Elena’s European Adventure & River Cruise – Final Blog

Well where do I start? So much happens each day that it’s hard to comment on everything. We’re been in Amsterdam now for a few days, the ending spot for our cruise. I have to say the Moselle River was amazing and more beautiful than the Rhine.  But how does picturesque views of rolling Vineyards not take your breath away?

In all the ports we had free walking city tours included which I will admit sometimes were very slow, but also highlighted a few interesting things.  Plus there are always optional excursions  (for a fee.)  We did a few: biking in the country side along the Moselle, a trip to Zaanse Schamber – a traditional windmill village, and the Palace of Versailles in Paris just to name a few.

Yesterday we disembarked the ship and for the 10min walk it took us from the ship to the Doubletree Central Amsterdam, we were homeless. Can I also just say suitcases with 4 wheels is the cats meow especially when you decide to not take a taxi and the transporting 5 bottles of wine, 3 mini cheese wheels and countless extra souvenirs is heavy:)

We had to be out of our cabins by 9 am and off the ship by 10am.  We had checked out the easiest path from the ship to the Doubletree the night before.  So instead of spending a few extra minutes onboard we decided to move on.  So once at the Doubletree I thought we wouldn’t have access to a room till the afternoon but to my surprise they had a room for us, and a hot cookie a little feature you get when you check in.  By 10am we were settled in to our room for the next two nights and two rental bikes, time to explore the city.

Let me start by say Europe right now is having an amazing summer and a bit of a heat wave.  The last 4-5 days have been high 20c to 33c our 1st day in Amsterdam, compared to the low 20’s we had in London and Paris at the beginning of this trip.  So needless to say there have been many beverage stops to hydrate and get some shade.

Yesterday after leaving the hotel we made our way around Amsterdam on bike, man did we put on the miles.  We rented our bikes right from the hotel (€15 for the 1st day and €12 for the 2nd day).  I’m not sure where our bikes will take us today but let the adventure continue.

Things to always take on holidays:

-Extra zip lock bags (a variety of sizes)
– A reusable tote bag for picking up groceries for your picnics or use as a picnic bag.
-a wine bottle opener. I might also add travel utensils also come in handy with a knife for your cheese and sausage
-mini battery charge packs.  Most people are using their cell phones now for taking pictures so these come in handy (I’ve taken close to 3000 pics so far!)
-you’ll only need 3 maybe 4 pairs of shoes (dressy, runner, and some comfy sandals)

Remember if you don’t have something you can always buy it😉

Until next time

Elena

 

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Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Blog 2

The first thing on our list is the Ferryland Picnic.  It is listed as one of the top 10 things to do in Newfoundland.  We drove from St. John’s to Ferryland which took 1.5 hours.  The drive reminds me of driving in BC with the narrow winding roads and trees on each side.  Once in a while we get a look at the ocean.  We arrive in Ferryland and follow the signs for the picnic.  We park and begin the ½ hour hike up to the lighthouse.  This is not wheelchair accessible as the path up there is just rocks.  The walk can be a bit strenuous but take your time as it is worth it.

We arrive at the lighthouse go in and order our lunch.  There are 4 to choose from and each comes with salad, sandwich, dessert and freshly squeezed lemonade in a mason jar.  Prices are around $27.00 for the picnic.  You are given a blanket and flag and we make our way outside to find our perfect picnic spot.  They find you by your flag and bring out your lunch in a wicker basket.  The food is so good.  Everything is made fresh and the desserts are to die for.  Each comes with real whipping cream.  We are told we picked a great day as the sun is shining and there is a small breeze.

No sooner do we sit down the whales start to perform for us.  They are slapping their trails and waving at us with their fins.  There is even a small group of dolphins following them around.   This is our first whale sighting and we are definitely entertained.   Just a reminder that a reservation is required as they quickly sell out and they are not open every day.   We are going to the Military Tattoo at Signal Hill at 3:00pm so reluctantly we leave to head back to the city.

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Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Blog 1

Hello from St. John’s NFLD. Newfoundland has long been on my bucket list and finally we are here. We flew into St. John’s which has a small airport and picked up our van from Budget. Sorry did I say van, no we got a Ford Flex which is more of crossover than van but I guess that’s what they mean by Dodge Caravan or similar. We are staying very close to downtown in a Jelly Bean house and we are really happy with our place. Downtown is not very big and runs along the harbour. The streets here remind me of San Francisco. They are steep and you are going to get a great workout if you are walking. Even though they have a smaller downtown, they have lots of great restaurants and check out Fred’s if you are interested in any East Coast music or any music really. They have a great selection and great staff. If you are looking for something, they will find it. They must be good as we left there with 3 CD’s. While you are there you must check out George Street with its bars on either side of the road. We stopped at O’Reilly’s which was voted the best Pub in Canada.  Lot of great music here. We also stopped 2 doors down at Christian’s which has the best Screeching in ceremony in St. Johns. For $20.00 you can become an honorary Newfoundlander. A quick piece of Newfoundland steak (bologna), kissing of the cod, and a shot of Screech and you are in with a certificate to prove it. This is a must. We only have 3 days in St. John’s to hopefully we will have enough time to get it all in.

