The sun goes down on our first week of cruising

During our first week of cruising I decided to take some time away the blog and spend time just
soaking up the views enjoying the food and some great company.

What can I say this cruise so far has been everything and more than I expected and we are looking

forward to another week of luxurious relaxation.

We set off from Amsterdam last Saturday during lunch after doing the fantastic Schanns Windmill tour on Friday before boarding for our first amazing dinner and then a canal tour around Amsterdam.

By dinner we were sailing through the beautiful Dutch countryside and looking forward to arriving in Cologne tomorrow

The add poles and aluminium sheet
to the required height
Levi bank Cologne

Our first off ship walking tour through Cologne was interesting although Cologne was full of history it was also not as clean and attractive as most German cities. The highlights were the Cathedral and purchasing some cologne the original and much copied around the world cologne.

Corner cleaned for Pope’s visit
600 years to build

They having been making in same spot since Farina settled in Cologne, Germany in the year 1709 where he founded Farina gegenüber, the world’s oldest perfume factory still in existence. His subtle fragrance Eau de Cologne became rapidly famous worldwide and in the 18th century was an indispensable accessory at all royal courts and Napoleon used this exact cologne instead of taking baths.

Back on board is was time to settle in for evening and another fine dining experience. The food just keeps coming and along with the wine and the walking sleep came easy every night.

Our next stop was at Rüdesheim am Rhein where took another half day walking tour and visited Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett An amazing collection of lovingly restored mechanical music machines.

You’ll be mesmerised by the self playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

The next couple days we stayed on board and spent time on deck watching castle after castle, both sides of the river, Tony our cruise director gave a great commentary filled with lots of historical facts and figures.

Our local guide

After a couple days off it was back off the cruise for another walking tour of Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia, Northern Bavaria, Germany. 

Located on the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia..

The next stop and walking tour was in Nuremberg, a city in Bavaria, is distinguished by its medieval architecture, including the fortifications and stone towers of its Altstadt (Old Town). 
At the northern edge of the Altstadt, surrounded by red-roofed buildings, stands Kaiserburg Castle. 

Both these places were very pleasant to wander around and especially Nuremberg which still has all the original city walls from medieval times

Our first week closed with a glimpse of yet another castle just as the sun was setting. 

Looking forward to week two although low water in the Danube may change things around a bit.

Whatever happens I know it will be another restful, memorable and enjoyable week.

A week in review movie (coming soon)

Train to Amsterdam and exploring the countyside

Our time had come to an end in London, our check in for train to Amsterdam with a change in Brussels before arriving in Amsterdam around 4 pm.

The Eurostar and Thalys …

Breakfast on board Eurostar
Getting through security took a while with having to pass through British and then French border
control with 100s of other train travellers. It was easy to make our way through just took time which we had plenty of. We boarded our carriage and settled back for the 2 hour ride to Brussels where we changed train with ease and settle back for the next two hours. 
Train travel is the best way to get around over here. I just love it!!!
We arrive at Centrale Amsterdam right on time, it was raining so we decided on a cab for the short distance to our hotel the Ibis Styles hotel. We had a great room on the 3rd floor overlooking the street which was full of activity.
Dinner was the next thing on our minds and given that we’re travelling to South America early next year we decided on Argentine Steak house, and a great choice it was at that.

Amsterdam and surrounds…

Up early the next morning we set off to work out the local buses for a day trip to Edam Volendam and Marken.  
The buses were easy to find on the other side of the central station we purchases a day pass for 10 euros and we jumped aboard the 316 heading to Edam. 
My second visit here and just as pretty and peaceful as the first. After walking around for about an hour we boarded the 316 back to Volendam to wander along the waterfront, cod and chips and two tall cold Heinekens.  
After lunch it was on the ferry to glide across to Marken another picturesque peaceful little village before returning to Amsterdam in time take a walk through the red light district before dinner which turned out to be italian incidentally owned by same guy and right next door to the steak house. 
It was equally as good and we really enjoyed good food, service and beautiful setting.
Day two in Amsterdam we decided to just walk and explore all the
districts we could including the floating flower market and some of the main shopping areas. I think we walked just under 10kms for the day before heading back to change hotels ready for the cruise tomorrow. 
Tomorrow the next phase of our trip begins,,, Avalon Cruises here we come

The final hours before flying home

The Swistotel was a lovely hotel to stay in and they were gracious enough to allow us to check in early.  

The Swissotel Amsterdam is a four-star luxury boutique hotel located by


Dam Square, in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic city centre and a short walk from Amsterdam Central Station. The hotel is surrounded by shops, museums and restaurants and is a 20-minute drive from Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport.

