ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

We Won the Love & Marriage Game Show

TRAVEL THERE: ONE OF LIFE’S MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS

On Tuesday night when we saw the Perfect Couple Game Show, they mentioned they would be having a Newlywed-type Q&A game on the following evening. Bill suggested we should try out for it and I thought he was crazy, especially after I had seen what they put the Perfect Couples through.  They mentioned the game again at the Elton John Tribute show and Bill was even more adamant about participating.  I thought there was no way they’d choose a couple of oldsters like us, so I didn’t worry too much.

Killing Time 

We mentioned Bill’s desire to be in the game show at dinner time and our table mates promised to cheer us on if we did indeed end up as contestants.  We had some time to kill before the show once dinner was over, so we took the opportunity to visit some of the places on board that we hadn’t yet seen. 

One of the biggest disappointments was the Viking Crown Bar.  The Bar was the highest venue on the ship and was reported to have the best views.  The specialty sushi restaurant was up there and  I also saw they had late night disco action up there.  It was a beautiful bar and the view was amazing, but there was virtually no one up there enjoying it.  We can’t say whether the disco party heated the place up or not, because by then we were always in bed.

Reporting for Duty

After a little more strolling, it was time to get to the Masquerade Theater so we’d be considered as one of the contestant couples.  Some of the couples who were interested in this game show had been contestants in the Perfect Couple Game the night before.

The Love & Marriage Game had a twist.  One couple was a pair of newlyweds honeymooning on the boat.  Another couple was chosen because they had been married longer than anyone else in the theater.  There was stiff competition to fill that middle spot.

Bill and I stood in a line up of prospective couples and they had all the couples give one other a big kiss to demonstrate how much in love we still were.  Bill wrapped his arms around me and laid one on me.  To make it more fun I wrapped a leg around him.  The crowd went wild and we were chosen to be the middle couple.

The actual game was exactly like the Newlywed Show.  First they took the guys backstage and asked the women the questions.  When they brought the guys back out, Bill and I got every question right. Then they sent the women backstage and asked the guys the questions, but whereas the ladies’ questions had been pretty tame, they heated it up for the guys questions.  We missed one that time – something about what feature the guys had been attracted to when they first saw us.  I answered, “My butt,” because that’s what Bill has told me for years.  He’d been a little bashful about answering so specifically and had said it was my whole body.

Then they asked a question which was not something I really wanted to talk about on a stage, in a theater full of people, so I’m certainly not going to discuss it in print, but we got it right.  They made a big hoopla about us winning, but when they brought out our gifts, the other couples got the same thing, so there hadn’t been a real prize for revealing our deep dark secrets.  However, we were certainly celebrities on the ship for the rest of the cruise.

Then as we were about to leave the stage, they wanted our room number so they could deliver a DVD of the event to our cabin.  Oh, no!  I realized they had recorded the game and there was no end to the people who might watch it.  Then they said they’d be showing it on the on board information channel.  They did, because I watched- and no I won’t be posting the video!

One day left!  Come back next week and see how we spent our last day at sea.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Yucatan Adventure

TRAVEL HERE: DISCOVER THE YUCATAN & THE MAYAN WORLD

No time for working out or a sit-down breakfasts today.  Our shore excursion met on the pier at 9:15, so we grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer Buffet and disembarked.

Progresso, Mexico

I love cruising and one of my favorite moments is stepping off the boat at a port of call.  Progresso was not new to us.  We’d been there several years ago on a Carnival cruise, but that was before I started blogging.  On that trip we visited the Dzibilchaltun ruins, which I highly recommend.  This time we were taking a tour called “Discover the Yucatan & the Mayan World”.  It was a sort of compromise somewhere in between going all the way to Chichen Itza and spending the day on the beach.

The city of Progresso is developing their port and I’m pretty sure the cute little market at the end of the pier was not there last time.  We didn’t see anything that tempted us to pull out our wallets, but it was a nice commercial enterprise and it gave us something to do while we waited for our tour to be called.

How do you spell relief?

On the Bus

Once everyone on the tour had been accounted for, our guide led us to our bus for the day.  For the most part it was in good condition, but I could tell it had been in service for awhile.  Our guide had a shtick about his name.  He complained that all of us tourists didn’t know how to properly roll the “R” in Carlos, so he’d prefer it if we called him The Big Chihuahua or Uncle Chewy.

Our first stop was Xcampo.  (Well, actually the roadside restroom before you got to Xcampo.)  Xcampo was a temple complex, like Chichen Itza or Dzibilxhaltun, but on a much smaller scale.  The visit was not very long, but long enough to wander around and climb on the pyramids.

And speaking of climbing the pyramids, we learned that the steps of the pyramid were so steep to be sure that no one could turn their back on the god and walk down.  They’d have to crawl down to do honor to the god.  In addition, That’s the reason the door to their huts were so low – to remind people to bow and do honor to the home’s inhabitants.

On to Dzemul

Dzemul was a small town primarily occupied by descendants of the Mayans.  Our first stop in the town was an architecturally correct replica of a Mayan home.  When the bus arrived our hostess was nowhere in sight.  We sat there a few moments as the guide tried to decide what to do about her absense.  Just about the time he decided we’d go to the next stop, up comes this darling little lady on the orange human-powered vehicle you see in the picture gallery.  These were the most popular vehicles in town and came in a wide variety of colors and themes.

As Uncle Chewy explained the details of Mayan home-building, our hostess went out back, stoked up a fire and made us some tortillas.  They were good!

The next stop was the local Catholic church with a long history.  There we were greeted by this beautiful woman in her traditional hand-made dress.  Just so you don’t miss it, that’s cross-stitch and it covers the dress.  Can you imagine how long it took to make it?

We were enchanted by this lady.  She exuded pride and self-confidence.  She and some associates performed some folk dances for us and one performed with a tray of water-filled glasses.  The the tray of dancer in the picture got a little off balance and dribbled water on her as she danced.  She was such a pro that it didn’t even cause her to blink.  She completed the dance without ever touching the tray and behaved as if the water dripping on her was just part of the act.  The dancers on the ship could take lessons from her.

Inside the church we were treated to a little history. Bill was amazed to learn that they used to make church doors so large in order for people on horseback to ride in, without having to get of their horse, in times of emergency.

Cultural orientation completed it was time to go to the beach.  Come back next week and join us there.  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of Dzemul.

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Formal Night on Vision of the Seas

TRAVEL THERE: PUTTING ON THE RITZ

I love dressing for dinner.  It’s not required on most cruises anymore.  They discourage you from wearing flip flops and tank tops, but pretty much anything else goes.  Even on formal night dressing up is optional, but I dress up every evening and on formal night I pull out the stops.   

Free Champagne!

The Captain’s Greeting

I can only imagine how much the captain hates formal night.  He has to get all dressed up, spend an hour or so shaking hands and taking pictures with skads of people he has no interest in and then he has to get up and make a big welcoming speech.  It was probably fun the first hundred or so time, but he does this week after week after week!  He probably realizes that most of the people are just there to get the free champagne.

Then after he makes his speech he has to introduce his management staff and let them make their own speeches.  How would you like to take the top management out of your organization to entertain a crowd that just wants free champagne?  Yeah, who’s running the boat – right?  It was almost impossible to hear what they said, but as long as the trays of champagne wandered around the room, they had an audience.

Happy Birthday, Anniversary and Everything Else

Since this cruise was to celebrate Bill’s birthday, our travel agent asked which evening we’d like commemorate the occasion.  I chose Formal Night.  Bill’s birthday wasn’t the only celebration at the table.  The Youth Pastor and his wife also got feted for their anniversary.

Our table mates were a blast, so we were grateful for the delightful company.  The food continued in it’s mediocrity.  This was the night of the lousy lobster bisque and I followed it up with a steak.  Nothing to write home about.  One more meal down.

Another Show, Another Disappointment

For formal night the entertainment was Boogie Woogie Wonderland, which was supposed to highlight the music of the seventies.  They were a little loose about hitting their target.  The seventies were my boogie woogie wonderland, but I have no idea what inspired some of the costumes they wore.

The songs they chose to highlight were among some of my favorites, but the voices just weren’t up to the challenge of the music.  Overall, it was an entertaining show, but it just came up short in the quality department.

Awkward!

To top off our night, after the show we headed to the Some Enchanted Evening Lounge for The Perfect Couple Game Show.  We were expecting a “Newlyweds Game” knock-off, but instead got the Embarrassment Olympics.

When we arrived Adult Karaoke was still going on.  There was a group of drunken bridesmaids dominating the room whether they were on stage or not.  I was glad when the spectacle was over.

Instead of a Q&A of martial habits, The Perfect Couple was a series of party games designed to embarrass people who were unwitting enough to volunteer to be contestants.  Why pay entertainers when you can get passengers to entertain everyone with karaoke and awkward feats of skill.  We made it through a few rounds, but when they started with tennis balls in men’s jeans, we decided it was time for bed.

