On The Water

When one has traveled a lot and seen “the sights” — those things which are perennial tourist attractions (the Louvre/Eiffel Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Trevi Fountains, and so on), there is often a desire to create a theme for one’s next trip, based on either a specific interest, or just on whimsy.

One couple I know, who are keen not to say fanatical gardeners, did such a tour of Europe and visited only the palatial gardens of France, Italy, Germany and Britain.  They managed to fit it all into a month, although as the wife admitted, they could have taken six and been much the richer for the experience (although much the poorer financially because Europe).  One woman of my acquaintance did something similar, but going over in the late spring so that she could visit all the major flower shows in Europe — and if New Wife reads this, I’ll have to hide the credit cards.

And of course, for the true art lovers, nothing could be better than touring the Prada in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris, the Art History (Kunsthistorisches ) Museum in Vienna and of course the Rembrandt- and Van Gogh museums in Amsterdam, to name but some.

Mention of Amsterdam, however, got me thinking about a tour based on a different theme altogether.


Yes, canals.

Now of course, when one says the word, the city which springs immediately to mind is Venice, but let’s just set that aside for the moment while we consider some alternatives, just for kicks.

Amsterdam, of course, would be a great starting-point for such a tour, in no small part because the canny Dutch are keenly aware of the appeals thereof, and the canal tours are many and excellent.  Also, if you get tired of doing that (can’t imagine why), you can always hop off and visit some of the city’s other attractions (see above), or to grab a tasty pannekoek or package of fries (hold the mayo, Frans).  Yum.  But let’s move on, just a little down the coast by train, to:


The “Venice of the North” is justly famous, and I don’t know a single person who has been there and come away disappointed.  However, my knock against both Amsterdam and Bruges is that if you don’t want to sit in a boat sailing along a canal, or you’ve got bored with doing so, the canal banks are often short of places to sit and enjoy a pint of beer or gin while watching the world sailing by.  Such is not true of France’s


And just in case that isn’t enough, I should point out that Annecy is located in the Savoie district, which means you also get views like this, when you’re sick of looking at canals:

Yes, those are mountains in the background… not to be found in Amsterdam, Venice or Bruges.  From some list or other:


Annecy is called the “Pearl of the French Alps.” Because of its location, squeezed between Lake Annecy and the Semnoz mountains, Annecy can’t grow much — so it has preserved its old town as it was centuries ago, threaded with more canals than roads. It’s not packed with tourist attractions or booming nightlife. Its charm comes instead from peaceful waterways lined with pastel-colored houses, nonstop gelaterias, tiny cafes, and restaurants.

Feet starting to itch, yet?

There are many large cities, of course, which feature canals as either recreation or as a means of getting from one place to another:  Stockholm, Copenhagen and, of course, Venice.  All of these are popular — millions and millions of tourists over the decade couldn’t all have got it wrong — but I have to tell you, the smaller places appeal to me too, as much if not more.

And in case you’re wondering why I’m sailing down this little tributary [sic]  and have gathered so much info:  I want to do such a tour with New Wife, just as soon as the pieces fall into place.


  1. Well, if you’re going to do theme tours, I’d recommend a few that are a bit different. Ancient Civilizations Egypt and Jordan — Nile river trip – Luxor – Valley of the Kings and Queens – Abu Symbol
    – the Dead Sea and Petra.

    Or in South / Central America – Matchu Pichu, Easter island, and Chichen Itza…. and throw in the Galapagos because it’s on the way

    …… and if you do ever hit that loto prize, National Geographic runs a nice group trip around the world
    to all the wonders of the ancient world by private jet at the bargin price of $ 110,000 each. ( With tips )


  2. Traveling as an old fart gets me nothing. I could as easily do all sorts of visual exams of any part of the world via the webby. Of course minus the diarrhea, pickpockets and crappy food. I really could care less how smelly Europeans live. As a family friend once said after WWII we should have killed everyone in Europe and burned their cities to the ground. Then made it a large hunting park ! I loved that idea.

    I do realize it was different when I was young. In fact, my pet theory is that some of the great men of the past were indeed shaped by early grand travel. If memory serves me Theodore Roosevelt accompanied his rich father on a 3 year jaunt around the world when 10 or 12. It shaped his life. Exposure as a youngin is beneficial. At my age its a PITA.

  3. Some pretty sights. Russia has its way and we will be liberating that part of the world again.

    Would like to make a trip there sometime. Maybe after I win the lottery. So not happening anytime soon.

    That and some of the fiction I read has the end of he world starting when the protagonist on vacation. Not sure I would want to start over there.

  4. I’m not nearly so cultured, but I’m sure a battlefield tour of Europe would be awesome, and could be make to last until all funds were exhausted, especially if one were to employ qualified guides, which to me would be essential.

    There is the problem of not know exactly where some of the battlefields, such as Hastings and Agincourt, actually are.

    I could also easily do tank/armored vehicle museums.

    1. I had a similar military history idea on my bucket list. My grandfather with his mortar battery landed at St. Nazaire on the west coast of France in October 1917, stopped a couple places to train moving eastward, fought at several places in Lorraine, then to the Champagne east of Rheims, the back westward to Chateau Thierry, then east again up through St Mihiel, then down to Verdun where they fought up through the Argonne to Sedan, then marched through Belgium and spent time on the Rhine until April 1919 as occupation troops. His war diary lists every town and battle and the dates there, the distance marched (about 900 miles) or “in camions” (about 400 miles), and I thought it would be a fun trip to drive the diary, hopefully eating well, enjoying places out of the tourist way, and seeing places where history was made.
      Well, one, my wife has no interest in history, and two, her health is such that I can’t leave her alone at home for a month, so that bucket has been emptied without a taste.

      1. When I was a young LT, my unit did a staff ride that followed our regiment’s (6th Infantry, then part of the 5th Division) path through the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Since it was Army funded professional education, our guide was the Army attache to the embassy in Paris.

        We also visited a few other sites – the museum at Verdun, the site where the Lost Battalion fought, and the spot where historians (at least at the time, I think it’s changed since) believed that Alvin York earned the Medal. Cool stuff.

  5. I found stroopwaffles, in walmart of all places. chocolate and caramel. Set them on top of a cup of fresh brewed covfefe for a bit to warm up and they are quite delish. Now if I could only find biltong…

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