Watching the World Go By


Watching the World Go By

Story written by Rick Archer
May 2014

There is some debate about which is better - Ocean Cruises or River Cruises.  I prefer river cruises to ocean cruises.  However, not everyone shares my opinion.  I have met several people who greatly prefer the exciting night life of the ocean cruise.  The Broadway-style shows, the late night dancing, and, yes, the gambling, are experiences one will not find on a River Cruise.  If it is the glamour of the floating Las Vegas-style cruises you are looking for, then of course Ocean Cruises are superior.  

There is nothing wrong with this type of cruise.  I certainly enjoy a good show as much as the next person and of course I like the dancing as well.  However, if given a choice, I would prefer going to a distant destination over being entertained.

I want to see the world!

After I wrote my Rhône River Recap, Marla was afraid people would think I was completely negative about ocean cruises.  For the record, I like ocean cruises as well.  I share the same opinion as most people who have experienced both kinds of cruises - I like them both. 

In addition to the nightlife, there are places an ocean cruise can take us to that a river cruise cannot.  For example, one of these days Marla is going to take us on a two-week cruise to the British Isles.  There is no river in England capable of supporting a river cruise.  That leaves the North Sea as our only option to explore this important part of the world.  I would go on an ocean cruise like this in a heartbeat.

However, in a similar vein, there are inland destinations a river cruise can reach that are completely inaccessible to an ocean cruise.  Take for example Viking's Berlin-Elbe River-Prague combination.  The Elbe River is drop-dead gorgeous.  A person can fly into Berlin or Prague (this trip goes both directions) and visit these important inland capitals at their leisure.

Then a luxury coach takes the passengers and their luggage overland to Magdeburg.  Now comes the river cruise part of the trip.  When the riverboat reaches Melnick, Germany, the famous city of Prague is just a short 20 mile bus trip away.

In a sense, a river cruise is like taking an RV trip, but much better.  There are no stop lights, no billboards, no traffic, no noise, no factories, and no one-lane towns to slow you down. 

Best of all, the scenery one views from river boat is typically exquisite.  Sit back in your comfortable chair, have a glass of wine and relax while you watch the world go by.  It doesn't get much better than this. 

Marla is watching the world go by here in Lyon, France


A Comparison of Ocean to River Cruise


One clear advantage of a river cruise over an ocean cruise is the view.

Every stretch of the Rhône River was this pretty.  Lovely river.

A large cruise ship is often compared to a floating Las Vegas hotel.
Key word: Excitement

A river boat is more like a comfy floating inn.
Key word: Relaxation

Much of the emphasis on an ocean cruise ship is the night life.  That is because during days at sea, there isn't much to see.   Consequently many people sleep through the morning and party at night.

     On the river boat, once dinner was over at 10 pm, things got pretty quiet .
     The fun part was watching the world go by during the day.

Fireworks at night

Castles by day.  This is Tarascon Castle near Arles.

At sea they entertain you.

On the river you entertain yourself.

At sea you have gambling.

On the river, all there is to gamble is your own life.

The evening shows are usually very impressive.

 The river cruise emphasis is directed to dinner as the main event.

While the daytime fun at sea revolves around the group in the hot tub...

The group on the river cruise meets on the front deck

If dancing is your emphasis, ocean cruises are clearly superior.

There is dancing on the river cruise, but only on a limited scale due to the small floor. 

Much of the daily entertainment on the ocean revolves around bingo.

The entertainment on the river cruise revolves around daily excursions to a different city or town each day.

Another popular feature on cruise ships are the art auctions.

When it comes to art, river cruises access many museums.  For example, it is difficult to top the Louvre Museum.  Here Marla and I pose in front of "The Two Sisters", 1843, Théodore Chasseriau

When it comes to drinking, well, uh, there's drinking on both trips.

But the drinking is a little different on the river cruise

So after the Rhône River cruise ended, I wrote three stories about our river cruise.  One would think my stories explained the trip well.  However my friend Diane Murrell wasn't happy. 

