Russian Volga River Tour Plus Kiev, 2008

All content and linked photographs are copyrighted by Don Chesnut (©DRC2008)

My Mom and Dad invited my wife and me to accompany them on a Volga River Tour. We accepted their generous offer. The tour, organized by Vantage Tours (, started in St. Petersburg and ended in Moscow. We also had a Kiev extension. Vantage used the cruise and travel company, Vodohod (Водоходъ)(, for the river portion of the trip. Below is my account and photographs of the trip, based on a journal that I kept as we traveled. All photographs are copyrighted by me, ©DRC2008. Or you may just want to view the photographs in the thumbnail directory (no maps or descriptions).

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Mom and Dad came to our house about 4 pm and we waited for Anne to arrive and finish packing. By 5 pm, we left Lexington and drove to Erlanger where we stayed at the Comfort Inn.

At 7:15 we drove to the Italian restaurant, Carlos. Dad and I had veal piccata, Mom had chicken with pasta and cream sauce, and Anne had Shrimp Diablo. We were served huge portions, but the food was very good. We had Rubino Classico Reserva Chianti. We all also had Fried Calamari and "small" salads that were large. There was no room left for dessert. We went back to the hotel and slept.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Our wake-up call was at 7 am. We checked out and took the hotel shuttle to the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport and were dropped off at the United terminal. We checked in, received our boarding passes and then went through security. We had a little breakfast at a bagel stand and some coffee. We took off on time to Chicago.

At the Chicago airport, we found our next gate and waited awhile. I studied Russian and German a bit. Anne studied her digital camera and called home. We then went to a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and had some pizza for lunch.

We boarded our Lufthansa flight and took off around 3:45pm. This was an overnight flight. Our flight was long and tedious. We watched the movie "21" and "The Other Boleyn Girl." From the north side of the plane (the left side), one could see daylight all night long due to our high latitude this July evening.

Monday, 14 July 2008

We arrived on time in Frankfurt and eventually boarded our plane to St. Petersburg. After Customs and Immigrations, we were greeted by the Vantage people (our tour agency is Vantage Tours). We were taken to the Nickolaia Cherneshevsky riverboat by bus. We came aboard and were greeted with 3 costumed musicians. One played accordion, one balalaika and the third offered bread and salt (a traditional greeting). We got our keys and went to our rooms to unpack.

Then Anne and I had a draft beer and talked to 2 ladies from New York City. I walked around the ship and found the Doctor's office, hairdresser, and souvenir shop. We attended an information reception and had our buffet dinner. I had vegetables, beef stroganov and potatoes for dinner. I had some stomach problems for several hours and took some Pepto Bismol tablets and antibiotics; I hope they work. This problem was not due to dinner.

We both have some jet lag. I went to bed about 10 pm local time and heard a pretty serious thunderstorm about 11. After midnight, we both woke up and didn't sleep well for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The intercom announced a late wake-up call at 6:45. Anne was already up and at the table with two ladies. I went through the breakfast buffet and got eggs benedict over a bagel and coffee and sat down with them.

At 8 we went to our buses to begin our tour of St. Petersburg. I took a lot of pictures. It was rainy in the morning.

At noon we went to a hotel dining room where we had a large lunch buffet. They apparently cater to tour groups and conferences. They had one buffet line for cold cuts and salads and another for hot meals.

After the lunch, we took our bus to the canal and boarded a boat for a canal tour. The water in the Neva River and canals was very high due to wind-driven surges in the Finnish Bay. The boat barely got under some of the bridges. It is amazing how large the classic Petersburg city was.

After the tour, we returned to the boat to change for the ballet. We then boarded the buses to go to the Hermitage Theatre to see the ballet "Giselle." It was an excellent performance and the music was superb.

We returned to the boat and had dinner in the main restaurant at 9:30. Anne and I had a Baltica beer before dinner (I saved the label). Dad and I had seafood pasta which was good. Anne and Mom had Kentucky chicken with sauce and lentils.

After dinner, we went to different decks to take pictures of the sunset. At midnight, the sky was still light. We are very far north and not long past the summer solstice.