We wandered around for the afternoon. We had very little for dinner as we both felt that we eaten enough in last seven days to last us for a good while.  

Our final day in Amsterdam we decided to do the red hop on hop off  tour to give this great place a final look over before boarding sour long flight home. 
We flew home via Abu Dhabi on the very good Eithad Airlines. It was a long flight but we both managed to get quite a lot of sleep and there was no-one on being plane being Easter. We were able to spread out in rows of our own on the final leg into Sydney. I was glad to be home but the trip we exactly to plan.


I was pleased were were able to see so much in such a short time and I guess the two biggest highlights was out 6 days in Switzerland and the river cruise. I know i will be doing many more of these in the future. It is a fantastic way to travel. I occasionally enjoy it when someone else takes care of all the details and I just go along for the ride. 

Need to get this posted before we set off to Fiji for a week of relaxation. The three grandsons are coming along and we are planning lots of pool time.  


Never again will I be leaving blog until I get home to write up.  It is too easy to keep putting off and before knew it we had been home for 6 months.

Day 7 15th April – Back to where we began

During the night we docked at the now familiar Amsterdam dock across from the Centrale station.  After our second last breakfast where I made short work of an awful lot of smoked salmon with my perfectly cooked scrambled eggs. 

The morning was filled with tour to a canal cruise which is the best way to view the historical centre The Canal Cruise ended at the Gassan diamonds centre where we attended a complimentary presentation.           

We decided against walking the attractive route back to the ship and opted use the free transfer on the bus to sit down for our final buffet lunch. The food on this cruise has been absolutely outstanding and such wide variety in keeping with particular region in which we were travelling at the time. 

Don’t go to coffee shop
 and expect coffee
Coffee will be found in a Cafe
(Marijuana sold here)


After lunch were set off on our final tour to Edam (cheese cheese cheese) and Volendam. 

Edam, Cheese and the City

The most obvious association with the name ‘Edam’ is its cheese. For centuries the well-known round Edam cheeses have been sent from this town to all corners of the world. The cheese market, once again restored to its place of honour, is enacted weekly during the summer months. And nearby cheese warehouses keep alive the memory of a colourful past. 

We spent a pleasant hour wandering around Edam and taking the most beautiful houses and scenery of this magical place. For a small place it had such a big church which could be seen from all parts of town.

This was probably the most picturesque place I have ever visited. I really look forward to being able to come back and explore further next time I am in Amsterdam

Our Dear Lady has been standing on this
hallowed ground since the 14th century

After a short bus ride we were in Voledam for a glimpse into the past, and a drive along the low-lying fields and windmills of North Holland, It is too pretty to be true, the quaint fishing village surrounds a picture-postcard harbour lined with wooden houses, where locals still wear traditional Dutch clogs, aprons and bonnets.



Historically, Volendam’s claim to fame was as the harbour for the neighbouring town of Edam. More recently, it’s easy to see why artists like Picasso and Renoir were drawn here to paint scenes of the harbour lined with steep-roofed fishermen’s houses, canals and drawbridges. Mum and I found a good place for a coffee and a loo. before wandering along the foreshore.   

Mum purchased one more cuckoo clock and I was able to get all the girls their clogs. After another short walk we were back on the bus for the ride back to ship and our farewell dinner. Dinner was equal to anything we had had in the past seven days and we thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. 

After getting our instructions for disembarkation tomorrow we headed to the cabin to pack up and turn in for the final night on board. We had a leisurely breakfast before leaving the MS Impression for the final time and head to our hotel near the main square in Amsterdam. 

Every day of cruise was a highlight of our European vacation, also the food morning noon, night and in between was ample and a great example of fine dining at its best.

Day 6 14th April – Maastricht and cruising back to Amsterdam

After another good night onboard we enjoyed out breakfast at more leisurely pace this morning our cruise was drawing to a close with only another couple of nights on board. 

I was just too tired to do this walking tour but mum set off with the guide and about 20 other hardy souls to visit. the shops were closed on Monday morning as they often do in Holland but if shopping’s your thing, you can hardly go wrong in Maas­tricht.  

Where the density of boutiques and unusual specialty shops is hard to beat. 

Just about all of the streets between the St. Servatius Bridge and the Vrijthof offer inexhaustible scope for emptying one’s purse or wallet , with Stokstraat and the surrounding Stokstraat Kwartier being particularly charming. Mum really enjoyed this and I relished the time spent in my cabin catching up on email and other communications from home. 

