Monthly Archives: November 2015

Beach House Thanksgiving

As I mixed Grandma Marie’s stuffing this morning, I dredged memories of the celebration opus our family built around a Carolina beach house last year.  I wanted a full house for Mom, too long alone with her grief.  We all love her, but the kids are scattered from the Atlantic to the Rockies and ever so busy grappling life’s dragons.  Thanksgiving week on the beach proved an ideal no-refuse-offer. The waves, foamy gray, loomed so high that the sun sometimes shone through, illuminating the living green within.  One monster put three-year old Conner to flight.  His sprint propelled him ten times beyond its reach.  He’d never been to the beach; how was he to know what a wave might […]

Eastern European media list

Reading ahead ups my enjoyment of a trip no end.  Big cities, and architecture never did much for me, but after reading Chicago’s history and triumph in building skyscrapers on mud, I couldn’t wait to see them. Before our cruise I searched for something to read about Eastern Europe and came up short.  Maybe I can save someone else from a similar fate by sharing this list of books and movies our guides mentioned is noteworthy. Our cruise director introduced  Sissi–Forever My Love by telling us that she grew up watching it every year around Christmas.  It has the feel of a sixties-era Disney production–cutesy music, hokey characters, cheesy humor; but I was so glad to […]

Team Inspiration

Steve is driven about getting out early in the morning, so while I sleep, he goes up top and talks to whoever’s there.  Often it’s Bruce, a fifty-year-old arborist, who looks like a kid amongst all these seasoned seniors.  Bruce is traveling with his 93-years-young father, Jim.  Jim doesn’t need an escort.  He walks with the best of us and shows no slippage in the knowhow department.  On one of our first stops, Bruce passed us on a street somewhere in Franconia and asked if Steve had seen Jim.  He sounded concerned, so we asked other passengers to keep an eye out as […]

Smart Travelers Speak “Stupid”

Two of our friendliest fellow passengers are Ray and Nedy, who both immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Before I tell you about their travel smarts, I have to tell Ray’s story.  Baby Ray was born during World War II, and when the Japanese invaded, he was put in line to be bayoneted.  Just as his turn came, the soldier fell dead.  He’d taken a bullet from an American sniper. Ray and Nedy learn everyone’s names, especially staff members.  They believe in using the local language, even if it’s only a few words.  To reinforce the rudeness of […]

Danube Dogs

In the back garden of a historic house, a sleepy pooch sported a metal strip about the size of a jumbo bobby pin on its ear.  Why?  When Bulgarian dog catchers nab a stray, they neuter it, tag it, and release it back onto the street.  We watched two of these mutts work a lock as our ship passed through.  Trotting alongside, they waved their tails and greeted the boat so eagerly, my heart ached to feed them or at least scratch behind an ear.  The six homeless fellers bedded down around our Black Sea port suggest that Romania’s policy must be similar. Is it kinder to put homeless […]


I told a young fisherman wearing a Colorado sweatshirt, “I am from Colorado.”   His response was short and awkward, a clear tipoff that his English is as bad as my German.  That’s false advertising, dang it. Being unable to communicate with most locals, we cruisers satisfy our  curiosity by asking our guides about daily life.  The Hungarian said her health care is free except that she needs to tip the doctor in advance to have a better chance at good care.  I hope we aren’t headed down that road. In Bulgaria a guide joked that money is so short that when a Bulgarian tells his friends about buying a new car, they ask, […]

Wanted: Happy-Thought Nazis 7/7/15

Our cruise director warned us before we disembarked that no matter how nice the hotel, leaving the ship always feels as if we’ve been expelled from paradise.  She was so right.  Our farewell banquet at the  hotel had little of the charm we’d been steeped in on the River Navigator.  We could hardly hear our table-mates.  The was service was slow.  The staff didn’t understand about gluten free.  And mostly, we’d lost the staff we’d come to think of as friends. Friendships were viral on this cruise, and I suspect that even for the Navigator,  we were a special group.  Early on I noticed that a number of us were militant positive thinkers.  No whine went unchallenged […]