Recent news​ River Cruise and Garden Tour 2013

All on Holiday

Norman & Carol Pressey May 2013

Well here we are all having coffee at the airport More news to follow as we  travel

What a great flight with really good food for airline food.  Everyone had a relaxed daytime flight.

As we moved out of the airport the heat hit us hard.  32 degrees and humid....hard to get used to.

 Good evening and an early night for all of gave us energy for a day for exploring.  Carol and Norman visited one of the latest tourist attractions in Singapore....the Gardens by the Bay, and what an experience.  Really worthwhile.  We all enjoyed our day.

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Sunday 5th May.

Singapore explored.  Everyone walked and walked and saw so much.  The new Gardens by the Bay was great with a wonderful tulip display in one of the temperature controlled areas.  Weather was hot and humid but we managed to survive.

Monday 6 May

Our flight with Singapore Airlines to Frankfurt lasted over 12 hours but seemed to go quite quickly with most of us getting some sleep, which was good as we had a full day in Vienna once we finally arrived. Frankfurt was a bit of a nightmare having to change terminals and having to go through immigration but we managed to do this with reasonable time and had a comfortable flight with a nice snack.

Met in Vienna by Hans who took us by coach to Schonbrunn Palace, a magnificent European home with over 1400 rooms.  A guided tour highlighted the main rooms of the Palace.  Most of us spent time exploring some of the gardens which cover over 100 acres.  Unfortunately the only flowers in bloom were tulips, with gardens being prepared for new plantings while we were there.

Leaving the Palace we drove through the heart of Vienna with the main buildings pointed out to us.  Arrived at the River Danube ready to board our boat only to find it had not arrived.  Had to wait just a short time and we were on board.  Safety drill and information session then a wonderful meal.  We will be really well fed for the next 12 days !!!!

​Tuesday 7 May

A new day saw everyone on a coach for a guided tour of Vienna.  a most interesting city, with an unusual history.  A walking tour took us through the main cathedral and highlighted some of the interesting buildings in the area.  Free time in the afternoon and lots of "nana naps".

Wednesday 8 May

Overnight our river cruise on the Avalon Imagery, our home for the next 13 days, had travelled from Vienna to the small town of Durnstein. We awoke to a very misty morning, had breakfast and most of us had a guided walking tour around town. Four of us, being more adventurous, climbed the hill behind the town to the ruins of a castle where King Richard was inprisoned during the period of the Crusades.

All of us enjoyed the morning activities.

Then we sailed up the Blue Danube for 5 hours, in beautiful weather, untill we reached another small town called Grein, where we had another walking tour. Cruising the river was really enjoyable and relaxing. 

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Later that evening some gathered

around to discuss and plan the next day.

Thursday 9th May

A cool beautiful morning welcomed us in the city of Linz, the birthplace of Hitler,now a city of about 190,000 people and Austria's third largest city. We birthed right in town, so close to everything.

Two groups took off in coaches to either Salzburg or Cesky Krumlow, Czech Republic, while the rest of us enjoyed a walking tour of Linz.

dating back to the 900's Linz has had a checkered history with Napoleon moving through the area several times and the Germans creating a manufacturing base prior to the second world war. Still a major manufacturing area but the city centre maintains much of its old world charm. Our guides today were extremely good and kept us interested with a variety of stories about famous people who had been associated with the city.

Departing from Linz it was good to just relax and observe the variety of scenery and small villages which we passed. we cruised for about 6 hours before meeting the 3 coaches who had been touring. Everyone involved were enthusiastic about their day out.

