Christmastime River Cruises in Europe

Can you imagine a more beautiful setting than Christmas Time in Vienna? Picture yourself at The Imperial Schonbruun Palace, surrounded by hundreds of Christmas booths, all with brightly-colored ornaments, festive lights, decorative trees and famous Viennese pastries! There are many river cruises in Europe during November and December where you can experience all the sights and sounds of Christmas. During this time of year, the Danube & Rhine Rivers are overflowing with Christmas Markets, both large and small. In Nuremburg, Germany you can visit the World’s largest Christmas Market dating back to 1628, where over 100 red and white canvas-topped booths are on display with an assortment of unique holiday gifts & children’s toys like tinsel angels, hand-crafted dolls & authentic European dollhouses. AMA Waterways is one of the premier river cruise companies that sail along these majestic rivers.

Their Christmas Time cruise and tour on the Danube starts in Prague, where you can spend two wondrous days exploring this enchanting city. Visit historical attractions like the 1,000 year old Hradcany Castle, Charles Bridge or Old Market Square. Enjoy a little warmth with a cup of svarene vino (hot mulled wine) and a traditional hot sausage while you stroll through their Christmas market. From here you travel by bus to Nuremburg where your seven-night cruise begins. As you sail along the “Blue Danube” you will visit many towns and villages; the beautiful Austrian town of Melk with its famous Abbey, or medieval Regensburg with its Roman Fort built in 179AD. Tour Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the Sound of Music or stroll through the picturesque town of Passau, founded 2,000 year ago. One of the most beautiful cities in the world is Vienna. From the famous palaces and museums to the magnificent operas and theatres, this is one city not to be missed.

Whether you spend the day at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace or the Carriage Museum, you will not be disappointed whatever you do. Stroll along the famous Karntnerstrasse or visit the Christmas Markets in Town Hall. And who would not want to experience a true Viennese Waltz at the end of the day? Your cruise will end in Budapest. Visit both Buda and Pest, cities located on both sides of the river. See Buda Castle, the Royal Palace and St Stephen’s Basilica, then end in the Great Market Hall. Beautiful Hungarian crafts are everywhere, festive holiday booths and stalls adorned with Christmas decorations & gifts as far as the eye can see. There are other cruise lines that sail these European rivers. Uniworld & Avalon Waterways are two companies that also do an excellent job. Many of these wintertime November/ December cruises are less expensive than summer cruises. A great bargain for anyone wanting to see or experience the magic of Christmas for themselves in the heart of Europe! Betsy can be reached at or 541-385-0499.

Central Oregon Luminaries


Bend and the surrounding area has long been a magnet for the adventuresome spirit. Early explorers came here to fish and hunt and this is certainly true today, but the area has exploded with other outdoor adventure opportunities. Mount Bachelor being developed as a ski area and opening in 1958 was an early draw for people with a sporting lifestyle. Nordic skiing entered the area around the same period, if not before. The Deschutes River and the Cascade Lakes have attracted sportsmen for years, and whitewater rafting has been a very popular summer activity here for decades. If you want to see how popular floating the river is in the summer, count the number of people that go by the Old Mill on a warm summer day.

Outside magazine named Bend as the best trail riding destination in the US, and the recent Cascade Cycling Classic attracted cyclists from all over the world to the region. Smith Rock is a global destination for rock climbing, and the Cascades have many technical and non-technical ascents drawing peak-baggers. Hiking and camping in the area are even more popular with those who choose a more relaxing adventure. If you ever drive over the pass from Portland to Bend on a Sunday afternoon in the summer, you will encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic returning back to the valley after enjoying the magnificence of the Central Oregon outdoors. Many other activities are also popular including stand-up paddle boarding on the Deschutes or Elk Lake, paragliding over Pine Mountain, and geocaching. More traditional sports are huge here as well, such as soccer, golf, tennis, baseball and softball, and even the less traditional Frisbee golf!

Besides sports, artistic and cultural events are a daily event. The Bend Film Festival attracts thousands of people to the area and giving us a Hollywood flair. The Sagebrush Classic at Broken Top and The Ghost Tree Invitational at Pronghorn bring in culinary experts (and consumers) from around the globe. The list goes on and on. With the incredible beauty in the area, unlimited outdoor activities available, and the vibrancy of the community, it isn’t surprising that many stars of sports and entertainment are spotted here. Since moving here eight years ago I have frequently heard of stars being spotted in the area such as Olympic Gold medalist and skater Eric Heiden, golfer Tiger Woods, actor William Hurt and even President Bush, who stopped in Sunriver for a few days.

Besides these stars that have passed through, there are several celebrities and well-known public figures that now reside in the area which people may not know about. The following is a partial list and description of some of them.

Drew Bledsoe
Drew was the number one pick in the 1993 NFL draft. He was a star quarterback at Washington State, who later played in the NFL with the Patriots, Bills, and then finished his career with the Cowboys. Not only has he played in both the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl, Drew is in the top ten of nearly every NFL passing category in career statistics. Drew is very active in Bend, sponsoring multiple charities and fund-raising events.