One night I visited Wild West and danced the Twostep with my friend Diane Murrell.  While we danced, Diane said, "You know, Rick, my friend Louise reads everything you write.  She's amazing.  Your stories are so long, I don't know how she does it.  But me, I need a 'quick read' version of your trips.  Do you think you can do that for me?"

Mind you, Diane is a college graduate and author of four children's books.  But it is obvious that Diane prefers pictures over actual reading. So I dedicate Watching the World Go By to Diane.  I will use pictures to make my various points just so Diane and people like her can follow along. 

The underlying theme of this article is that ocean cruises and river cruises are both good.  They are just "different".  Both experiences have their strong points and their drawbacks. 

For me, I am a couple years past my "exciting night life" stage. Right now I am in my 'see the world stage'.  This explains why I find the chance to learn about France and enjoy a peaceful voyage along the river to be irresistibly enchanting.  That said, I fully agree the ocean voyages have their merits as well.

Different strokes for different folks.

And now I will post some pictures from our trip.  Enjoy!!   RA

Who is that man looking at me?  This is not a real book store... I am standing next to a small section of an amazing mural!

Here in Lyon, this entire building has been turned into a remarkable piece of art.  Those windows are not real, they are part of the mural.

Here Marla and Emily pose for the camera.

More of the mural at ground level. 

The detail and the 'realism' was amazing.


This is the "Fresco of Lyon".  My picture gives an idea of the immensity of the project.   The building was 7 stories tall!!  And they painted all 4 sides.
The people in the mural are 'real'. They are leading citizens of Lyon from the past 200 years.  Lyon got the idea from a similar project in Barcelona.  Believe it or not, this building is lived in.  That's right, people live in there without any windows for light!  It's like having an inside cabin all the time.

Lyon, Paris, and Avignon were my three favorite places to visit.  Lyon is the second largest city in France.  That cathedral is enormous. Built atop a very tall hill, it can be seen 50 miles away with good binoculars

According to our guide, Lyon has a bit of an inferiority complex compared to Paris.  They built their own giant tower to compete with the Eiffel Tower, then had the nerve to say that since it is built up on the hill, theirs is taller.  The Parisians just yawned.  Yeah, sure. 

The Three Mouseketeers - Fran, Marla, Emily

Those red and white hanging things are the receiving units for our very effective wireless microphone system.  I think their term for it was 'headset'.  Each lady is wearing an invisible earpiece.  The system was quite comfortable and remarkably effective.

This picture was taken at a spot next to the cathedral atop the giant hill.  Lyon had the strangest landscape.  Typically a major river runs through the middle of a valley.  There was a huge hill on one side, but no hill on the other.  Another strange feature were the two parallel rivers.  Notice there are two parallel rows of trees.  That is the Saône in the foreground and the Rhône in the background.  The two rivers meet and merge just south of Lyon.

In the distance to the left one can see the initial outline of the Swiss Alps through the haze.  The Rhône originates in the middle of the Swiss Alps.


Here is the gang walking through the streets of Lyon.  What a wonderful day this was.  

As one might gather, Lyon was a very special city.  If you wish to see the world, river cruises allow one to visit precious places like Lyon and Avignon. 

A river cruise is like a trip in a fancy RV... a chance to explore some of the most beautiful places in the country in total comfort.

Below are pictures of some of the shops we passed in Lyon.




Not quite sure what this lady was selling



I love this picture.  I went inside and accidentally caught Deanna in a dream state.   In the background, Marla is waving to me.

Plant shop

Paula sends Greetings from a Separate Reality to all her friends back in Houston who were unable to join her on the best trip of her life.

Nice smile from Libby

Marsha, Fran, Marla, Roz, Larry in Avignon town square

It really upset me when Jim McCue died in heart surgery just weeks before our trip.  Jim had really been looking forward to coming on this trip and I had a hard time accepting his loss. Understandably, his wife Judy decided not to come on the trip.  So I wore their Viking ID badges under my shirt as a symbolic gesture.  I am not quite sure why I am smiling for the picture.  I guess I wasn't thinking. 

Under the ramparts.  Do you see my shadow??

Avignon town square has a dozen open air restaurants.  So pretty.