Ingrid with her Robin Hood

Relaxing by the Blue Danube  

Friday 10 May
Awoke to a dull rainy day.  Fortunately cruising all morning so we were able to relax and still enjoy the countryside. Initially cruising through heavily wooded hillsides but gradually as we traveled North we came to more of a rural farming countryside.
Arriving at Regensburg everyone enjoyed the opportunity to join a walking tour of the only remaining  Medieval town in Germany.  Untouched by the ravages of World War 11 the town maintains it's authentic old world charm.  We finished our tour with a snack of genuine German sausages and sauerkraut.  Regensburg has the oldest stone bridge in Germany which crosses two tributaries of the Danube and from the top of the bridge there was a good view of the city, which all of the group experienced

Saturday 11 May
Cruising North overnight we crossed the Continental divide and awoke on the 171km  Main Donau Canal which means that we are now descending towards the North Sea and moved away from the River Danube.  Sitting in the lounge we enjoyed the wildlife and the variety of farming, including a deer farm. Then we had a lecture about the canal and why it was built.  Most interesting, especially with information on how the locks work. As we are going through about 60 locks I guess it was important that we understand the workings of these important features of our trip.
After lunch we enjoyed a visit to Nurenburg, a strategic city in the Southern part of Germany. Famous for the wartime trials it is possible to visit the site and a museum highlighting the war crimes.  The majority of us spent time visiting the old town and a flee market which happened to be on, which was quite a coincidence as they only have this twice a year. A large walled  city Nurenberg has much of the wall still in place with many of the original round watch houses overlooking the castle and extensive old buildings.  A huge moat is seen outside the walls but it apparently has always been dry, with many defensive points at the bottom of the wall pointing out into the moat.  Many large squares were to be seen as we walked around the city, each with several churches on the edge of each square.  Modern shops surrounded the old town square along with the variety of market stalls, with interesting products available for sale.  In spite of the rain everyone enjoyed the visit to Nurenburg.

Sunday 12 May
An early morning pick up by coach was followed by a walk into the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bamberg.  The city is built on seven hills, similar to Rome, yet one part of the city was formerly the fishermans quarter and now nicknamed "Little Venice".
The old city hall was built in the middle of the river Reginitz creating an artificial island, which now has provided a very attractive scene for photographers.  The walk through the winding narrow streets kept everyone interested, in spite of the continued showers.

Monday 13 May
We cruise every night so that we arrive at a new destination during the day. Arrived at Wurtzberg around 7am and then had a tour around town.  Cool and rainy unfortunately.   Different again to previous towns we had visited with our initial visit to the Bishops Palace, a beautiful Palace, similar in style to the Palace of Versailles near Paris, yet has over 300 rooms, many of which we were able to visit.  The main entrance and a couple of the major frescos were the originals from the eighteenth century but the majority of the Palace was partially destroyed from the bombing at the end of the war.  Now restored to its original glory the Palace was well worth visiting.  Wurzburg is classed as a big city because it's population exceeded 100,000 and has over 50 churches.  Many of the shops are commonplace in Australia so in some respects another city, though some of the old world charm is still evident around the city hall and city centre.
It was good to get back to the ship as it had proved to be quite a cold morning, with a few showers here and there.
Some of the group took another tour in the afternoon to Rothenburg, while the rest of us relaxed or took another walk around town.

Photo taken by Hazel in Bamberg

Tuesday 14 May
After a quiet night we continued cruising through the German countryside, arriving at Miltenberg around noon.  The original settlers in the area of present day Miltenberg were the Romans who built two castles for the protection of the Outer Lines, the Northernmost walled frontier of their empire at the time.  Present day Miltenberg was established in the thirteenth century with the building of a castle which was used by the local Archbishops to raise taxes.  Many of the buildings have been constructed with a wood framework and because the town was not affected by the war the impression is that this is still a medieval town.  Walking through the town was enjoyable with the unique buildings built with the ground level of stone, because of the regular flooding in the town, and the upper levels with wooden structures.  Climbing up to the castle took some effort but the view was well worth the effort.  Walking around the back of the town through the deciduous forest was a pleasure with the birds in full song.  A red squirrel darting through the trees made the walk even more interesting. An enjoyable time was had by everyone in this small well-kept and historic town.

