For years, readers have been asking for another adventure for the three women in The Wildwater Walking Club. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know, as I did, that any follow-up to Noreen, Tess and Rosie’s story would have to be about walking and lavender and friendship—and how even big changes happen one step at a time. So I decided a Viking River Cruise to Lyon and Provence would be the perfect trip for The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track.
The bonus was that I got to go along with my characters. And I loved every minute! Here are just a few of the reasons why:
1. I didn’t have to do all the work.
For me, and maybe for you, too, vacation means planning, planning and more planning. Flights, hotels, restaurants, trips within the trip. I’m good at it, but I have to admit Viking Cruises is better, way better, and it was such a tremendous relief to leave it all to them. They booked the flights that made the most sense, and Viking representatives magically appeared at the airport to take us to our transport vehicle that brought us to the ship. Where more smiling people greeted us. And on and on, every step along the way. All beautifully orchestrated and much appreciated.
2. Your room travels with you.
It’s so great not to have to pack up everything and schlep it all to the next hotel. Our ship, the Viking Buri, was sleek and minimalist, and our stateroom was well designed and had plenty of storage, plus the perfect little balcony for sipping coffee or wine. The bathroom made the most of the space—again, great design, including a pocket door. Tip: A friend, who knows I’m an overpacker, suggested bringing some kind of organizer to free up counter space. I ordered this from Amazon, and it hooked right over the glass shower panel and worked beautifully. (It’s now hanging over a door in my own bathroom, I liked it so much!)
3. It’s a great way to make new friends.
My husband Jake came with me on the cruise. He’s used to that glazed look in my eyes when I’m trying to figure out a book, which makes him not just a good husband, but the perfect travel companion. The cruise had a nice mix of couples and friends traveling together and solo travelers and families. So it would be a great idea for a family reunion or a girlfriends’ getaway. But it was also really easy to make new friends, both in the dining room and on the excursions. (In fact, I just heard from one, who emailed to ask me to Skype in to her book club!)
4. You’re never far from shore.
I didn’t think about this ahead of time, but this turned out to be one of my favorite parts. It was like taking a road trip without the traffic and the crazy drivers. The shoreline was endlessly fascinating and a great backdrop for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. We docked in cities and tiny towns and in the middle of nowhere. I’m no stranger to motion sickness, but I didn’t have any seasickness at all, I think in part because I could see the horizon at all times. And also because the ship was so well designed.
5. I experienced some cool new things.
I’m not exactly a history buff. There, I said it. I can appreciate the beauty of Roman columns and medieval villages and seventeenth century churches, but my attention span is limited, and it doesn’t take long until it all starts to blur. But I’ll never forget taking a painting class in Arles before seeing the Van Gogh in Provence exhibit, or walking through the lavender fields in Sault. I’ll never forget hanging out with the goats at the goat cheese farm or getting to play with the truffle dogs at the truffle farm. I would have missed these on my own, but Viking went above and beyond to whisk us off to authentic, off-the-beaten-track experiences like these.
Thank you to Viking Cruises (http://www.vikingcruises.com/) for hosting me on my very first river cruise. And a huge thank you to all the readers who’ve read the Wildwater books!
If you haven’t read them yet, here are the links: