Friday, October 14, 2016

Flower Friday

Well it's not a picture of flowers but I think all the autumn colours are spectacular; the picture just doesn't do them justice.  I love that we have such a difference in the seasons but I do wish that winter wasn't so long. It would be lovely if it was autumn that lasted for months. This weekend or next weekend will likely be the peak for colours then I'll have to get ready for the long winter.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Life On Board

So have you ever seen those commercials for river cruising in Europe. Well that's what I did for my vacation this year, a river cruise on the Rhine River.

I went with two of my sisters and a brother-in-law, our cruise was with Amawaterways and we sailed from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands with a pre-cruise extension of two nights in Zurich and two nights in Lucerne. I'll do some blog posts about our travels but this post will be about life on board the AmaCerto.

Since we did the pre-cruise, we were transferred from our hotel in Lucerne by bus to the ship which was docked in Basel.  Amawaterways took care of transferring all of baggage, when we got on board we were introduced to our room steward who took us down to our cabin and made sure that all of our things had arrived. After  unpacking there was a Welcome On Board Reception along with introductions to the senior crew and safety briefing.

French Balcony Cabin
The cabin was quite well designed, not overly large but storage was very good. With a double closet with two hanging rails, another closet with shelves, two bed side tables we had lots of storage for clothes and there was also storage in the bathroom under the sink and in a medicine cabinet. The bathroom itself was also quite well laid out, the shower was angled in the corner which gave you quite a bit of room to move around. It had a rain head and an hand held shower as well as a clothes line. The windows of our stateroom opened the full width of the room so you could watch the world sail on by but we didn't figure that out until near the end of the second day. We were on the top deck near the back of the ship which was quite nice since only the weight room, hair dresser and massage room were at the back of the ship so it was quite quiet. The Twin Balcony staterooms are larger and have both an indoor and an outdoor balcony. They would have more room at the end of the bed and a bigger desk where we only had the desk in the corner. Under the desk is a bar fridge and over the desk is a cabinet with the room safe. As well there was the infotainment system, an Apple computer with internet that was also connected to on board cameras and movies and music as well.

Welcome Reception

Front Lounge

Who'll be the first to cut the cake?

Champagne, wine, sandwiches, desserts and cake also were laid out to greet us at the Welcome reception. Food was to be a big part of our time on board the AmaCerto.

Sun Deck looking toward wheel house

On the sun Deck

Chess anyone?

Library and games room

At the end of the reception all the ladies were given a rose. Of course, now they are just a memory

The reception was followed by our first dinner in the dining room. There was no set seating but we tended to sit in about the same place as you got to know the wait staff and the bartender and they, of course got to know you.

Must have been good!

Fancy Desserts

Wine and beer were available with lunch and dinner and there was also champagne available at breakfast but we never got around to making those mimosas.  It felt like they were always feeding you, early risers breakfast in the lounge, breakfast in the dining room, late risers breakfast in the lounge, lunch in the dining room, tea in the lounge in the afternoon, dinner in the evening, capped off by late night snacks in the lounge.

Tea Time
As well there were some special events; a Sundae party on the sun deck with freshly made ice cream and, on one morning, we had second breakfast, something commonly done in Germany after going to church. This breakfast consisted of bratwurst, sausage, cheese sandwiches, pretzels and beer.

The room steward also had some nice little touches. There was a turn down service with chocolate placed on your pillow each night and some friendly guests came to visit us in our room.

Towel Elephant

Towel Dog
The AmaCerto also has a second dining room called the Chef's Table, all guests were able to make reservations to eat here at least once during the cruise. It was the same menu for the week,

a Taster's Menu so we got to try everything on the menu. The Chef's Table dining room seats 28 but the night we ate there we only had 20 people at the sitting. It was also my sister's birthday the evening we ate there so in addition to the three desserts on the menu there was also birthday cake; there were actually two people celebrating that night so everyone enjoyed a little birthday cake

Birthday Cake
Another surprise awaited my sister back in her cabin, a towel birthday cake and a card from the crew.

There is also some evening entertainment while on board. We had an accordion player and singer one night, a piano player and singer another night and a classical trio on a third night. As well the ship has a piano player who performs in the lounge in the evenings and some afternoons.

Evening Entertainment

Ship's Piano Player
But the best thing about life on board was being able to relax and watch the world sail by either from our cabin or from the sun deck. We had lovely weather and were even able to enjoy the pool a couple times.

Sailing through a lock
 If you look at the picture of the ship going through the lock compared to one of the photos above, you'll see that the wheel house has been lowered and the walls of the pool are down. This had to happen a couple times so that the ship would fit under the lock gate or a low bridge. And, of course, the view from the cabin changed quite dramatically while going through the locks too.

