Cruising and Dancing from Paris to the Swiss Alps

By on July 9, 2018

By Pamela Lovegren—

“Do you know English?” asked an adorable Parisian girl strolling by with her friends. Naturally, I responded “yes” and she inquired “will you please sign a form supporting the deaf?” Mesmerized by the sight in my peripheral vision of watercolor pinks and yellows behind the Eiffel tower, I absent-mindedly squinted at the small print and scribbled on the wrong line. Her eyes narrowed and she harshly demanded a donation. My mind clicked into gear while I clutched my purse out of reach. It dawned on me that the petition was a ruse.

Ahhhhhh, dreamy, romantic Paris, known as the city of lights and clever pickpockets. Now on high alert we were no longer easy targets. Time to embark on our Viking land-tour/river-cruise commencing in elegant Paris. Our itinerary included Parisian highlights followed by river adventures on the Mosel and Rhine rivers aboard the Viking Hild set to cruise into history, past ancient castles, near lush vineyards, and docking in enchanting French and German towns until we disembarked in the Swiss Alps.

natural sunscreen with zinc oxide

Dressing up for a night out on the town, my husband, Peter, and I headed for the French capital’s vibrant Latin quarter. Formally attired in black and white, staff met us with beaming smiles, standing at attention alongside the glittering red carpet entrance to the Paradis Latin Cabaret. Absorbing the vibrant atmosphere alive with expectant energy, we took seats front and center. A kaleidoscope of color and momentum exploded on stage as music pulsated through the air. The talented troupe of showgirls and guys in dazzling costumes choreographed spellbinding performances. Flowers danced, masquerade masks swirled, pink bones came to life, sheer white wings glittered, ballet wove in and out of contemporary hip hop, and black stocking legs kicked the cancan below swishing layers of red ruffles.

The following day we ventured to the opulent Palace of Versailles, a playground for royalty. One of the most renowned rulers, Louis XIV (1638-1715) called the “Sun King”, radically transformed a hunting lodge into this magnificent palace and made it the seat of France’s government. Discovering symbols of the Sun King everywhere, we felt like we were playing a game of “Where’s Waldo”. Instead of spotting the elusive Waldo in his unique red and white scarf, the Sun King’s distinguishing golden face surrounded by shooting sunrays appeared unexpectedly in architecture, paintings, exterior gates and even as Apollo, the Sun God adorning the ceiling. 

Louis XIV set the extravagant standard for palaces across Europe. The Chateau boasts of well over 60 staircases, 1200 fireplaces and 700 lavish rooms overflowing with murals, paintings, sculptures, velvet draperies, Savonnerie carpets, elaborately carved furniture, gilded bronze and marble. During construction of the famed Hall of Mirrors in the early 1630’s, the price tag for mirrors exceeded that of gold. A place fit for a king yet the undertaking almost emptied the coffers of France. The palace represents an age in French history when the country rose as a fashion and a power center followed by the dramatic and the bloody decline of the monarchy.  

The conquering Sun King, in spite of all his military victories, had a divergent obsession. King Louis XIV’s love of dance developed into a lifelong passion for ballet. More than an art form, his ability to dance was both a social refinement and a political necessity, and the mark of an aristocratic upbringing. Beginning his reign at the unlikely age of five, with the assistance of his mother and prime minister, Louis XIV ruled France for 72 years. The expansion of his kingdom showed up unpredictably in the places we visited like Cochem, Germany.  

Intent on conquest and expanding territorial claims, the Sun King and his troops marched to Cochem.  The militia pillaged the mighty Reichsburg Castle, originally built in 1000, and burned all but three houses in the village. The rebuilt Cochem of today impressed us as one of the most gorgeous and romantic landscapes in Germany. The Schloss Reichsburg towers dramatically above the village where legend, folklore and a web of history weaves itself among the quaint cottages, black and tan guild buildings and half-timbered houses lining the winding narrow cobblestone streets.

Exploring the Reichsburg Castle, we meandered in and out of the dining hall, Gothic room, hunters’ chamber and weapons area. However, moving into the elaborate knight’s hall captured our imagination as George Frideric Handel’s stirring ‘Water Music’ piece filled the room. My husband and I simultaneously locked eyes as the music drew us in closer. Lifting my arm upward, Peter pressed his palm to mine and minuet dancing flowed through us.

Taking our cue from the Sun King, who incorporated wines into his rigid daily rituals for meals and bedtime, we headed down river on the Mosel and stepped back in time to 1602, a few years before Louis XIV began to rule. Entering the world of wine growing, the dark-wooded Schlagkamp-Desoye winery and museum warmly embraced us. Andreas, a witty vinicultural specialist, represents the 11th generation of his family in the wine business. When Andreas came of age to run the winery, his father brought out a rare bottle of ice wine from the year of his birth. Andreas exclaimed, “my father, my mother, my grandmother and the cat were all crying so I asked, are you concerned about me taking over the family business?” “Nein”, they replied, “we are crying because this is such an expensive bottle of wine about to be uncorked!”

