Episode 30: That Time I Enjoyed A European River Cruise

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript of Episode 30: That Time I Enjoyed A European River Cruise

Hello and welcome to this week’s podcast. This week it is all about the October chapter from the book 365 Dates of Travel: The SECOND six months. And October is a fantastic chapter. There are so many interesting and different stories and experiences that I had across Octobers over my years of travelling. And it was a really fun chapter to write, especially as it was right near the end. It was easy to keep going because the trips and everything were so exciting and there were lots of things to look up and check and just immerse myself in memories and wonderful stories. So I hope you enjoy the October chapter and the behind the scenes of the October chapter today. 

A little list of some of the things that happen in October. I had a wonderful special weekend away on Mackinac Island in Michigan for a special Somewhere in Time, as in the movie Somewhere in Time Weekend in 1999; I went to New Zealand following the Australian netball team around New Zealand in 2001; there’s a few little Lottie road trips in 2005, we jump on a European River Cruise in 2013; there are some Australian road trip stories from 2016 and 2017; we head to Los Angeles and Disneyland in 2018; and there are a few other individual dates here and there and different stories around the world too. 

European River Cruise Special

But seeing as the title of this podcast episode is about the River Cruise, I thought I’d better start there. I’m really sorry, I’m very bad at doing that. When it comes to the podcast, I do apologise. I just try to come up with a good title matching everything that’s there and then bury it somewhere in the middle of the podcast. I do apologise. That is something I am going to be working on for future episodes. For this episode, I’ll get it right and we will start with the River Cruise. 

This trip almost never happened for so many different reasons. I was watching TV, and a commercial came up advertising no single supplement for the European cruises and I just thought, that’s the only way I’m ever going to be able to afford to pay for it if I get no single supplement. Because basically that’s half price, as the single supplement is generally paying as if you were two people, which is not always easy when you’re only on one income. And so the opportunity of no single supplement seemed too good to pass up, but it only was available for a limited time. 

We’d had an email from work saying that the person who normally dealt with annual leave was away and emergencies only could be messaged to a higher up manager. And so I was kind of like, is this an emergency? Not really, but it’s an emergency in that if I don’t get the single supplement and I don’t find out if I’ve got leave in time, then I don’t get to go on a European River Cruise. So that kind of felt like maybe I could get away with asking for leave during that time. And I did. I emailed a higher up manager who normally wouldn’t bother with things like annual leave applications. And I did use words in my email along the lines of I’m not sure if this counts as an emergency, but I thought I’d email just in case. And I was very clear in how otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford to go and I needed to be able to book by the end of the week. 

This is so laughable. Now there’s no way ever I would get an answer about annual leave that quickly. But a lot of things have changed. Leave is never easy to get at work. But for this one particular trip, it was actually probably the easiest ever to get my leave, and it was all because it was an “emergency”. 

And another reason was just even without the single supplement, it was still a very expensive holiday. My 1990s self would never have even considered it in the realm of affordability. But the single supplement helped, and I ended up paying for the whole trip from money I had earned through an extra job. 

Second job

Along with my full-time nursing, I was doing a nanny job. One job a year was the plan in the beginning. Basically, if I was doing night feeds for a family, it would only last a few weeks or at the most, a few months. So one job a year with one family getting the babies sleeping through the night and that gave me some extra spending money.  

I found notes that I’d written, of course, you know, I write notes about everything. And I earnt an extra $10,000 from this one particular nanny job and that covered completely my European River Cruise. So what better way to finish off a second job by spending the money you’ve earned on a relaxing river cruise? 

The cruise

It really is an amazing way to travel. It’s the only cruise type I’ve ever done. I’ve never done an ocean cruise, so I can’t compare with that. And I know a lot of people say it’s completely and utterly totally different, but it was just so relaxing. And I think a river cruise probably would be slightly more relaxing than an ocean cruise based on the small numbers, and there’s a lot less decisions to be made about where to go for dinner, because there’s only one place to go for dinner and things along those lines. 

You just lie back in bed. You can watch the river go by. And I did make sure I had a proper window, floor to ceiling, so I could see everything from my bed, from my cabin and just relax because I was exhausted. It really was too hard trying to do the two jobs, but I don’t regret it, given the fact I got to enjoy a magnificent European River Cruise. 