The pool at night

Sailing on the Rhine

View from the main lounge

Sailing the Rhine Gorge


Castle view near Rudesheim Germany

Countryside churches

Watching the world go by

View from our cabin while docked

I wish we had more time in each of the places we docked to just wander around and explore but overall the river cruise was a great experience, one I would certainly do again. You are so well treated on board it makes you feel so very special and you can't help but relax.


Hotel Manager, Sylvia and Cruise Manager, Csaba

Amawaterways AmaCerto

Friday, September 23, 2016

Spotted Dogs

Just got home this week after a three week vacation, nearly two weeks were spent in Switzerland and on a Rhine river cruise with Amawaterways, followed by a week in London. I'll do some blogs about our trip too.

This blog post is about spotted dogs, not dogs that have spots but dogs I spotted on my trip. What started out being about how dog friendly Europe was when I posted about a dog in the train station in Lucerne became a bit of a joke about spotting dogs of various breeds in the places that we went.

Dogs are allowed to travel on the trains in Europe so they were quite commonly seen in the train stations.  In Lucerne, I even saw one woman going into shops with her dog in tow; it seemed that they were allowed in the stores except when the store was serving food.

I  spotted two Scottie dogs in Riquewihr, France. It's not often that you see both a black and a white Scottie.

Scotties - Riquewihr, France
Then I saw a Sheltie in Strasbourg, France and now the dog spotting in Europe was really on.

Sheltie - Strasbourg France

Rudesheim am Rhine, Germany
In Rudeshiem, we rode up a gondola through the vineyards to get to a large monument. Dogs are allowed to ride in the gondola. Our guide said on nice evenings she would often bring her dogs up on the last gondola ride, have a glass of wine and then hike back down through the vineyards. What a nice way to spend an evening.

In Cologne, I spotted lots of dogs. The funny thing was though Europe is very dog friendly when I looked in the stores  there weren't that many stuffed dogs or statues of dogs. There were lots of cats, frogs, birds, you name it but hardly any dogs.
Springer Spaniels - Cologne Germany

Goldens - Cologne Germany

Black Lab - Cologne Germany
 The black lab was soon to be startled by the statue mime, when she moved, boy, did the dog ever start barking. The only time I saw a dog make a fuss in public.

Border Collie - Cologne Germany
Aussie in Cologne, Germany

Shepherd mix in Cologne, Germany

Maltese, Cologne, Germany
 Although they were hard to find I did finally spot some figurines and stuffed dogs too.

After the cruise, my sister and I went to London for a week. We flew from Amsterdam to London City Airport and took the Docklands Light Rail to Waterloo Station where we took a taxi to our hotel.  I didn't get any pictures but in Waterloo Station we spotted a police search dog.

The day after arriving we went to Buckingham Palace and to the Palace Mews where I spotted a dog in the Mews. I think he was a mastiff mix. See the horse harness in the background.

In Harrods and Hamleys, I also spotted stuffed dogs and a Lego corgi. Who do you think was with the corgi? Well the Queen, of course.

Leather stuffed dog at Harrods

The Queen and a corgi.
Lego Corgi

At Hampton Court Palace I spotted a miniature poodle and a topiary dog.

Miniature Poodle - Hampton Court Palace

Topiary Dog - Hampton Court Palace
At Hampton Court Paces there was also a wonderful display of folded napkins. Not sure there was a dog but I just had to include a picture. Apparently this was something that was done for dinners by the nobility and the very rich.

Folded napkin animals

 We went to Windsor, in one of the shops I spotted loads of stuffed dogs for sale as well as a very cute fox. I also spotted a boxer while we were having lunch in Windsor, hoping that it would stop raining.

Stuffed Scotties

Stuffed Fox

Pugs and Scotties
There was also dog spotted in a cannon in the Tower of London. You would think it would have been a large breed but no, it was a little Maltese but I guess that's appropriate as the cannon came from Malta.

Maltese dog on a cannon - Tower of London

The last real dog I spotted (that I got a picture of) was a little dog in the London Underground, the subway to us in North America.

Mixed breed dog - London Underground

I also spotted a dog while on a bus tour. Hard to get good pictures on a bus but if you enlarge the picture I'm sure you'll be able to see him. It was the Animals in War Memorial, on this side of the wall are two mules and on the far side are a horse and a dog. The dog is between the horse and the wall.

Animals in War Memorial
The last dogs I spotted on my travels were an explosives search dog in Heathrow Airport and finally there was a little dog in cabin on my flight. he was much quieter than the children on board.

I hope you enjoyed my "spotted" dog tour of Europe. But last of all there was also one dog spotted in our cabin of our cruise ship.

Towel dog