Paddle Wheel Cruising Middle America

There are about a dozen different itineraries on paddle boats on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and other rivers.   Although we had enjoyed a trip on the Columbia and Snake Rivers a few years ago (see blog posts),  this is our first paddle wheel steamboat trip. IMG_1250 We started in Chattanooga Tennessee and will end in St Louis, Missouri.     We will have been on the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and traversed through Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri. The American Queen is a real Steamboat of the Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn style.    They dont make this type of steam engine anymore.   The engine in this ship was re-cycled from a ship that had been built in the 1930’s.    If there are breakdowns … there are no spare parts available …. so they make them.  (That actually happened on the cruise before this one … more adventure!) We got a little view of Chattanooga … what a great little city!    A great river walk, the world class Tennessee Aquarium,  cliffs and caves within the city limit … we can see why it’s a top rated place to live by several groups who rate that type of thing. IMG_1254 There was a transfer bus that we could have taken from the hotel to the ship, but we chose the city electric shuttle bus that comes by every 10 minutes … for free. Our first stop was in Florence Alabama.   The Cruise Line provided a Hop On, Hop Off tour of the city.  The most interesting thing to me was a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home that was open for touring.   As a builder, and a renovator, I was impressed with his use of the space and of light … but it would be horrible from an Energy perspective.    The flat roof construction techniques had built in problems that were virtually doomed to fail and when the city IMG_1281


Lots of bridges to pass under. Some drawbridges like this one for a railway. And many that are tall enough for us to get under … but only by lowering down those smokestacks and the wheelhouse.

purchased the home after about 40 years of age, in the 90’s, it required hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovation to repair water leaks and termite damage.    I’m believing that the new construction methods and materials in use today will fair better.   Good builders should design their buildings to last at least a century.

Each day the bus takes us on a land tour.

Each day the bus takes us on a land tour.


No docks required. The pilot can stop anywhere that there are two strong tree trunks. The draft is only 6 1/2 feet of water.

Because we have been traveling on so many European rivers recently, I am constantly comparing the differences between River Cruising in Europe and Steamboating the Rivers of America and will note some of those here.    First of all, the paddle wheeler boat is totally different.    Much larger.   Actually only about double the size.    Here we have an outside room that opens out onto a walkway,  rather than what they call a French Balcony, which is just a sliding glass door.   Unlike the European ships,  the paddle-wheeler needs no docking facilities.   It simply noses in to the bank and ties up to two trees and lowers it’s gangway.

Another difference is that the crew here is all American and speak “American” English.   On the European ships, English is spoken but it is a second language for most.

I would say the food is about equal … maybe a little better on the paddle wheeler and both seem better than on the big ocean cruise ships.    But in both cases you can ruin your diet!..    Last time I was in Europe, I gained 7 pounds.  And Luelle stayed the same!   I’m really proud of her.   She and Heather are doing a diet called Totally Healthy Mamas … or something like that.    We’ll see what happens this time.

Another feature of this cruise is the “RiverLorian” who is regularly giving talks about life on the river.   He is an experienced captain and has accumulated a lot of stories over several decades.

There are also other lecturers on board.   One history professor told us about the Manifest Destiny president,  Jimmy Polk.   He was an interesting, driven, introvert.   But he doubled the size of our country in his 4 year term … with the Louisiana Purchase from Mexico and the Oregon Territory dispute settled with Britain.     Another lecturer was the head diplomat of the Cherokee Nation.   He sat at our table and gave us a good view into the Cherokee way of life, both then and now.

The pilot usually turns the boat up-river to beach the bow into the bank and the stern is slightly out into the river.

The pilot usually turns the boat up-river to beach the bow into the bank and the stern is slightly out into the river.

Douro River, All The Way To Spain

The Douro River Valley and wine region is huge.   We sailed for most of three days and never stopped seeing terraced vineyards.

Here are some photos.


Vineyard Terraces used to all run with the elevation contour lines. Now with mechanization, they run any direction that maximizes the use of the land.

From the Black and White collection at the museum

From the Black and White collection at the museum


Crushing the grapes the old fashioned way.   The larger wineries have machines to do this, but many mid to small sized wineries still do it this way.

Crushing the grapes the old fashioned way. The larger wineries have machines to do this, but many mid to small sized wineries still do it this way.


Going thru the locks.  The ships are built as wide and long as the locks will allow with about a foot of clearance on each side.

Going thru the locks. The ships are built as wide and long as the locks will allow with about a foot of clearance on each side.