Entering a Lock photo byHelen Gynther

Plenty of Swans along the way

with the family out for their daily

swimming lesson

Photo by Helen Gynther

Wednesday 15 May
This morning we moved from the Main River onto the Rhine River, which is much broader.  The city of Mainz, a busy industrial city, is at the confluence of the two rivers.  Cool and cloudy this morning.  The first bible was printed in the city of Mainz on the first printing press developed by Guttenberg.
The Rhine is a very busy commercial River with approximately 9000 barges using the river each day.  West Germany,  with a population of about 82 million people, has the largest population in Europe.  The Rhine River, the third largest in Europe, rises in the Swiss Alps and flows into the North Sea at Rotterdam. By midday we arrived at Rudesheim where we were met by a chu chu train to go into town to visit a special musical museum and a walk around the town. Back on the train to continue our cruise through the Rhineland where there are numerous  castles and great scenery.  Many of the towns were originally developed by the Romans, with ruins showing the very thick walls originally used as fortresses. A great day of sightseeing finishing with a concert in the lounge.

Friday 17 May
Cold !  Forecast was 10 - 14 degrees so everyone wrapped up as we ventured out for a canal cruise around the "Venice of the North".  Amsterdam the capital of Holland since 1813 is built mostly on reclaimed land and has many dykes and levies to keep the water from flooding.  Many of the older houses remain and are found along the many canals, the primary means of transportation until more recently.  Several houseboats are to be seen on the larger canals with permanent residents keeping them very attractive.  A city of bicycles. There is one parking area which has space for 10,000 bikes, right near the train station so that owners can then commute by public transport to fields afar.  After the cruise some went for a stroll, others visited museums and a diamond cutting demonstration.  In the afternoon several of the group went out into the country area on an organized tour.  Our last evening meal on the ship was really enjoyed as we will be looking after ourselves for the next week before the tour finishes.

Thursday 16 May
Arrived in Cologne overnight and awoke to a rather cold morning. Berthed right in town so our introductory walk and talk started straight from the ship.  Cologne had an established Roman fortress around 50 BC with the first permanent bridge built around 300 AD. Christianity has been a major factor in the development of Cologne and an important place of pilgrimage starting in the twelfth century. Construction of Cologne cathedral commenced in 1248 and took 100 years to complete. By the 1600's the population was around 50,000 and there were 240 churches. Everything changed with the second world war when 90% of the old city was destroyed. Only one church remained in tact and the cathedral was heavily damaged. Few of the residential structures remained.  Now Cologne has some remarkable churches, museums and art galleries.  Following our walk we returned to the ship for lunch and departure for Amsterdam.  Rain and more rain followed us most of the way to Amsterdam so it was pleasant to be relaxing in the lounge with good background music.

Saturday 19 May
An early morning breakfast as we had to be ready to leave our "home" of 13 days.  A bus picked us up, with our bags, and took us to our hotel for two nights, one of the Holiday Inn Express chain. Left our bags in the storage room and made our way by train and bus to the Keukenhoff Flower Farm in the township of Liss.  What a brilliant day.  42 acres of flowers, primarily tulips.  Everywhere you looked were tulips, in all shapes, sizes and colours. Beautiful is the only way you could describe everything we saw.  In addition there was an excellent orchid display, with many quite rare orchids on display. There were 17 km of walking trails, but I am sure that most of us would have only covered 4 or 5, making us rather tired at the end of a beautiful,experience.  Back to the hotel to find our rooms, which were quite large in comparison to our cruise cabins.

Sunday 20 May
A free day but 12 of us took off early to visit the Ann Frank museum - need to be near the beginning of the line when they open otherwise you can queue for hours. An interesting experience which made us think of the ramifications of war.  A cool morning which kept us wrapped up as we then explored more of Amsterdam.  Several of us attended an English church service at a very old church, originally built in 1607. Now a Presbyterian church with a very good size congregation.  We enjoyed the service and morning tea following, as everyone had a bus/tram and metro ticket there was scope for quite a bit of travel so it was good to just see different parts of the city from the comfort of public transport.

