Make Your Own History... On a River Cruise
Posted by Cindy Clarke
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Europe, Food, River Cruise
If you've ever wanted to time travel through Europe without leaving all the modern-day comforts of home behind, then consider embarking on a river cruise in Europe where you explore history by day and make history, your way, onboard a luxury riverboat, at night!
Let me explain.
Imagine waking up in a different time and place each morning and walking right into the heart of history after a great night’s sleep on a heavenly pillow-topped bed and a hearty breakfast of your morning favorites. (You may be in a medieval riverfront town in France, Germany, Hungary or Romania, but you can still have a western omelet with a side of fruit and home fries if you like or a Greek yoghurt parfait with granola and fresh strawberries or even a toasted bagel with cream cheese – on Tauck’s European river cruises, a talented chef travels with you to indulge your appetite, morning, noon and night, with some great modern-day culinary treats…)
Freshly fed, well rested and smartly attired – with comfortable walking shoes leading the way – you can stroll off the boat into the days of the Roman Empire like I did in Arles along the Rhône River, stopping to hear echoes of history at the Amphitheatre that was built by the Romans in 90 AD. This arena was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators who gathered to cheer or jeer the chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles that were held here. I, for one, was glad that I could walk out as easily as I entered, preferring to change time periods to the days when van Gogh frequented the local streets, paintbrush in hand.
I passed by the café he immortalized in his painting of the Café Terrace at Night, putting myself into the picture as I sat at a sidewalk table at the real Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, and later found myself gazing at the flower garden outside of the Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles where he recovered after his unfortunate date with the knife that partially severed his ear. It was vibrant with the same springtime colors I remembered from his painting of the same. I bought a postcard at a nearby shop that captured the scene today exactly as it was back in April, 1889 when it posed for van Gogh.
After an afternoon spent exploring the past, present day called back aboard the riverboat where dinner would soon be served. As I walked up the ramp, I couldn’t help but notice that we were docked in the setting of another iconic portrait of van Gogh’s: the riverside location of Starry Night Over The Rhône. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” portraits are among his most famous works, each depicting night skies filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own light, and a bright crescent moon. Art experts explain that although the features are exaggerated, we can all relate to the image of nightfall and that it’s a sight that most people feel comfortable with. Adding even more interest, van Gogh’s skies are painted in such a way that they “keep the viewer’s eyes moving about the paintings,” engaging them in the painting. That fact got me thinking about the sights and feelings I experienced in Arles, and in the other villages and towns I explored in France with Tauck… Vienne, Avignon, Viviers and Lyon among them. Tauck’s European river cruise itinerary had a way of engaging me with intimate discoveries every day, seamlessly immersing me in the essence of the places we were visiting, time warps and all.
After a dinner of regional specialties and locally produced wine – the wine choices recommended by the ship’s sommelier not only compliment the food, but they’re complimentary with every meal aboard Tauck’s riverboat – I headed for the little onboard library to look more closely at a book of van Gogh’s paintings. I paused at the print of the one that played out in the night sky over our riverboat in Arles and I noticed something in the painting I hadn’t seen before. Off in the corner at the bottom of the painting, I found a couple strolling timelessly along the same riverside pathway I followed back to the boat. I saw couples just like that walking by our riverboat in Arles.
That’s when it really hit me. No matter where we docked, traveling with Tauck on a river cruise in Europe made the unfamiliar familiar, made exploring someplace new more welcoming than I could have imagined and made me feel right at home every evening when I returned to a friendly greeting from the riverboat staff and crew – along with a warm towel, freshly baked cookies and all the comforts of a home away from home.