Click HERE to go under this bridge with us




Slate and Schist rock formation.  The slate which breaks up and allows the water and roots of the grapevines.  The rain from the 9 wet months goes down through broken plates of slate and stores in intermediary layers of soil.   Then during the dry summer the water is fed slowly up through the roots up to 100 feet deep.

Slate and Schist rock formation. The slate cracks, either naturally or helped along with dynamite, and allows the water and roots of the grapevines to go to tremendous depths. The rain from the 9 wet months goes down through broken plates of slate and stores in intermediary layers of soil. Then during the dry summer the water is fed slowly up through the roots to the vines as much as a hundred feet above.



Slate "boards" that look like wood but really are stone.

Slate “boards” that look like wood but really are stone.



The wineries like to host dinner parties. We went to this one.



Returning to the ship after the dinner party.



2 Palaces Around Lisbon

Today we toured two castles and the coastline around Lisbon.    The Castles were a study in contrasts.  One was a summer castle, the other was year round.   One was build four hundred years earlier than the other … and one had a much warmer feel than the other.   In the process we learned a lot about the Portuguese royalty &   royalty in general … not something we are familiar with in America.     Here are photos of the two castles.


The Queluz Palace was used by the royal family until the end of the monarchy. It is still used for government functions and can be rented for weddings or corporate events. The interior was inspired by the French castle of Versailles and was actually designed by the same designer.



The Sintra Palace was built 400 years earlier. It is about 20 miles outside of Lisbon at about 1800 feet elevation in a micro-climate that makes it an ideal summer retreat from the heat. It was also used as an escape from the plagues that went through Europe in the middle ages. The floors & ceilings are wood which gives the warmer feeling of this palace compared to the marble and plaster and tile of the Queluz Palace.



Another shot of the dining room of the Sintra summer palace. I could see having a meal there. Could you? (That’s not a sit down table. It’s a buffet table and otherwise used for displaying objects) (Note: Most of the furniture was gone from both of these castles. When Napoleon was invading the country, the royal family left to Brazil for 14 years, until things cooled down … taking a lot of the furniture with them. Napoleon took the rest.



The Kitchen of the Sintra Palace. Here two complete cows could be roasted. Coals from the fireplaces would be placed under the super sized skewers and turned until done. The Palace and the town have recently been named a UN World Heritage Site.


Since today was a day of comparisons, here is another comparison that was new to us.   The difference between a Caravelle and a Galleon.   They both had specific jobs to do.   Here are some photos from the hand paintings on the walls of the Sintra Palace



Caravelles had 3 masts and 3 triangular sails and a crew of about 30 men. They were very maneuverable and were easy to sail. They were the main tool of the explorer and did most of the first exploration work such as down the coasts of Africa to the Cape of Good Hope and around Cape Horn and up around South America. These were not treasure ships, but were often used to protect Treasure Ships.



Galleons were the “Treasure Ships” that were loaded down with silk, spices, jewels, gold and silver from the New World that were such choice targets of pirates. These ships had square sails and were much larger and required a larger crew of over 100. They were armed with cannons but were not very maneuverable. That’s why they were usually accompanied by Caravelles and travelled in convoys.
A modern comparison would be: Caravelles were pick up trucks … Galleons were the 18 Wheelers that really carried the cargo.



Sofia, our guide, today was knowledgeable and very expressive. The guides have all been very good and really make the tours worthwhile. There is no way we could have learned all that she told us through a tour book.



Is there anything that cant be made out of cork? Probably not. With the modern methods of veneering … very thin layers of cork (a few thousandths of an inch) can be laminated onto hard or soft surfaces. So just about anything that can be made can have a layer of cork applied to it … and get a whole new fashionable look. These are in the shops in Sintra.


Cabo da Roca is the furthest west part of Europe. It also happens to be at the same lattitude as Washington DC. It is on the coast on the way back from Sintra to Lisbon



Maintenance is a problem when you have a lot of 200 to 1200 year old castles and palaces to preserve and show to the public. This photo looks like it might be on a shack in backwoods Appalachia. But it’s on the National Palace. And there are a hundred more doors and 400 more windows in need of the same kind of work. This is where austerity demanded by the bailouts has cut the renovation budget to just about zero.



Lisboners may not have the budget to repair their castles … but they know how to go to the beach! This is fairly cold water (Atlantic) at the mouth of the Tagus River. Most people are just sun bathing, with the kids and some brave should out in the water.


