Cruising the Wachau Valley

Cruise Buddies on the Sun Deck

Cruise Buddies on the Sun Deck


After a pleasant morning in the small town of Durnstien, our longboat headed towards Melk.  This stretch of the river is quintessential Danube cruising.  Verdant green forests, craggy hills topped with ruins, picturesque villages hugging the riverbank – what’s not to like!  The whole area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Let’s go!

I’m a Wimp and I Know It!

On that cruise I took in my head, before we boarded the Viking Tor, I planned on enjoying the Wachau Valley from the comfort of my private balcony.  I hadn’t considered there were two riverbanks to watch.  I just imagined feeling all kinds of luxurious in my own space, but I realized I needed a better plan.

Bill thought the Sun Deck would be the perfect spot for taking in the sights, but I wasn’t liking the idea so much.  While the day was bright and sunny, there was a definite chill to the air.  I’m not into cold.  Skiing is not my thing.  I can’t get very excited about an Alaskan cruise.  Besides, I had just done my hair.  I could only imagine what a few hours on deck, with the wind pummeling my tresses, would do to my coiffure.  I refer to that stuff on my head as a force of nature and you’re not supposed to mess with Mother Nature.  I thought the lounge was a better place to take in the sights.

3W (6)On My Own…For a While

Bill and I are one of those couples who do most things together, but we’re not connected at the hip.  I’m an early bird and he’s a night owl.  He heads off to the golf course with his buddies and I’m content to hang with my bestie.  In fact, I seem to operate best when I’ve had some alone time and there hadn’t been much of that on our cruise.  The Wachau Valley seemed like a good place to catch up with me.

I shooed Bill up to the Sun Deck and found a spot up in the lounge to take in the sights.  I’d gaze out the window for awhile and then spend a few moments catching up in my journal.  I was loving the scenery, but I was loving my alone time even more.

Bill showed up a couple of time to report on the Sun Deck activity.  The first time was a quick drop by and I was soon on my own again.  The next time his visit was a little longer.  He told me about the amazing view.  He let me know that our cruise buddies were on deck.  He thought I’d be interested to know the crew was handing out warm blankets and hot beverages.  I sent him on his way.

Then he was back.  This time he’d gotten it all figured out.  I could go by the room and put on some more layers.  Then I could have all the blankets I wanted.  And if I didn’t like it, I could leave, but I should give it a try, but only if I wanted to…My alone time was over.

3W (10)Alright, Already!

So I went up to the Sun Deck.  I will admit the view was gorgeous.   It’s too bad WordPress’s media feature won’t handle panoramic pictures, because we got a humdinger.  You’ll just have to trust me.

I really did try to make a go of it.  I resented having my alone time interrupted, but once I was up and out, I did try to enjoy it.  I really did, but I didn’t succeed.  After just a few minutes wrapped in the festive blanket, Bill let me out of my misery.

It was almost time for lunch, so I didn’t get back to my spot in the lounge.  After lunch we’d be touring Melk Abbey.  Our pictures don’t do justice to the Wachau Valley, but I’ll show you some anyway.  Come back next week for Melk.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.



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Durnstein, Gateway to the Wachau Valley


Going on a cruise, in some ways, is like travelling for dummies.  All I had to do was show up for a spoon-fed itinerary.  Sometimes that was great, like Budapest and Vienna.  Then again there were the Bratislavas out there, where things were not exactly the way I  wanted it.  Had I been planning a road trip through Austria, I doubt Durnstein would have made the cut, but having been there on a cruise, I found it a perfectly charming place to spend a morning.

3D (7)On Your Own or By Shore Excursion?

I knew less than nothing about Durnstein and what research I was able to do didn’t tell me much else.  Alone, I may have taken a hike up to the craggy ruins of Durnstein castle, but instead, I reserved spots for Bill and I on the Optional Shore Excursion.  I figured after Vienna he’d be pretty well done with me and my explorations – and I was right.  Even though we had to pay extra for the escorted walking tour, Bill was happy to do so.

The town is so tiny that it would be impossible to get lost, so we didn’t really need a guide.  In addition,the town has exactly one significant historical fact associated with it – Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom in the castle on the hill.  The only other item of any interest was Princess Di and Dodi Fayed meeting there for their romantic trysts.  It’s funny the only claims to fame for this charming little place on the Danube River were both related to the British throne.

While I can’t exactly recommend the escorted walking tour as a good value, you absolutely must walk through the winding cobblestone streets and get a feel for the place.  I wished for a little freedom to check out the shopping opportunities, but the tour trotted right past them – perhaps because it was so early.  The walking tour began at 8:30 AM and that’s just about the time all the lorries were making their deliveries.  There was actually a traffic jam!

3D (25)The Crown Jewel of Durnstein

The tour ended at the church where we were delivered for an organ concert.  On the outside, the church, with its blue and white tower, looks much like other churches in the area.  What sets it apart is the interior.  During the 1700’s, it was renovated by one of its abbots.  Our day would be book-ended by abbey churches and Melk Abbey is, without a doubt, the most over-the-top religious edifice I have ever seen.  Still Durnstien, while smaller, gives Melk a run for its Baroque money.

Before the organ concert we were guided through an odd hallway along a series of alcoves filled with scenes from the Bible.  That was a little weird, kind of like window-shopping for a Bible story, but the guide who attends the church was quite proud of them.  Then we were seated in the pews and the organ concert began.

Organ concerts are an acquired taste and this organ had a sort of wheezy, high pitched shrill to it.  We were informed of the uniqueness of the small organ and the talent of the organist. I’m glad to have heard it, but would have been happier with a smaller taste of its product.

3D (41)Should you go to Durnstien, skip the escort and wander the enchanting lanes on your own.  Do see the interior of the church and if the concert is available, by all means take a seat and listen.  Then tighten up the laces on your hiking boots and head up the hill to the castle.  We didn’t have time for it, but those who went there, instead of taking the escorted tour, raved about the view.

From the church we strolled along the river’s edge and enjoyed the beautiful morning.  This seems to be a different Danube than the one we enjoyed earlier in the cruise.  It actually is the same river, but so quiet and so bucolic, that you can’t imagine it is also the lifeblood of vibrant cities like Budapest and Vienna.

I’ll leave you with various scenes from the lovely little town and next week we’ll visit the Wachau Valley,  a UNESCO Heritage Site.





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A Stroll Through Vienna

Now where was the boat?

Now where was the boat?


So, after a morning of museums, Bill was done with Vienna and ready to go back to the boat for lunch.  However, if we went back, I knew he wouldn’t be getting off the boat again, so I convinced him to at least have some lunch in the city.  I told you how that went.  Shame on you Rick Steves!  Now I’ll tell you about the balance of the day.

A Drizzly Walking Tour

Because he loves me and maybe a little bit because he’d loved the architecture he’d seen so far, Mr.Bill agreed to a stroll around the Hofburg environs for awhile.  I was able to show him on the map that I didn’t plan to get more than a block or two away from the palace, so he set his teeth and headed off with me.

Whereas Mr. Bill was trying to be cooperative, the weather was not.  The sun played peek-a-boo (more boo that peek) with us and whenever the sun disappeared, the drizzle would return.  Was is miserable?  Yes!  Was I going to let it deter me? NO!

The Gang at the Opera

The Gang at the Opera – a bit damp but quite happy!

Our first stop after lunch was the State Opera House.  I would have dearly loved to go to one of their productions or take a tour of the interior, but that didn’t fit into our  schedule.  I have to confess that the exterior of the venerable old lady was not one of my favorite edifices of the day.  It really pales in comparison to surrounding buildings.  However, that’s where we ran into our shipmates and that was a bright spot in the day.  I have to admit they pranked me.  They pretended they were lost and asked me to show them how to get back to the boat.

After that Bill trudged along behind me snapping pictures of the sights along the Ringstrausse.  I got him all the way down to the Rathausplatz before he mutinied and demanded to be taken back to the boat.  So we strolled through the Volksgarten towards the Grabenplatz.  I reminded him of the Dortheum, an auction house he’d shown some interest in during my days of research.  Rick Steves redeemed himself, because that was quite interesting.  Maybe not as interesting as Rick made it sound, but interesting – and dry.

3V Walk (60)The Dortheum is about half a block from Grabenplatz and from there we entered the underground at Stephanplatz.  We had a little difficulty purchasing our return ticket, but the problem was with the machine, not us and a nice subway attendant lady came and helped.  Soon we were back on board the Tor – just in time for our afternoon tea break.  Bill was once again a happy boy.

Dinner was a little later this evening than it was during the rest of the cruise, because they were serving a special meal to those heading out to a night shore excursion.  Had I known how the day would go, I would have probably opted for one of them, but part of the adventure of traveling is not knowing.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes you end up having a quiet evening on the boat.  Since our friends were on the evening shore excursion, we had a quieter than usual evening, but a good one.  We still very much enjoy each others’ company.

