I do realise that others people's holidays can be terribly boring but I promise this was a bit different.
We have just returned from a weeks cruising down the Rhine. Well, for me it was a holiday but for Phil it was work. The band. JB's Jazz and Blues Band, had been employed to provide the entertainment by SAGA Holidays.
The audience were all in the Saga age bracket and it could have been much like club nights where everyone just sits and listens to the music. Not with this crowd though.
What a lovely lot, up dancing and obviously thoroughly enjoying themselves!
The days were taken up with visiting various sites along the Rhine or just sitting and taking in the scenery as we cruised by. I dont think I have seen so many vineyards in my life and most of them were practically perpendicular.How the people managed to cultivate the land on such steep mountain sides I just couldn't see.
I think they must all have been born with one leg shorter than the other!
After my previous experience on the huge American ship, it was so nice to have less than a hundred passengers and not too many crew. We all got to know each other quite quickly. Some of us had travelled on the same coach to Cologne after coming through the Channel Tunnel. It was a long journey and we were all pretty tired when we arrived but perked up when we saw our river boat.
Some of us did get some sleep on the coach!
The boat was oldish but had been refurbished and was clean, bright and very comfortable. The crew were extremely friendly and efficient ( The captain was rather dishy too! ).The cabins were larger than I had expected but very cleverly designed.
The boys managed to get set up and give a short performance that first evening and everyone one seemed to relax visibly, the dinner was good with lashings of wine which helped quite a bit
One of the many villages we passed
Next morning as we were having breakfast, we started our journey upstream. The further we went, the more attractive was the scenery, lovely little riverside towns and villages and other traffic on the river.
The Rhine is very much a highway and working boats were passing us all the time. Some were incredibly long and it was a marvel that they could navigate the bends and turns but some still had time to give us a friendly wave.
One of the castles
The castles along the river are just as you imagine, usually high on a hill with views that must stretch for miles. Some are open to the public and an obvious tourist attraction.
Lovely autumn colours along the Rhine, houses nestled in the trees
On the second day on the river, we left Cologne at 5am, not that I knew much about it at that hour. The sound of the engine did make me stir but soon lulled me back to sleep.
In the morning we were told that the itinerary had to be changed slightly as the river was very low which made navigating difficult.We were on our way to Koblenz by way of Bonn, Beethoven's birthplace, Konigswinter and Remagen. We paused there to remember the battle in 1945 when the Americans took the bridge. There are just remnants of it left, it hasn't been rebuilt so is a memorial to all the soldiers who died there
We moored at Koblenz overnight and the band really went to town. The passengers were all getting to make friends and it was obvious they had overcome the tiredness of the previous day. We had been fed and watered extremely well and were in the mood for a good time.
The walled town of Ahrweiller
Next morning we turned into the Moselle river and the scenery became even more spectacular. Tiny villages and hamlets nestled by the shore whilst the vineyards stretched endlessly upwards making a superb backdrop.
We left fairly early that morning and made our way to Zell, a very pretty little wine town with picturesque houses and shops. I think we had just missed the wine harvest celebrations although there were still folk gathering the grapes
One of the prettiest little towns we visited was our next stop,Bernkastel-Kues. It lies on a bend in the river and there are buildings dating back to the 1400s. There was a lovely central square and we once again took time to just people watch as we had a cooling beer. We moored there overnight and had another fantastic meal before settling down to an evening of good jazz.
It was getting hard for the band to stick to the programme they had arranged as so many of the guests had requests and John, the band leader was keen to please every one. One of the guests had even written a poem about the trip and asked if it could be set to music and played later in the week.
Well, that kept Phil occupied for quite some time !!
JB's Jazz and Blues Band entertaining us
The band finished playing officially at 11pm each night but it did often go on a bit later and then they needed some " coming down" time, so it was quite late before we got to our cabins.Luckily Phil had upgraded our cabin and we were on the same deck as the lounge where they played so we didn't have to worry about getting down below.
Margaret our Saga hostess
Whilst we were sailing down the river, the guests had the chance to listen to various talks by Margaret the Saga Hostess. We have known her for quite some time and I am always agog at her knowledge of jazz. Her talks are always so interesting and she has many recordings of wonderful artistes. She, like me is a great fan of Ella Fitzgerald and she is quite envious of the fact that I saw Ella live in concert many years ago.
Margaret has also been a professional singer herself and gave us a couple of numbers every evening which the guests really enjoyed
Beautiful geraniums in Rudesheim
I think I will jump ahead somewhat now as the rest of the trip was much of the same until we came to Rudesheim. We went to the Mechanical Music Museum and for me this was one of the highlights of the trip. It was housed in a wonderful old building and was chocker block with magical organs and instruments which we found breathtaking.
We were stunned at the workmanship that went into them and the accuracy of the sounds that they made. We were shown around by a young man, in costume, who made the whole thing so interesting. I could have stayed there all day. If you ever get the chance to be in Rudesheim do go to the museum.
We would be sailing back to Cologne next morning so this was to be our last night on board. Everyone seemed determined to make it a night to remember
The dance floor was always packed and the band played their socks off. Towards the end of the evening, Phil announced the speciality, the poem he had set to music. The band played it though once and then Phil told everyone that it wasn't enough and he wanted a backing group. They kidnapped the barstaff and got them to do the " dowas" and then tried to rope in the band wives as well.
It was hilarious, I think every female in the room got up to sing and in the end it turned into a huge conga line all around the lounge!
It was a great ending to a fantastic holiday and yes, we still had that long journey home but we also had lots of very happy memories.