I have been speaking Russian most of the day. People are pretty surprised. I watched a bit of Russian comedy on TV and then went to bed.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

We got up a little after 6 and went to the main restaurant, Volga restaurant, for a buffet breakfast.

We met our bus for Peterhof. Traffic was extremely bad, which, apparently, is typical. After an hour on the bus, we could still see our boat. We eventually made it to Peterhof on the Finnish Sea. We say extremely ornamented buildings, gardens, fountains, and furnishings. We had to put on very slick booties over our shoes so that we would not scratch the parquet floors.

After the tour, we walked to the pier and boarded a large hydrofoil boat. After it lifted off the surface of the water, I estimate that it made about 45 mph. We got back to our riverboat in much less time than it took to get to Peterhof.

We had lunch buffet in the main restaurant of our boat about 2 pm, and then had some time off. I made an appointment at the main desk for a massage. Apparently the Medical Doctor on board does massages on the side. The doctor was a matronly lady. She gave me a back massage for about 1/2 hour and used something like baby oil. It cost about $40.

Two hours after lunch, we had dinner at the main restaurant. We had "Kentucky chicken with sauce of some kind.

After early dinner we boarded the buses again and went downtown to see a folklore dance and musical show, The Heart of Russia, at the Menshikoff Concert Hall. We were given a shot of vodka upon entering. The show was in two parts with a very good male quartet of singers and two groups of dancers and a mixed set of folk singers. It was very entertaining and included lots of Cossack dancing, which is incredible.

We returned to the buses and went to the Panorama Bar on our boat. We had lively discussions with several of our new friends from NYC and Ohio.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I woke up at 8 after sleeping through the night for the first time. I had a quick breakfast and then we left on the bus by 9am.

We went to the Hermitage Museum which was extremely crowded, perhaps more crowded than any museum I have been to. Our guide took us to several floors and many exhibits which were spectacular. The rooms, floors, and ceilings alone, were worth the visit. I got a photo-pass and took lots of pictures.

We had a box lunch on the bus and then were taken to the statue of Pushkin on the Arts Square (lots of theatres). Meanwhile, Mom and Dad returned to the boat. Anne and I walked around and went to an outdoor cafe for a glass of wine. Then it started to rain. I used my umbrella and Anne, her raincoat. We walked to the extremely ornate cathedral of the "Spilled Blood" and took pictures. We walked through a park and returned to our bus to get out of the rain. I slept on the way back to the boat.

We had dinner in the Volga Restaurant. All four of us had chicken and eggplant and pea soup. We ate with a nice couple from Akron, Ohio (they saved the table for us).

After dinner, Anne and I went to the information desk and got a backgammon set to use for the rest of the trip. At 9pm we went to a balalaika and accordion concert on the top deck. I was not expecting much, but they turned out to be very exceptional. I bought one of their CD's to use as a soundtrack later.

After the concert, we took the backgammon set to the "Small Bar" and Dad, Terri (from Ohio) and I watched Anne and Mom play. After a couple of games, Anne and I returned to our rooms and washed some clothes in the sink. We filled out our journals and then went to sleep. We get up at 5:30 tomorrow for an early departure.

Friday, 18 July 2008

I woke up at 5:30 and took a shower. We went to breakfast buffet at around 6. We then boarded the bus and left the docks at 7. We passed the town of Pushkin and then were dropped off at Catherine's Palace and Park. Here we put booties on again and toured the opulent palace. I took lots of pictures except for the Amber Room where pictures were not allowed.

After the tour, we returned to the boat by about 11. Anne and I walked around the boat for about 20 minutes. At 12:15 we had lunch buffet in the main restaurant.

We had the option of going to the town center again, but the traffic looked very bad. It would take at least an hour to get there, and an hour to come back and one hour to spend there. I decided not to make this trip. Instead, I made an appointment for a massage at 3pm. Anne went to the town center and walked around a bit. I had a half-hour back massage and then read on the sun deck and took a nap.

Anne came back by 5:30. We changed to "smart casual" attire and went to the Sun Deck (top deck) where the Captain had a Welcome Party while the ship headed up the Neva River.