River cruising my new favourite way to travel

Day 3 11th April – Delta Works and Middleburg

With another busy day ahead we were up early again for breakfast (can’t get an enough of the fantastic selection on the buffet) as the tour to the to the impressive Delta Works which consisted of  a presentation, documentary film, exhibition and a visit inside one of  the piers. We drove through the quaint Veere a small village on the way to Delta works. 

The Delta plan came in to being after a tragic event on the the night of January 31 and February 1,1953. was a fateful one for the inhabitants of Zeeland on the coast of southern Holland. The combination of a hurricane with high spring tides caused hundreds of breaches in the dikes. so that over 100,000 acres of land were flooded. More than 1800 human lives were lost, and the damage in terms of material losses (including 200,000 homes) Following this catastrophic event the delta works was developed to ensure such a catastrophe never happens again. 

It was so interesting to see how the Dutch took control of their environs and with great ingenuity implemented this amazing plan to hold back the sea. 
The afternoon was filled with a talk from local ladies from Middleburg and then a guided walking tour through the historic Middleburg township. This was interesting and our guides were first class. We had three groups to suit all levels of fitness.  
Traditional  Group (Our chosen Group) This was the optimal  way to see the sights with all its features. Local guides giving us an in-depth presentation  and  answered all our questions along the way. We were able to keep up and still had time to take lots of photos of this charming old place.

The Essential Group took in the first part of the Traditional tour, with a brief introduction and basic background commentary. On a certain stage the guide dropped them off at a central location. Ideal for those who prefer to have more time on their own.
The Leisurely Group  – This walking tour was ideal for the gentle walkers, with a slower pace for those who wanted to take it easier. They didn’t miss out of the highlights but without the pressure of keeping up with the faster groups.
This was the case for most onshore tours and there were always at least two levels of walking tour.

Day 2 10th April – Keukenhof Gardens & the windmills of Kinderdijk

Up and at ‘em early so we could enjoy the extensive breakfast, this was going to be just the kick start we need each day before heading onshore for various tours. 

Todays adventure and the main reason for our whole trip was a visit to see all the tulips and flowers of Keukenhof Gardens and the windmills of Kinderdijk.

Our half day visit to the Keukenhof Gardens was spectacular and certainly a must do for anyone visiting this part of the world in Spring. You just can’t describe the the brilliance and the perfume of
this famous Dutch Flower Exhibition.  

We decided to stay longer in the Keukenhof  Gardens rather than return to ship for lunch. At 2pm the bus returned for us and we set out for Kinderdijk for our sightseeing at the windmills.

The local guides will walked us from the ship to the windmill site of Kinderdijk where we have  a guided visit of a windmill and a pumping station. 

After yet another can’t believe they just get better dinners we crawled off to bed. Success we saw the garden in all its glory and the weather really allowed us to see the most beautiful garden I have ever visited.

During the night we sailed through Noord. Nieuw e Maas, Oude Maas, Dordste Kil, Hollansch Diep, Volkerak, Krammer, Krabbenkreek, Mastgat,  Oosterschelde,  Veerse Meer, Walcheren Canal.

Seven days of blissful cruising – tulips, tulips everywhere

Need to get the final posts up from our trip earlier this year as just about to embark on another trip next week and determined to to post as we go this time.

We arrived back in Amsterdam and checked into the Mövenpick Hotel which we choose as it was the pickup point for out seven day Tulips and Windmills Tulip cruise tomorrow. We had a fantastic room overlooking the lake after hot showers and room service we enjoyed watching the sun disappear below the Amsterdam horizon.  The hotel was a little on the expensive side if booked through tour company but I was able to secure a good deal on (A$196.39 much cheaper than quoted by cruise company $442 for the pre-cruise night). It was worth it to be settled in place and well rested before we had to checkin for cruise at 1pm

Up early the next morning headed in to centre Amsterdam to replace the bag that had parted company with one of it’s wheels conveniently while we were walking from the station to the hotel in the rain and towards the end the fine hail.  We must have looked like exhausted drowned rats when we checked in. After a yummy breakfast is a small French cafe we bagged a bag at the de Bijenkorf department store and headed back to the hotel to check in on our cruise.

Day one of cruise – 9th April 2014

At check in we were offered an optional pre-cruise 1/2 day cheese and windmill tour which we signed up for and really enjoyed the afternoon and it really set the scene for the next seven days.  This tour was like a little slice of Holland”
Working windmills, clog making, cheese making and tourist shopping all in one historic park. Zaanse Schans is the first ever industrial park in the world that had over 1100 industrial windmills in its prime. You get to go inside different working windmills (paint making, oil making and wood cutting)

We boarded at 5pm and settled into our beautiful cabin aboard the MS Impression which is part of the Avalon Waterways fleet. 

