The American Empress docked in Richland, Washington.
Step back into a gilded age of American river travel, sailing on the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi. While you won’t find glitzy casinos and two-story waterslides aboard a vessel like this, you will find classic elegance and modern luxury in spades. As you venture along two of America’s great western rivers - the Columbia and the Snake - you’ll feel history unfold around you, while the boat’s signature red paddlewheel churns on behind you.
Sail where Lewis and Clark first charted their way through tall timbers and rugged coastline, learning about rich First Nations history and tasting wine country’s bounty. Adventure is always around the bend.
Here are some of the places I visited on my recent voyage …
Climb to the top of the Astoria Column or stand at the base and take in the magnificent view.
History oozes from every pore of this oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Climb to the top of the Astoria Column where you can gaze out over the Pacific Ocean. Photograph the port city’s picturesque Victorian-era homes, perched above the Columbia River. Learn about Clatsop Tribe heritage and local history from residents who are descendants of early Chinese settlers and played an integral role in Astoria’s canneries, railroads and jetties. Walk under the 4.1-mile-long Astoria-Megler Bridge, visit a nearby shipwreck and lounge with sea lions on the docks at 36th Street.
The Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal is run exclusively by volunteers.
“Gateway to the Gorge,” the Camas and Washougal communities on the banks of the Columbia River is your access to the largest national scenic area in the United States: the Columbia River Gorge. At up to 4,000 feet deep and stretching for more than 80 miles, the Gorge reaches into the Cascade Range and its three volcanoes. Take the chance to visit majestic Mt. Hood, the highest point in Oregon, and view Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. In the western Gorge area, walk through misty old-growth forest, home to numerous waterfalls, while in the eastern Gorge, the landscape dries out and gives way to rocky bluffs and desert wildflowers.
Visiting the original Wasco County Courthouse and the
Rock Fort Campsite where Lewis & Clark camped.
The Dalles, Oregon
Continuing in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, visit The Dalles, known as the end of the Oregon Trail. This jumping-off point for pioneers, gold miners and scallywags, The Dalles saw its share of adventurers who loaded up wagons, rafts and barges and navigated the Columbia to the mouth of the Willamette River, then on to Oregon City. At the remains of Fort Dalles, visit the former Surgeon’s Quarters, now the Fort Dalles Museum, where you’ll find an array of military artifacts and historic household goods. Drink wine in the countryside, pick heirloom apples and pears in the fall, fish for walleye and sturgeon and savor the magnificent Mt. Hood views.
Visit Multnomah Falls and also The Timberline Lodge at the base of Mt. Hood
where the exterior shots for the The Shining were filmed.
The quiet port of Stevenson is nestled between the Columbia River and the basalt cliffs of the Gorge. Home to Native American settlements for thousands of years, the area saw an influx of western-bound pioneers in 1843, who portaged around the Cascade Rapids en route to the Willamette Valley. It was the Stevenson family from Missouri who came in the 1800s who founded the namesake town, which today still celebrates the adventurer within us. Hike, soak in hot springs, bike, go fishing - then relax and sip local vintages at one of the many wineries. Watch kiteboards jump and twist on the waves of the river, browse art galleries and antiques shops and soak up local history at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, with petroglyphs and artifacts that tell the tale of the Gorge.
Depending on if you’re headed eastbound or westbound, you'll embark/disembark from your Columbia and Snake river cruise at Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon, or Clarkston, Washington, south of Spokane. There are attractions and museums to enlighten you of the area’s Lewis and Clark history, an abundance of recreational activities, a burgeoning craft brew scene, excellent restaurants, quirky shops and more to keep you busy in this quintessential Pacific Northwest city.
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The gravesite of Vincent and Theo
Art-loving river cruisers on Paris and Normandy sailings must take the chance to stop at Auberge Ravoux in the heart of Auvers-sur-Oise, just 18 miles from Paris. It was here, on May 20, 1890, that Vincent van Gogh moved into the 75-square-foot Room 5 in the Ravoux Inn for 3,50 francs per day. This final residence of artist Vincent van Gogh sits in the heart of the village and it is here that Van Gogh spent just 70 - though prolific - days painting more than 70 works before his death.
Today, visitors can visit the restored room where Van Gogh lived and died within the auberge (inn). The museum and tourist attraction allows art aficionados to walk in the footsteps of the master and imagine his short time here in Auvers-sur-Oise. Also known as the House of Van Gogh (Maison de Van Gogh), the residence is close to other notable village sites, including the famous church and the twin graves of the Van Gogh brothers.