***Spoiler Alert***

Now, it’s a bit of a spoiler alert here, so if you’d rather read the book first, then maybe just fast forward a little while, because I am going to talk about how I resolved an issue. 

When I was writing the book, I couldn’t resolve the issue. So the book talks about the problem and me trying to understand the problem without being able to find the information to tell me exactly what happened. I’m about to tell you exactly what happened. So if you’d rather read the book first, then go do that. Otherwise, this will be able to finish off the story and we’ll understand exactly what happened in the end. 

It took me a long time to figure out, so it was all about how I paid for things and what activities I did. Because I have no diary for this trip, I have expenses written down, but some of what I remember doing had no expenses written down for it, and I couldn’t find it in bank statements or any of my normal places, wasn’t on my credit card. 

Did I really do these activities? One, I knew 100% I had done because I had a special booking to go into Anne Frank’s house. And you can only do that by booking online in advance, and you have to pay when you book. So I know I did that, but I had no evidence of how much it cost or how I paid for it or when I paid for it. I knew there had to be an explanation. 

There was another situation. Did I go on a canal cruise? Because I had memories of going on one. But again, I had no evidence. And because it was a night-time cruise and through windows and rain, I had no photos, so did I go? Whereas at least with Anne Frank’s house, I remember being there and I had photos to prove I was there. But with the canal cruise, I had no evidence whatsoever, so I was really unsure if I did the canal cruise. 

And then after writing the book, I can’t remember the time frame, but I finally had an epiphany. I remembered for a while I used my Qantas frequent flyer card as a credit card. It can be used like a travel card. You can load money onto it in varying currencies and then just use it like you would a credit card. And I remembered, well, that must have been how I paid for everything. 

I managed to track down the app. It had been relaunched since I had used it, so unfortunately I was unable to find any old statements. So that was the end of that as being an option. Well, it just wasn’t going to come to a conclusion using that, but the mystery was killing me. I really wanted to figure it out.  

I looked at my expenses notebook to see if I’d written about how much money I had on that Qantas card. So I knew how much I had to spend and there was nothing there at all mentioning the Qantas card. So maybe I didn’t use it for that trip.

I did have written down an amount on what was called a Living Card. Now, that was a special perk hospital staff and not-for-profit staff and a few other people can have, where we can access some of our gross salary before tax is taken out, which means we save money on tax. And a certain amount of money at a maximum point can be put on this card and you can just use it like an everyday spending card. 

I had completely forgotten about this card because I no longer use it. And it’s been a few years since I’ve used it, so it never even crossed my mind as a possibility. And the bank behind that card had changed maybe five or six times since 2013, so there was no way I was going to access any back accounts, because currently with a different bank. All accounts would have been well and truly closed. So it felt like another dead end. 

But then I remembered, I write things down, don’t I? Of course I do. I always had a handwritten record of what I spent. And then I would rectify that with the online statements if I ever had to pay, obviously with a credit card and things like that. And of course, I’ve kept them, so I was able to go back through all my financial notes and find exactly what I was looking for. Nothing like going back through like ten years’ worth of financial handwritten notes. 

But I found it on the 28th of September, 2013. I bought an e-ticket to Anne Frank’s house, and it cost me €9.50. And what do you know, on the 29th of September, 2013, I had a PayPal amount go through to a company called Blue Boat for €16.58. So that was the canal cruise. So I 100% went on a canal cruise in Amsterdam before I joined my river cruise. I can’t believe I completely forgot about this card and everything I needed to know was right there in front of me all the time. 

***End Spoiler Alert***

Memory is amazing. This whole process has really made me want to study memory because it really is fascinating. 

German Castles

I also got distracted by some other things while I was writing about the river cruise. I started looking up the castles along the Rhine River that I was passing and that I’d taken photos of because some of them were hotels. I was curious to see what they were like as hotels. And I fell in love with Schoenburg Castle in Oberwessel in Germany. 

The photos looked absolutely amazing, to the point where I was thinking about changing my birthday plans for 2024, which is a big birthday. I’d finally settled on going to Africa and doing a safari, and then all of a sudden, I was changing my mind to go to a German castle, staying in the Tower Room, overlooking what would be snow being February in Germany. So I’ve gone from African desert hot to cold and snowy. 

