After breakfast at the Meridian, we enjoyed a tour of the romantic “City of Light.” We traveled along the famed Champs Elysees, viewing the landmark Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. We passed many of Paris’ classic highlights including the complex of military buildings known as Les Invalides, including Napoleon’s Tomb; the Ecole Militaire (Military School); Paris Town Hall; the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame; Opera Garnier Palace; the Orsay Museum and the beautiful and recently restored Grand Palais and Petit Palais. We saw many of the city’s famed locations including St. Gerain des Pres, the Latin Quarter, Vendome and Concorde Squares. We also saw the modern addition to the city’s architecture as pe passed by the I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid entrance to the celebrated Louvre Museum. We had lunch at a streetside Cafe, then walked the Champs Elysees Christmas Market.
Our suitcases in the hall for loading, we went off to our last breakfast aboard the Odin. We disembarked for a motorcoach drive through Germany’s scenic countryside to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. Here, we payed homage to the many Americans who lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Then we continued on to the city of Luxembourg. We did some exploring and had some lunch. Back on the motorcoach and on to Paris. We arrived at the Meridien, waited to make sure our luggage made it to our room. Out to the streets of Paris in search of dinner.
A leisurely breakfast. A walking tour of Bernkastel, known for its winemaking, cobblestone streets and timber-framed houses. We walked to the Vinothek in Kues and visited the historic vaulted cellars of St. Nikolaus’ Hospital and learned about wines from the Moselle Valley, which produces more than 130 types. Returned to Odin for a short nap and lunch. It’s time to start to prepare for disembarking. We disembarked in Wintrich for a tour of Trier, Germany’s oldest city. We saw the Roman amphitheater as well as the massive Roman baths. We also saw the wonderfully preserved Roman city gates called Porta Nigra, another UNESCO World Heritage Site; Trier Cathedral and the Church of our Lady. Then we found a local pub where we had more beer!
This morning we cruised through the most beautiful stretch of the Rhine, lined with castles on both sides. This area is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A game of chess up top. Much fuss about departure procedures. A walking tour of Cochem City followed by a tour of the Reichsburg Castle. Built 1,000 years ago, the imposing castle dominates the city from its hilltop location. An independent tour of the quaint Moselle town and its medieval town gate, various churches and friendly marketplace. A return to ship for the Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner.
We arrived in Mainz during breakfast. We disembarked for a guided tour of Mainz, a city that boasts over two thousand years of history. We walked the picturesque streets of Old Town and stopped by the Gutenberg Museum. Founded in 100 – 500 years after the birth of Johannes Gutenberg – the museum covers the history of the printed word and displays many beautiful books and fascinating printing technologies, including a replica of Gutenberg’s workshop. We returned to our ship for lunch and a scenic afternoon cruising on the Rhine. We docked in Rudesheim in the afternoon and again disembarked for a tour that provided an introduction into the region’s long tradition of viticulture, which dates back to Roman times. We stopped at a local pub for some hot spiced wine, beer and another lesson in card playing.
We sailed overnight, arriving in Wertheim just after breakfast. A scenic bus ride through German’s countryside to Heidelberg, an ancient city that is home to Germany’s oldest university. We toured the imposing red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, among Germany’s most popular attractions. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle has since undergone many periods of destruction and reconstruction and includes some of the Renaissance era’s most important buildings. Abandoned over 300 years ago, the castle is still home to the world’s largest wine barrel, a 250-year-old vat shaped from 130 oak trees that once held 50,000 gallons of wine. Unfortunately, it is dry these days so we drank in the spectacular views of the Altstadt and Neckar Valley from the terrace of the castle’s central courtyard instead. Afterwards, we enjoyed a guided walk through Heidelberg’s Old Town and marketplace. We enjoyed lunch at Hotel Ritter, where we were joined by a local University Student. Then a stroll along the main shopping street. Just off the main street, we found a pub where we enjoyed yet another beer. Then back on the bus for a scenic ride to Miltenberg where our ship had sailed to meet us.
After breakfast aboard our ship, Odin, we visited the impressive baroque Bishops’ Residenz. This is one of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This former residence of the Wurzburg prince-bishop was designed by architect Balthasar Neumann and built over a 70-year period, beginning in 1720. Both the massive reception staircase and overhead ceiling are considered masterpieces of desigh, made even more impressive by the Venetian artist Giambattista Tiepolo’s stunning “Four Continents” ceiling fresco. We saw several of the building’s ornate rooms, each representing a different style and highlighted by the Mirror Cabinet, painstakingly reconstructed after falling victim to massive bombing during World War II. After our tour we wandered and lunched in Wurzburg. Rain drove us back to the boat for naps.
We enjoyed a walking tour of Bamberg’s beautifully preserved Old Town area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We did a bit of exploring on our own. We sampled the town’s famous locally brewed smoky beer, Rauchbier. Back to the Odin for lunch, followed by a nap. We are cruising along the scenic Main River, which winds its way from east to west through the Franconia region of Germany.