Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Walking Tour of Old Cologne

We were spoiled, two whole days to explore Cologne on our own, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to see Cologne through the eyes of an expert. Our guide was hilarious, full of insights and funny stories, and his English was excellent.

We walked down through the oldest part of town, first, to the Rathaus, the City Hall. Inside, there is this wonderful layout of the city and the river, made to scale, with all the buildings of Cologne.

Outside view of Rathaus

I wish I could remember why this statue was significant . . . I think it has to do with their standing on the backs of the people, an unflattering statement.

From the Rathaus, we headed to the Cathedral. I really liked our time at the Rathaus, but I think it was really thrown in to kill time until our group was scheduled to tour the Cathedral of the Three Kings.

Below is a very famous statue of St. Christopher, carrying the Christ Child across a river, and now he is the patron saint of travelers.

I think this was a floor . . .

I loved this triptych.

We had a few minutes, a very few, to shop, and this is when I found two tiny bottles of 4711 cologne, and some small Christmas ornaments of the Cologne cathedral to bring back for little gifts for students AdventureMan mentors, and our grandchildren.

Although the name of the tour is Christmas Markets on the Rhine, it was the destinations that the tour was hitting that attracted us, places we have been and loved. We have years worth of German Christmas decorations and ornaments, enough to lavish our house, just at a time when we decorate more sparingly, and I can’t even use lights indoors because Ragnar (the Absynnian cat) chews the wires through.

We board the bus, head back to the boat for lunch and a quick rest before we head out once again for Aachen.

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March 18, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | | Leave a comment

Arriving on the MS Grace for Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Late in the afternoon, we board a bus for a very short drive to our ship, the MS Grace. We are greeted with enthusiasm and shown into the Lounge, where drinks and hors d’oeuvres are waiting for us.

 

The ship as all decorated for Christmas.

 

It doesn’t take long to get to our room, which we like a lot. It doesn’t have a balcony, just doors that open, I think they call it a French balcony. You can’t go out, but you can stick your head out and watch the world go by.

 

The bathroom is spacious, which is really nice when you are going to be sharing with someone, like AdventureMan. It really mattered to me, especially later in the trip, that the water in the shower was really hot and they never ran out of hot water.

Lovely closet! Room for us both to put all our things away, and hang up hanging clothes, store our luggage and even dress when the other person is still sleeping and one of us really needs some coffee 🙂

 

The dining room is not intimidating. There is always room. There are only maybe 100 passengers on board, so by the end of the trip we have favorite people we like to see and talk with at meals. The food was pretty good, too. I can’t drink a lot of wine any more, but they had a Sancerre that was cool and crisp and dry and went perfectly with fish. They had a good number of options at every meal, soups, salads, main courses and desserts. One person I saw even ordered two main courses; I’ve not seen that before, but it seems that Tauck really takes good care of demanding customers.

This is what it looks like out our window. It’s a good thing we spent so many years in Germany; we know what late November is going to look like (this looks pretty good for late November) and we are prepared for the grim greys and the cold. Even better – it’s what we came for. Winter!

For months, we have been following a thread on CruiseCritic; a thread about which cruises were going and which were not because the levels of the Rhine River have been so low, historically low. Some cruise lines cancelled, some made elaborate changes and ended up with unhappy customers. Tauck told us up front what our options were – we could opt for a later trip or do this trip with a mid-trip “ship swap.”

On the day we went to Heidelberg, we left our packed bags in our rooms, boarded our bus with our day packs, spent the day in Heidelberg, boarded our bus with our day packs and ended up in a little French town near Baden Baden on the Inspire, in the same exact room with our bags where we had left them on the Grace. Totally class act. Yes, it was a little disruptive having to pack and unpack – once – during the trip, but no hotel overnights, no packing and unpacking all the time, in fact as little disruption as possible, considering near the Lorelei the river was impassable for the 130m boats. They took a difficult situation, and did a good job making the best of it.

This is what our trip looked like, except that the last night was in Colmar, not Kembs. I think they changed for 2019.

What we liked a lot about going with Tauck is that they really do things beautifully. Presentation isn’t everything, but attention to detail really does make a difference. The ship was immaculately clean, and we lacked for nothing. Another thing we like is that we are very private, and very independent travelers. We don’t stick with the tour groups, we go off on our own and meet up with the group later. We like to find our own places to eat, go back to old familiar haunts, etc. What was really fun was that we met a lot of people like us who also took off on their own and went to fun places. On nights when we didn’t care to go to the dining room, we could get a perfectly delicious little dinner just down the hall from us, or even have it in our room. We like that.

They also gave a lot of cultural information, and not just information, but after a day exploring, there would be some local specialty the guides would be sharing on the bus; a special gingerbread, a special cookie, a chocolate candy, LOL at one place we even got a bottle of whiskey to put in our coffee, and a special coffee cup to put it in. OK, OK, I hear you, yes, we paid for it in the cost of the trip, but those little extras make a customer feel good, and it’s a competitive market. I admire their strategy.

 

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Germany, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment