Amsterdam, August 4 & 5, 2015

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The group finally got together on the 4th, minus David who had to fly back to San Antonio. Vicki, Ellen and Larry met the rest of the group at their hotel for an afternoon of shopping in Amsterdam. The shopping was followed by a tram ride to David & Ellen’s Apartment and then dinner at David & Ellen’s favorite Italian Restaurant.
On the 5th, Ellen took a break to get some personal business taken care of and the rest of the group met up at 12:30 at the hotel. Earlier in the day the Hotel Group, Randy & Kathy and Johnny & Kathy visited a Museum.
The first order of the day was to visit the Red Light District (the “District”)! The District was located just a short 5 minutes walk from the hotel. The District was interesting, but I think all of us would describe it as rather “Seedy” and not an areas that we were comfortable visiting. But, to be in Amsterdam and not see the District, would have left a void in our trip! No photos will be found of the District Doors or it’s women as this is strictly prohibited.
After the short visit to the District we spent the next 2 hours in various shops on the walk back to the hotel. By 5:00 PM all of us agreed that it was time to call it a day as our flight the next morning required us to be at the airport very early in the morning. Vicki and Larry returned to Ellen’s and the rest of the group stayed at their hotel for the evening. Ellen made a cab reservation for Larry & Vicki for 6:00 AM!
Check out the photo’s on the SmugMug Website: http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise/Amsterdam-August-352015/

Amsterdam – August 3, 2015

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The group, exclusive of David & Ellen who got off the boat the night before, departed the boat at 10:30 on Monday, August 3. Randy & Kathy and Johnny & Kathy checked into their hotel (the Park Plaza Victoria), which was about a 10 minute cab ride from the boat and located across from the Central Rail Station. Larry & Vicki proceeded to David & Ellen’s home in Amsterdam.
Everyone that heard we were going to Amsterdam told us that two things we had to experience were the Coffee shops that sold Marijuana and the Red Light District. So, in the next two days we did our observations of these two Amsterdam traditions. Our cab driver informed us that Cafe’s were eating establishments were places that one could get food and coffee and Coffee Shops were places that sold the marijuana! More to come on this subject.
The first order of the day was a trip on the bicycle by Ellen & Vicki to the grocery store to get supplies. Check the photo of the two on bikes on the SmugMug website:
http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise/Amsterdam-August-352015/
We arranged to get together later to tour Amsterdam and planned on getting together later. Larry & Randy discussed communicating via Text Message and never hooked up! Larry, Vicki & Ellen (David had to work) then decided to get a hamburger at George’s, a local cafe that is a favorite of Ellens. On the way to George’s, we heard someone yelling our names and looked up to see Randy, Kathy, Johnny and Kathy waiving as they were trying to find Ellen’s apartment. Think of the odds of this happening in a city of 800,000+ population!
After an excellent lunch at George’s, we ventured out on the tram to explore the local area. Our event for the day was a tour of the Heineken brewery, which took about 1 1/2 hours. On the way to the brewery we walked past the Bull Dog Coffee Shop, which is a local establishment that specializes in the sale of Marijuana. From the smell and the looks in the eyes of the patron’s of this establishment it was quite clear what was being consumed. Unbelievable was our reaction to what we saw!
The brewery tour was interesting as Heineken is a local beer and an Amsterdam headquartered company. The tour was informative and the beer was excellent.
After the tour we split up with the intent to get together for dinner at an Italian restaurant by the name of Spagioni’s, a local favorite of David and Ellen’s. We were unable to hook up with the other 4 members of our group, so it was only a partial success. However, you know it is going to be excellent when your host, David, is known by all of the staff of the restaurant. It was as advertised!

Amsterdam – August 2, 2015

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The trip from Cologne to Amsterdam took approximately 18 hours with our arrival between 111:30-12:30. Upon arriving in Amsterdam the group met in the lounge and we faced the second crisis of the trip as the Tour Organizer (Larry) had not made hotel reservations for Monday evening!! Thanks to the Travel Advisor website we were able to book hotel reservations for Monday evening at the same hotel where reservations had been made for Tuesday and Wednesday!
The afternoon was spent by taking a combination of a Canal water cruise, a short walking tour and a bus tour. Randy & Kathy elected to take toe Jewish Heritage tour and the rest of us received a mixed review ot this tour. Kathy did not speak favorably of the tour as the tour director spent a lot of time explaining things in great detail. Randy, on the other hand, thought the tour was good because of the detailed explanation given by the tour director. The rest of the group ended their tour with drinks and food at Freddy’s, a bar that was originally setup by Freddy Heineken as part of the hotel that he purchased for his wife. Ellen was excited as they served Heineken Light, which the bartender told us was the only place that had the Light on tap in the city.
During the weekend, Amsterdam’s population increased by about 100,000 as a result of the celebrations of gay pride week. The normally pristine city was littered with trash virtually everywhere as a result of the celebration. The cleanup was in process led by private citizens taking the initiative as volunteers to clean up the canal.
The evening concluded with the usual fantastic dinner followed by a classical concert by a group named LA STRADA playing in the lounge. Not all of us stayed for the entire concert as we needed to prepare for disembarkation the next morning. And, David and Ellen checked out after dinner to go to their apartment as David had to return to work on Monday morning.
I believe that all of us would rate River Cruising as a “Do-Over” and the AMA Waterways boat with a 4-5 rating. The boat was clean, the staff were very helpful, the rooms were good and the food was excellent!
The last 3 days of our trip will be in Amsterdam where the women promise to shop and the men promise not to complain. Interspersed between shopping might be a visit to several Museums and the Heineken Brewry.