We had salmon and ate with a couple from California. The gentleman made part of his living buying and selling gold and silver coins. He has traveled to 146 countries.

After dinner we went to the front of the ship and Anne and friends played backgammon. We passed an old fort at Shlisselburg. I took a few pictures of the fort. At that point we entered the largest lake in Europe, Lake Ladoga. We sailed across the southern part of the lake to reach another river at 4:30am.

There was still light in the sky at midnight when I went to bed.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

I got up at 6 and took a shower. We had breakfast at 7:30; I had oatmeal this time. At 9 we went to a talk on "Old Russian History" given by a lady who teaches Art History at a Moscow University. The talk was very entertaining. At 10:45, another lady gave a Russian language lesson.

We arrived at Mandrogi by noon and walked around a bit. There were many old-style Russian wooden buildings and many artisans making pottery, enamel boxes, paintings, etc. We saw Vladimir Putin's mansion (I'm not sure he ever stayed there). We took lots of pictures. We had a meal of shish kabobs, salads, etc. and then walked around some more.

Back on the boat, we had a safety drill a little after 5pm. We had to put on our life jackets and stand outside our cabin doors.

Afterwards, we sat on the Sun Deck and watched as we went through another set of locks. A plaque on the lock had "Glory to the construction workers," on it. There was also a Lenin plaque which read something like "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, and Lenin will live."

We had dinner in the Volga restaurant at 7:30 and then went to a Russian folklore concert by the group "Balalaika" (same group as before), which was very good. After the concert, Mom, Anne and I went to the small bar where they played 3 games of backgammon. I went to the cabin and wrote in my journal and then went to bed a little after 11.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I got up by 6:30, took a shower and went to breakfast. I had oatmeal and dried fruit again. The boat arrived at Kizhi Island on Lake Onega and we disembarked at 8:30. The old community on Kizhi Island is remarkable. The old wooden buildings and land are part of a national park. The very large and ornate Summer Church is built solely out of wood, with no nails. We walked around, looking at the various houses, churches, and barns. It rained lightly part of the time. We were back on board by 11:45 and the boat departed the island. This was the only stop of the day.

We had lunch at 12:30 and then had a tour of the Captain's Bridge at 2:30. There was a very modern helm with GPS and radar.

We went to the Russian Tea Party at 3:30 where we learned about samovars and serving tea.

At 6:30 we met in the conference room to discuss our upcoming trip to Kiev.

At 7:30, we had a Slavic dinner in the Neva Restaurant.

At 9 pm (still full daylight), we attended a talk by two sisters about Russian handicrafts such as enamel boxes, amber, matroyshkas, etc. One of the girls was a geography major. I told them about my three daughter and they said they had a younger sister too, whom they affectionately called "Monster."

In the evening, our group played contract rummy with new friends in the Small Bar.

Monday, 21 July 2008

I got up about 6:30, very sleepy, and took a shower. I then went to breakfast and had oatmeal again (I just can't eat three big meals every day).

At 9, our guide Vera, gave an excellent talk on the history of modern Russia from Lenin to the present day.

At 10:45 we attended a talk about Russian vodka, given by the bartender, Eugene (who works in the Panorama Bar).

We had lunch in the Volga Restaurant. We disembarked at Goritsy at 1pm and took buses to the Kirilov Monastery (founded  in 1397), largest in Europe. It was started by Cyril (Kiril) who developed the Cyrillic alphabet, now used in Russia. I took lots of pictures.

We came back on board by 3:30 and took pictures of another monastery very close to the boat dock.

At 4, we attended a blini cooking demonstration and, by 4:30, a blini and vodka tasting party. I had another 1/2-hour massage just like the previous two. Then I attended the matroyshka painting sessions; I just photographed however.

Then we had the "Pirate Dinner" at 7:30. After that Anne and Mom played backgammon in the Small Bar while I drank one of my Russian beers. At 11, I returned to my cabin to soak beer labels and write in my journal.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I got up at 6:30, took a shower and waited for the restaurant to open at 7. After breakfast, Anne and I sat on the Sun Deck and read, occasionally taking pictures of the churches on the banks of the Volga. Other activities were offered, but we didn't participate.

