We have left France and Germany behind (sort of) and are now in Basel, Switzerland, for the last day aboard ship, before departing for our post-extension in Bern and Lucerne.  I say “sort of”, because Basel is in the northwest corner of the country, just across the river from France and next door to Germany.  Each day, 30,000 commuters come from France and Germany to work in Switzerland, then return to their countries in the evening.

Although Basel, the third largest city in Switzerland has a population of only 90,000, it is quite a cultural mecca, with 30 museums, a symphony, and a large theater.  It is also home to Switzerland’s oldest university.

In addition to being an important banking center, Basel is also known for its chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as publishing.

I found it interesting that Basel has three railway stations; one French, one German, and one Swiss!

What I wasn’t surprised about  and definitely expected was the high cost of EVERYTHING.  The Swiss Frey chocolate bars I bought at Migos, yesterday, in Germany, were actually cheaper than at the Migos, in Basel!  And, a Toblerone bar that was on sale for 5.49 Euros (regularly 10 Euros) at the German Migos was priced at anywhere from 16-19 Swiss Francs (CHF), in Basel.  Keep in mind that the exchange rate was 1 Euro = 1.20 Swiss Francs.

The small chocolatiers were outrageous, so I passed on making any purchases.  One chocolatier was charging 26 CHF for 250 grams of chocolates; about one half pound.  The exchange rate for U.S. $1 = .75 CHF, so do the math and those are some expensive chocolate!

How about paying 5.90 CHF for 100g of salmon?  100 grams is only 3oz.!

Rather than return to the boat for lunch, following our walking tour, Mom and I stayed in town to do more exploring, then took the shuttle back later in the afternoon.  But, we passed on dining at one of the cafes.  Instead, we split a bratwurst at the Market Square; a 6 CHF purchase.


After lunch, we continued our exploring of the downtown streets.  The following are pictures taken during our morning walking tour, as well as during our free time.


















Although we enjoyed our day (and it was a beautiful one at that), Basel doesn’t rate at the top of my list for favorites on this cruise.  The highlight, by far, was our day spent exploring the Alsace wine region’s quaint villages.  My next favorite would be Bernkastel-Kuse, in Germany.

Overall, this was a fabulous cruise and we were lucky to have mostly terrific weather.  The food was excellent on board and the service and friendliness of the staff was fabulous.  Where else would the Executive Chef pick up special chocolates for a passenger, just because we had a conversation about it and he knew I was crazy about chocolate?  I returned the favor by sharing my Bernkastel truffles with Chef and my mom, two nights ago, in a makeshift tasting session in the lounge, after he was finished with his dinner duties.  And, during our tasting, he couldn’t say enough good things about Vantage Travel, their management, and the staff; his “family”.  I agree! I will always choose Vantage Travel for my river cruises.  There were several people on board who have traveled with Grand Circle, Uniworld, and Viking, however, they all preferred Vantage Travel by a long shot.  And, in the end, it is less expensive.  Everything is included with Vantage, however, the others nickel and dime you to death, so we were told.  In the end, although the cruise was less expensive at booking time, by the time they were done, it had cost them more per day.

So, tonight, we spend our last night docked in Basel, and then depart for Bern in the morning.  We will spend one night in Bern, followed by two nights in Lucerne.  Originally, we were supposed to spend all three nights in Lucerne, however, there is a huge music festival, so none of the hotels were available for the 40 of us doing the post-extension.

I sure hope this gorgeous weather holds out!


This post is for my U.S. Masters Swimming friends…

While cruising the Rhine on the river boat, my current home away from home, I didn’t want to miss out on the scenery by working out in the gym.  So, I killed two birds with one stone by “swimming” the Rhine while up on the top deck.  I, of course, can’t swim the Rhine; the current runs too fast and the water is too cold.  Besides, we’re cruising…


Walk laps around the deck for 15 minutes, followed by my favorite Swimmer Magazine shoulder stabilization and dynamic stretching exercises.  Finish by setting up my circuit training; attach my stretch cords to the railing on deck.

Main Set:

Walk 2 laps; fast pace, about 5mph speed.

Stop and “swim” a 50yd freestyle, 50yd fly and 50yd breaststroke on stretch cords; count strokes to match a typical swimming 50.

Walk 2 laps fast, stopping on the second lap to grab my Hammer Nutrition water bottle (from Summer Nationals) for sips of water while I walk.

Stop and drop for 10 military pushups

Walk 2 laps fast, stopping along the way to grab my camera and snap a shot of the castle.

Stop and “swim” (same as above)

Walk 2 laps fast

Stop and drop for 50 stomach crunches

Walk 2 laps fast

Rinse.  Repeat.

Continue routine for desired time period; one hour for me, so I wouldn’t miss my favorite breakfast from the buffet:  Muesli with tiny flat squares for bittersweet chocolate, topped with fresh fruit and yogurt. 0

This was my favorite dryland travel workout yet.  How about you?  What was your favorite dryland workout, when swimming was not an option?









Having spent a few days in Amsterdam, in 2002, at the end of our Belgium & Holland river cruise, we were familiar with the city, making our visit there today a relaxing one.  We felt like we could give a miss to a second visit to the Rijksmuseum and take a walk along the canals to the flower market, instead.  So, we took the bus with the group to the museum, and walked through the city back to the ship, making stops along the way to buy my some Dutch chocolate and stroll through the flower market.  A walk to Amsterdam would not be complete without a walk through the Red Light District, so we did that, as well.









Lunch on board our river boat was followed by our cruise through the canal.  Now, we are on our way to Cologne Germany, as I write this, while enjoying the sights along the way.  There are plenty of farms we can see from the boat with grazing Holsteins and very green grass.  No wonder why Dutch cheese is so rich and tasty!

So far, life on board ship is as wonderful as I remembered it to be from our previous two river cruises with Vantage Travel.  There are 133 passengers on board; all American.  And, so far, everybody we have met is well-traveled; a common trait of river cruise passengers.

The food on board is delicious and the boat is quite comfortable.  Our cabin may be small, but there is more storage than in cruise ship cabins.  We have more shelving than we know what to do with; so unpacking was a breeze.

I thoroughly enjoy river boat cruising, because it is so much more relaxing than on the large cruise ships.  There is no assigned table seating, no casino, no fancy entertainment, no constant announcements and waiters trying to sell you expensive cocktails, and no tendering into port.  Instead, the only entertainment is a pianist at night, except for the occasional cultural entertainers or lecturers that will come onboard, then disembark before we sail on to the next town.

River boats mostly stop at small towns and villages, so the passengers disembark (All 133 passengers can disembark in about one minute!), walk up the ramp, and the town center is right there.  For other stops, we will split up into 3 busloads and take a driving tour, before returning for an afternoon of free time.  It is very convenient; if we’re in town and need to use the restroom or grab something to eat, we can choose to take the short walk back to the ship, then return to town.

The best thing about river boat cruising, however, is unpacking once; the hotel travels with you.  It sure beats being in a different hotel every night!