Cologne – August 1, 2015

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Today’s journey started in Koblenz at 6:45 AM and we arrived in Cologne slightly before noon. Cologne is a major cultural center with one of the oldest Universities in Germany. The population of Cologne is just over 1 million and was originally settled by the Romans in 50 BC. The highlight of the afternoon in Cologne was their Cathedral, which was the tallest building in Europe until the Eiffel tower in Paris was constructed.
Randy & Kathy took a tour to sample Cologne culinary delights and the rest of the group took a Cologne City Walk and all of us ended up at the Cathederal. After the visit to the cathedral most of the group met up at a local eatery to have a plate of Reibekuchen (potato fritters), Kolsch (a Cologne beer) and other German beverages and food. The last stop was at a Cologne store to shop for fragrances that are known for their production in Cologne.
The boat then left for the last leg of the trip to Amsterdam at 6:30 in the evening. The evening events were a FAREWELL COCKTAI in the lounge with introductions to the crew of the boat and the CAPTAIN’S FAREWELL GALA DINNER. Our group attended the dinner dressed in casual attire and it was interesting to see the other travelers dressed in mostly casual attire with only a few dressed in more formal wear.

The Cruising Day

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Today started with a stop in Rudesheim and a tour of a vineyard with a wine tasting and a gondola over vineyards. Rudesheim is a very quaint town with approximately 7,000 citizens in the heart of a very robust wine area. Following the wine tasting we were able spend some time in the town shopping before returning to our boat.
We were scheduled to leave the dock at 2:00 for the most scenic segment of the trip through the Rhine Gorge to Koblenz and the viewing of dozens of castle’s along the way. Before we could get away the Captain informed us that the river was closed because of the discovery of an unexploded WW II Bomb dropped by American aircraft in the area between the two towns. The river has been very low on water due to a lack of rain and another cruise boat saw the bomb located in an area that was exposed because of the low water. In approximately 2 hours we were able to leave as the Bomb Squad was able to disable the bomb and it was once again safe to travel.
The Rhine gorge was the most scenic section of the trip to date with a castle located every several miles along the way. Check out the SmugMug site for photos showing the castles and German landscape that is the best viewing during the cruise:
http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise/The-Rhine-Gorge/

We arrived in Koblenz between 6-7 PM, just in time for dinner. Tomorrow we will cruise to the German city of Cologne, which is the 3rd largest in Germany.

Heidelberg – July 30, 2015

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The Cruise boat stopped at Mannheim late morning, and the group elected to go to Heidelberg. Mannheim is a city of approximately 300,000 and Heidelberg is a city of approximately 150,000. Heidelberg is a University City with a student population of around 50,000 and it is the oldest University in Germany.
The highlights for this trip was a walking tour called the “Heidelberg Philosophers Hike” and the less stressful tour of the extensive castle. Randy & Kathy elected to take the Hike and reported that it was really fantastic and that their guide was great.
The rest of the group went to the Castle and found it also to be very facinating with a lot of history dating back many centuries. Heidlelberg University dates back to 1386 and was the 4th university established in the Holy Roman Empire. Heidlebery also has one of the longest shopping streets in Germany, which obviously was attractive to the females in our group.
After the evening meal we met several fellow travelers with connections to Anthony and Manchester as well as Edmond, Oklahoma. Not only were they connected to the towns, but they were distant relatives of Kathy Lanie—Pretty cool!
The SmugMug website has been updated through today, so check it out at:
http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise
Tomorrow we will sail “The Rhine Gorge” & “Rhine Castles & Ruins”, so look for a lot of photos on the SmugMug website tomorrow evening.

Strasburg – July 29, 2015

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The boat arrived at Kehl, which is the German gateway to Strasburg, which is located adjoining the Rhine on the German side. Half of our group took the early tour into Strasburg, which left at 9:30 and the others left at 10:30.
Strasburg is a city of over 250,000 population located in the ALSACE-LORAINE Region in France. Over 50,000 of the population are students at the University. This region has been part of both France and Germany on 4 separate occasions during the past 2 centuries. The city’s origin dates back to Roman times when it was part of the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, the entire Strasburg City Center was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.
The highlight of the tour was the visit to the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Shopping was also quite good with many upscale stores operating in the city. While at the Cathedral Vicki lit a votive Candle for our sister Nancy and Randy, Kathy, Vicki and Larry said a short silent prayer for Nancy!