Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

My Photo
Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


We boarded a Viking bus the morning of May 4 for a shore excursion to Heidelberg, Germany. We visited Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg Cathedral, enjoyed a leisurely walking tour of the city, and still had lots of free time for more exploring. What a gorgeous and interesting place!  

Heidelberg is built along the Neckar River.

Once again the architecture enthralled me.

Our bus driver navigated the 
narrow streets easily.

The original bridge in Heidelberg--the Old Bridge (Alte Brucke)--was built around 1742. It was re-built nine times! The first was built out of wood, but because of destruction from floods and wars, Prince Karl Theodor ordered the construction of a stone bridge (1786-1788).

 A view from the Old Bridge.

Tourists on the Old Bridge.

Another view from the Old Bridge.

Picture of Heidelberg Castle from the bridge.
The earliest Heidelberg Castle was built before 1214. By circa 1294 it had expanded to two castles. Lightning destroyed the upper castle in 1537, and struck it again in 1764.  The castle ruins, which are breathtaking, remain.


Abandoned over 300 years ago, the castle still holds the world's largest wine barrel, a 250-year-old vat that could hold 50,000 gallons of wine.

 Ron standing in front of the old vat.

Even though dark clouds looked threatening, it didn't rain. The views from the castle were incredible.


 More castle ruins.

After exploring the castle, we meandered on into the center of the city.

Gorgeous Heidelberg Cathedral. 

A lovely old Gothic building which 
is now a hotel and restaurant.

Hungry, we ducked into the open-air restaurant above. We sat with stomachs growling for over an hour before coming to the conclusion that we would not be waited on, even though people seated after us were served, ate, and departed with full bellies. Exasperated and hungry, we left. We're glad we did because just outside we saw shipmates Anne and Al at an outdoor table, and joined them.

Al (left) and Ron (right) with their German beers.

Look closely at the glasses of beer. Funny, but even 
though Al's is much larger than Ron's, they cost the same!

Sally, Anne and Al. Ron's snapping the photo. 
But you probably figured that.

Our last view of lovely Heidelberg as we headed 
back to our ship.

We passed many of these gorgeous yellow fields--a type of mustard plant--which is what canola oil is made from.


When we arrived at the Viking Mani, some of the crew were on deck to welcome us. Little did we know that it would be our last night on the Mani. Because of all the flooding on the River Rhine, we could no longer use the locks to go down river, which meant we'd be stuck here. Not good, because we still had lots to see.

But not to worry! Viking came to the rescue. Down river was a sister ship, an exact replica of our Mani. The next day we had all our luggage outside our rooms by 8:00. At 10:00 we boarded four Viking buses and drove two hours where we boarded the Viking Eir in Koblenz. Our room number on the Mani was 219; we were assigned to room 219 on the Eir. I tell you, Viking thinks of everything!

Join us next post for the Marksburg Castle tour.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


Our ship arrived in Strasbourg, France, at 8:00 a.m. on our third day. By 8:30 we were on a Viking bus headed into the city for a long walking tour of Strasbourg.

I snapped this picture as the bus crossed a bridge.

Riding alongside the River Ill.

Note the tiny house tucked between the two large buildings.

Usually tourists can take boat rides all through the city, but we didn't see a single boat. The river was quite high due to all the flooding, so maybe boat traffic couldn't get through the locks.

We left the bus here to begin our walking tour.

The pictures above and below are of the Palais Rohan, an 18th century residence built in 1732. The Episcopal palace was once the home of bishops. Louis XV and Marie-Antoinette stayed there at one time. Now it's home to several museums, which we didn't have time to see.

A view from a bridge. Note the wisteria on the right. 
We saw lots of wisteria in France and Germany.

A lovely walking path.

A river restaurant.

The architecture continued to fascinate us.

I'm guessing there's lots of mold in these buildings. 
Repair work needs to be done.

If you enlarge the above picture, you'll see a 
woman through the window over the balcony.

Looking toward the Grande lle, the historic center 
of Strasbourg, which is an island in the River Ill.
This is a great example of medieval cities.

I liked the detail on this old half-timbered building.

Note the two interesting windows. 
I really wanted to go inside for a better look.

More half-timbered buildings.

I read on Wikipedia that an incident known as the Dancing Plague of 1518 struck residents of Strasbourg. Yes, I'm serious. Around 400 people were affected with dancing mania and danced constantly for weeks, most of them eventually dying from heart attack, stroke or exhaustion.

This cute French couple performed a little dance 
for us. Hope the Dancing Plague hasn't returned!
The Cathedrale de Notre Dame in Strasbourg's old town is 426 feet tall and is the highest medieval building in Europe. It is magnificent, although photos don't begin to do it justice. It deserves a blog post of its own (which I won't do), so I have posted a few pictures here.

Note the way the roads and walkways are paved in the 
pictures above and below. We saw very little plain 
old concrete walks and roads in the cities we visited.

A very patient Ron waiting for me to stop snapping pictures.
A gorgeous old half-timbered building.

The next post will be about Heidelberg, which was another one of my favorite places.

Labels: , ,