Friday, October 22, 2010

Cabaret Au Château

Steve and I attended the Cabaret Au Château at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville last weekend.  It was a gala event sponsored by the Alliance Française de Seattle and it was the next best thing to being on a cruise in France. 

The evening began with a festive reception and silent auction featuring music by Danick.  As I sipped my bubbly apéritif, I enjoyed listening to the entertaining French conversations around me and after half a glass I was no longer reticient to speak some French of my own.  I did a better job speaking on this evening than I normally do in my French class on Thursday nights at Alliance Française so maybe I'll suggest to my instructor, Gwen Sauvage, that she bring a nice bottle of Chardonnay to the class.  It's amazing what a glass of wine will do to loosen the tongue.

One of the many reasons I enjoy France as much as I do is the way the French savor the whole dining experience.  I'm not just talking about the fabulous  French cuisine and the excellent wine; I admire how the French relax and take pleasure in eating, drinking and enjoying each other's company as if there were no tomorrow. 

This evening's delicious meal and our interesting dinner companions brought the French joie-de-vivre out in us.  The roasted chicken breast with proscuitto-sage stuffing and roasted shallot sauce melted in my mouth. And, I would not have traded the gingerbread cake with brandy sabayon, caramel sauce and warm apples for a rich chocolate dessert even though I'm a confirmed chocoholic.  The Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Muscat Canelli was a particularly good choice with the gingerbread cake.   During dinner, we had the pleasure of listening to Rouge, with vocalist Janet Rayor bringing French music to life at each of our tables.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Voyage to Remember

For the past few weeks, I've been asking my friends, family, colleagues and clients to post a photo on my Cruise Holidays Facebook page of their most memorable vacation.  To encourage them to take the time to do this, I've been offering a $25 onboard credit on the next cruise they book with me.  One of the most interesting responses I received was from Carole Casper, former owner of Cruise Holidays of Seattle.

Carole's most memorable cruise was with Theo Fabergé on the Silver Whisper's "Baltic Reflections" inaugural voyage, July 27- August 7, 2001.  Just being on this voyage would be remarkable but it turns out that Carole was instrumental in bringing Theo Fabergé on board and designing Silversea's Romanovs Remembered package, a rare opportunity for guests to experience the hidden wonders of St. Petersburg and receive a limited edition, commemorative Silver Whisper Egg designed by Mr.Fabergé.

 I asked Carole if she knew Theo Fabergé before Silver Whisper's inaugural voyage and she said, "No, I didn't know him but my Slavic heritage encouraged my love for all things Russian.  I've admired his family's eggs for my entire life so I just started online trying to find him."  Carole not only found him but introduced him to Silversea because she thought a Theo Fabergé Egg and a special tour of St. Petersburg would be a perfect fit for the Silver Whisper's inaugural voyage.  Silversea executives obviously agreed with her and commissioned Mr. Fabergé to design a numbered, limited edition "Egg" to celebrate the inaugural season of the line's newest ship.  Carole developed the ideas for the tour program in St. Petersburg with the help of recognized Russian imperial art historian Lynette G. Proler.

I need to take a page from Carole's book.  I'm an avid francophile and a member of Alliance Française, where I'm working hard to improve my French.   And I love culturally rich cruising experiences.   I have group space on Uniworld's Grand France river cruise from Paris to Arles on September 18 - October 2, 2011 and although this will be a wonderful cruise, it doesn't include any exclusive experiences designed by "yours truly."  I'm just going to have to let my imagination run free -- do you think a glass of fine French wine would help?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

River Cruising: A Unique Way to See Many Places in Our Beautiful World

I love river cruising because it combines the best of ocean cruising and land tours. You unpack once and your floating boutique hotel takes you into the heart of both bustling cities and charming villages while you sit back and enjoy the picturesque scenery along the way.

Ocean cruising certainly has its advantages. Since the ships are much larger, more activities, entertainment and dining options are available on board. But as discerning cruisers have discovered, more isn’t necessarily better. If you’re more interested in delving into the history and culture of the fascinating regions you’re visiting than being entertained on board, a river cruise is ideal. Unlike most ocean cruise ships, river cruise ships overnight in many ports of call giving you the opportunity to explore the area by day and to experience the night life. Think about Amsterdam; its personality changes as the sun goes down. If your ship sails at 5:00pm, you just might miss the most vibrant element of a city’s DNA.

If you’ve been on a lot of land tours, I can assure you the river cruise ship is a lot more comfortable than the roomiest of motor coaches. And you won’t have to pack your bags and put them out the door for pickup by some ungodly early hour every morning because on a river cruise you unpack only once.

In Europe, you can take an unforgettable journey across the heart of Europe from the North Sea to the Black sea on three historic rivers: the Rhine, the Main and the Danube. If you’re a connoisseur of everything French, you can experience all of France by cruising on the Seine, Saône and Rhône rivers. You can also travel Europe’s spectacular UNESCO World Heritage-designated river valley through Portugal and Spain on the Douro River.

Discover the rich history and traditions along the imperial waterways of Russia including the Neva, Svir and Volga Rivers. Explore China’s mighty Yangtze River as you sail through the most impressive stretch of the river featuring the Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge, collectively known as the Three Gorges. Journey along the Nile River in Egypt and experience incredible sights that include ancient temples, tombs and local villages.

River cruises are now offered by leading river cruise providers on the exotic Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam where temples, trade routes and fishing villages in the river’s path are untouched by time.