This was the view from our breakfast table this morning—a bunch of Dutch students preparing for their first lesson in kayaking on the canal that flows in front of the house here in Haarlem. We recently completed our own debut into a water sport. We took a luxury river cruise down the Seine and back. Here’s how we rated the experience.
Imagine eating at a lavish wedding reception with fine French cuisine ten nights in a row. That’s how Geoff summed up the evening meals. Magnificent and over the top, especially as we had already eaten too much during the day. A simple sandwich began to have great appeal.
The small-group excursions to the French countryside were superb and gave us a sense of place from the depths of war to the heights of great art. As the commentary was piped through personal earphones, we could dawdle as much as we liked and as far as we liked from the inevitable flag of the guide.
The staff, mainly from Eastern Europe, worked hard and cheerfully and we hardly did anything for ourselves. Geoff’s porridge was custom-made each morning and when he expressed a wish for hard cheese instead of the various French varieties, platefuls arrived at his table.
The super-organised German cruise director began each of his talks with wishing us a ‘lovely and charming’ afternoon/morning/evening. We were indeed charmed by the weather, as we had been for the last two months. The autumn chill arrived, complete with colour, but we never got wet.
Our friends Howard and Joan, who had suggested the cruise, were with us and were great company. So when getting to know 130 or so others was a bit much to absorb, we had the cocoon of our friendship to relax in.
We failed miserably with much of the late-night entertainment, though we did go to the variety show put on by the long-suffering staff. (Think youth camp.) Usually we chose bed, complete with chocolates waiting on the pillows. Some of our fellow passengers (about 80 Aussies and the rest British, Kiwis, Canadians and Americans) looked decidedly worse for wear piling on to buses in the mornings.
The boat ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The boat (sorry, ‘spaceship’) was new and gleaming. It glided along quietly and smoothly and had been built to negotiate the harbour at Honfleur. Having scored a couple of upgrades, we had a balcony. In my naivety, I had expected to spend hours sitting on it with binoculars watching the river scenery and birds drift by. We were far too busy for that though we did find occasional opportunities to set off on our own.