Van Gogh’s room has been meticulously restored to its original condition, although it remains rather austere, as that is how he preferred it. In fact, the museum plays this up, stating that while there may not be much to see, there is certainly much to feel as you soak up the ambiance of the Dutch master’s short-term home and see the very nails upon which he hung his canvases.
Theo van Gogh was present on July 28 and 29, 1890, which were the painter’s final days. Theo asked the landlords to never rent out the room again, keeping it instead as a haven of peace and a part of the artist’s spiritual universe.
During your visit, stop by the neighboring attic room to watch the “In the Footsteps of Van Gogh” exhibit, which retraces the artist’s time in Auvers-sur Oise through paintings and correspondence.
Mairie de Montévrain
Spend some time in the Ravoux Inn wine shop and restaurants, which maintains its distinctively 19th-century atmosphere. Van Gogh had a table at the back of the room during his time here, where he could sit quietly and call upon his muses. Today, those with a penchant for art and fine food can enjoy conversation, wine and cultural cuisine at one of the ten waxed-oak dining tables or old-fashioned bar.
Van Gogh once wrote to his sister, Willemien, in 1889, “Every day I take the remedy that the incomparable Dickens prescribes against suicide. It consists of a glass of wine, a piece of bread and cheese and a pipe of tobacco.It isn’t complicated, you’ll tell me, [….].” As a guest of the Auberge Ravoux, you can partake of this “remedy” with a charcuterie platter of local meats and cheeses, breads and pastries from a village bakery and a perfectly paired wine from the inn’s well-stocked cellar. Or, take your experience one step further with a private booking at Van Gogh’s Table, when the entire premises will be at your disposal.
If time allows, spend a few hours exploring Auvers-sur-Oise more widely - it’s easy to see how this charming hamlet seduced Van Gogh as well as impressionists Charles-François Daubigny, Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Stroll through the gardens of the Château d’Auvers, a historic Louis XIII-style building. Admire the famous Eglise d’Auvers - the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption - which Van Gogh painted the year of his death and is now located at the Musee d’Orsay. And, finally, see Van Gogh’s final resting place next to his brother Theo’s tomb.
P.S. Can’t get enough art? Learn more about Van Gogh’s contemporaries, including Charles-Francois Daubigny, at the Daubigny Museum and Studio. Visit the artist’s former home and workshop and see works by Chaissac, Chirico, Daumier, and Time, as well as photographs by Bayard and Lartigue.
Ready to go? Let’s chat.
The Rhine River Gorge is world renowned for its incredible combination of geological, historical and cultural nuances. What this means for the luxury river cruiser is castles, lots of gorgeous, medieval castles.
The 40-mile-long stretch of the Rhine River between Koblenz and Bingen in Germany was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2002 for this very reason. Today, as you sail the Upper Middle Rhine Valley (or Rhine River Gorge, as it’s more commonly known), you’ll see more castles than anywhere else in Germany - in fact, there’s a castle approximately every .9 miles!
Perennial favorites include the weathered ruins of the hillside Fürstenberg Castle in Rheindiebach; Bingen’s Mouse Tower near Ehrenfels Castle, marking the narrow entrance to the Rhine; Rheinstein Castle, a former knight’s castle that is today a museum, hotel and gourmet restaurant; and Pfalzgrafenstein, set on a rocky reef in the middle of the river.
While many of these storied castles have served as inspiration for animated movies and picture books, one story of the Rhine has remained relatively unknown - that is the tale of Lorelei, the siren of the Rhine.
The Myth of Lorelei
The story goes that the lovely young Lorelei was so bewitching in her beauty that she caused sailors to wreck their ships. Today, you can still see the so-called Lorelei Rock, set in a section of the river with a strong and dangerous current. The way the water flows into and around the jagged rocks creates a mystical echoing sound, or murmur. As sailors attempted to navigate the treacherous waters, the experience was likely made even more terrifying by this eerie sound.
As fairytales and myths do, the tale of Lorelei has been repeated and transformed over the centuries. German poet and novelist Clemens Brentano wrote an early version of the story, in which the heroine is betrayed by her lover, then imagines she sees him in the Rhine and falls off a cliff to her death. The haunting sound sailors hear was then said to be her enchanting song forevermore.