I’ll share our pictures from our walk about, then I hope you’ll come back next week for The Wachau Valley.


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A Day I’ll Never Forget

Mom & I in the stocks. Yes I'm the one in the tri-corn hat.

Mom & I in the stocks. Yes I’m the one in the tri-corn hat.


So I’m not sure why parents want to have kids.  So far on this trip we’ve nearly lost my sister, I’ve been testing my teen-aged angst and I’m about to ruin the day for everyone –  and I didn’t even mean, too.

A Day at Colonial Williamsburg

I’d reached the auspicious age of 14 and fancied myself to be very sophisticated.  I’d had my first lobster (albeit a salad not a whole lobster), we were staying at a resort, I was in junior high and I thought I knew everything.  However, I was still a kid and I was gaga over history.  Yes, that was dorky, but I couldn’t help myself.  Mom had been priming me for our day in Williamsburg for months on end and I was anxious to get there.  I was also anxious to get back to the resort later, because I’d been promised we could swim in one of the pools.

One of the benefits of staying at the resort was transportation to the historical section of Williamsburg, because you weren’t allowed to drive your car there.  I’m pretty sure the transportation was some kind of horse drawn vehicle, but I really don’t remember.  We had breakfast in the cafeteria where we’d had dinner the night before, but I don’t remember that either.  We had all our meals there, because I’m sure anything else would have busted my parents’ budget.

I do remember strolling the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, shopping for souvenirs in quaint shops and visiting various historical edifices.  Which ones I can’t exactly remember, but I was filled with wonder as we roamed the city and its buildings.  Making the whole thing seem surreal were all the costumed guides strolling around in colonial garb.  I was fascinated.

My husband would tell you that I get a little excited when I travel.  I speak too loudly, walk too fast and often get ahead of myself.  That’s exactly how I was that day in Williamsburg.  The day was incredibly hot and humid, but I was bouncing around like a tennis ball.  Inside the buildings the a/c was blasting to protect the valuable artifacts on display; antique furnishings, tools and other valuable items.  So outside we’d bake and inside we’d freeze.

I picked this sweetie up in a Williamsburg toy shop and her hat came from a milliner down the street where I also picked up the tri-corn hat above. She sits on a shelf in my office until today.

I picked this sweetie up in a Williamsburg toy shop and her hat came from a milliner down the street – where I also picked up the tri-corn hat I wore that day. The doll sits on a shelf in my office until today.  I’m not sure where the tri-corn ended up.

My Williamsburg Waterloo

Each house had timed tours and we had tickets to a certain number of houses, but the tours were timed to give you plenty of opportunities to shop in their expensive boutiques.  It was time to see the silversmiths house, so I charged in like a bull in a china closet.  Once inside I started to feel woozy.  I tried to stay with the tour, but finally I felt as if I had to get out of the house.  I’d gotten cold and hot one too many times and there was some acrid smell associated with the demonstrations of silversmithing.  I grabbed the handle of a door that I wasn’t supposed to and popped out of the house.

The next thing I knew I was lying on the brick sidewalk and a great fuss was being made over me.  Once it was established that nothing was broken I was hauled into an alcove off the street and my mother hovered over me.  Someone was asking if we wanted an ambulance.  I was saying no, but Mom was saying yes.  Mom won, because someone came to doctor me up, but I refused to get in the ambulance and be taken to a hospital.  I was already so embarrassed that I wanted to die.  While I don’t remember riding in the carriage that morning, I do distinctly remember the discomfort of riding it back to the resort in the afternoon.

I had not broken anything, but I’d managed to get pretty beat up.  As I’d stepped out of the silversmith’s house and onto a small porch, I’d already started to lose consciousness.  I careened across the porch, fell down a couple of steps and slid across the brick sidewalk.  I busted my lip and scratched up my face, arm and legs pretty badly.  I’d also shaken every bone in my body.  Within days I was black and blue and scabbed.

Here’s the rub.  There was no way my parents were going to let me go to swimming pool, even if I’d mustered up the strength to pretend I wanted to.  I was put to bed for the balance of the afternoon, while everyone else went swimming.  My mother checked on me several times, but I was 14 after all.

I mustered up the courage to eat in the cafeteria that evening, because I didn’t want a tray to be delivered to our room.  While I’ve always enjoyed attention, that wasn’t the kind of attention I wanted – at all.  Besides that, Mom had started to make noise about heading back to Texas rather than heading to the beach to rendezvous with our friends at their beach house.  No way I was missing the beach, so I had to suck it up.