Wine growers in Germany are predominately small, family owned vineyards and the Mosel area has the steepest wine hills in Europe with slopes of 65%. The roots of the vines tenaciously grow up to 50 meters long to reach water while drawing in minerals from the slate. When the grapes are yellow with a golden reflection they are ready. “Women do the best job harvesting”, Andreas confided. “They choose fully ripened grapes and carefully cut and lay them down while men crush grapes off the vines. Women happily talk about you and me, and as long as they are moving their mouths with happy talk, they don’t eat all my grapes.”  

Leaving the wine growing region and realm of Louis XIV, we arrived in the land of the Swiss Alps.  Extending our land-tour to meet up with our son, Chadbourne, we rented a luxury black sedan in Zurich with a mere 1000 miles on the odometer. Technology is a marvel. Syncing the maps and routes loaded on our phones prior to traveling, we connected into the car navigation system and set off to see the sights in Switzerland. Driving up a winding road for well over an hour we abruptly stopped beside an ice green glacier lake. Ahead a massive avalanche spilled over the roadway. On to plan B. Turning around, we found a new route and a couple hours later we rolled to a stop at a “toll booth” out in the middle of nowhere. Wondering why the toll was so expensive at $29 francs, we paid the fee and suddenly cars all around us were stopping. Google Navigation said “Get on the Train”. What?? Where is the train station? What do we do with the vehicle? Shortly we heard a rumble and metal fence-sided train cars screeched to a halt. Eyes widening, Chadbourne grasped the steering wheel and maneuvered our vehicle onto the train platform to progress through six skinny flatbed cars toward the front of the train. This was better than a ride at Disneyland! Riding the rails through the elongated tunnel, we rocked back and forth while the conductor did the driving.

On the other side of the tunnel, the 80 degree sunshine warmed us instantly. Parking at the Interlaken Ost train station, we boarded a gleaming Bernese Oberland Railway train headed up to Kleine Scheidegg. Connecting on to a sturdy cogwheel train, we chugged up the mountain through numerous tunnels, panoramic vistas, and took pictures of so many waterfalls they almost became commonplace.  Arriving at the Jungfraujoch we literally were at ‘The Top of Europe’ Disembarking, we stumbled upon an elaborate Ice Palace labyrinth within a vast cavern. Playing hide and seek through twists and turns of ice corridors we eventually exited outside. Tiny snowflakes landed on our noses and white fog immediately engulfed us along with a balmy 32 degrees. Undaunted, we bundled up with all the spare clothing we could find in our day packs. Moving at a tortoise pace in tennis shoes, we traversed the slippery glacier from one snow pole to the next barely visible pole. At last, we reached the famous Mönchsjoch Hut at an impressive 12,000 feet above sea level. Our gastronomical reward…the finest grilled bratwurst, homemade potato salad and crafted beer Swiss Francs can buy. 

Trekking back to the Jungfrau station, we continued our epic mountain journey and caught additional trains traversing downward. Seizing the last few hours of the day in Grindelwald, we felt the magnitude of the imposing Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, literally rising up from the town base. Hauling gear up to our fourth-floor balcony, we uncorked a bottle of 2016 Elbling wine from our winemaker friend Andreas, clinking glasses to each other and the gigantic mountains looming over us. Sinking into our comfy veranda chairs with a contented sigh, the fragrant spring air caressed our faces while the sun leisurely slipped behind the purplish gray mountains.

What makes travel like this so addictive? Interaction with fascinating people, history coming alive, and beholding nature, so magnificent it’s etched in our minds forever. Keen harmony between stellar leadership and ship crew, resulting in extraordinary encounters for Viking guests. Subsequently, exploration on our own morphing into unexpected random adventures… Coincidentally, Henry Miller summed up all this and more when he stated, “One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Pamela Lovegren, Business Manager / Travel Editor
Pamela shares the vision of Carol Doyel to celebrate and encourage women of 50+ who desire to live life with spirit and passion each and every day.

About Pamela Lovegren

Business Manager / Travel Editor Pamela’s expertise flows from building her own successful business to guiding small to mid-size family owned companies. She analyzes business structure, is a diplomatic negotiator, identifies operational issues, and implements effective resolutions to lead a firm on a path to excellence. Her experience ranges from resort management, leadership conferences, property management and business consulting to extensive traveling and travel editor of this online publication. Pamela shares the vision of Carol Doyel to celebrate and encourage women of 50+ who desire to live life with spirit and passion each and every day.


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Cruising and Dancing from Paris to the Swiss Alps