These two Swiss boats demonstrate how the riverboats occasionally double-park on the Rhône.  Our own boat was double-parked when we boarded.  Look at Velma's picture on the right.

We passed one of the Swiss boats a day later still docked at Avignon. Besides Viking, there are several other companies that operate trips on the Rhône.  I suspect the ships double-park because there are not enough spots for them at the popular stops like Avignon.

I estimate we passed at least two other river boats per day.  This wasn't much of a picture due to the reflection.  I didn't have my camera ready in time to go outside and take a better picture. 

Do you see the other ship thru the curtains?  There was a 2nd ship parked alongside ours. 

Velma had her door open, so I took a snapshot.  Velma had one of her usual goofy trips.  Not only did she lose (and find) her passport at the Paris airport, she managed to leave a piece of luggage behind at our Avignon hotel while getting into her taxi. 

No problem - Eileen and I both spotted it and then I brought it with me to the boat.  On all cruises, we each look out for one another.  That's a hard and fast rule. 

This is a picture of my room.  The left corner holds the charging station for our excursion devices known as 'headsets', there is the beautiful TV, a bottle of champagne, and Marla's computer.

Viking offers free Internet to every room.   Poor Marla, a woman eternally yoked to her job due to excessive conscientiousness, checked her email religiously.  Not me.  I was on vacation.

Ann, Suzanne, Eileen, and Paula.   That is the front desk behind the ladies.  Do you see a line there?   Of course not. 

There is no such thing as a "line of people" on a Viking river cruise. The concept of "waiting" simply does not exist.

This is Dan from Scotland.  By chance, I was wearing a rugby shirt I bought in Edinburgh, Scotland, on our Oslo 2010 trip.  The moment he saw me with a Scottish logo, he called me "a fine figure of a man" and, by the way, where did I get that wonderful shirt? 
I laughed; Dan and I became instant friends.

Marsha Mellow fell in love with a cocker spaniel, but you would never know that's a dog.  Looks more like a ragged towel.

Well, if I can be a "fine figure of a man", then the same can be said for these three lovely ladies on a perfect day in Avignon.

They take soccer as seriously in France as we do football and basketball in America.  France was world champion in 1998.

We thought this would be a good picture to share. 

Everywhere I went, I saw some French kid practicing with a soccer ball.  This kid has just kicked the ball to a friend.

Some people will do anything for attention.

This is the original 'bridge to nowhere'.  They built it, floods washed it away, they rebuilt it, floods washed it away, finally they decided to quit rebuilding it... and people thought that was so funny the incomplete bridge became the international symbol of the city!!

Looming in the background is the Palace of the Popes, Palais des Papes. The Palais was built in the fourteenth century as the papal residence.  It is the largest Gothic palace in Europe.

I haven't said this yet, but now it is time - this part of Avignon was unbelievably beautiful.  France in general is a very beautiful country, but this part was exceptionally lovely.

The four of us - Marla Marsha Fran Me - had crossed a bridge to visit a park on the other side of the river.  What I wasn't aware of was the land we were on was actually part of the largest island in France.
We took this ferry from the island back to Avignon.  It was free!

As you can see, the Rhône River has split into two parts and you can see the island.  The red dot is exactly where our hotel was.  If you look, you can see a riverboat parked near the Red Dot and you can even see the "Bridge to Nowhere" from outer space.  Too funny.

The Rhône was a ridiculously pretty river.  Très magnifique!!

I might add the park alongside the river was just as beautiful.

Eileen joins Fran, Marla, Marsha on top of the world at Les Baux

Donna, Shan, Eileen and Georgia in Avignon

They say France is the breadbasket of Europe. 

After walking through this supermarket in Avignon, I believe it.

A rule I learned early in life is to never go in a grocery store when I am hungry.  The torture of seeing so much delicious food is painful.

If I shop when I am hungry, I end buying EVERYTHING that looks good.

Unfortunately no one warned me we were going to an Avignon grocery store, so I ended up walking in there on an empty stomach.

I wanted to eat everything in every picture.  Fortunately I had no money with me or I would have bought out the store.

