How to Take A Viking Tour…Part 1

Don’t use the back door when the blades are on that side.

It’s been a while since my last post. We have a bit of catching up to do.

Last Christmas, we decided we didn’t need any “stuff,” instead, we said we’d save our bucks spent on  anniversary, birthdays, and  Christmas and give ourselves an international experience in the upcoming year instead.

Okay, we were probably watching too much Public Broadcasting. The beguiling violins and cellos of the Viking Cruise song lured us like sirens … and shoot, darn, heck, who doesn’t want to travel to foreign places to learn to knead bread, make pancakes, and run between the blades of the windmills. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) We signed up.

The Grand European Tour: Amsterdam to Budapest

1.  PACK RIGHT:  I’m a small packer. I feel righteous about only traveling with a carry-on

Smart packing techniques.

and a backpack. Of course, I look like a charwoman most of the time, but when I’m traveling, I figure I’ll never see these folks again, so why risk a dislocated spine?

But on a river cruise, you DO see these folks. Everyday. Every night. Almost  every meal. Almost every tour. So I had to bring a slightly bigger suitcase and more clothes. Now here’s a travel-secret: Use the JEANS-TECHNIQUE: No one is sure if you’ve previously worn your jeans, OR if you’ve got on a fresh pair…so you could probably do a 15-day trip with 2 pair of jeans.  Except all my jeans look like they should be made into Raggedy Ann dolls, so instead I simply packed black clothes. I looked like Johnny Cash with a scarf. The good news is that no one cares what you wear (unless you’re naked). These trips are pretty laid-back.

2. ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION EARLY: I have a lot of talents. Most of them are useless (like counting backward in Pig-Latin or juggling sponges), but my favorite skill is being able to sleep on airplanes. I snap on noise-canceling headphones, a blindfold, warm socks, blanket, air pillows, nearby snacks, water, and Chapstick, and I’m snoozin’ by the time we reach mid-Atlantic ocean. I arrive only slightly less jet-lagged than Dallas Cowboy Fan, who has watched four movies through the overseas flight. We try to arrive early and soak up some sunshine in our new locale; it’s supposed to help the body reset. I don’t know if it works because every time I sit in the sun, I fall asleep like a cat in a warm spot.

3. PREP BEFORE YOU GO:

Yeah, sure, the cruise folks provide local lectures and tours in every town.  But these are

IMG_2332

Welcome back to the boat. You were only gone two hours. That’s okay. Welcome back and have a drink.

the usual touristy stuff. If you want to mix it up with the locals, you’ll have to find your own adventures.  And honest-to-Pete, our unplanned forays were some of the best parts of the trip. (See Part 2-coming)

4. TAKE SOMETHING TO DO:

Why?  Because you’ll be spending A LOT of time sitting around, watching the scenery go by.  Yes, most of it is lovely and interspersed with the groans and squeaks of going through 67 locks, but it’s sort of like being at a party for 2 weeks with strangers. People start hauling out cards, board games, dominoes, or telling you about relatives that you may (or may not)  care about.  One experienced traveler brought his taxes to work on; others brought knitting, puzzles, Kindle readers stuffed with books, journals, and several brought work from their offices. (There’s a lot of down-time).

5. SETTLE-IN:

Unpack in your cleverly engineered room. You’ll be pulling up to the food tanks about every 4 hours During this cruise-time, Viking will treat you like a queen or king. So IF your ideal vacation is eating and visiting OR not having to cook, do housework, or laundry, then you’re going to be very very happy. IF you need to be a bit more activity… you’ll need to come up with a plan.

Of course, not all of our plans turned out like we expected. We’re in 4 different countries, don’t speak the languages, and can’t read the signs. What could go wrong? And that’s the joy of travel. Stay tuned…but in the meantime…

Merry Christmas…may you have a few surprises among your presents.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” 
― Anita Desai

COMING NEXT: PART 2:

TOURIST OR TRIP WARRIOR?…or

IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE—HEY! WHERE ARE WE NOW?

in HOW TO TAKE A VIKING CRUISE

 

 

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Things that Comfort

Because I’m a writer, I keep a list of:

Things That Comfort

That way, I can siimply throw a few comforting elements into a scene and the reader will relax along with a character, and I can bring them down from big drama in the previous scene or set them up for a big scare in the next scene.  A literary trick. Warmth from a fireplace, a sunny day, the cat lying on the heating vent.  Aaaah, We all feel relaxed and soothed.

Recently our digital version of our Oregon newspaper pointed out “the least creepy thing on the internet, lately”. So I hurried over there see if it qualified for my comfort list.

Google Sheep Views

Carmel, North Wales. Photo by Howard Hughes

Carmel, North Wales. Photo by Howard Hughes

Google Sheep View is a blog in which folks post pastoral pics of sheep. Yep.

One photo isn’t much of a relaxer, but scroll through the site of woolie after woolie and you’ll feel your blood pressure start to drop. Maybe you can even imagine yourself someplace where no one wants anything from you.

You wanna know the truth?

I met a bunch of sheep on my trek across England last year. Day after day after day. Right through their pastures. Baaaaaaaaing each morning at the whisper of dawn. Right next to my pack whenever I set it down.

Here’s the truth about these gals. Not only are they wool machines. They are crapping machines.In a defecation contest between a goose and a sheep, my money would be on the woolie. I doubt if there is a square foot of the Yorkshire dales that isn’t peppered with sheep doo (unless it’s indoors.).

This won’t bother you if you’re in a car. If you’re walking fifteen miles, then you’ve spent the last 14.9 miles looking for a place to sit down and  eat. Honest to mud, a few times we sat ourselves in somebody’s  gated front yard.

These animals chew grass at one end and spit pellets out the other end. AT THE SAME TIME.!!!  CONSTANTLY!!!

Most of the sheep are spray-painted, like you see here, because all the farmers run their animals together on the moors. And the great sheep round-up is something to behold.  Not comforting to the sheep.

There’s lots of yipping and howling (that’s the humans who are riding 3-wheelers). The dogs (3-4 of them) are quiet and running the fringes of the herd.  Thousands of sheep baaaaaaing in every note within human range.

There’re sorted by colored spots (which represent different farmers). They’re sheared, doctored, and then back to the fields they go….

Naked and happy to create more sheep pellets.

And maybe that’s the comforting part. Maybe that’s the lesson here: No matter how much hair you lose—life goes on. Keep doing the things you like: eating and crapping.

(But sheep still didn’t make my comfort list). (Creepy list coming in October)