photos by Jane Frotton
We were in Basel, Switzerland shortly after midnight on the last day aboard the Viking Sun and since our flight from the small airport there to Heathrow in London was a noon flight, we still had time for last minute goodbyes, a leisurely breakfast, and a quick walk around the Swiss city right on the Rhine.
And while the entire trip was extraordinarily wonderful, especially noting that the worse thing I could find to put on the survey sheets Viking courteously asks everyone to fill out was that the food was salty, not a great thing when the average age of the passengers is upwards of 50. But part of the sheer joy of it was also in the surprising, unplanned things, the little tidbits and warm friendships that add so much to a trip.
For me, Strassburg held a peculiar charm, whether it was because of the care the local folks put into preserving their cathedral windows during the war or the beauty of the entire city seen from the canal boat going around it. Or perhaps it was the laughter and fun those of us in that canal boat shared when some thunder rumbling in the sky quickly turned to a drenching downpour that soaked us all. The boat captain hastened to get the boat under a bridge until some of the storm had passed, but it wasn’t until later…when we were all properly wetted down, that crew members came out with plastic ponchos to cover our already soaked bodies.
Maybe it was the surprise of a lovely bottle of German wine in our cabin, with a note from the Viking team apologizing for “the inconvenience.” I had to ask to be sure what the ‘inconvenience’ was it was so slight. But early in the cruise, the plumbing got clogged in one of the three decks on the boat, and we couldn’t flush for eight hours or so. Since for most of that time, we were in the city on a tour, and there were still other facilities available elsewhere on the boat, the inconvenience was hardly an inconvenience. But the wine was appreciated.
Perhaps it was the unexpected beauty and thrill of that cable car ride over Cologne; or the champagne arranged by our Scottish friends and flowing freely as we all celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary with them. Or the artfully decorated birthday cake we all were invited to enjoy with a mom traveling with her daughter. Or the spunk and charm of the British octogenarian woman who was widowed suddenly after all their Viking arrangements had been made, so she decided to take the trip on her own! Geraldine is from Surrey and taught us all that a positive attitude and old-fashioned British stiff upper lip can get you through anything.
Maybe it was the surprise at meeting a professional who had attended the same girls’ academy I attended, albeit 20 years later, and also hailed from the same small town where I was raised. Or maybe it was meeting up with a Michigan/Arizona traveler who made Murano glass jewelry as beautiful as that in the Black Forest.
Possibly it was the instant friendship that developed among Norman, our favorite Scottish dentist, and his charming wife, Jean, always impeccably dressed and outshining us all; and our Canadian friends, Heather our very knowledgeable and every sparkling retired airline pilot who’s still busily at work instructing others, and her mate Trudy, a gal so generous and thoughtful she anticipates needs then produces results and solutions before you get to think about it. Remember, it was Jane Frotton and I who were traveling together, enjoying the company of all these other wonderful people, and they actually liked us…..even though I’ve heard it’s been said….we’re not the easiest people to hang around with!