Instead I ended up suffering a lot.  Yum.


I cheered up a bit when I found someone more miserable than myself.  Poor Matthew.  Matthew is the program director.  He oversees every single activity every single day.  I called him "Waldo" behind his back because he kept showing up out of nowhere.

I teased him about wearing all sorts of different hats, but he had trouble with this particular duty.  Marla and I both agreed Matthew found handing out free olives a bit beneath his station.  However, like a good trooper, he soldiered on.

In particular, the bakery had my number.  Yum yum yum

Known as the "boulangerie" in France, Larry and Roz said they ended up buying a couple croissants.  And they had the sense not to let me know about it or I would have had my hand out.

The French take their wine very seriously.

I found it curious to see two dogs walking through the store. 
That was a first for me.

Here the beautiful Fearsome Foursome each holding a citrus fruit.

I staged this picture as part of some light-hearted teasing of Ann (the one with the sunglasses).  I love Ann; she is such a good sport.  Ann wears her heart on her sleeve which gets her teased a lot.

On the bus ride from Marseilles, Ann had given us a detailed explanation of a tree that can grow three different kinds of citrus fruit at once.  Although I had never heard of this phenomenon before, I wasn't at all skeptical of Ann.  It sounded plausible enough.

However, Ann continued to talk about the weird tree.

I assume that Ann belabored the subject because she didn't think we believed her.  Maybe I contributed to her insecurity by asking too many questions.  But that's just me.  I always ask too many questions.

What got me tickled was the incredible amount of energy that Ann had on the subject.  It was such an improbable topic for a trip to France and yet Ann had an undeniable enthusiasm for it.  I just smiled.

This is a citrus tree that can grow six different type of citrus fruit side by side.  There is a story behind this strange tree.

A day later when we passed this courtyard in Arles with these citrus trees, Ann practically exploded out of her skin with excitement. 

Shaking her finger directly at the trees in an animated fashion, Ann immediately asked our perplexed French guide what she knew about citrus trees with three kinds of fruit.  When I saw the French lady stare back in total blank confusion, I swear I almost split a gut.

A Story of Heroism

As everyone has guessed, I am a bit of a history nut.  One of the reasons I love these cruise trips are the opportunities to learn more about the history of the countries we visit.

In Vienne, we visited the Cathedral of Saint Maurice.  Our guide told us an incredible story.  Here is the Wikipedia version:

Saint Maurice (also Moritz, Morris, or Mauritius) was the leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century when he became a venerated saint.

Maurice was born in AD 250 in Thebes, an ancient city in Egypt near the site of the Aswan Dam. He was brought up in the region of Thebes (Luxor—Egypt) and became a soldier in the Roman army. He was gradually promoted until he became the leader of the Theban legion, formed of 6600 soldiers. Maurice was an acknowledged Christian at a time when the Church was considered to be a threat to the Roman Empire. 

According to the hagiographical material, the legion, entirely composed of Christians, had been called from Thebes in Egypt to Gaul to assist Emperor Maximian to defeat a revolt by local insurgents. The Theban Legion was dispatched with orders to clear the St. Bernard Pass across Mt. Blanc (Switzerland). Before going into battle, they were instructed to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and pay homage to the emperor.

However, when Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused and Maximian ordered the unit to be punished. Every tenth soldier was killed, a military punishment known as decimation. More orders followed, they still refused, partly because of Maurice's encouragement, and a second decimation was ordered. In response to their continued refusal to use violence against fellow Christians, Emperor Maximian eventually ordered all the remaining members of the 6,600 unit to be executed.

That is a remarkable tale of faith and courage.  The Swiss town of St. Moritz is named in his honor. 

Vienne Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne) is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Maurice.

The Dangerous Dance Accident

There actually was dancing on this trip, but I don't have any pictures.  Since I was the main photographer AND the only man who danced, it was tough to take a self-portrait.  I looked at Marla's pictures and she didn't have any pictures either.

Nevertheless I recall dancing on at least four different occasions.  After dinner, we would go upstairs and dance.