I was even looking up train schedules and ready to book, but with the price of around €350 per night, it was a tricky sort of decision, but I have come up with other plans since then. But at the time, I was so determined I was going to stay in room 14, which has a balcony overlooking the whole castle and the Rhine. And I just thought, wow. That’s where I want to be, but I won’t be. 

Rhine by train

I do want to do that train trip that goes along the water. The river cruise goes down, amongst other rivers, all the way along the Rhine, and there is a train line that runs pretty much on the coast as well. So you’d get amazing views from the train and would take a little bit less time, but the views would be exactly the same. 

Isle of Wight and “crazy”

So in October chapter, there’s a very brief one-day story of when I visit the Isle of Wight in 1998. I talk about how it’s 6 hours’ worth of travelling for the day, so 3 hours to get there and 3 hours to get back, which is a lot of travelling for a single day. And I wanted to write, or I did originally write about how crazy old me even made it back in time to do a babysitting job because everything was about money. I needed every cent at this stage in my life, and I couldn’t afford to not do a babysitting job if there was one. So after 6 hours of travelling and sightseeing in between, I still made it home, or back to London, in time to do an evening babysitting job. And for that, I called myself crazy. But when I was editing my editing software that I used to help me guide through all of that, because I am absolutely no expert on grammar and punctuation, but it was telling me off. It said I shouldn’t use the word crazy. I needed to use more “human centric language”. I would take no offence. Obviously, I was calling myself crazy. I wasn’t calling anybody else crazy, I was just calling myself crazy. 

The software doesn’t know exactly who that word is being pointed at, but it did make me look into the whole thing. And it is a whole thing now that crazy has become a bad word, which is very unfortunate because I quite like using the word crazy and I’m using it in a fashion that is a legitimate definition in the dictionary. But to be politically correct, we should not use it unless it is absolutely necessary in case we offend somebody who has had that word pointed at them in a derogatory way. 

I’ll see how I go. Sometimes there is an alternative. My software was telling me that I should replace crazy with baffled. But you can’t just interchange crazy and baffled. 

“I was baffled for going home to do a babysitting job.” Didn’t work. But in the future, I will look into how I use the word crazy. 

Mackinac Island

But October in 1999 was just amazing. I went off to Mackinac Island in Michigan. I was getting ready to leave America at this stage and head back to Australia. And one thing I really wanted to do was go on a special weekend called a Somewhere In Time Weekend. It was a 1980s movie called Somewhere In Time and it was one of my favourite movies as a child. The hotel in the movie was a real place. And I remember stopping the video, trying to not get the fuzzy lines in the spot where it was telling me where the film was made. Eventually I could see it and it was Mackinac Island, or that’s how I thought it was said for many years. There is AC at the end, but it is pronounced as Mackinaw. So Mackinaw Island has the last weekend of the season taken over by INSITE, which is the special fan club for people who like the movie Somewhere In Time

Now, Mackinac Island is a historic place with no cars allowed, only emergency vehicles are cars. Otherwise, it’s walking, cycling and horse and carriage. And the Grand Hotel is a beautiful Victorian building and so you feel like you have gone back in time. Part of the weekend is dressing up, and the movie is set in 1912. So can you imagine a Victorian hotel, hearing horses outside, there’s no noise of there were no mobile phones in these days, so no phones are going off, no computers are flickering, there’s no cars, there’s no nothing, and everybody’s in period costume and it’s the closest you will ever get to going back in time. So it was a very special weekend and I’m really glad I got to do it. 

Bad auction vibes

But there was one part during the weekend that I didn’t put in the book and I still remember this moment. I felt so bad. Well, they had an auction for various items related to the movie. And one of the crew from the original movie had made a special belt buckle commemorating Somewhere In Time. And he’d made 12 or 14 of them, and gave them to the cast and the crew at the time. He had kept one for himself. 

He was auctioning it off on this particular night and they started the bidding at $400, and nobody was interested. It was awful. The atmosphere in the room was horrible. Someone finally yelled out, $200, then a bid for $250 and then another one for $260. But he was devastated that there wasn’t enough interest for something that he’d put his time and effort into. 

He put in a bid for $270, mumbling about how he was going to buy it back because it was worth so much more than that. Luckily, after his bid, someone did yell out $400, much to the dismay of his wife sitting next to him. So he was very pleased, and so was she when someone bid $450, which got him off the hook. But the tension in the air was so awkwardly thick and I will never forget that. 