Some of the early risers outside Anne Frank House

Monday 20 May
A lazy morning.  Several of us took off on the local bus to the city and then transferred to another bus which took us to the seaside fishing village of Vollendam.  Many of the older style fishing boats were in the Harbour and in some of the shops women in traditional costume.
Rain again, which dampened everything and umbrellas appeared from nowhere. We sheltered from the rain in the front of coffee shop and enjoyed coffee and apple pie while sitting watching the boats and the passing crowds.  Locals were out in huge numbers because it was a bank holiday, so there was plenty of activity all around us.  The whole day was very enjoyable and relaxing.
Next stop was the airport ready for our flight to London Gatwick..​

Tuesday 21May
Yet again another cool morning.  We were picked up at the Gatwick hotel and taken to Nyman's Gardens, which opened as we arrived.  With a local guide to introduce us to the 600 acres of the property we explored just a small area close to the original home on the property.  It was so refreshing to see the variety of flowers, trees and shrubs in a truly English Garden.  All of us were enthused with the gardens and the way they have been developed.
A rather long lunch at a small town hotel, which delayed our arrival to Scotney Castle, but no problem as we were able to enjoy looking around the home, it's gardens and the remains of a moated "castle".  Great for photographs with good reflections and some wonderful variety of coloured plants.
Another hotel, just outside Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where we are to stay for two nights, with more garden visits each day.

Wednesday 22 May

As our first garden visit was not until 11.00 several of us took a trip into the city of Tunbridge Wells, a historic spa town in Kent.  Problem was that shops did not open until 09.30 so little shopping was able to be done as we had to be back at the hotel to pick up the remainder of the group.

Two gardens today.  Our first visit was to Sissinghurst Castle and gardens, known to be one of the prettiest gardens in England.  We were free to wander the garden and estate and visit the "castle". Because of the very late Spring many of the flowers were not on display, but the formal nature of the garden was very attractive.  Next on our itinerary was Leeds Castle, a beautiful property with extensive gardens.  Many of the group watched a falconry display, with an opportunity for some to actually touch an Eastern European owl.  An audio tour of the castle proved to be most interesting.  Because of the extensive gardens a small "chu chu train" was available for much of the walk between the entrance and the castle.  Back to our hotel for a quiet evening

Friday 24 May
A morning drive to Windsor where we visited Windsor Castle, the home of the Queen at weekends and local holidays.  We had an audio guide which took us through the main rooms with great information on each role the rooms played over the centuries. The Castle has been a royal residence for over 1,000 years and has played an important role in the running of the country, as it still is, as the Queen holds many ceremonial functions on the premises. Cold and rainy today so a planned outdoor visit was shelved and our driver took us through the wonderful English countryside, with occasional patches of sunshine, to Stonehenge where we had a quick look at the "stones" which were placed around 4,000 years ago. So cold and blustery it was good to get back on the bus for our return to London, via another Toby carvery.

Thursday 23 May
Loaded the bus and an early start with a beautiful drive through the Kent countryside to Great Dixter Gardens.  A guided tour  with a really enthusiastic gardener showed us another aspect of gardening we had not experienced. We all learnt a lot.  Then on to Dover where we spent time at the White Cliffs National Trust property which gave everyone an opportunity to walk on the White Cliffs of Dover.  The property overlooked the busy harbor and we could see the castle in the distance. On to Goodnestone Gardens which were different again.  We were met by the 90 year old owner who introduced as to the property.  Primarily a woodland garden we really this different style of garden.
All the gardens we have visited have been quite different yet overall has given everyone a great                  perspective on how we can develop our own gardens.  A brief stop at Canterbury, where a few                           of the group visited the  cathedral. Then we had an excellent dinner at a Toby Restaurant on the                    way and we arrived at our London hotel around 9.00 pm.  A long but enjoyable day.

Saturday 25 May
Well, at long last a beautiful morning, though still quite cool as we made our way to the Chelsea Flower Show.  A short walk to the underground, a short ride, and another short walk and we were at the Chelsea Hospital Gardens where the flower show is based. This was the 100th anniversary of the show, so we expected something special. The grand pavilion held a wonderful variety of flowers and displays which enthused all of us.  Believe it or not a display by an Australian Gardner won a gold medal for their display and also won Best in Show, which is considerable feat. A good day was had by all, ending a holiday with so many experiences.

As everybody goes their own way, 8 of us are now wondering to the Cotswolds, Devon and Cornwall, why not follow us on the next tab  marked Tour 2 Cotswolds