To my surprise, I had some competition.  There was a couple from San Antonio that was pretty good.  To avoid any semblance of "competing", I chose to take turns dancing.  I think they caught on to my tactic.  Although it was never discussed, they would dance a song, I would dance a song. 

Believe it or not, I endured the single worst dance accident in my entire career on this trip.  There was a lady on the trip from another city (I prefer not to identify her).  I really liked this lady.  She was always friendly, outgoing, warm.  Great lady! 

One evening I asked her to dance.  Once we got out on the floor, I quickly made two worrisome discoveries.  First I realized she was a highly inexperienced dancer.  She had not the slightest idea how to partner dance or 'follow'.  Second, let's just say she was a bit tipsy.  In fact, she was pretty wild.  I spent most of my energy keeping her under control. 

In the middle of the song, we were dancing slightly apart in what I call a two-handed position.  I was facing her holding both of her hands in my own in preparation to put her into Cuddles.  This is hardly a dangerous move, so my guard was down.  Suddenly the lady did something totally unexpected.  She raised her left hand and ducked under it to her left (my right). 

Now everyone who is a dancer knows full well that 99% of all partner dance Swing moves involve the lady's right hand and the man's left hand.  I was shocked to see her left hand and my right hand suddenly shoot up in the air.  She darted to my right.

As the lady ducked under, she lost her balance and began to fall backwards to my right!  Ordinarily I would catch her with my right hand... but since she had my right hand above her head, I had nothing to catch her with. 

My only chance to break her fall was to lift her left hand even higher and try to stretch her arm.  This trick actually worked, but not completely.  She was still falling, but not quite as fast.

On her way down she suddenly struck the back of her head on the bar.  The bartender gasped in horror and so did I.  Oh my gosh, I was scared to death.  This poor woman had struck her head pretty hard.  Visions of Natasha Richardson, the actress who died after striking the back of her head on the ice at a ski resort, began flooding my mind with fear. 

I had broken her fall somewhat, but was it enough?  She said she wasn't hurt!!   She rubbed the back of her head a little bit and said she didn't feel a thing.  Hmm.  Meanwhile a friend had gone to get ice.  I cannot begin to explain how bad I felt. 

Fortunately the next day she was fine.  All she had was a little bump.  Thank goodness.  But I was still consumed with guilt.

My last words to her husband right before taking her on the floor had been, "I promise to bring her back safely".  Unbelievable.

Now you know where the term "famous last words" comes from.

This handsome gentleman whose name I never learned was a one-man band.  He played some terrific dance tunes.

After dinner, we would all go upstairs and hang out together. 

You can see the piano man in the background.  The dance floor was in front of the bar.  That's the area where I had my dance accident. 

Not my favorite moment on the trip...

Vienne was one of my favorite stops.  Here's a picture of some wild trees.  The French love to trim their trees into weird shapes.

Here is another giant mural.  Can you see the Rhone River in the background??

I developed a real respect for Roman engineering.  Wherever we went, there were Roman ruins that were still standing.  For example, the current bull fighting ring in Arles was built by the Romans. 

So what are some of the other uses for Roman ruins? 

In Vienne, they used these ruins to create a dog park!!

So why is Marsha Mellow smiling?  She just finished a fun train ride to the top of a hill.  Incidentally, there's Waldo Matthew showing up out of nowhere as usual.

Group picture atop the Vienne hill.   Bottom Row: Libby, Marsha, Eileen, Ann, Linda, Paula, Meredith, Tom, Mike, Sarah, Roz  Top Row: Velma, Emily, Marla, Rick, Sue, Deanna, Judy, Bonnie, Fran

Oops, where's Larry??   I guess Larry is taking the picture.  Well, I know a tricky way to get Larry in the picture. 

Gary Richardson taught me a computer trick called "cloning". 

In this picture #1, I am missing... why?  Because I am taking the picture.  However, I deliberately left a gap.

Now here in picture #2, I am shown, but now Larry is gone. 

This time Larry is taking the picture.

Call this picture #3.   Not only am I in the picture, so is Larry, plus I added in Libby for good measure... she missed the first three takes, but made the last one.  This is the same picture as #2 above except that Larry has been added from Picture #1 and Libby is added from another picture.  