We lunched in Sintra. This was a dish for two with prawns and monkfish in a soup with rice on the side. Excellent. I dont know if dunking that bread in the soup would have been acceptable at a royal banquet but I didn’t see any culture police … and it sure was good!

Lisbon, Portugal


The Belem Tower guards the city of Lisbon at the mouth of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean. It looks well situated but has never been used as all invasions have come by land.

This time Luelle has put together two cruises and some land excursions … it’ll be a long time away from Hero and the Girls (chickens) and the fish, and the GrandBabies …  But we have a good team back home, so no worries.

The first cruise is with Uniworld on Portugal’s Duro River and we have three days in Lisbon before we board the ship.   After the Duro cruise we have 2 days to get ourselves to Seville, Spain to embark on a tour of the western Mediteranean with Azamara.   We haven’t decided how we’ll get to Seville,  maybe train, maybe rent a car, but I’ll write about each segment as we go.


The bridge connects the sides of the Tagus River and was patterned after the Golden Gate Bridge. The statue was patterned after the famous overlooking Rio de Janiero.





I was interested in seeing Portugal.   The history of course, and the fact that we’ve not been here before.   And our grand babies are 3/8ths Portugese.  But I wanted to see for myself the Portugese people and the economy that has been in the news for having received 3 European Union bailouts and is in a strict austerity payback mode.

Fortunately, Pilar, our tour guide and Uniworld Host is a wealth of information and holds nothing back.   She has lived here all her life and has lived thru all the turbulence.   Actually, you have to look deep or have someone point out the Austerity.   There are still nice cars on the streets and lots of well dressed people walking around and shopping malls with all the same stores we have in the US.

These streets are well over 1000 years old in the old town of Lisbon.   There are open air markets, fish that was caught this morning, etc.  Cars wont fit.   No building codes either.

These streets are well over 1000 years old in the old town of Lisbon. There are open air markets, fish that was caught this morning, etc. Cars wont fit. No building codes either.

Digging deeper, we find that unemployment has gone from 4 to 18%.  To pay back the bail outs, Sales tax has been raised to 33% and Income tax to 52%.   These measures are causing businesses to close or leave … which compounds the inability to pay back the bail out loans.

So the situation here in Portugal is worse than in Ireland, but not as bad as Greece.  (The big 3 of the EU bail-outs)    Many young professionals have left the country to find work in the former Portugese speaking colonies,  Algeria,  Mozambique,  Brazil.   It’s been in the news, but its interesting to see it – boots on the ground.

Here are some of the things we learned on the first tour this morning and some of the sights.

Lisbon is 2.5 million population counting the suburbs.   It has a 3000 year history starting with colonization by the Greeks folllowed by the Romans, Muslims, Moors & Barbarians. About 400 years ago Spain unified the rest of the Iberian Peninsula and wanted Portugal to be part of Spain.   Portugal said No and it’s been testy between the two ever since.

Henry the Navigator was the architect of the Portugese expansion.  Portugal and Spain asked the Pope to mediate the division of the New World … since there was no UN at the time.    A line was drawn that gave Portugal Brazil and parts east, including Africa, and Spain the territory west of Brazil,   the rest of South, Central and North America.

This cable car #28 is famous, for among other things ... getting pick pocketed.   Pilar said that sometimes there are more pick pockets on the trolley than tourists.

This cable car #28 is famous, for among other things … getting pick pocketed. Pilar said that sometimes there are more pick pockets on the trolley than tourists.

The colonies of Brazil, Algeria and Mozambique kept providing wealth to Portugal for several hundred years.   But then Algeria and Mozambique wanted independence … So  the “Colonial War” was fought from 1961 to 1973.     Portugal was doomef from the beginning since Algeria is 10 times the size of Portugal. Salazar, the dictator at the time, refused to let the colonies go and hundreds of thousands of lives were lost.   The heavy debt left over from that war plus the loss of many of the best and the brightest and  the colonial income was the beginning of the current financial crisis.

With Wealth no longer coming in from the colonies, Portugal was not prepared for the competitive World of the late 20th & 21st century.    Pilar said the current debt crisis started with the war and then had two additional causes:

The Tiara Hotel where we stayed.   As modern and 5 star as any.   No austerity visible here.

The Tiara Hotel where we stayed. As modern and 5 star as any. No austerity visible here.

  1. Foolish spending by the government.   (buying submarines when they have very little navy)
  2. Mandated spending by the EU to do things to keep consistent with EU countries.