Come back next week for sure, because we arrive in the Yucatan and enjoy a marvelous shore excursion.o

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Dinner & a Show, But Not in That Order

The Masquerade Theater

TRAVEL HERE: WELCOME ABOARD SHOWTIME

Though he was still fighting the internet, my sweet husband put a good face on it and headed to the Masquerade Theater with me for the Welcome Aboard Showtime.  Live entertainment is something we really enjoy, but don’t often splurge on it.  It’s usually one of the highlights of our cruise.  Follow me to the 5th deck.

Getting There is Not Half the Fun

 Our least favorite space on any cruise boat is the casino.  The area is usually loud, and it also has lots of lights blinking, garish decorations and second hand smoke.  For some reason, the people who design ships think it’s cool to direct traffic through there.  We disagree with them, but apparently that doesn’t make any difference.

On Vision of the Seas going through the casino was just about the only way to get to the theater without going outside and when you’re all dolled up, outside is not preferable.  Those romantic shows you’ve seen, where a couple stands at the railing of a ship at the end of the evening, are lies.  Most evenings, unless you’re on a protected deck, the wind is enough to blow you and your carefully coiffed hair into the sea.

Bill probably didn’t even realize what kind of expression he had on his face as we walked through the casino, but I saw it.  It definitely said, “What have I gotten myself into?”  I was hoping the show would be good.

The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers

For fun lets call them the RCSD for really-can’t-sing-or-dance.  Well, there was one guy who was a pretty good dancer, but I’m not sure whether he was all that good or they were all that bad.  When he’d do a high kick, he’d almost smash his nose, but none of the others were anywhere in his league, so even that was distracting rather than entertaining.  The singers were consistently weak.  I know there are all kinds of really talented people out there dying for an opportunity of any sort.  Where were they all when it was time for Royal Caribbean auditions?

 The Comedy of Nery Saenz

The best part of that evening’s entertainment was that the RCSD were not the whole show.  The bulk of the time was devoted to a really funny comedian.  I’m not all that crazy about comedy routines, because usually they cuss too much, use foul language, depend on sexual innuendo and insult people.  This comedian managed to be funny without resorting to any of that.

The comedian’s primary shtick focused on how un-glamorous it is to be a comedian on a cruise ship.  He poked fun at himself and his husbanding skills.  You got the idea that while being away from home all the time was difficult, he really loved his wife and family.  He also had a show later that evening, so he’s probably well-versed in cussing, foul language, sexual innuendo and insults, but I didn’t go to that show and I’m glad I didn’t.  If only people 18 and older are allowed, I’m probably not going to enjoy it.

After the show it was time for dinner.  You won’t want to miss that, so come back next week.

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Midnight at the Oasis

TRAVEL THERE: CLIMB ON YOUR QUAD AND DRIVE

Imagine a sheik has invited you to his desert oasis for a banquet.  What would you expect?  What would you wear?  Well, let’s pretend my nephew Ayman is the sheik and I’ll tell you about our night under the stars.

Transportation

For this adventure we had a van, that took us to a place that rented quads to tourists.  Some of the girls wanted their own vehicle but I was content to climb up behind my hubby.  Off we went into the horizon.  In every direction it seemed there were miles and miles of sand, but straight ahead was a mountain and we headed towards it.

As we departed the rental facility, the mountain appeared no further away than the length of a football field, but as we took out across the sand, it seemed to back away from us.  At the same time, it got bigger and bigger and bigger.  The ride was a lot of fun, even if it was a little tame.  We had to line up and follow the leader.  Bill tried to jazz it up a little bit, but was admonished to get back in line and behave.  It was kind of like one of those trail rides where your horse plods along in a rut he’s trodded along for decades. You were imagining galloping along with the wind in your hair and all you got was dirt between your teeth.  On the quad you got wind in the hair alright, but you also got sand in every imaginable crevice.  Still it was fun.

The Oasis

Our destination was no oasis.  I didn’t even see a palm tree – merely a collection of tables in a nook below the mountain.  We were among the first guests to arrive.  We settled around what seemed like an advantageous table and let the evening unfold.  Service was, to say the least, slow.

While I wouldn’t say we were in a hurry, you really don’t want to leave these guys without any entertainment for very long – otherwise they will make it up.  Soon plastic cups and adult beverages came out of the bags some of the ladies had brought along.  As groups wandered in and began to fill the tables around us, our guys started providing some of that entertainment they are famous for coming up with.  Yes, that’s my husband waving the checkered scarf.

Just as night fell, the servers began to pass out platters of food.  It was, in fact, so dark that we had to guess at what we were eating.  While it was not the best food we had in Egypt, it was OK and no one got sick.  Then the entertainment began in earnest.  If you’ve been following this trip on my blog, you won’t be surprised to know there were belly dancers and sword dancers and belly dancers and fire dancers and belly dancers and native music and belly dancers and whirling dervishes.