Hotel closed, and I headed west

As the weekend came to a close, the whole hotel was shutting down. Half the town had already closed down for the season. It really was just a summer place. So once the final guest left, the hotel cleaned up and everybody went home for the winter. And I continued west to California. A few days later, I flew back to Australia, which was the end of my official travelling the world and working around the world that I started in 1992. 

New Zealand

There are a lot of stories about my trip to New Zealand in 2001 and there’s the background story of netball and how all my other netball stories revolved around what happened on this particular trip. So backstory in the book helps you understand what was happening and why it was happening, because I did specifically go to New Zealand to watch the netball.  

Birmingham Commonwealth Games

When I was writing this particular trip, it just happened to be  the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. So I had to stop to watch the bronze match and the gold medal match because how could I not watch it? It really incited my love for netball again. But it was such a magical time back in those early two thousands. And though I enjoyed the Commonwealth Games then, it was because I was so intensely reminded of everything netball with the New Zealand trip.

Netball World Championships 2023 

But the most recent World Championships I couldn’t get into, I ended up fast forwarding through some of the game. Usually the first quarter and the last quarter are the most interesting, except for when it’s clear that one team’s already won by the time you get to the fourth quarter. Knowing the players makes it more interesting and I just don’t know any of the players anymore. Whereas back in 2001, I knew them all, and I knew all the New Zealand players as well. It was a golden era in netball, if you ask me. I don’t think it was completely just because I was involved and I knew everybody. 

Legendary players

I think we just had some pretty amazing and legendary netballers that will go down in history for all of time. How many people have now will go down in history of all of time? I don’t know. But we did have so many big names back in the day. I mean, Irene Van Dyke was massive, like the tallest person you’re ever going to meet. She came over from South Africa to play netball in New Zealand and she was a giant and could basically put the ball in the goal ring without even jumping. And the Australian Sharelle McMahon, so they both just happened to be shooters, so everybody loves the shooters, but she’s just had a statue made of her, as I’ve previously mentioned, and things like that. 

It was a really great trip to completely get me into netball and it literally was where everything started. So much came from this trip and it ended up I was in the change rooms of the Australian netball team after the grand final of the World Championships for the first time in 15 years that Australia had lost to New Zealand. I never would have thought that’s where I would have ended up, but that’s where I ended up, all just from this story. So have a read. It’s quite amazing the little coincidences and little bits and pieces that had to combine for it to work out is just incredible. Still blows my mind. But I’m trying to keep these podcasts a little bit shorter, so I will leave it there.

Los Angeles

I think the stories in this month you really need to read in the book. But just one last little quick thing. I do go on a trip to LA in 2018 and it’s a conference trip and I could not resist. You know, I’m a conference junkie and you know, I like Disney and Los Angeles, but a conference run by an organisation called NANN, a neonatal nurse organisation, renamed Anaheim and their NANN conference to NANNaheim. 

Well, that just sold me. I had to go for the name only. I was there. And why wouldn’t you want to go to a conference that’s right next door to Disney? I could walk to Disneyland from my hotel. I could see the Disneyland fireworks from my hotel. I’ve never seen fireworks from up in the air from a hotel before where you can see the whole scene. So that was really interesting. You can’t hear the music that obviously the fireworks are playing to. But just to see the full sky, it was amazing. And that was all because of a conference name. So thank you to whoever came up with the conference name. 

They’re actually redoing that conference this year, but they haven’t called it NANNaheim. They’re just calling. It NANN in Anaheim. It does not have the same ring. So I’m glad they came up with the NANNaheim name because that was also a really good trip based around a conference. 

Wrap Up

Okay. I’m not sure if this week was very interesting, and I do apologise if it wasn’t. There are some amazing stories, but I don’t want to give away all the stories because the book is where all the information is. Next week, I will read you three stories directly from the book, so you’ll get a better idea of some of the things that I’m talking about today. But I do apologise if it hasn’t been very interesting, but I do hope there was something in there that you did enjoy. Just laugh at me about calling myself crazy and how human centric or non-human centric crazy might be. 

But thank you for listening today. If you’ve made it to this point, well done. Congratulations. And I will talk to you next week, and I will leave it there and wish for you an interesting day. 

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