Cities of Light: Champagne, Luxembourg, and Cruising the Moselle River

March 25, 2016

“Let’s pull over at the next rest stop and get some Champagne,” are words never spoken on a road trip in America. But in France, and the rest of Europe, rest stops are a welcoming oasis compared to our get-in-and-out pit stops; clean bathrooms complete with showers, a variety of foam-topped coffee drinks, tasty hot and cold meals, gifts and souvenirs, even fine wines and cheeses. Viking Cruises encourages their guests to bring wine aboard, so as we made our way through the Champagne region on our way to Luxembourg we procured a couple of nice bottles of bubbly, what we later referred to as our “Rest Stop Champers.”

Our short afternoon in Luxembourg included a stroll around the charming Luxembourg City, the fortified medieval capital that’s perched atop striking, sheer cliffs. After a cozy bistro lunch, we headed off to the Luxembourg American Cemetery, the resting place of General George S. Patton as well as 5,076 servicemen (including one woman), many of whom lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge and in the advance to the Rhine River. Our local guide, a sweet octogenarian who was a font of historical knowledge, kept us rapt with anecdotes, such as the grand funeral procession of General Patton that he witnessed as a child.

Visitors of the cemetery are greeted by a small, yet impressive stone memorial chapel and terrace, the manicured grounds behind them spread out in a fan-like shape and are framed by over 30 acres of dense forest.  After the terrorist attacks in Paris the night before (read Part 1 here), visiting the resting place of so many souls had an even greater sobering effect.

A short bus ride finally had us in Trier, Germany’s oldest city founded around 16 B.C. by Roman emperor Augustus. Docked on the Moselle river was our beautifully appointed Viking river boat, the Idun, and our gracious crew who greeted us with smiles and Champagne. As our luggage made its way to our cabin, we headed to the lounge and enjoyed an apéritif, appetizers, and lovely music from the pianist. After what started as a disconcerting morning leaving Paris, we nestled into the comfortable club chairs and enjoyed chilled glasses of local Riesling and expressed our gratefulness for being alive and in such a beautiful atmosphere.

Later that evening, we joined the rest of the guests in the dining room for a special welcome dinner prepared by Chef Ross. Guests are encouraged to be comfortable at all times - no dressy nights requiring a ball gown or tux - so pack your nice stretchy-waist pants as each meal is a multi-course feast!

Welcome Dinner Menu

First Course

Smoked Salmon Carpaccio & Salmon Caviar on Sweet Corn Blini with a Celery and Leek Salad Dressed with Lemon Vinaigrette

Potato Crusted Mascarpone Cheese with a Truffle Sabayon Sauce

Baby Arugula & Watermelon Salad with Goat Cheese Croutons and Tangerine Dressing

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil Foam

Main Coarse
Chateaubriand with Buttered Vegetables, Potatoes, Béarnaise Sauce and Jus

Caramelized Sea Scallops with Crisp Bacon, Braised Savoy Cabbage, Thyme Roasted Potatoes, and a Port Wine Sauce

Zucchini Baked with Goat Cheese & Sundried Tomatoes with Artichoke, Basil and Cherry Tomato Ragout

Suggested Wines
Riesling, Winery Gebrüder Steffen, Moselle with aromas of apples and peach combined with fine acidity and a long finish.

Pinot Noir, Winery Gebrüder Steffen, Pfalz with hints of raspberry and black currant followed by well-balanced tannins.

Cheese Plate
Gouda and Roquefort accompanied by a Mango-Thyme Chutney

Mascarpone & Sour Cheery Cake with Brownie Streusel and Marinated Berries

Banana Ice Cream

Cassis Sorbet

Strawberry Sponge Cake

Fresh Fruit Plate