Tomorrow we’ll see some countryside around Lisbon and see another perspective.

This is a photo of Mars.   It was in a display on the wall in Dulles Airport as we were leaving.    (Since you and I paid for it, the expedition and the photo and the airport) ... I thought I would share it here.   I think I may use it for desktop wallpaper ???

This is a photo of Mars. It was in a display on the wall in Dulles Airport as we were leaving. (Since you and I paid for it, the expedition and the photo and the airport) … I thought I would share it here. I think I may use it for desktop wallpaper ???

Avalon Single Supplement Savings

Click here to email Luelle Robinson or call (866) 350-6254


Typically regarded as the bane of solo cruisers and travelers, single supplements normally range from 120 percent to 200 percent, depending on stateroom and itinerary. This means that a traveler cruising solo would typically have to pay near double-occupancy price. But with this latest deal from Avalon Waterways, solo travelers can get in on the river cruise of their dreams without breaking the bank.














This offer applies to bookings made before April 23, 2013 on select itineraries. Below are just a few of the voyages and departure dates applicable to this great deal:

  • Blue Danube Discovery – Budapest to Nuremberg: June 15; July 21; August 24; October 27; November 2, 2013.
  • Blue Danube Discovery – Nuremberg to Budapest: June 22; October 23, 2013.
  • Capitals of Central Europe – Budapest to Passau: August 1, 2013.
  • Capitals of Central Europe – Passau to Budapest: October 20, 2013
  • Capitals of Central Europe – Prague to Budapest: October 18, 2013
  • Tulip Time Cruise – Amsterdam roundtrip: May 12, 2013.
  • Paris & Normandy’s Landing Beaches – Paris roundtrip: June 11, 2013.
  • Tulips of Northern Holland – Amsterdam roundtrip: April 14, 2013
  • Balkan Discovery – Bucharest to Budapest: June 9; July 14; August 18; October 27, 2013.
  • Austrian Highlights & Bavaria – Vienna to Munich: October 14, 2013.
  • The Legendary Danube – Prague to Budapest: June 19; October 20, 2013.







Hall Of Terror: A “Must See” for Communist Sympathizers

We had already been on the included tour so Luelle and I went on Missions in Budapest.  She to find a Thai massage,  Me to find the Apple store and go thru the Hall of Terror, the museum of Nazi and Communist terror.

The Hall of Terror had been used by the Nazis until their defeat in WWII. Then the USSR took over the building and continued the Terror. The museum shows the techniques and victims of both totalitarian regimes.

The Thai massage was great … as was the Apple store, which had what I wanted and looked a lot like the Apple stores I go to in  Fresno and Reston.

The Hall of Terror wasn’t nice or like anything I had seen.   It turns out that it was only a few blocks further down Andrassy Avenue from the Apple store.   It is a memorial to all the victims of the Nazi and Communist secret services which opperated out of this building.

A tank is displayed in front of the wall of faces. The display starts on the second floor and descends into the basement.

Thousands were interogated, tortured, and killed or sent to concentration camps from this center.

Names and photos of victims are on display as well as renovated torture cells and command offices and hundreds of photos and live TV footage.    Mock trials with people being sentenced to death and huge parades with adulation of the leaders, etc.

I noticed two categories of tourists with reactions at opposite ends of the spectrum:

There were groups of students who were on a field trip with their class mates.   This group seemed like they were on any other field trip: chatting with each other, etc.

Then there were people who were searching for a relative on that wall of faces.   They were somber and some had tears streaming down their faces.

A torture cell, complete with whips. Other rooms had electrical connections and waffle iron like devices for extracting confessions and information

Of course there was also the largest group of all, the 99% who will never visit a memorial like this … and therefore miss the message that screams out … to those who can hear.

The Nazi’s had used this building on the prestigious Andrassy St for their interrogation and torture headquarters.   Thousands of Jews were rounded up, processed and sent to death camps from here.

When the Nazis were defeated, Hungary was considered a loser because they had originally supported Hitler. USSR was on the winning side in WWII, so they were chosen to take over the administration of Hungary.   The building on Andrassy St suited them perfectly so they continued on with the same torture and interrogation and terror that the Nazis had used.

Propaganda posters depicting happy and wealthy communists

They added a huge Big Brother watching system where informants were encouraged to turn in their friends and neighbors for the slightest word against the Communist regime.   By the time it was over, one family out of every three had a victim of the Nazi and Communist Torture Machine.