We went to lunch at 12:45 and docked at Yaroslavl by 2:30. We boarded buses and took a city tour of Yaroslavl and visited the Transfiguration Monastery and local market. I bought some smoked cheese to take back to the boat. It was in rope form, about 3/4-inch in diameter and looked like pieces of pretzel. It was salty and hard to chew at first, but good.

We came back to the boat by 7:15 and went to dinner at 7:30. The dinner was Ukrainian. I had pumpkin soup and potato dumplings. Anne and Mom and Dad had Ukrainian borsch and Chicken Kiev. After dinner, we took cards and backgammon set to the Small Bar and the ladies played Hollywood Rummy. Anne didn't feel well and stayed in bed; she has laryngitis, but no sore throat.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

This is our last full day on the boat. I got up at 7 and took a shower. At Uglich, we boarded small buses and made a home visit. Our hostess was Alexandria who must have been in her 70's. She served us kasha, hot millet porridge, bread, strawberry jam, cheese, etc. I couldn't get to my camera, but Anne and Dad took pictures. We re-boarded the buses and returned to the Uglich town center and did a walking tour of several 16th century churches. We passed through a lot of souvenir stands on the way back to the boat. We got back to the boat by 10:30 and departed Uglich soon after. So far, this has been a beautiful, sunny day.

I read a while on the Sun Deck and we had lunch buffet in the Neva Restaurant. After lunch, we photographed a bell tower that had been stranded in the lake when the river was impounded. Then we attended a talk about our plans for Moscow and how to disembark tomorrow. I attended the Captains Farewell Cocktail on the Sun Deck and dropped our tip envelope in the tip box for the crew.

Then we had a special dinner in the Neva Restaurant. Dad and I had the seafood dinner; Anne and Mom had the pork. The appetizer was seafood moose, salmon eggs and butter fish. Baked Alaskan was server, with fanfare, for dessert.

I packed after dinner. A talent show was held in the Neva Restaurant, but we went to the Small Bar and they (Anne, Mom and friends) played backgammon and Hollywood Rummy, as usual. I went to the cabin at 10:30 and caught up in my journal and then read and went to bed.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I got up and took a shower by 7:30 while Anne was packing. I finished packing the few odds and ends that I hadn't packed last night. We went to breakfast at 8 which started later than usual. I had oatmeal again, as I've had for many breakfasts.

After breakfast, we returned to the room. I put our luggage out in the hallway and joined Anne and Mom and Dad in the Small Bar where they played backgammon. On the way to the Small Bar, I dropped off my key at the Reception Desk for the last time. Dad and I had a beer and the last segments of the smoked string cheese.

We pulled into port in Moscow and boarded our appropriate buses. We toured a monastery and nunnery and then took a very nice boat trip on the Moscow River where we had lunch and took many pictures. We had lunch onboard the local river boat. It's a beautiful, but warm day.

After the boat tour we boarded the bus and went to St. Basil's Cathedral next to the Kremlin. I took pictures of St. Basil's, but the sun was not in a good position for pictures of the Kremlin from there.

We re-boarded the bus and went to the Marriott Grand Hotel Moscow on the famous Tverskaya Street. We got our key cards and went to our rooms which were much roomier and nicer than the cabin of the Volga riverboat.

Mom, Dad, Anne and I went to one of the hotel restaurants and had dinner salads. We had ice cream for dessert. We then all went to our rooms for the night.

Friday, 25 July 2008

We all slept late and met for breakfast by 10. I had yoghurt, cheese, smoked salmon, and nice breads.

After breakfast, the four of us walked down Tverskaya St. to the Kremlin walls. We strolled along the walls for awhile and walked back toward Tverskaya along a series of interesting fountains. On the way back to the hotel, we went down a pedestrian street, stopped at an outdoor cafe for a beer. It is pretty hot out now.

After walking back to the hotel, Anne and I walked several blocks down Tverskaya to a very fancy grocery store. It was very ornate and had lots of very good food. I bought some Russian beer, cheese, bread, kumquats (from Israel), and Anne got some chocolate.

