!!

Amsterdam coach and canal cruise the next morning before heading upstream to Cologne and beyond.

Headed out of Amsterdam through a rainbow for overnight sailing to Cologne

Then through our first lock – the first of several I expect….. A tight squeeze with other boats and barges

Coming up next Cologne and the first of many castles etc…..

“Beautiful Bordeaux” and a week of Villages, Chateaux, & obligatory wine tastings

Not a lot of long distance cruising involved here as I don’t think that we have ever been more than 60km from Bordeaux. However a thorough exploration of the lower reaches of the Dordogne & Garonne rivers and the Gironde Estuary into which they flow. I have teamed up with two charming “old school” English couples for dining and excursions etc.

Johnny & Sarah, Brian & Carole and Moi

The next few days involved visits to various Villages and Chateaux. Photos may be a bit muddled but you should get the general idea. Medieval Villages, Miles of grapes on vines (harvest about to start), Grapes into vats for fermentation, then into barrels for aging and bottles for drinking. Some of the finest “brands” in the Medoc and Sauterne regions including Chateaux Laffite Rothes child, St Emilion, Chateau d’Yquem etc. You get the idea….

A visit to Roquetaillade – an amazing castle which has been lived in by the same family for over 700 years. Our guide was a very informative and wise cracking Brit in a beret. When I asked him what a “Brit in Beret” was doing as a tour guide in a French Chateau I got a somewhat evasive answer about the Brits having been in the area for centuries. Later learned that he was the owner and descended from when We ran the region! Whoops……..

A day trip to Arcachon where the oysters come from. A huge lagoon between the Gironde and the Atlantic. A great market. Only saw a bit of the old town which must have been spectacular in the 1920s & 30s. A few fragments remain but now a seafront of rather tired 70s apartment blocks. Spectacular beach and some interesting “art”.

Back to Bordeaux for a couple of days. A long solo walk around the city covering numerous, churches, Roman ruins, museums and medieval bits.

Then back to the Dordogne for more villages and Citadel. All designed and built to stop the Brits sneaking up the river to steal back Bordeaux who had occupied and ruled it (along with most of Aquitaine and Western France from the 12th to the 15th century – 100 Years War and all that…

Then back into Bordeaux for disembarkation and train to Amsterdam via Paris. A “day off” in Amsterdam before joining an 8 day Scenic cruise down the Rhine, Train tour of Switzerland and then home and reunion with the diggits. More of all that in the next posting…….R

Cruising up the Dordogne with visits to St Emilion, Libourne and the Medoc region.

We left Bordeaux – slight delay as our captain anxiously awaited the very late arrival of the French pilot – required because the Gironde is tidal and we had a low bridge to contend with (more tidal stuff later) and sailed up the Dordogne to moor at Libourne from where we visited St Emilion.

St Emilion a real gem and thankfully not swamped with tourists. Apart from countless more wine sources and shops, it includes a cathedral (very ancient and hewn out of the limestone cliff. Too dark (and strictly forbidden) to take photos. Only problem is a huge tower/spire which was a late addition and threatens to bring the whole lot crashing down. So there is much subterranean concrete and steel being installed.

Lots of nooks and crannies and hidden cloisters all designed to convince you to consume and purchase their fine wines

Meanwhile the kids seem to be fine at Posh Pets. Also what was nearly the most expensive “selfie” ever as I whisked of my mask and an Airpod went flying!!!! Fortunately one of my fellow travellers spotted it on the edge of the precepice so crisis averted!!!

Next morning went on a walking tour of Libourne. I was the only participant so had my own private guide. Everyone else has opted for yet another wine tasting!!

Next a cruise out of the Dordogne, past numerous Chateaux and a soggy tour of the Medoc region in the rain – they don’t call it Aquitaine for nothing. Some of my fellow geriatrics/travellers and places seen along the way….

Back to the mooring at Fort Medoc: now somewhat overgrown but one of three forts across the Gironde to stop the Brits sneaking up river and taking back Bordeaux

We have to keep manoeuvring to avoid getting swamped by the twice daily Gironde equivalent of the Severn Bore (Le Mascaret). A tidal phenomenon which comes roaring up river twice daily complete with surfers and kayaks etc

Keeps the captain and crew on their toes!!! Full moon and all that!!!

Everyone else buggered off to yet another Chateaux for more wine tasting and a Classical concert – dressed in all their finery. I opted to stay on board to take advantage of liberated WiFi as we cruise back to Bordeaux where they will rejoin the ship. Tomorrow off to Cadillac and more Chateaux..

At last – back on a river again!!!

House all closed up and The Gang off to Summer Camp – They fall for it everytime!!

All settled in at Posh Pets – Their Home away from Home and where Daisy did 6 weeks of rehab earlier this year after her knee reconstruction.

Great flights from Malaga to Bordeaux via Paris with Air France who have been brilliant throughout the past 18 months of cancellations and postponements. Turkish Airlines and Expedia still on my serious Shit list after 18 months of body swerving and no refunds etc. Avoid them at all costs!!!

Nice hotel overnight in Bordeaux before boarding the Scenic Diamond – my home for the next 11 days – so time for a wander around the city and some sight-seeing etc