Thursday, June 22, 2017

WHERE IN THE WORLD HAVE I BEEN??


The Ceiling in Old Church, Amsterdam

IT'S BEEN QUITE A YEAR since I fell flat on my back in an Amsterdam cathedral, breaking my pelvis in two places; a year that included recovery, selling my home, buying another and moving hundreds of miles away. It was time to move closer to family just in case I did something stupid again, like not watching what I'm doing!

Exactly one year ago, the four of us (my daughter Audrey, friends, Kay and Tom and I) arrived in Amsterdam for what we thought was going to be an unforgettable trip. How right we were, but not in the way we imagined! I'd so looked forward to the Viking cruise that would take us up one of the most beautiful stretches of river on earth--the palace and castle lined Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland. As it turned out, the adventure I had was NOT the adventure I planned! One and a half days into the trip I fell, fracturing my pelvis. Just what nightmares are made of, right? Here's the story:

HIGH ABOVE MY HEAD, the saints on the ceiling looked as if they had been painted on the hull of a viking ship. Burnished in gold and faded from age, I had to try to capture the wonderful luster and craftsmanship of both the ceiling and the paintings. Looking through my telephoto lens, however, the images seemed to dance and float somewhere off center. Lacking a tripod, I finally tried to steady the camera by taking a deep breath and holding it for several seconds until I had the perfect alignment. Then, it disappeared--followed by a surreal sensation of falling backwards, floating almost, like a feather released over the ancient gravestones that served as the church's floor. Silently, slowly as my body surrendered to gravity my only thought was, "Ahhhhh, s**t!"

The sound of my body crashing down like a lone tree in a forest echoed throughout the cathedral. My eyes tightly closed against the searing pain. I laid there like a dead person until I could assess the damage. Maybe it will be just a bad bruise, I thought. I hoped. I prayed.

"Are you OK? Can you get up?" I heard the anxiety in the voices around me. I sensed I had drawn a crowd and I could see in my mind's eye what I must have looked like-a KO'd boxer in the 12th round.

When I couldn't put it off any longer, the church docents hoisted me up and half carried me to a chair, each step an agony. As I sat on my throbbing bottom waiting for a taxi to take me to the hospital, all I could think of was how much this damn trip had cost and how, if possible, I could salvage it!

NEXT TIME: Amsterdam before the fall!


My friend, Kay, went back the next day to photograph the ceiling for me. 
She took it as I should have--lying down!


This is the picture of the ceiling I took!

Friday, January 20, 2017

A LOVE LETTER TO VIKING RIVER CRUISES





A LOVE LETTER TO VIKING
 RIVER CRUISES

Prelude:

Last year my close friends, Kay, Tom, my daughter, Audrey and I booked a Viking River cruise along the Rhine. This would be our trip of a lifetime. Viking Cruises are well known for being the best in river cruises and the length of the Rhine River has some of the most picturesque scenery of all. Expensive, yes, but we had no doubt it would be worth every penny.

We flew into Amsterdam early in order to spend four days exploring every nook and cranny of the picturesque city before boarding the brand new Viking ship, The Viking Alruna for our week long cruise. We didn’t waste any time after we landed before we hit the streets to see all we could see. On the second day, Kay and I took off by ourselves to explore some of the sights which included a beautiful old cathedral called Old Kirk. The ceiling mesmerized me, and in attempting to take a good picture of it, I lost my balance and fell backwards breaking my pelvis in two places. Now mind you, we had been in Amsterdam a day and a half!

Thankfully, as painful as it was, I didn’t need surgery. The hospital docs gave me a handful of pain meds with a note saying I could go on the cruise. Audrey and Tom bought me the Cadillac of walkers (about the size and weight of one too!), and I managed to walk with its help onto the ship two days later. The following is my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful Captain and crew who made the cruise both an enjoyable and memorable experience:

DEAR CAPTAIN AND CREW OF THE VIKING ALRUNA:

Thank you for turning what could have been a tragedy into a very pleasant memory for me. Your professionalism, genuine caring and attention to my every need are appreciated beyond words. I am especially grateful to two wonderful people, Captain Bartosz Balwierz, and Hotel Manager, Peter Burkhard, for upgrading my room from the bottom level, which required me to take the stairs, to a beautiful cabin with a balcony on the main floor, all without charge. Instead of watching the castles of Germany and France pass by at water level, you gave me the gift of enjoying the scenery from my bed and the ability to join the others at meal times in the dining room.

And a special thanks to Concierge Catalin Stancu, for handling all the complicated changes in our flights, arranging for wheel chairs and escorts and so much more. Your efforts made it possible for my daughter and I to relax knowing that you had smoothed our way through all the plane transfers, custom checks and dozens of other details. Getting home was the most grueling thing I have ever experienced, but you made it worry free and that is worth a million thanks!

To the rest of the crew, I will always remember you with great fondness. You never hesitated to serve us with smiles and to anticipate our every need. You not only made us feel special, we felt that we actually mattered to you. My family (and I from my bed) enjoyed every minute of our Viking experience and you can take the credit. And to you, Liliya, our lovely server who we were lucky enough to share our meals with every evening, a very special thank you. I considered you a friend at the end of the cruise.

The following story is just one example of just how kind and caring you all are: On the first day of the cruise we stopped in Holland for a tour of the iconic windmills. I, of course, stayed on board, but I’d asked my friend, Kay, to be on the lookout for a doll in Dutch costume to buy for my granddaughter. When Kay came back on board she said she saw some but didn’t know if they were what I had in mind. After she described them, I told her I wished she had bought one because there would not be another chance since we were leaving Holland. The crew had already begun to disengage the gang planks when Kay (bless her) rushed out and asked if it was too late to go buy one. One of your lovely crew took the 20 dollar bill clutched in her hand and sprinted down to the gift shop and ran back with it while the ship waited. Now, THAT is above and beyond superior customer service. That is genuine caring from all concerned. God bless you all.

With the sincerest of thanks,
Barbara Champlin
www.TheWorldAccordingToBarbara.com