Come back next week and we’ll go to Myrtle Beach!


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Cafe Tirolerhof – a Rick Steves Fail

Still Raining in Vienna

Still Raining in Vienna


While many of the wonderful things I discovered on my Danube River Cruise I can attribute directly to Rick Steves,  he failed me miserably at lunch in Vienna.  Please don’t go to Cafe Tirolerhof.

Rain, Rain Go Away

When I first shared my dream day in Vienna with my husband, he balked at lunch and dinner in the city.  He couldn’t understand why we’d look for places to eat, when we had a perfectly good boat serving both meals without incurring any extra cost.  I explained how we’d be a bit of a stroll and a subway ride away from the boat in the Hofburg environs, creating both time and monetary constraints on our day.  He seemed to acquiesce to my research, but I don’t think he actually gave up on getting back to the boat for lunch.

When we exited the Treasury he was on museum overload and he really wanted that lunch.  We had a few tense minutes, but the sun was a little bit on my side and it appeared we were in for some better weather, so Bill agreed to take in some of the sites which were, by my estimation, within walking distance – but first he wanted to sit down and have a meal.

Cafe Tirolerhof

I read him Rick Steves’ description of Cafe Tirolerhof, “a classic Viennese cafe full of things that time has passed by: chandeliers, marble tables, upholstered booths, waiters in tuxes and newspapers.”  Sounds irresistible, right? And the cafe was only a block away.

Well, it’s not really that Rick Steves lied.  Everything he listed was there, but instead of being as charming as it sounded, it was creepy and somewhat disturbing.  My first complaint is that along with all the other things time has passed by, the Tirolerhof has a whole lot of dirt their staff has been passing by for a long time.  I’ve heard waiters in Viennese coffeehouses can be rude to American tourists.  Well, the Cafe Tirolerhof waiters are rude to everyone – a real equal opportunity situation.

What’s more the menu is downright weird. I pride myself on being able to pick something delicious off menus in unfamiliar places – even when the menus aren’t in English.  Well, the Tirolerhof menu is translated into English, but you want to believe something is lost in translation.  Let me tell you, it’s not.  The food is as weird as it says it is.  What’s more the cafe does not take credit cards and because the broken credit card machine at the Imperial Apartments had forced us to use most of our euros, I had to wander down the street and figure out the Viennese ATM.

The Gray Continues, But at Least the Rain Quit – For a While

Love is the only thing that saved me at this juncture.  The sun which had been on my side right before lunch had once again retreated, but it wasn’t raining right that minute.  Having already paid for lunch, Bill figured he might as well let me trot around the palace environs, especially since I promised we’d just be sightseeing, not paying fees and trudging through museums.

So we set off on the walking tour I had charted out in my head.  What else should you see when you visit the Hofburg?  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our trek.



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Fruit Basket Turnover and a Dragon at DABS

Delbert the Dragon by Gary Lee Price

Delbert the Dragon by Gary Lee Price


Gary Lee Price sculptures have been gracing the Dallas Arboretum for a long time.  His “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” statue in “Nancy’s Garden” was a favorite of my mother’s, so I’m sure she would have loved this summer’s exhibition of his “Great Contributors.”  I bet,”Delbert the Dragon” would have charmed her, too.

Media Day for Delbert

I envy my mother’s devotion to the Dallas Arboretum.  For many years she volunteered as a docent at the DeGolyer House and her regular visits to the garden, rain or shine, were a highlight of each week.  Visiting the gardens is one of my favorite things, but in spite of my good intentions I’m never there as frequently as I wish I could be, so I’m always glad when they notify me of a media day.

A few Saturdays ago I was invited for a peek at Delbert the Dragon in Pecan Grove.  the charming dragon is devoted to reading and is displayed with several other Gary Lee Price statues devoted to children and books.  These lovely pieces are well worth venturing out into the summer heat, but the faint of heart will be glad to know they’ll be on display until November.

Great Contributors on the Move

20160723_103305A few weeks before Delbert’s debut, I discovered Gary Lee Price’s Great Contributors had played a game of fruit basket turnover, but on that particular day I was there for business and didn’t have time to wander the garden.  I’d been intrigued by the possibilities of that news and was eager to walk the garden to see where the statues had landed.  Delbert’s Debut proved a perfect opportunity.  No speeches or fanfare accompanied the debut, so after taking a few pictures and watching the activity at Toad Corners I went on a sort of statue scavenger hunt.

