We are back from another wonderful trip. Thank you for all your help. We know that when you and USA River Cruises plans a trip for us, it will be memorable.
This was our fifth trip with you and we are already looking forward next year’s! The pictures still have to be downloaded, but I will be sending some soon. We landed at the airport in Barcelona and was met by a nice young man who drove us to our hotel in an executive car. Great way to start off our two weeks in Spain and France! We chose Barcelona for our pre-cruise. We wanted to see the genius of the architect, Gaudi. The city friendly with lots of sights, good food and great wine! Great little restaurants on every street! The hotel was close to the port and Las Ramblas. Taxis were plentiful and not expensive. We had an excellent tour of Barcelona architecture. The highlight of our stay in Barcelona was the Sagrada Familia. Absolutely breathtaking! Our tour only included the outside, so we went back the next day to see the inside, on our own. (Make sure you pre buy you tickets on line to go inside.) It is a must see! You have never seen anything like it!
From Barcelona, we took the train to Arles, France. There we met the Amadagio for our cruise on the Rhone. Didn’t need a taxi… the dock is right next to the train station. We were warmly welcomed on board with champagne and roses. Our cabin was beautiful with a big window, plenty of storage, a computer and best of all, a multi-head shower with lots of buttons. It felt soooo good! On the first night we were invited to eat at the Captain’s table. The Captain and his second in command, his lovely wife, were charming. The food and wine flowed every night. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all delicious! We also ate at the Chefs Table one night in an intimate dining room with the chef making our dinner right there in front of us.
The scenery was beautiful. Enjoyed relaxing and watching the world go by. We fell in love with the French countryside. We visited fairytale villages, truffle farms, cathedrals, olive farms, had wine tastings and enjoyed entertainment on board. The crew was friendly and kept us pampered and spoiled. We met so many fellow passengers. I know we will be keeping in touch with many of them.
One of the best things about small ships is that you have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and become friends with them. We celebrated a wedding anniversary on board with a special cake and rose petals on our bed in the cabin.
The weather was mostly pretty good, warmer than expected. But, there were some bad rainstorms elsewhere on the river. Because of this, some of our schedule was changed. The Captain had to make some quick decisions to keep us safe and as close as possible to our itinerary. I know we would have enjoyed what we missed but we don’f feel like we missed too much.
Traditionally, there is a gala on the last night of the cruise. We had ours the night before the last. It was much better! We could enjoy the night and not worry about last minute packing and having to get up to make early connections.
From the end of the cruise in Lyon, we went by train to the La Manche (West Normandy) region. We stayed in a delightful small inn in picturesque Ducey. From there we rented a car to visit Mont Saint Michel and the Normandy beaches. The perfect end to our memorable trip.
When we travel, we like to have some time on our own to explore. We did that in Barcelona and France. We enjoy finding little restaurants like August, that our concierge in Barcelona recommended. If we were on a tour, we never would have met the couple that ran Best Western Le Moulin De Ducey.
Our one really big hint for others who like to do their own thing is to pack wisely! We thought we were packing light, we were under the airline guidelines. However, we each had a large suitcase, a carry on and a personal bag (purse). That is way too much when you are navigating trains, buses, steps and cobblestone streets! Try packing like a backpacker. Your trip will be much less stressful and it will be easier to navigate.
Everyone we met was helpful and couldn’t have been nicer. We don’t speak Spanish or French (only hello, good bye and thank you) but did not have any real language problems. We were able to navigate the cities, trains, buses, taxis, roads and menus. It was a wonderful adventure!
Thank you again, Cindy. We appreciate everything you did for us.