There are so many interesting places to visit. My eyes see a beautiful photo and I immediately think to myself, “I have GOT to go there!” And sometimes you find a super low priced air ticket to Florence, so you grab a friend and spend a week in Italy! That was my recent experience. I’ve visited Florence before, but the city is so lovely that it was most definitely worth another look. (I already know I shall return yet again.)

We based ourselves in an apartment in Florence for a week. Less than a 5 minute walk and we were on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, a medieval arch bridge over the Arno River. Florence is a very walkable city and if you stay centrally located, you can walk anywhere in about 15 minutes. Florence is home to Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, which is awe inspiring. The Uffizi Gallery is another site to not miss. The sculptures, paintings, architecture are fabulous and will leave you mentally exhausted after taking them all in. Food in Florence is unbelievable. Italians know how to cook and love seeing you enjoy their dishes. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to be family operated for generations. A cooking class will teach you much about how to create simple and flavorful dishes.

From Florence, it’s easy to enjoy a high speed train ride to Rome. The Colosseum and Vatican are highlights, but there are many others as well.

Have you been dreaming about Italy? I have been…and would love to customize a vacation experience for you.

River Cruise Life

After just spending a week on the Riviera River Cruise’s MS William Shakespeare, I can say I’m sold on this type of travel!

A bit about the basics:

Cruise cabins are similar in size to an ocean cruiseliner’s cabin, with I believe the exception of larger bathrooms. This shower was spacious and tiled, very different from my last cruise showers that were about the size of 1.5 human beings. Quality toiletries were a nice addition, as were the full size hair dryer, thick towels, and plush bathrobe.

The dining room holds all passengers (140) at once, though can fill up quickly and if you want your own table, it’s best to arrive early at any meal. A sample menu only touches at the food we experienced all week. Everything was top notch and delicious. One night I had the salmon (available nightly) and it was outstanding. Fresh baguettes and croissants daily, along with the plentiful burre (butter) were wonderful for my tastebuds but did me no favors on the scale. 🙄 Speaking of French butter, I took home a pound and am already dreaming of the best ways to enjoy it. I think perhaps with a baguette and served with beouf bourguignon with the family invited over.

Each port included a tour of some type, whether a walking tour through the city with our tour host or a local guide, or a coach trip out of town to see a UNESCO historical site such as Pont du Gard.

Entertainment on a river cruise may vary from short lectures about the sites you will see the next day, a “name that tune” type contest, or just sitting in the lounge enjoying the live music and sipping a bar beverage or a tea/coffee, available 24/7.

With a smaller passenger load (140 on ours, and a crew of 35), the experience is personal. You will quickly recognize the other cruisers when you are walking through town, and will end the trip feeling like you have made new friends. The crew will quickly learn your preferences and do their best to meet every need.

This is not a cruise experience for those who want to be on the go constantly. It’s a time to relax and take in the scenery and culture. Without dealing with the thousands of people on large cruise ships these days, you get the best of both worlds in travel.

Want to talk about river cruise options for your own travels? I’m ready when you are!

Tournon to Viviers

We awoke this morning in Tournon, had breakfast and loaded tour buses to see the Ardeche Gorges and lavender fields before meeting up with the ship again in Viviers. The stop at the lavender fields was wonderful and we enjoyed lavender lemonade and ice cream and some shopping. A special dinner tonight on the Lido Deck (no extra charge, but reservations required) was fun to experience. Most of us chose sea bass and it was delicious. Foie gras, goat cheese, French onion soup…delicious!

Vienne and Tournon

We started our day in Vienne and enjoyed a tour of the city, as well as a little train trip up the hill to see an overview of this beautiful city. It has a lot of Roman ruins that are still in surprisingly good condition. After a delicious lunch of beef bourguignon, I had a massage onboard the ship, which led to a nap and watching a movie in the cabin while watching the beautiful scenery. We arrived to Tournon around 7:30 pm and opted to skip dinner and go into town. Most shops were closed but we found a lovely crepe restaurant and feasted on crepes for dinner.

Day 5: Beaune

This morning we awoke in Chalon-sur-Saône, the gateway to Burgundy. We departed from the ship on coaches and see the tiny villages of Meursault, Volnay, and Pommard; all well known for producing fine wines.

Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, where we enjoyed free time to explore. We will also learned more about the Burgundy Wines during a tour and tasting at a local winery. We then returned to the ship for a late lunch. This afternoon we continued our cruise towards Vienne.

Although I intended to NOT really shop, it’s inevitable to pick up some things that remind me of people back home. Today included a chocolate shop and some little girls who call me “Oma” came to mind as we breathed the heavenly aroma.