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Elena’s European Adventure & River Cruise – Blog 3

Gluten Morgan or Gluten Abend!

So I just realized I haven’t said what I’m doing on this trip.  I’m currently sailing with Avalon River Cruise on board the Avalon Luminary on the Canals, Vineyards & Paris itinerary.  We started with 2 days in Paris and then 8 days sailing from Trier to Amsterdam down the Moselle River and then connecting up with the Rhine River.

In the last two days words can not describe the wonderful view we’ve seen and the beautiful flowers we’ve smelled. This cruise is not just for the Vineyards and the wine – can I say the floral and focal at this time of the year is amazing. A lot of the flowers are what we have at home, the hydrangeas are beyond amazing and colourful and there are beautiful germanium in every window box.  And you can’t forget about the roses, trees bushes everywhere, my mom would be in heaven.

Life on the ship is amazing. The cabins are comfortable and takes your breath away.  I highly recommend paying the extra to upgrade your cabin from the lead in category. You may not think you’ll spend time in your cabin but when the sun comes up around 5am or your leaving port then you can just draw back the curtains and doze off and on and watch the views while you sail by.  Sailing past countless Vineyards and castle is great way to start your morning if you ask me.

 

They say food fills the soul, well your belly will be happy also.  I went on the galley tour a few days ago. For a kitchen so small the meals are impressive. No soup or dressings are made from powers or pre-made starters, everything is from whole natural foods, it’s evident in every bite.  Most days you’ll see Chief Bobbi going into town to the market to pick up some items from the locals.

The last two night nights we’ve been delighted to experience some classical music. Even if you don’t like this type of music the skill involved with playing a violin is magical and can take you to a different world, makes me wish I could play.  The quartet in the lounge is currently playing “moon river” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, what a great end to the night.

In every town Mark and I have hit every local grocery store to check the prices and the wine selections, at under €5.00 how can you not pick up a bottle or 3:) We usually pick up a few meats and cheeses and a bottle of wine and have a beautiful picnic.

Tonight we had the tapas style dinner and had a full flight of local. The night could not end any better. The string  quartet to my right the Rhine to my left  :)

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Elena’s European Adventure & River Cruise – Blog 2

Wow were do I start! So much has happened since I last signed off.

Wednesday was our 1st full day with our Avalon group. Let’s just say I help bring the average age down close to 20-30yrs.  This morning we had a free city tour, a drive by tour of the city. I’m glad we came early to be able to take more time and actually see some of the major sites. After we finished our tour we stopped by a local grocery store and stocked up with some 5.00 EUR bottles of wine and beer and some food to a picnic before heading out to the Palace of Versailles.  Yes, some of the extra excursions might add up but they save times in ticket and entrance queues which in the end is priceless.

Thursday  was Bastille day in Paris (similar to Canada Day) and there was a large parade in Paris, however we missed it as we were off to visit the Artist quarters of Montmartre and the Sacred Coeur Church.  Then we off to the train station for our transfer out to Remick,  Luxembourg and to meet up with our ship the Avalon Luminary. Our bags were transferred directly from our Paris hotel to the ship, thank goodness:)

This afternoon was more of a travel day. We finally met the ship around 6pm.  Once on ship we had a quick briefing on safety and then dinner and our 1st early evening.

 

Friday, we we woke up and heard of the deadly attack in Nice.  We are safe and hard to believe another senseless attack has happened but our day continued as if nothing happened.  It was another busy day with waking up in Luxembourg and then heading to Trier Germany for a Romantic City tour, then back to the ship for an amazing grill lunch on the sun deck of our ship before heading to the city of Luxembourg for the afternoon city tour.  Luxembourg is so layer back and clean to Paris, it’s such a lovely city.

 

Life on the ship is amazing. Typically the ship would hold 140ish people but we’re currently only sitting at approx 60ish people. This is nice since you feel very alone but I wonder if all the attacks on France has anything to due with the low numbers.

 

Tonight we sailed through a few locks before docking in Bernkastel for the night.  Tomorrow we’ll continue on down the Moselle River after walking city tour and bike trip around Bernkastel and along the Moselle River.

Yours in travel,

Elena

 

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Elena’s European Adventure & River Cruise – Blog 1

Greetings from Europe! I flew from Saskatoon via Calgary to London Gatwick with WestJet. I did my online check-in exactly 24 hrs before our 340pm flight and paid the $200 per person upgrade to Plus seats. All I can say is it’s totally worth it! The welcome champagne, extra wide seats with foot rests, the toiletry set with socks/blanket & tooth paste and then the hot meal to name a few. Unfortunately the WestJet app didn’t work but we still got free tablets with pre-loaded movies/TV shows.