Lorelei became a star of German literature after Heinrich Heine penned a poem in 1824, in which he described a woman with golden hair, golden jewels and a golden comb, who - finding about her sweetheart’s unfaithfulness - fell or flung herself off a cliff into the river. Again, the echoing murmur of the water is thought to be her voice.
The legend continued to be celebrated with Johan Strauss’ waltz for Lorelei, Sylvia Plath’s poem, Felix Mendelssohn’s opera, a Styx song, a Marvel Comics character and even an episode of Star Trek (in which, unsurprisingly, a planet full of beautiful women lure ships to their world).
Katz Castle (cat) & Maus Castle (mouse)
Viewing Lorelei Rock
On your Rhine River cruise, pay attention as you pass the Katz Castle, one of the best known along the Rhine River Gorge. From here, you can see Lorelei Rock. The fortress was commissioned by the count of Katzenelnbogen in the 14th century as a complement to Peterseck Castle nearby. Together, they were known as the cat (Katz) and mouse (Maus) castles.
Ready to hear the siren call for yourself? Let’s chat about your Rhine River cruise.
One of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam is visiting the flower market.
With its medieval castles, historic city centers, idyllic landscapes dotted with picturesque windmills and, of course, chocolate, Holland and Belgium exude romance. Whether you’re cruising pretty canals or dining on fresh Zeeland oysters, the landscape, the cities and the villages are all tailor-made for quiet, intimate experiences that cater to your personal interests.
Focus on what makes you tick, individually and with your partner, whether that’s the beautiful architecture of Utrecht’s de Haar and Ghent’s Castle of the Counts of Flanders, or chocolate pralines, Belgian waffles and Dutch street fries. Today, we touch on the most romance-inspiring excursions couples can have when sailing Dutch and Belgian waterways. For even more European river cruising ideas for romantics, read the past few weeks’ worth of suggestions.
I highly recommend the Amsterdam canals cruise.
Cruise the Canals
The classic Amsterdam experience, this is undoubtedly a romantic way to see the city. Make your canal cruise private and enjoy an immersive tour with an expert guide who will glide you past the Dancing Houses, the Skinny Bridge, the 7 Bridges and then Golden Bend.
Paint Like a Master
Sign up for a private, hands-on painting workshop with an experienced art teacher who will show you how to express yourself in the style of famous post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. Complement this with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, where a small-group tour will unveil the master, his works and his place in art history. Learn how he was influenced by the delicacy of Japanese prints and how his craft evolved over time.
Traveling with a group of old and new friends.
Visit the Venice of the North
In Bruges, Belgium, take a private walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage historical city center. Discover the peaceful canals and winding, cobblestone alleyways that give the city such an alluring medieval essence. For history lovers, there’s the Church of Our Lady, the Market Square with its belfry, the Town Hall square with the Chapel of the Holy Blood, the Lake of Love and the Beguines cloister.
Walk Through a Flower Bouquet
Instead of simply offering your favorite person in the world a beautiful bouquet of flowers, walk them through Flora Holland, a flower auction that is comparable in size to the city of Monaco! A private driver and guided tour of the world’s largest flower auction can easily be arranged, mesmerizing both of you with the hustle and bustle of the traders and the gorgeous flowers in more than 30,000 varieties. You’ll view the excitement from a walkway above ground level, taking in the panoply of sound and color.
Savor a Market Meal
Sit for a spell and gush over what experience you’ve loved best so far at the Markthal in Rotterdam. This spectacular indoor food market offers fresh fish, warm bread, tender meat, countless cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruit, cappuccino, desserts and so much more. Take a guided tour, then sit down with your favorite items and soak up the atmosphere.
Hot chocolate served in a Delft porcelain cup.
Delve into Delft
Visit the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century, Royal Delft. Your guide will reveal the authentic Dutch history and craftsmanship that defines Royal Delft, established in 1653 and still producing according to centuries-old traditions.
Indulge in Chocolate
The chocolate tradition in Belgium dates back to the 17th century when the country was under Spanish rule and explorers brought back cocoa beans from South America. In 1884, a law was passed that mandates that Belgian chocolates must be produced with 35% cacao. In Ghent and Bruges, take a special tour to meet a master chocolatier and taste a variety of the country’s famous pralines, first sold by an apothecary-turned-candy-shop in 1912.
Ready to find out just how romantic Dutch and Belgian waterways can be? Let’s chat.
Travel Advisor Specializing in River Cruising