When we got back to the hotel, we invited Mom and Dad to our room for snacks and beer. At 5:30, we went to the lobby, met up with our group and took a bus to the circus. It was extraordinary. No pictures were allowed, however.

We got back to the hotel by 9:30 or 10. We ate in the hotel bar where Dad and I had an assortment of smoked fish and cheese (excellent). Mom had a large BLT with melted cheese. Anne helped with the BLT. After dinner, we went to bed.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

At 10:30 we went to the Metro and went to Arbat Street, famous for shopping (souvenirs, at least). The we went for lunch at the Akademy for Diplomats. This was not a buffet; we were served.

After lunch, we went to the Kremlin and took a tour of the Armory Museum and walked around Cathedral Square.

After Kremlin we went back to the hotel. After drinks, we went to the Adriatico Restaurant (Italian) across the street ( I had salad and a vegetarian platter. It was OK. Our first bottle of wine, a Chianti, was undrinkable. When we told them that it was no good, they made a great display of smelling and tasting and then conferred that it was "normal." I buy Chianti by the case at home, and this wine was not normal (it was badly spoiled). I'm sure they had a good laugh back in the kitchen. We still had to pay for it. Dad ordered another red wine which was fine (and normal; it had't spoiled). Anne had a pizza which was the only OK meal between the four of us. We didn't have anything good to say about the food. The staff was friendly and courteous. There were only two parties in the very large restaurant; I guess it doesn't have a very good reputation. I don't understand how they can stay in business.

Afterwards, we went on the Moscow By Night tour, which was very interesting. We got back about midnight.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

We slept late and got down to breakfast by about 9:30. After breakfast, the four of us walked down Tverskaya to Red Square. On the way down, we stopped by the fancy grocery store, Yeliseev's Food Hall. They wouldn't let us photograph the produce again, so we took pictures of the chandeliers. At Red Square, we went to the famous G.U.M. (ГУМ)(pronounced goom), which is like the KDW in Berlin or Harrods in London. I bought a bottle of kvass which is a sort of beer brewed from rye bread. It was not bad at all, a bit like root beer. I saved the label.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Pushkin Cafe ( near Pushkin Square. We ate lunch there. I had a soup called okroshka (окрошка) made of kvass, beef tongue and other items I can't remember. It was served cold and was excellent. All four of us had beef Stroganoff which was also excellent. We all agreed that it was the best meal and the best restaurant we had in Russia. Anne took a picture but they told her not to take pictures. We walked back to the hotel. Mom and Dad waited in our room while their room was being cleaned.

Anne went to a diplomats talk and I stayed at the hotel and had a massage. The massage was excellent and the masseuse told me that I should stay in the sauna for 15 minutes afterwards. I stayed in the sauna for as long as I could. When I got back to my room, my face was still red from the heat, and stayed that way for awhile.

At 7, we all went to the Farewell Dinner in the ballroom on the 2nd floor of the hotel. I was not going to go at first, but didn't want to leave everyone else by themselves. We had salmon mousse for salad, chicken breast stuffed with chorizo with mashed potatoes. Dessert was a "chocolate bomb." Someone at our table called the meal "wedding food," which was about as nice a thing as you could say. We wished we hadn't gone.

After the dinner we picked up our passports. Someone had mistakenly charged a taxi ride to Dad's room. They tried to make Dad pay for it. They showed us the receipt and obviously someone else signed for it. It wasn't even Dad's name. They finally decided that Dad didn't have to pay for it. We went for after dinner drinks in the bar and then went to our rooms to pack. We have to have our luggage outside our room by 5 am tomorrow, eat breakfast at 6:30 and leave for the airport by 7.

Monday, 28 July 2008

We left our luggage outside our room before we went to bed. I woke up at 6, took a shower. Anne said the luggage was still outside. By the time we went to breakfast, it had been taken. We had a quick breakfast and then boarded our bus to the airport. We flew the Ukrainian airlines, Aerovit. We landed in Kiev and arrived at our hotel about noon. This was the Radisson SAS Kiev on Yaroslaviv Street. After coffee and cookies in the reception area, Anne and I walked a few blocks around the hotel area, scouting out restaurants. We found the Golden Gate arch, a rebuilt facsimile of the original main gate to the old city. A chapel was built on the top of the gate or arch. I bought four different bottles of Obolona beer for us to try. The fellow didn't have a bag and I had to carry the four large bottles of cold beer in my arms, back to the hotel. The fellow opened a bottle and was about to open them all till I stopped him.

