Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Valley of the Rhine : A Modern Viking voyage--Pt. 1

Author’s Note: As I will probably be sharing this in bits and pieces, the final result may seem a bit disjointed compared to what will come here. I think I will follow my tangents and worry about ordering them later. I thank you for your indulgence.

The whole trip experience is becoming a bit surreal; I know we did it, my wife Cheryl, and I, but the warm fog of remembering is already stealing in…

After days of packing and weighing suitcases and deciding on clothes (the weather had been frightful, for Europe, in the days previous), The Day arrived. It was a 1st Class experience from the beginning when the limo pulled up out front to take us to the airport. Check in was relatively smooth and off we went for our requisite dehumanization by the friendly folks at TSA. Even that was not awful, but then came the pat-down. It seems that something about me set off the something-or-other and I got a bit-too-familiar pat down. Nothing discovered, off we went to await our departure to Philly.

Then we landed at the most awful airport on the East Coast, in my experience—PHL. What is the story with this place? Every single time I have had to fly into Philly’s airport, whether stopping or connecting, there have been delays. We sat in that plane for almost 90 minutes waiting to take off! I pity anyone trying to make a connection in Amsterdam, our destination and the embarkation point of our Viking River Cruise to Basel, Switzerland.

In Tim’s World™, children over 15 months and less than 10 years old would not be allowed on flights lasting more than 3 hours. Imagine sitting in one of those super-expensive massage chairs that run up and down your spine. Now imagine sitting in that chair while it experiences electrical shorts at irregular intervals in random spots up and down your spine. Got the picture? Doze..JOLT!...doze…doze…JOLT! That was the kid behind me kicking my seat. And this a trans-Atlantic flight lasting forever. If the seat-kicker behind me was not enough, we had a drunken bimbo. I had noticed when we first took off that she seemed to be sort of high-maintenance with her imperious demand/requests. She got so drunk that she caused an incident back in the plane not once but several times near the restrooms. At one point two attendants, one male, escorted her back to her seat and forbade her to have contact whatsoever with any other passenger, on pain of arrest upon landing. I honestly think that if we had been over land, and not the Atlantic, that they would have put down and had her carted off. Needless to say, it was not a restful night.

At last, we land in Amsterdam, breeze through the airport and are met by a Viking person and whisked off to a bus and thence to the boat, Cheryl somewhat fresh, having grabbed few hours sleep, and me feeling like I have been dragged behind a bus for 6 or 7 blocks.

The boat is really nice and we are in luck as our stateroom is ready. The word “stateroom” is somewhat misleading, unless you think of Rhode Island every time you hear the word “state”. Still and all, it was very nice and no bigger than it needed to be. Believe me, it was far finer digs than ever I had in the good old USN. For one thing, we had a really nice shower and all the hot water we could want. If only, back then…

We crashed for a nap of a few hours and then found out we had 3 or 4 more hours before Departure, so we walked into Amsterdam; we were there three years ago and feeling confident. What a city! We wandered here and there, never once feeling anything but safe, no matter the width of the alley. I discovered a lovely little establishment, a coffee house, by the name of The Jolly Joker. I found it following my nose. It is both disconcerting and amazing in Amsterdam for the lovely odors wafting on the breeze. When I glanced at the menu, I got no farther than the eponymously-named Jack Herer. It did not disappoint. Not a teeny bit. Back to the boat for dinner.

The first dinner was a harbinger of good times to come; three courses, side dishes, cheese plates, fruit plates and all the beer, wine or soft drinks you could hold. (Sidebar: Cheryl and I are not heavy, or even frequent drinkers, so we got the regular deal which consists of unlimited “house wine”, “house beer” and Coke products, not to mention lemonade and tea or coffee during all meal times. The beer was Bitburger—a mighty tasty brew. There were various wines, both red and white and they kept giving you more if you weren’t attentive, along with fresh glasses of beer every time you looked away. There was a premium perk called the “Silver Package”; that cost $65 per person and was unlimited booze all over the boat. I met not a few that were punishing Viking on that deal.) We had interesting table mates every night, some more interesting than others, one obnoxious, but more about him later. Next day was the first stop on our tour, to look at working windmills at a place called Kinderdijk.

I’m gonna stop here and share. I have to make sure my notes are in order before regaling you with tales of our other stops. TK

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim,
    Had to wince at your horrible flight. I "won" my first trip to Paris courtesy of my father-in-law who said "You [my gf and I] can come to Paris with us! It will be worth it just to know I won't have somebody behind me kicking my seat!" The trip went well :)