8hrs 45min after leaving Calgary we landed in London(Saturday).  I prepaid our Gatwick Express tickets, I just needed to print them off upon arrival.  Then we were off to St. Pancras Station as our hotel the Hilton London Easton was 1 train stop away.  The Hilton is a cute little hotel close to all tub and bus stops and hop on hop off stops.

So what did we do in London?  First stop after checking in and a quick nap, was a stop at a local pub for a cold beverage.  Then we picked up an Oyster Card for the Tube, and headed to Piccadilly Circle and then walked to Oxford Street.  Like most people, I got into Dowton Abbey and then another British TV show called Mr. Selfridge which is about an American Man starting a department store in the early 1900 in London called Selfridge’s. So first must see thing on my list checked off.

 

Sunday

The next morning after breakfast at the Hilton Easton we jumped on the Big Bus hop on hop off bus.  Our plan for the day was to take the bus as much as possible and then stop at a pub for 2pm start of the Wimbledon Men’s final:  Canada (Milos) vs Great Britain  (Andy Murray).  As you know, plans change. I didn’t think we would make it to Buckingham Palace for the 1130am Changing of the Guard but we did(check list item #2).

 

Next we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe (a tradition I started in 1998 on my 1st trip down to Australia).  From there we went to look for the next hop on hop off stop at the Queens gate when we saw hundreds of people heading into Hyde Park. Not knowing what was up, we asked and wouldn’t you know it was the Barclay’s Summer Concert Series featuring Corinne Bailey Rae, Pharrell, and Mr Stevie Wonder. The first scalper wanted £125 per ticket – too rich for my blood!  The next guy spoke to was charging £120 for 2 general admission tickets. We managed on getting them for £110 for 2, not bad for a £75.00 per ticket face value they had. So let’s just say it’s not always a bad thing to follow the crowds because some of the best things can happen on the other side.  After spending from 330-1030pm at the best open air concert, we had some major sight seeing to do the next day.

 

Monday

Our final day in London, we seized the day. Up at 6am, breakfast at 630am and the out the door touring at 7am. Our mission: head down to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the South Bank where the London Eye is, Trafalgar Square and whatever else we could do before 1030am as we still needed to check out of the Hilton Easton and head back to St Pancras station for our Eurostar train through the channel to Paris at 130pm.

 

We arrived in Paris just over 2hr later at Gare NORD station.  We ended up purchasing a 2 day metro card and then were were off to Montparnasse Station as we were spending one night at the Pullman Montparnasse.  OK, first let me say London school Tube stations are 1,000 times better than Paris. If you want to take the less expensive way from airport to hotel, the tube is the way to go. Paris however, I sure hope you didn’t over pack or had our wheeties. There are so many stairs and no ramps so be prepared to go up and down stairs.

The Pullman Montparnasse is just around the corner from the metro station. We ended up with a room on the top floor the 25th – wow what great view.

We ended up going up top the Montparnasse Tower ($15 EUR). This is Paris’ only skyscraper and has amazing views of Paris. We went up around 7pm and then at 10pm we had pre-booked tickets to head up the Eiffel Tower, Paris by Night:)

 

Tuesday

Well did you know that Paris is 1hr a head of London? ? Don’t rely on your phone if you don’t have a watch – especially if your data is off, learn from our faux pas.

 

Today we transferred by subway again to the L’hotel Du Collectionneur Arc de Triumphe Paris.  This is our meeting place for our Avalon River Cruise.  After checking in we were off to explore again, 1st stop the Arc de Triumphe the down the Champs-Elysées. We ended up passing a one day car show at the Grande Palace featuring Mercedes Benz.  At 530pm we had our welcome reception to meet out cruise director. Our day wasn’t over yet –  off we go again stops this time are Hotel Kube and the Moulin Rouge.

 

That’s it for now day one of our Avalon cruise tomorrow with two days in Paris and then 8 days cruising from Luxembourg to Amsterdam.

 

Night!

 

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Joanne and Annette Take on Iceland – Final Blog

Well we have had a few busy last couple days in Iceland. Yesterday we took in the most popular tour in Iceland – The Golden Circle which consists of 3 sights.  Geyser Geo Thermal area where hot springs are in abundance, geysers explode and pools of mud bubble. Our second stop was Gull Foss which is the Queen of Icelandic Waterfalls.  Our last stop was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pingvellir National Park where Iceland’s most historical events have taken place. We definitely got our exercise in with all the hiking we did and the rain didn’t start until we were on our way back to the hotel.

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Little Geyser

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Gull Foss

 

 

Sunday morning we boarded the Puffin Express Boat for our last tour. They took us out past the bay to view the Atlantic Puffins on the islands just outside of Rekjavik. We saw many Puffins resting on the rocks, swimming in the water and flying around us. After our tour ended we wandered around some more and tried the traditional lobster soup.

We are now just winding down and preparing for our trip home.