We met up with Mom and Dad at the hotel and went out to eat at the neighboring Italian restaurant Mille Milagre?? I had lamb chops and rosemary and spinach. It was excellent. Anne had tomato and mozzarella cheese salad. Mom and Dad had Sea Bass. Everyone said their meal was excellent. We also had a nice bottle of red wine. I could hardly stay awake. Then we had ice cream and cappuccino for dessert. My ice cream was coconut and forestberry. It was very good ice cream. It was served with a coconut and almond lace-like waffle.

We went back to the hotel and I went to bed right away.

Tuesday, 29 July 08

I got up and had a shower by 8. We went to breakfast in one of the hotel restaurants, Bistro Cote Est. I had a fruit plate, cheese, croissants and coffee. Anne had much the same.

After breakfast, we boarded the bus and took the city tour. We got out at the St. Sophia cathedral (1037-1740) established by Yaroslavl in the 11th century. We also went to a souvenir area (Podil West) near St. Andrews cathedral where I bought 3 T-shirts for the girls. We then went to an overlook over the Dnepro (Ukrainian spelling) (Dneiper in Russian) River and parts of lower Kiev.

We returned to the hotel and the four of us walked to the Golden Gate arch. On the way back, we ate late lunch at Yaroslava Restaurant across from the hotel. I had Greek Salad and Pelmeni, a sort of meatloaf dumpling. It was a good lunch. We had a Georgian dry red wine called Mukuzani and it was very good. All four of us had lunch and wine for US$70. Dad had a seafood platter which he liked. At the hotel, I tried to soak the label off the wine bottle, but it wouldn't come off.

I took a nap and then we got ready for the folklore dinner at Hata Karasya restaurant. We left the hotel and took a long bus ride through very slow traffic to the outskirts of town. We entered a wooded park-like area and made a short hike to a building where we were greeted by a band (accordion, violin, pipe and hammered dulcimer) and a striking young lady in costume offering us bread and salt. We entered and sat down at big tables with many plates of salads, herring, cucumbers and other snacks. For drinks we had white wine, chili pepper vodka (Ukrainian) and a sweet drink made out of smoked pears. The pear drink had an unusual smoky flavor. Toasts were offered at several times. Out entrée was chicken Kiev and rice. For dessert, we had blinis with apples? and sour cream and then coffee.

We got back to the hotel by 10pm. Anne and the others went to the lobby bar to play cards. I went to the room to write in my journal and then to sleep.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

I woke up, took a shower and we were down for breakfast by 8. I had fruit, cheese, croissant and coffee. In addition to the usual fruit, they had pale gooseberries, blue gooseberries and red currents. Breakfast is very crowded and it's hard to find a table. There are lots of business people here.

We boarded the bus by 9:30 for another city tour. We went to the Pechersk monastery and walked around the upper level and in the Trinity Church (three angels, not the holy trinity). After that, we walked through the gold museum where we saw Scythian through modern church golden and silver items.

Then we walked downhill to one of the catacombs where monks were buried, many of whom are now mummified. We carried beeswax candles to light our way through the catacombs. I helped an elderly lady every step of the way. After the catacombs, we walked on down hill to the bus. We drove back up the hill, passing the huge stainless steel statue erected by the Soviets (Statue of the Motherland and WWII victory). We stopped at the Tsar's Village restaurant where we had Ukrainian borsch, bread with garlic sauce, vernike (dumplings) and drinks. The food was OK and the service was slow. I think the large group overwhelmed them.

We re-boarded the bus and returned to the hotel. I took a nap and Anne walked down to Independence Square where she bought a T-shirt. I woke up by the time she returned and went to the Square myself. I took a few pictures while there. On the return, I stopped in a grocery store and bought 2 beers we hadn't tried before. Dad, Anne and I had the Chernigiv beers before going to dinner and I soaked the labels off the bottles, along with the vodka label from the night before.