 I only use these cloning tricks to do kind things like replace frowns with smiles.  Some people use these cloning tricks to do mean things like put faces of female celebrities on naked bodies, something I consider terribly wrong.   That is why you cannot trust any picture you see on the Internet.

This amazing picture makes it pretty obvious how easy it is to fool people with computer imagery.  By the way, isn't this a wonderful picture?   If you are curious, click Barack and Sarah

Larry (Marla's brother), Rick, Roz, Marla

On the streets of Paris.  We just finished having Easter dinner together.

Donna and Leslie

Mike, Sarah, Rick, Judy

The Fearsome Foursome... actually in this picture I think they deserve to be called the Fab Four.  Very pretty ladies.


Here is Marla at the Louvre... note the strap of her purse.

Signs like these were EVERYWHERE at the Louvre. 


Marla almost had her purse stolen at the Louvre Museum.  It was a brazen attempt indeed.  Marla and I were in the room where the famous Venus de Milo statue stands.

I took the picture on the right.  As the picture indicates, the room was very crowded.  Marla and I were separated.  While I was in front of the statue taking this picture, Marla was back in the corner next to that red sign.

Suddenly I heard someone scream bloody murder.  My heart skipped a beat... that sounded like Marla!

I knew where Marla was because I had just left her in the corner to get a different angle on the picture.  So I raced back to the corner. 

Marla was shaking like a leaf as she clutched her purse to her body.  She told me that out of nowhere, five people had suddenly formed a tight circle around her.  Before she knew what was happening, someone from behind jerked her pocketbook hanging from her shoulder.

They yanked so hard that the strap broke.  When Marla screamed, the swarm quickly parted and melted into the crowd.

That's when Marla saw her purse lying on the floor seven feet away.  Apparently the "swarm" was a deliberate move to disguise what was going on.  Marla had been very lucky that the thief never got a good grip.  However, she was very shaken by the experience.  Marla wasn't the same for the rest of the visit.

The thieves work in teams.  Typically they wear cameras around their neck to help blend in with the crowd.  When they see a target, they surround the person so no one else can see what they are about to do.  Then the person with the best angle snatches the purse.

It is not crowded enough, so the thieves operate in packs.  When someone like Marla isn't looking, the pack will surround the target and strike.

This is what Marla looked like when I got to her.  This picture was taken shortly after Marla recovered her purse from the floor.  Marla is holding the broken strap.

Ironically, the attack took place right in front of this pickpocket warning sign.  Do you want to know why my pictures are so blurry?  Because I was shaken up too!


Watching the World Go By


For me, there were many favorite moments on the trip. 

As I have said previously, Versailles was definitely at the top of the list.  Then there was Avignon, Paris, Vienne, and Lyon.  This really was a very special trip.  

However, my second favorite part of the trip was not a "place" or an "event", but rather an ongoing experience. 

Throughout the trip, I took particular pleasure sitting out on the front deck watching the world go by.  For me, this was a remarkable amount of fun.

In particular, our riverboat trip through Lyon was an exceptional day.  And why was that? 

Well, we took a wonderful trip right through the prettiest part of the entire city.  There was no traffic, there were no stoplights, there was no noise, and there was no stopping.  We just floated along in complete comfort and gazed at really pretty places.

I will tell you what; rather than have me explain it any further, why don't you just come along and see for yourself?

Join me for a visit through lovely Lyon on a river cruise. 

Let's watch the world go by together.

So what is Paula pointing to?  As we approach Lyon, we are going into a giant "lock".  A lock is a system by which the boat is elevated or lowered to a different level.

Right now the water on the other side of that dam is HIGHER than our level. Our boat will slowly glide into that lock up ahead.

Going through the locks was very interesting.  I enjoyed watching the process.  It took 10-20 minutes and then we were on the move again.

The more narrow the lock, the less water is needed to raise the boat.  Here I simply reach out and touch the wall. There was no danger.

Once we are in, a door will close behind.  Then they will add water to lift our boat higher to the level of the water behind the dam.