The best part was the whirlers.  I’d seen quite a few of them by this time and pretty quickly you get down the shared repertoire.  However, these guys didn’t just whirl around on the stage and then go their merry way.  Oh no.  There was a rock ledge right behind the benches we were sitting on and suddenly we had a whirler doing his stuff right next to us.  Yes, it was pretty cool.

When the whirlers were done, the sword dancers came out and shortly thereafter it was time to drive back to the bus.  After our second quad trip, I felt grimy in places I didn’t even know were places.  We crawled onto the bus for the trip back to the hotel, but we couldn’t get into bed until we’d done something about the grime.  Sweet dreams until next week, when we’ll go yachting.

 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Broadway on the Red Sea

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT’S NEXT SHARM?

I’m in Sharm el Sheik, a resort town on the Red Sea, and it’s past my bedtime.  I’m stuffed into the back seat of my niece’s car trying to stifle my yawns.  My husband is in our nephew’s car at some other location.  Our niece and nephew are on the phone discussing what we should do next.  It’s all in Arabic, so even though the whole conversation is on speaker phone, I have no idea what is going on.  Some resolution is made and we zoom across town to our next destination.  It might be late at night during the week, but you wouldn’t know it from the festival atmosphere.  Why all these people prefer to wander around inland,when there is a perfectly good Boardwalk on the Red Sea, just a few blocks away, I will never know.  That was my big question over the next few days as we scurried around trying to entertain ourselves.  Why were all these venues spread out all over town, when it had been so perfect to have everything right there at the beach?

Going to the Mall

Our destination was a mall, but is wasn’t like anything we have in Dallas.  Here in Dallas we are serious about shopping.  There they also shop.

My niece found parking, a constant challenge, as she continued her phone conversations, probably with her sons, who were wandering the city on public transportation.  We piled out of the car and reunited with our spouses.  All of us stomped through a virtually empty shopping center and I wondered where we would end up.  Don’t get me wrong, the place was beautiful with all kinds of lovely stores, but most everything was closed and it looked like a ghost town.

After what seemed like a long trek, across esplanades, around grand staircases and through narrow hallways, we arrived to the middle of everything, a large open-air patio, full of patrons smoking sheesha and enjoying a lively stage show.

My nephew Ayman started working the room and magic started happening – something I saw a lot of over the next few days.  Though it seemed our big group would have to break up into smaller bunches to enjoy the show, it was only an illusion, because we had Ayman.  Like the Red Sea parting, a large space opened in the center of the crowd and chairs began to appear out of nowhere.  In just moments our entire group was seated in the center of the action.

Drinks, food and hookahs were ordered and we sat back to enjoy the show.  The only problems were a few mosquitoes and the fact that I was about to fall asleep, but those were minor irritations.  The stage props suggested the show had a Broadway theme, but don’t let that fool you.  It was all the usual Arab entertainments, belly dancers, whirling dervishes, belly dancers, a magician, belly dancers, swords, belly dancers – well you get the picture.  I’ve included some photos below.

When the show was over we gathered up our belongings and headed back to the hotel.  This day, which had seeped over into the next, was over.  Within a few hours, we’d be climbing into another vehicle for our next entertainment.  Enjoy the images below and come back next week for more Sharm.

 

ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, TRAVEL, WRITING

Sean Hannity Visits First Baptist Dallas

TRAVEL HERE: A PEP RALLY FOR PATRIOTS

Sorry!  I have to interrupt this little discussion about meal kit services to talk about a couple of things I like better than food – God and America.  My Liberal friends aren’t required to read this.  It’s meant to be a group hug for my Conservative friends.  Sean Hannity visited First Baptist Dallas yesterday.  I had waffled back and forth between going and not going.  I don’t listen to him often enough to be qualified as a fan, but I have been listening to him for several years now.  At the last minute I decided to take the trek downtown.

The Pre-Service Experience  

I usually spend my Sundays at Rockwall Bible Church.  We have about 35-40 families in our membership – a far cry from First Baptist Dallas.  For this adventure I found FBD’s guest parking garage on their website and let Google Local give me driving directions.  Once I exited off 75, the number of cars headed my way was huge, but everybody was polite.  Even though I ended up in the wrong lane a couple of times, I was always allowed back into the herd with relative ease.  I just didn’t know if this was the usual Sunday morning crowd or whether there were this many other folks who wanted to come see Hannity.