Gerry Lopez
Gerry is arguably the greatest surfer who has ever lived. He won the Hawaiian State Surfing Championship at 14 years of age, and became known as the best tube-rider in the world after winning the Pipeline Contest on the North Shore of Hawaii in 1972 and 1973. The contest is now named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. Besides surfing, he has also appeared in several big-screen movies including The North Shore, Big Wednesday, Farewell to the King, and Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is an avid snowboarder and stand-up paddle surfer, and has written a best-selling book called Surf Is Where You Find It.

Steve House
Steve is considered by some experts as the top high-altitude climber in the world today. He has a long list of high altitude first-ascents, many done in epic fashion. Recently he wrote a best-selling book called Beyond the Mountain, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. On multiple occasions he has won the prestigious Piolet d’Or, an award for the greatest climb of the year. His has an extreme version of “alpine style”, traveling very fast with little food or equipment.

Alan Watts
Alan is a long-time resident of the area, and is considered to be the pioneer of climbing at Smith Rock. He has written the classic guidebook for the climbing area, and has put up a list of first ascents at Smith Rock that boggles the mind. He was named by Climbing magazine as one of the 25 most influential climbers in history, and Rock and Ice named him one of the 10 most influential climbers in the history of US Climbing. Alan’s fame may one day be eclipsed by his son Ben, who is a standout snowboarder with a realistic chance of being in the Olympics in 2014.

Dan Fouts
Dan played football at the University of Oregon where he rewrote the passing records. After college he had a long career with the San Diego Chargers, where he set numerous records, played in 6 Pro Bowls, and reached the pinnacle of the sport in 1993 by being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A current resident of Sisters, he is a very active college and pro football announcer.

Sam Elliot
Reportedly the well-known actor lives in Sisters as well. He has been in more notable and entertaining films than you can count. Some of my favorites are Mask, Road House, The Big Lebowski, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Tombstone.

Gene Tenace
Gene Tenace, 1972 MVP, World Series, Oakland A’s against the Cincinnati Reds has lived in CO since 1992.

Kiki Cutter- Olympian and World Cup Ski Champion
Stan Humphries- Former NFL quarterback
Ryan Longwell- Bend High Standout now kicker for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings
Myrlie Evers-Williams- Civil rights activist and wife of slain Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers
Gary Zimmerman- NFL Hall of Famer who played for the Denver Broncos
Matthew Fox- actor and star of Lost and Party of Five
Mickey Tettleton- former major league baseball player
Jere Gillis- former professional hockey player in the NHL

Besides these luminaries, there are many more I have not mentioned who live in the area. It isn’t surprising that the beauty and lifestyle of the area has drawn these people and others to live in Central Oregon, and I suspect the list will continue to grow as time goes on. Don’t be surprised if you bump into one of them at the store, the slopes, or the river enjoying all that Central Oregon has to offer.

What in the World is Pickleball?

Yes, there is actually a USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) and you don’t need to like pickles to participate in the game. Pickleball is described as a court game of angles and strategies, of position and speed and is enjoying huge increases in popularity with seniors, school kids and families. The name was created by one of the families who founded the sport in 1965 who had a dog named Pickles that would occasionally grab the ball. 

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball and wood or composite paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors, is easy for beginners to learn – but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. In addition to being fun, the game has developed a reputation for its friendly and social nature.

While pickleball is often played in PE classes in schools, the sport has really caught on with the senior scene.  Retirement communities today are often building more pickleball courts than tennis courts and frequently feature them in their marketing materials and support on-site pickleball clubs.  Pickleball is now a featured sport in many state Senior Olympic Games – and the competition is fierce. 

Pickleball is played by all ages and has become a popular sport in schools and senior centers. The smaller court size and inter-generational appeal makes it perfect for backyard courts. Of course the health and fitness benefits, as in any sport, can’t go unnoticed. In early June the Pickeball Assocaiton help their first week long celebration.

“We are extremely excited about the first International Pickleball Week,” said Bill Booth, president of the USA Pickleball Association. “The sport of pickleball is really catching on across the world and is particularly popular with seniors. We intend to celebrate the growth of the sport with our fellow players throughout the world, including locations in Canada, Mexico and India.”

The USAPA was created in 2005 to promote the sport. It maintains the official rules, sanctions tournaments, provides player rankings and produces the annual National Pickleball Tournament. It is run by a volunteer board of directors and supported by thousands of dues paying members. Over 300 regional and local ambassadors promote the sport at a local level, providing information and training.

If you’re interested in starting your own pickleball group, the 2010 USAPA Grant program will provide funds to subsidize training programs for school students, local residents, organizations or individuals who are novices to Pickleball and do not belong to a Pickleball club or other organized group. The USAPA will also provide speakers to introduce and demonstrate the sport to industry associations and other interested groups on a local, regional and national basis.

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