My husband, son, daughter and I arrived in Calais bright and early for the first day of our European Whirl adventure. We met our Travel Director, Sigi, who was just lovely, and got comfortable in our new home – our Trafalgar coach!
As we drove through the north of France and into Belgium, Sigi was full of wonderful information. Driving through Amsterdam was amazing – we marvelled at typical Dutch sights, like windmills and flowers, and of course, the canals. Walking around Amsterdam is an eye opening experience! Not only is marijuana and prostitution legalised and very openly for sale but the big surprise for me were the number of bicycles! Everyone in Amsterdam rides – in fact there are over 1 MILLION bikes – that’s more than one per person!
We went for a walk through Amsterdam to the old church – an area that is literally ringed by the red light district, and as we walked to the church we passed windows with girls touting for business. Quite strange to see both things so close together! That night we climbed aboard a long flat boat for a canal cruise which was simply beautiful. So many amazing sights.
My daughter, Tasha, LOVED the Dutch pancakes that were offered on the breakfast buffet. I am still getting used to: 1) Learning new phrases each day for the country we are in and 2) Remembering to keep spare change on us at all times for the bathroom!
We stopped in the gorgeous town of Cologne and spent some time admiring the amazing gothic cathedral. Sigi organised a hidden treasure for us this afternoon – a short diversion into the town of Rhens. What a gorgeous place. I loved the ratshaus (town hall) – it was built a long time ago and although the floors and walls are not straight, it is still used today!
As we drove down to the village of Boppard we were amazed by the vineyards – not just how many there were, but the slopes they were grown on. Apparently, if you grow grapes on the steep hills you get a subsidy from the government (seems like you would need the danger money – some of those hills were very steep!)
Next was a trip upstream along the Rhine River. What gorgeous scenery – and so many castles! I don’t know exactly what I expected from Germany but I do know that I was very surprised by how beautiful it is. We saw lots of little towns along the river – I loved the church where we had to enter through the pub, which had been built onto the front of the church, to get into the church itself. And then on the way out the pastor pours the beers behind the bar!
Then it was back on the bus at the town of St Goar for a trip through some of the gorgeous little towns along the riverfront before heading back to the highway. Most of these towns are unchanged from many centuries ago and are simply lovely.
We travelled into the area of Bavaria – lots of spruce trees reminiscent of the Black Forests of Germany. We arrived in Munich for a late lunch. I have always loved pictures of the Glockenspiel and the Marienplatz, but pictures really do not do it justice! Just standing in that square was wonderful.
Then it was traditional German sausage for lunch, before heading into the gorgeous Austrian Alps. And yes, of course I spent the afternoon singing the Sound of Music soundtrack in my head! Beautiful scenery – and even some fresh snow in the distance!
Our hotel in Innsbruck had gorgeous views of the Alps from our room. That evening we went into the town – I completely fell in love with old Innsbruck. It was so gorgeous. We wandered the old shops and enjoyed some strudel (of course).
That evening was the first of our optional extras, aTyrolean evening. What fun it was! There were traditional dances, yodelling, alpine horns, cowbells and plenty of laughs! The highlight of the evening was the finale where different nationalities were called out, and if there was anyone in the audience of that nationality you would stand as they sang a song from that country. It was amazing to see how many countries were represented in that hall – by the end they had about 23 flags hanging up!
Read Part Two of Cathy’s European Whirl Travel Tale next week…