The front viewing deck was where the gang assembled.  We met all sorts of people and made many friends in the process.

Apparently some Canadians with a sense of humor noticed how close the walls were and pasted this cute sticker.

Some locks were huge, some were no big deal like this one.  Here the gates are just beginning to open after the water has been leveled.

Notice how calm the waters are on one side and rough on the other. There were days when the powerful "mistral winds" of southern France created waves on the Rhône.  Fortunately our plexiglass window shielded us from any discomfort.

The front deck was a place of real joy for all of us. 

Incidentally, I picked those flowers for Marla.  The staff put them in a vase for me at our cocktail party.  The flowers were growing wild in a field by the boat. 

Springtime in France is very lovely time to come for a visit.

The hills were breathtaking.

Have you noticed there is never any trash in the water?  Have you noticed how clean and clear the water is?  I could probably use my computer tricks to hide the trash, but I didn't have to.  I never saw a single piece of floating garbage the entire trip.

We passed through one or two locks every day.  Not only do they generate electricity, the locks help tame the river and prevent floods.

Avignon's bridge to nowhere was destroyed on three different occasions over the centuries during floods.  Now thanks to the locks, floods are no longer the threat they once were.

Another look at the weird trees of France.

There's no way I can "clean up the water" (I don't have that kind of skill).  When it comes to internet imagery, it boils down to how much you trust the source.  You can trust my pictures - the river was really this wonderful.  Ask those swans if you don't believe me.

The town of Condrieu is situated on a pair of sharp bends in the river. Before a series of water works done by French engineers to reduce the current, this was a major navigational hazard.

In the middle of the bends were les Roches de Condrieu, the rocks which brought to grief many boats.  Now thanks to the nearby lock, the level of the river water is higher in this spot and much safer.

This was an odd story.  As we sailed down the river, I saw three people waving at us from this pier.  They seemed to be unusually happy to see us, so I was curious and kept watch.

A woman had tripped while walking in Avignon and fell, breaking her nose.  I knew she and her husband were no longer on the boat, but I couldn't understand why not... a broken nose wouldn't stop me.  Now I understood. They had been to the doctor and spent the night at a hotel in Avignon.  Here they were rejoining the trip.

Do you see that book on the table?  That's Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher book.  I am a big fan.  When I saw the man in the red checkered shirt holding it, I struck up a conversation.  The next thing I knew, Stan and I talked for half an hour as we rolled down the river.

I introduced Stan to the Fearsome Foursome and Eileen.  Pretty soon we were all best friends. 

Stan definitely enjoyed associating with our beautiful American women.  It turned out that Stan had a wicked sense of humor.  He cracked the girls up something fierce.  Stan became an instant friend.

I have no idea what is going on here, but whatever he's doing, it was harmless fun.  That is Stan's wife on the far right.  Considering she didn't seem to mind, I think they were just playing.  

That's Trisha, Stan's wife.  Stan and Trish live north of London. 

We invited Stan and Trish to join us at our cocktail party. 

Pictures, laughter, friendship... and beautiful scenery.  This day was one of the really special moments during the trip. 

Over in the corner there was another Englishman named Dave (in the red shirt).  Dave and I had dinner one night.  Dave explained he did not like the Scots AT ALL. 

The weather was unbelievable. Temperature in the 70s and always a breeze.  No rain the entire week.   It was so pretty every day.

Remember Dan, my Scottish friend?  Dan is smiling, but I saw him frowning every time he looked at Dave.   It was interesting to watch Dan and Dave eye each other with suspicion out on this deck.

I imagine grudges die slowly.  I wonder if I will see similar sparks between the Germans & the English on our 2015 Rhine River cruise

There was always something to look at.  Looming castles were definitely at the top of my list.  I saw about six castles in all.
It is my understanding that on the Rhine, there is one castle every mile! Castles on the German side keep the French out, Castles on the French side keep the Germans out.  I cannot wait to see this!

Château de l’Hers dates to the twelfth century. It sits on a small rocky outcrop on the Left Bank of the river. It once regulated navigation on the Rhône, but today the commercial barges and pleasure boats pass by giving it only admiring looks, rather than taxes and tolls.