We attended the welcome reception and  speeches in Panorama Lounge before dressing for dinner, and what a dinner it was.  

The whole dining experience was far and above our expectations. The food and wine was sensational and service was top notch.  After some beautiful cheeses with our coffee we headed back to the cabin. 

We turned in and watching the riverbank slide by was a pleasant way to drift off to sleep. Our first night on board was an insight to what the next seven days are going to hold for us.

Overnight we sailed to Schoonhoven it was really relaxing with the gentle movement of the ship during the night. 

During the late evening and night we sailed through a number of locks.
I was able to watch this through the webcam on board which we could view from our TV. 



Our last stop off before the Tulip River Cruise

After six glorious days in Switzerland we are headed back to Germany and laid our heads down in Frankfurt for a couple of nights. The main purpose of this stop is to visit the historic Rothernburg.
Every year millions of people are attracted to the medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. No wonder: the 12th century castle is still standing and in excellent condition. The ancient city walls still fully enclose the centre of the city, and visitors can walk on the ramparts. We walked, walked and walked then climbed down the narrow steps at the end. It was unreal to be in such ancient location on a wall that others walked many generations ago.
For centuries Rothenburg’s hospitality has been the reason for many famous people visiting the medieval city centre. Throughout its history emperors and kings were frequent vistors Today politicians and celebrities from all over the world come to Rothenburg. It is a very special city, which invites you to wander through the streets, or take a break in one of the many cafes and simply enjoy the romantic atmosphere.

The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” means, in German, “Red fortress above the Tauber”. This is so because the town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River. While buildings within the walled city reflect the city’s medieval history, this part of the city is in many ways a normal, modern German town with some concession to the tourist trade. Many stores and hotels catering to tourists are clustered around the Town Hall Square and along several major streets (such as Herrngasse, Schmiedgasse).
more on this later 
After pleasant day resting on our direct train to Frankfurt we disembarked and headed a couple blocks away from the station to our hotel. We stayed at the Mercure Hotel which was very comfortable and the bath even came with it’s own duck. (I obtained one for Miss Emi but not knowing I was expecting another grandchild until I got home it quickly became new baby’s first gift)
After getting settled we decided to seek out some dinner and decided we could go a decent steak or similar we wandered down street and decided on Kakadu, bound to find a steak here and it was wonderful.
Breakfast in Buffet Car of train to Wazburg
As mentioned previously the main purpose for our stop off in Frankfurt was to take a day trip to Rothernburg. 

So up early and off to the station, we decided to grab a roll/pasty and coffee to have on the train for breakfast. We boarded our train but as it was peak hour and with many commuters on board we found ourselves in the buffet car, so decided to keep the rolls for later and order breakfast. It was terrific and certainly hit the spot, there is nothing like enjoying a sumptuous brekkie and watching the german countryside slide by.  

After changing trains aWürzburg Hbf we off on the last leg of our journey to Rothenburg just under 3 hours for the trip but such a great way to travel.   

We left the train and followed the crowd to the main town centre, explored a little before heading off to find the medieval wall. 

You get to experience a little of what it would have been in the good old days of this medieval village.   

The imposing defence facilities at the Spital and Röder gate served to keep away uninvited guests and impressively conveyed in the age of nuclear weapons how well deterrence in the Middle Ages worked. 

Out of all the mediaeval city-fortifications, here unfolds the most tremendous, self-contained and best-preserved cityscapes
We spent a pleasant day wandering around this quaint city with all its shops and eateries, a little focussed on the tourist trade, but this is obviously where they try to capture the tourist dollar. 

The highlights were the walk around the walk and the bear shop (where some good purchases were made for future grand babies) Although if I knew then what I know now I would have bought a few more, stocks depleted already.  

We finished the day with a gelato which was excellent before wandering back to the station to catch the train back to Frankfurt. I would encourage anyone that has the chance to stop by Rothenburg as is a little bit magical.

Meanwhile enjoy the views around Rothenburg, before the post continues below

Grandma give the new knees a good workout

Very steep and very worn from the footsteps of hundreds of years

After early breakfast the next morning we walked down to find red bus starting point, which we eventually did but in doing so stumbled across the The Römer building.