Google Local got me right to the parking garage and I was directed up to the 7th floor of the garage to park.  I decided not to wait on an elevator and hit the stairs.  Along with other invigorating things about this event, I managed to get in a lot of walking.  I found out the church takes up six city blocks!

Once inside FBD, I found out Hannity devotees had turned out in droves and later a parking attendant told me they’d arranged for parking in three extra garages.  This wasn’t Sunday as usual.  The nice greeter who walked me across the foyer and got me going in the right direction assured me this was a much larger crowd than a usual Sunday.  She told me greeters usually escorted guests all the way to the sanctuary, but they changed protocol for this special event.  She seemed disappointed she wasn’t going to have the opportunity to do that and maybe she was.  Imagine how impressed I was when she saw me on my way out and remembered my name!  I was blown away because remembering names is definitely not my spiritual gift 😉

The journey to my pew was something of it’s own adventure.  This place is HUGE and it was wall-to-wall people.  The main floor was packed to capacity, so I had to go to the balcony, which was also filled by the start of the service.  The later morning service was supposed to be even more packed, so I don’t know where they put everyone.

Let Us Sing!

While I don’t usually worship at a mega-church, I’ve been in several.  Let me tell you, there are mega-churches and then there is First Baptist Dallas.  It was so overwhelming I couldn’t even sing the first couple of verses during the opening of the service.  Tears kept filling my eyes and I had a frog in my throat.

Instead of the cold, canned feeling I’ve gotten from visiting other mega-churches, FBD managed to transport me to another level.  I thought to myself, “This is a small picture of what it will be like to worship in heaven.  The choir will be in the millions instead of the hundreds, there won’t be walls and we won’t need the sound equipment, but it’s going to feel just the way this does.”

My imagination went down a rabbit trail thinking about heaven.  I imagined the angels in heaven singing a song I’d written the lyrics for.  With an eternity of worship to fill, they’ll have time for all of us to fulfill our hearts’ desires.  A change of songs brought me back to the present and soon Sean Hannity was on stage with Dr. Jeffers.  Hannity got two standing ovations before he ever said a word.  The audience was charged up.

A Simple Story of Faith and an Invitation.

The audience might have been charged up, but Hannity was just himself.  Dr. Jeffers asked him to share his personal testimony and Hannity told us his unremarkable story that made all the difference in his life.  I’m sure you can get a recording of it from FBD, but for such a celebrity to have such a humble vision of themselves was refreshing.

Dr. Jeffers’ follow-up question was about the movie Hannity had come to promote, Let There Be Light.  Again, humility.  There was a natural pride showing from being part of a good thing, but no superlatives.  He invited us to see it when it comes out on Friday and suggested bringing unbelievers to be a part of the experience.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  My admiration for him doubled and I will see the movie.

America at the Crossroads

Then Dr. Jeffers took over and presented a sermon on his new book America at the Crossroads.  The skeptics out there are thinking, “Aha, I bet they were selling copies in the lobby.”  You’d be wrong about that.  They were giving them away.

Many Liberals think Conservatives are against everything, but this was a celebration.  Dr. Jeffers is concerned about our nation, but his solutions are all about embracing life, family and faith.  The sanctuary was filled with hope and hope is one of my favorite things.  It was also about love.

Perhaps one of the most important things he said was that we don’t get to heaven in a groupThe only way to get there is one by one.  And we don’t win people to the Lord in crowds.  We reach them one at a time, one person to another.  That gave me hope.  I’m not a Sean Hannity.  I have an audience, but it is small – minuscule in the full scope of things.  I have fun sharing my travels and talking about food, but that’s not what I’m here for.  I’m here to share hope and if I do that from time to time, then I’m fulfilling my role in the big scheme of things.

On Wednesday we’ll be back in Egypt, doing a little belly dancing and Friday we’ll talk about staging for your home’s photo shoot.  So my visit to see Sean Hannity did not turn me into a flaming Conservative that can’t talk about anything but politics.  I’m still just me.

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent
Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner.  Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying.  Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire.  This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party.  That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served.  So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge.  I didn’t want to miss any champagne.  The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully.  Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief.  We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days.  The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes.  Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes.  The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance.  I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill.  They always choose Bill.  I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes.  Anyway,  here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful.  They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music.  I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes.  The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more.  I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and  Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.)  I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters.  They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention.  He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight.  After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor.   I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen.  If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Durnstein, Gateway to the Wachau Valley

3D Tor (35)TRAVEL THERE: DARLING LITTLE DURNSTEIN

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.

 

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

A Stroll Through Vienna

Now where was the boat?
Now where was the boat?

TRAVEL THERE: MILKING THE SHORE EXCURSION FOR ALL I CAN GET

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.