On the plane over here, I read in the USA Today about some Greeks who are unhappy with the austerity measures needed in their country.

Live footage of this Hungarian being sentenced to death after his "show trial" complete with false witnesses and a pre-determined outcome.

One interviewees reaction was to leave the Socialist Party in favor of the Communist Party.   Ugh!!   Will we never learn from history?    Actually we do learn …That the only thing we learn from history is that we dont learn from history.

This sculpture is at the end of the Hall of Terror. The viewer is left to make their own conclusions.

But for anyone who wants to hear it, the message is loud and clear about the results of these types of totalitarian governments.




Was she just posing?

The rest of my DIY tour was happier. The Apple Store is always a happy place... only a few blocks down Andrassy Street from the Hall of Terror.

Tito And The Yugoslavian Experiment

Tito was perhaps the most benevelent dictator, I’ve heard of so far.   The people seem to really love him.    He was a womanizer and ruled with an iron hand,

Joseph Broz "Tito" Tito was the nickname of Joseph Broz. It is a derivative of the Roman -Latin, Titus

but it seems he had the people’s interest in mind more than his colleagues in neigboring countries.  (Like Romania, who overthrew their dictator in 1989 and executed him a week later.   You can see the trial and execution of Nicolai and Elena Coscesciu on You Tube.)

Tito, on the other hand, lived out his days in luxury and is loved by his people.  Curious.   He was a consumate politician,  standing up against USSR and weaving amongst western heads of state, always with the Slavic cause in mind.

We learned that he absorbed over 100 Billion in aid from the US over the years.   The reason for such a high investment was to provide a buffer between USSR and Western Europe.   Our guide told a story of Tito riding with a driver who came to an intersection and asked if he should turn right or left.   To which Tito responded,  Signal left and turn right.   Chuckles.    But maybe the story is instructive about how Tito and Yugoslavia thrived in the Cold War World.

One of his hallmarks was his baton carrying youth brigade.   Like Olympic torch carriers, the youth would carry lighted torches from town to town … carrying the message of Yugoslav National Identity.

Batons were carried all across Yugoslavia proclaiming unity. It was a masterful rallying campaign and kept disparate parties together throughout Tito's lifetime.

This was to rebuild the identity that had been pieced and parcelled by the Turks and the Hapsburgs over previous centuries.    His funeral was the 3rd largest funeral of a national leader of the entire century.

His efforts to hold together the state of Yugoslavia ultimately failed and the tension of the different people groups became the recent war in Kosovo.   Our guides didn’t really acknowledge a cause or a perpetrator.

The King and Queen have just come back from many years of exile and re-claimed their palace. They are figurehead and diplomatic rulers only, hosting parties and administrating charities, etc. Luelle got their autographs!

Several have been tried and sentenced for war crimes for their parts.  You can google it for various explanations.

Along The Danube, Duernstein, Melk, Linz, Salzburg …..

Various Notes:

Sacher Torte

A chocolate cake invented by Franz Sacher for Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, a famous Austrian policitian in Vienna, Austria.  In 1887, 200-400 were baked a day at Hotel Sacher for Berlin, Paris and London.  These days, 12 Pastry Chefs make 500-600 per day and as many as 3000 around Christmas.

The Torte consists of two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate dough with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing on the sides and top.  It is traditionally eaten with whipped cream, as most Viennese consider the torte too dry to be eaten without.  The trademark for Original Sacher Torte was registered by Hotel Sacher, built in 1876 by the son on Franz Sacher.  The recipe is a well-kept secret (reputedly four different chocolates).

Until 1965 there was a long legal battle with pastry shop Demel who also produced Original Sacher Torte.  There are a number of tales as to how Demel got the recipe, spying cooks, etc.  Now Demel Sacher Torte also has jam under the chocolate icing.

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (Kunsthistorisches Museum)

The Museum of Fine Arts was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family.  With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world.  Numerous major art works of European art history, among them Raphael’s “Madonna in the Meadow,” Vermeer’s “The Allegory of Painting” the infants painting by Velazquez, masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Durer, Titian and Tintoretto are housed in the paintings gallery.


The historial exhibition of the Museum takes an unusual approach.  The complex history of Jewish Vienna is recounted not through physical objects in showcases but by means of 21 holograms that visualize its crucial phases: from the medieval community to the first expulsion, from the ghetto to the integration into bourgeois society, from the Shoah to the present time.  21 glass plates reproduce excavated relics and models of synagogues, ritual objects and everyday items, clothes and furniture, pictures and films, busts, the Giant Wheel and many other things in an intangible three-dimensional form.