We decided to go to the Italian restaurant, Mille Milagre? for our last dinner, but it was closed for a party. Instead, we went to the Bistro Côte Est, part of the hotel. We weren't expecting much. Several of us had a good Caesar salad. I had lamb chops with roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and sauce. It was excellent. Anne had the vernike dumplings and Caesar salad and Dad had salad and grilled tuna. Mom had fish soup, pork medallions with vegetables (same vegetables as mine). We had homemade ice cream and cappuccino for dessert. The entire meal was excellent. We think this bistro has the same kitchen as the Italian restaurant. It was an excellent meal. After that we returned to our rooms for the night.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

I got up about 7:15 and took a shower. We then re-packed all our luggage for the long flights home. We went for breakfast at 8:15. I had the usual fruit, cheese and croissant, including dark and light gooseberries and cherries.

We took our luggage to the lobby a little after 10, boarded a small bus and left for the airport. After an hour's drive, Yuri told us what to do and left us with the porters. At the appropriate time, we went to the check-in counter to find that our Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Chicago had been cancelled over night. Lufthansa is having a strike, but only local flights were supposed to have been cancelled. We were told yesterday that our flights had been confirmed, but the cancellation must have occurred overnight. Our guide had gone back to the hotel. The counter people told us to go to the Lufthansa ticket counter to get new tickets. Because so many flights were cancelled, the other airlines were completely full picking up the slack from Lufthansa. After a few hours, we were given tickets on Air France to Paris. We would then, on the next day take a Delta flight directly to Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky. However, we would arrive 15 hours later and would have to find a place to stay in Paris when we arrived at night. We were promised hotel vouchers from the airlines in Paris. We'll see. Anne and I were supposed to close on our house in the morning, but looks like that will have to change. It surely would have been nice if Vantage had done something for us. We couldn't use the coin phones and the guide was gone. I was getting a cold and couldn't hear anything. Anne and Dad can't hear well either.

We had to wait several more hours in the very crowded, hot airport. We waited at an internet cafe. Anne and I sent an e-mail to Anne's secretary Betty and Elizabeth telling them about the changes and to make some phone calls for us.

We finally boarded our Air France flight and after about 3 hours, landed at Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris. We found a connections help desk and they said that they could help with the vouchers. However, after about 30 minutes of phone calls, the young man said that he could issue hotel vouchers for Mom and Dad because they were flying Business Class, but that Anne and I would not receive rooms because we were in Economy Class. I suggested that Mom get one room and Dad get one room which was allowed under the restrictions. While at the counter, Dad asked for four overnight kits, which we received. All our toiletries and clothes were in our checked luggage.

We caught a shuttle to the Marriott Charles de Gaulle which took about 45 minutes. Mom and Dad checked in and Dad gave me the key to his room, so that Anne and I had a room. In the room, Anne made a couple of credit card phone calls, first to the girls at home. Everything was OK. She forgot to let me talk to them though. Then she called our realtor and told her about our plight. The realtor rescheduled the closing of our house to Monday. After the phone calls, Anne and I went to the lobby bar for a glass of red wine. Then we went to our room for the night.

Friday, 1 August 2008, Paris

I woke up a little after 7; the wake-up call never called. I took a shower. We then went to the restaurant and had the breakfast bar, but we had to pay for it because we had no room vouchers.

After breakfast, we caught the shuttle back to the airport, went through security, passport control and waited in the Delta gate area. This is a very nice airport. After awhile, we boarded our Delta flight to Cincinnati which was completely full.

On board the plane, I watched "Kung Fu Panda" and finished reading my second book. We landed in Cincinnati (Kentucky, actually), went through passport control, claimed our luggage, went through customs, rechecked our luggage, went through security, reclaimed our luggage and called Comfort Inn for the shuttle. We loaded Dad's vehicle and were on the interstate around 3 or 4. I drove and was not tired at all. The girls were glad to see us when we got home. Mom and Dad visited for a short time and then drove on down to London. We were glad to be home.

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