The Römer (German surname, “Roman”) is a medieval building in the Altstadt of Frankfurt am Main,

Germany, and one of the city’s most important landmarks. The Römer is located opposite the Old St. Nicholas church and has been the city hall (Rathaus) of Frankfurt for over 600 years. The Haus Römer is actually the middle building of a set of three located in the Römerberg (a plaza).

As we had to wait until 10am for first bus to take off we settled into a Italian cafe on the square for coffee and a waffle (no lunch needed today) . The owner was a funny little guy who was in no rush about anything but the waffle was good.

Onboard we decided we only had time to do the lap around the red route before walking back to the hotel and check out. Some of the sights along the way were interesting but certainly with a financial flavour.  

We passed by Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany. The twin towers are sometimes nicknamed debit and credit. All in all Frankfurt would be worthy of another visit if in the area. 

We boarded our final train for our journey into Amsterdam which was a direct train meaning that we could sit back and enjoy the 4 hour trip in comfort and in a fairly empty carriage.

The day ended with challenges before a highlight and relief. When we left the train, it took me awhile to sort which direction we needed to go to get to hotel I could see it but navigating the canals and deadened proved annoying. To top things off the wheel on my bag decide to give up the ghost so became drag instead of a bag.  

By the time we were approaching the hotel the light rain had become small hail and boy we were please to step inside the Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre. This hotel was the meeting point of the cruise so I decide this was the place to book for our pre cruise night. The relief was that I could now hand of all the planning organising and thinking about arrangements to the cruise staff for next 7 days. The highlight was our room with a spectacular view of the river IJ and a hot shower. Oh and the room service trolley was a welcome sight. Excited about cruising tomorrow, first job go and buy a new bag. 

Seven days between OS trips (that’s record for me)

A mere seven days after returning from the MacWool China Tour is time to pack up and take to the air for the long planned Tulip Cruise. This trip was planned as 75th birthday gift to mum who always wanted to see the tulips in Holland in full bloom and what better way than on a river cruise.

Who does an eight night cruise on the other side of the world without incorporating a few other destinations on the itinerary not us so Holland Germany Switzerland and Belgium here we come.

Our trip began at 10:50pm with boarding of our Eithad flight to Amsterdam with 2 hour layover in Abu Dhabi  the first leg was fantastic and I caught up on some sleep and mum was able to watch a couple of movies. The plane was great and the crew looked after us very well. We arrived in Abu Dhabi just after sunrise and it was very pretty flying in with day breaking. Our short layover disappeared quickly and we were soon boarding for our final leg in to Schipole Airport just outside Amsterdam for first night of foreign soil.

It was decided that we would only spend one night is the very beautiful Amsterdam as we would be back for a few days around the cruise.  Our first task was to procure a taxi (€45 and 30 minutes in average traffic) to take us the Tulip Inn (€65 per night approx) where we would stay for the night. This hotel has reasonable rates and is well within walking (and bag dragging) from the Central Railway station where we would begin our 6 hour train journey to Berlin.

On trains we decided this would be the easiest and least restrictive mode of transport for our journey,  I purchased Eurail Global Pass 15 Days for $877 which allowed us to used as much as we like in the 15 day window, some days we were several trains all first class and very comfortable. Only required reservations when travelling at busy times otherwise we just boarded and selected seats that had not been reserved. It only cost a few euros to pre-book seat,  so this was worth it if travelling in peak times or heading on long journey where needed to arrive by a certain time etc, mostly we just boarded and took our chances. Only once were stuck with sitting in buffet car as train fully booked( only hour trip which allowed us to have a beautiful full breakfast)

With our bags tucked away in our modest but comfortable room (Thankfully the lift worked when taking bags up and down) as the spiral staircase proved to be a challenge without a bag the couple times we used it, very narrow and steep, we headed our to check out the station and see where I need to validate our train pass the next day. It only took a 10 minutes to navigate through the masses of walkers and the millions of bikes that seemed to come from all directions and get inside the very beautiful station building. The information booth pointed us in the right direction for the ticket validation window. 

Now that the lay of the land had been established we headed out for short walk around and back to hotel. We purchased our first chips with sauce and mayo all the rage in Amsterdam on Damrak St . 

Yes Sam Forbes your recommendation was right they were crunchy with soft middle and possibly the best chips I have had in awhile, a little too much tomato sauce for my taste but the mayo was yummy, all served in a cardboard cone. After a walk through the red light district, everyone has to do it, we secured a very nice coffee before heading back to our room for a much need sleep. Although we both slept on plane we were grateful for a full nights sleep before our adventure got underway for real. Goodnight Amsterdam.