The Wachau Valley is indeed winemaking country par excellence.  The region blooms during the apricot season in the Springtime and this is a wonderful time to visit.  But anytims is the perfect time to savor the wonderful wines from this most delightful regions.  As one of the most treasured of Austrias winegrowing areas, the Wachau produces some of the best white wines in Austria, including world-class Rieslings and some of the best Gruner Veltliners you will ever taste.  Not only are the wines sublime, but the countryside is beautiful with apricot orchards and steep terraced vineyards on both sides of the river melting harmoniously into medieval villages, with the Danube itself providing a majestic backdrop to the beauty of the region.


Krems is a small town of approximately 25,000 residents and is said to be the end of the Wachau Valley.  `(to be cont’d)


Budapest, Hungary to Vilshofen, Germany … Up The Creek … What Do You Do When The River Is Too Low?

It was a nice flight to Frankfurt, and then in to Budapest.    AMA’s gracious staff met us with the bad? news … The Danube was too low and getting lower and the ship had to leave Budapest to get out before it was stranded.    We had the opposite circumstance last time we were here … it was June … when the ship had to leave because the water was too high and the ships couldn’t get under the bridge.

The Hungarian Legislature ... Across the Danube, from our hotel room.

What’s a traveler to do?   Well AMA didn’t flinch … they checked us in to the Sofitel hotel right across the river from the Hungarian legislature … you know, the photo that is most connected with Hungary … it’s right outside our hotel window!

After a nap to wipe out the overnight flight and the jet lag, we had an excellent dinner and our host introduced Rudy, the president of AMA, who reminded us that this is a “Wine Cruise” and we will be touring vineyards and sampling some of the best wines on the planet.    Rudy then introduced two wine specialists who will be lecturing, guiding and tasting along our way.  One of the topics is a face-off between Austrian and German wines.   Of course the comparison to Napa wines is always in the background.     It’s nice to have a mission and a focus!

Hungarian Folk Serenade

The company was delightful, the Hungarian folk music was romantic and some of our table mates really knew a lot about wine!   The Christmas Markets were closing down as we got there … but Luelle assures me, we’ll have time to check them out tomorrow after the city tour and before we head for Vienna to catch our ship.  We’ll see.

So what to do when the river is too low?   So far, the AMA staff has done a great job of making lemonade from the lemons caused by the previous 6 weeks of no rain.    Stay tuned.

Here are the rest of the photos of Budapest from this trip.   Click on any thumbnail to enlarge it … then use arrows or arrow keys … or you can view them all as a slideshow.     Let me know if you have trouble viewing …  Dave Robinson      

Christmas Markets On The Danube #1

Wow!    Here I Am In Europe Again!

… This time for the “Christmas Market” cruise on the Danube River and Danube Canal.   (These rivers and canals in Europe are like the freeway system in the US … they go just about anywhere.

We left our new home in Round Hill, Virginia today and believe it or not, it’s a little bit warmer HERE in Vienna, Austria.   They say it is unusually cold in the 20’s in Virginia and it’s in the high 30’s with the snow melting here…  Dave says, “that’s what coats are for.”

I’m actually in Europe quite a bit … Dave and I really love cruising on these rivers and seeing all the history close-up.   But it seems like a long time since our last cruise this summer, which was also on the Danube, from Passau to  Budapest.   Moving from California to Virginia to “follow the grandbabies” … moving into a new house and … getting unpacked.   I dont know  how I found time to send 234 people on River Cruises this year … but if you love it, it’s not work!

Doug and Noah (grandbaby #1) took us to the Dulles airport for our 6pm flight, a “red-eye”   We knew we were 5 hours closer to Europe since our cross country move so I thought we would try Coach for the 7 hour flight.   Dave did better than I did …  I’m “jet-lagging.”   I’m recommending Business Class on flights to Europe,  especially if you have frequent flyer miles.

The Wannabe Winter snowman greeted us.

The Avalon people picked us up like clockwork and whisked us off to the Intercontinental Hotel in a nice new Mercedes Benz … and we had a couple of hours to see downtown Vienna and try some of the famous coffee and cafes.

Then we were off to our ship and that’s where I am now … recovering from my travels and getting ready for a week of Christmas on the Danube … See you tomorrow!

An outdoor rink on Ring Avenue, Vienna's first road around the Centrum.

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