20160723_102423I’d already seen the first Great Contributor as I entered the Garden.  The father of our country had been moved out of his nook along the Paseo de Flores and given a shady spot in the Ginsberg Family Plaza.  I thought that was a smart move.  Old George was probably suffering beside the sunny Paseo and much preferred his new spot.  It also allowed visitors to get a taste of the exhibition right away.  Chances are many people didn’t even know to look for the sculptures.

As I strolled through the garden I discovered many of the statues had remained in the spots they’d originally been placed, like Ben Franklin in the Fern Dell, Mark Twain by the Fogelson Fountain, Albert Einstein in the Lay Family Garden and the Wright Brothers on the Camp House Lawn.

I couldn’t decide whether I liked the new placement of Monet or not.  He and his easel were moved to the edge of the Jonsson Color Garden which got him under the shade of some trees, but I had sort of liked him on a hilltop looking out toward the lake.  Which placement do you prefer?

20160723_103522The other sculpture which was moved was not moved very far.  Mr. Shakespeare is still in the Magnolia Glade, just a little easier to find.  I had definitely liked him better when he was more hidden.  It seemed to me he’d prefer to be a little less out of the limelight as he rested there in the garden, but I’ll have to admit he didn’t complain.

The Gardens had Changed Their Frock

With all due respect to Mr. Price, no sculpture can compete with the gorgeous floral display of the garden.  I visited the gardens within just a few weeks during Blooms and was amazed by the differences in the flowers.  The first visit had featured daffodils and other early flowers nestled on the ground, but the trees didn’t even have leaves.  A few weeks later the trees were glorious.  The shy daffodils had disappeared other spring blooms dominated the beds.

Returning in summer it was hard to believe I was in the same gardens I’d seen earlier in the year.  The colors were brighter and warmer.  It was as if the garden had changed out of a demure Easter frock and donned a dramatic sundress.  I’ll leave you with some pictures of the flowers.




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The Caves Visit Colonial Williamsburg


I still remember my wonder as my family’s baby blue Pontiac pulled up to our accommodations in Colonial Williamsburg.  A little browsing around the internet leads me to believe we stayed at what is now called the Williamsburg Woodlands, a budget-minded choice for families, but to me it seemed like Waldorf Astoria.  Let me tell you about it.

Bellmen and Multiple Pools

As I said last week, my family was not the resort type.  We usually stayed in Holiday Inns.  These practical motels would have a few two-story buildings clustered beside the road around a modest pool.  Some would be a little bit nicer than others, but it was very, very low key.

The colonial part of Williamsburg is tightly controlled by a foundation.  This protects the authenticity of the historical city, but it also keeps Holiday Inns at bay.  I remember Mother being almost frantic about our arrival at, what was then called, the Colonial Williamsburg Resort Motel or some other similar name.  She’d been nervous about the expense of staying at the resort, but she felt the proximity to the historical attractions justified it.

I’d been traveling with my parent’s for over a decade by this time, but we’d never had a bellhop deliver us and our luggage to our room.  I remember my father getting out of the car to check us in and then being escorted through the property by a uniformed bell hop.  I wasn’t even sophisticated enough to understand this was a big deal, but I do remember being absolutely blown away by the property.  There were multiple pools and each one was huge.  The property featured many walkways, inviting benches in shady nooks and amenities like croquet and tennis.  I knew I was living the high life.

When we reached our room I wasn’t quite as impressed as I had been with the other parts of the property, because our room looked a lot like our Holiday Inn rooms.  It didn’t phase me too much, because  I was all for taking a swim in one of the pools I’d seen, but my parents were beat.  This was the day we nearly lost Susan at Mount Vernon, so they’d already had about all the monkey business they wanted out of us.  Instead of swimming, we got cleaned up and headed to the cafeteria…yes, I said cafeteria.

The property had a huge cafeteria serving meals for the budget-minded.  We’re talking trays with partitioned sections to separate the various foods on your plate and a slot for your silverware, just like many schools use.  The tabletops were Formica and you picked up your condiments at a station very much like fast food restaurants have today.  I was getting less and less impressed with this resort.  Perhaps they had a nice restaurant tucked away somewhere, but my family never went there.

I was dying to check out the pools and other amenities, but I knew the drill.  Once we had our baths there would be no swimming.  We’d gotten cleaned up to go eat and we were supposed to stay that way for the next day.  I’m sure I was displaying all kinds of teen-aged angst, but in truth I was never much of a rebel.  We’d been promised that we could swim the next day, but that didn’t pan out either.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you why.


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