Bridges and limestone hills were among the sights.

That interesting bridge up ahead shows we are near the city of Lyon, France's second largest city.  Lyon was founded by a Roman general who decided the junction of 2 major rivers made this a strategic spot.

Vineyards, rolling hills, and farmhouses were all part of the tableau.

What I did not realize was this WHITE BRIDGE marked the point where two rivers merged.   This is the "Confluence Point".

That is the Rhône to the right.   We are now headed north on the Saône (pronounced 'rone' and 'sone' like 'pine cone').

The Rhône and the Saone merge in upper right corner.  Since we were headed north, our boat was emerging from the upper right corner and exiting in the lower left corner.  The WHITE BRIDGE I pointed out was at the "Confluence Point" in the upper right hand corner. 

Look for the famous cathedral standing high atop the hill (it is at the bottom of the picture in the middle).  Due to its vantage point overlooking the world, that cathedral is a major Lyon landmark.  You can also see Lyon's answer to the Eiffel Tower.  The Lyon tower is right beside the cathedral.


Lyon featured some very unusual architecture.

As we crossed under this bridge, I could have gotten on a chair and touched it.  Believe it or not, the captain's station on the roof was retractable just so we could cross under low bridges like these.

As we sailed through Lyon, we saw some amazing houses as well.

The ladies oohed and aahed at this charming hotel.

That green building is home to Euronews, a European version of CNN.

This building is headquarters for a real estate firm.

There were lots of strange buildings in the "Confluence area" of Lyon.  

I wish I had gotten a close-up. Those orange figures are "aliens" hanging onto the railing.

European cities do everything in their power to beautify the area along their rivers. 

Lyon is no exception.  Every part of our river trip through the city was fascinating and attractive.

I assume you have noticed the smiles.  They were not faked for the camera.  I got the same smiles when people weren't looking.  During our trip through Lyon, these same ladies stayed with me for nearly three hours.  They appreciated the views as much as I did.

I was certainly not alone in my project to watch the world go by.  I think it is clear that I had plenty of company.  We had wine, we had coffee, we had cookies, and we had laughter.  And we were very comfortable too.  It was the most marvelous relaxing day of all!

This is Jerry and Ellie, a delightful couple from Wales.  As you can see, they made sure to get a front row seat for our trip through Lyon.

It was a real joy to see both the city and the countryside of France from the unique perspective of a riverboat. 

We have passed the downtown area of Lyon.  Now we are sailing through a northern suburb.  This is a very wealthy district.

For the next couple of miles, we were treated to one spectacular trophy estate after another.  Our ladies were drooling with envy.  They were all conspiring to buy one house after another and move here.

Now I am going to let you enjoy the second half of our trip through Lyon without further comment. 

Enjoy the ride!


Conclusion to Rick's
Rhône River Story

As should be clear by now, throughout the trip I took particular pleasure sitting out on the front deck watching the world go by.

It is not easy to explain the difference between a river cruise and an ocean cruise, but I think my pictures have helped to explain there is a very special charm to a river cruise. 

I have never had an experience on a cruise quite like this before.  There is a beauty to be seen from a riverboat that cannot be explained until you have seen the pictures.  A river cruise is not a "highlight" cruise, but rather the chance to spend seven days viewing the beauty of a country like France.

Did you notice a single billboard?  There were none.  Did you notice any ugly homes or industrial areas?  There were none.  I never saw a single smokestack.  The Rhône was an endless stretch of man living in harmony with nature.

I discovered a peacefulness that took hold of me at the very start of the trip and stayed with me the entire week.

I would like to conclude my story with a compliment to Marla.  Due to the small size of the riverboats, in this sector of the travel industry, a group of 8 is considered very impressive.

Marla signed up 34 people on her very first try. 

Marla is not only the hardest working woman I have ever met, she is also ridiculously good at what she does.  Although this was a highly complicated trip, Marla organized it flawlessly.

Marla, I salute you on a trip well done.  Congratulations on creating such a wonderful adventure for all of us.

Rick Archer
May 2014

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