Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

2018 August Norway with Noakai   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Norway”

Starring: Lari & Noakai

August 20 to 31, 2018

Each of my 5 grandchildren will get a special trip with Grandma Lari. I took Jensen to Japan 5 years ago, and this trip was for Noakai to Norway on a Gate1 tour. Madi and I have to find a date for our special trip together sometime next year-she is so busy!

Every time I go to Europe, I have an opportunity to stop and visit Yvette, Erik, Noakai and Marlowe before and after hopping over the Atlantic. I had fun with the family before and after Norway. I took Noey to sushi dinner and the play, “Getting the Band Together”-it was very funny! The Sunday before coming home, the family was busy, so I went to see Waitress, hoping to see Katherine McPhee, but she was no longer playing the lead… but it was a fun show. We enjoyed the Color Factory, an interactive colorful art experience fun for adults and kids!

Noey and I flew to Oslo via LHR on British Airlines. We had a welcome dinner and met our tour guide, Stephanie and the other 14 members of our tour group.

We had a city tour of Oslo on the first day. All of the people in our tour group were very nice, friendly and fun. We had lovely cool and sunny weather the entire trip except for one day in rainy Bergen.

 

 

The hotels we had before and after the cruise had gorgeous views!

 

We had a two-day bus tour from Oslo, overnight in Flam and to Bergen where we  boarded our Hurtigruten cruise ship.

Before the cruise, visited a very old Stave Church and went through the longest (25Km) tunnel in the world that has amazing technologies for physical and mental/emotional well-being for all drivers. The tunnel is divided into 4 sections with 3 blue zones between each section to give relief and mental awareness for drivers. The air is filtered and oxygen is pumped into the tunnel.

We visited a farm where we could enjoy the horses and sheep and a homemade lunch.

 

 

Stephanie Johannssen, our tour guide, taught us many things about Norway. Norway gets the warm gulfstream from Mexico so their waters never freeze in the winter. This enables Norwegians to farm more crops that would not survive in Sweden and Finland where the waters freeze. Norway, Denmark and Sweden are Scandinavian countries, and Finland and Iceland are Nordic countries with a totally different language. Denmark has a small landmass with 5 million people, and Norway is huge with 5.3 million people. Thus, Norway is uncrowded, quiet, with no traffic jams. Norway is a very wealthy country, with black gold-oil and fish from the sea. Yet, they are an honest and frugal people. They have high taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gas so they are very costly. The government gives incentives for people to purchase electric vehicles, so you see many Teslas and other EVs. Norwegians are also very close to nature to keep healthy.  People like to camp and spend time in the forests because all the forests including those on private property are open to public use. Trolls live in the forests and they guard the forest. Mountain trolls are giants that live in caves. Trolls would disappear in sunlight, so they only come out at night.

Stephanie told us the story of a little town called Fla in bear country where we had a pit stop. Fla was dying with decreasing population, until a billionaire named Olav Thon, #198 on Forbes list, took an interest in it. Thon decided to build a Bear Park to attract visitors. But there was no place to eat or sleep, so he tried to get McDonalds to open there, but they refused, so he built a McDonalds building. Then he built a Thon hotel and shopping center there. Now Fla is thriving with jobs and tourists.

We rode the Flam Railway up the mountain to Myrdal and back down to Flam, stopping twice at the Waterfall Kjosfossen where the Huldra, a singing forest temptress would lure men away.

 

 

In Bergen we boarded our Hurtigruten cruise ship, Nordlys, which means northern lights for our 6-day cruise up the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle.

We sailed through so many awesome fjords with waterfalls, villages, and tiny farms clinging to the cliffs of the fjords. Our cabin was tiny and so was our bathroom, especially the shower! So I told Noey, whenever we have free time, we won’t stay in our cabin, but hang out in the lounges on different decks. Noey loved to sit and read in the Orion Lounge, which was on the top deck 7, with glass windows facing the front and sides to enjoy the views of the fjords. Most times friends from our tour group were there to hang out with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may wonder, why would anyone live high up in the cliffs above the fjords in the middle of nowhere? Well, they could be running away from the law or from diseases or taxes. Also, because the weather is temperate, from the Gulf Stream, they could farm crops.

 

Stephanie told us a marvelous story about one such family that lived on a tiny farm way up high on the cliff of a fjord. Stephanie was so intrigued by the story that she went up to the house of Lady Bloomberg herself. She said it took 48 switchbacks to walk up the cliff to the Bloomberg farmhouse, where she met descendants of Lady Bloomberg who were not hospitable. Lady Bloomberg’s husband died and she raised 10 children by herself, farming the little farm high up the cliff. It was a hard life, but she lived a long time. Such stories give you a flavor of the people of Norway.

Cruising the fjords, we made many stops at small villages and some small cities. When we stopped for the day, the cruise ship offered many tours. The first tour I did with Noakai was to go on a forest hike in Trondheim.

Noey went on 2 more hiking tours with Sharon and Wenshing Lee, while I stayed back to walk around the different towns.

 

 

 

We crossed the Arctic Circle at 7:18:12 am. We went to the ceremony for crossing the arctic circle, where they christen you by putting ice cubes down your back. Noey ran away when they asked us to participate, so one night at dinner, one of the crew snuck up behind him and put ice down his back.

 

 

We took a tour to the North Cape, and got to visit a Sami native with his reindeer. The Sami people are nomads that follow the reindeer herds across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The term Laplanders is considered derogatory. The North Cape (Nordkapp) is where the road from Europe ends.

 

For our last dinner on the ship, they had a buffet with lots of fresh seafood, like crab claws, shrimp, king crab legs, and reindeer stew. They even had salmon sashimi, which Noey devoured! He was so happy to have sushi! The next morning we disembarked in Kirkenes and boarded a plane for Oslo. We stayed in a lovely old hotel up near the ski jump with gorgeous views of the Oslo fjord. We enjoyed a farewell dinner and sang a Peanut Butter song and cheered for Stephanie, before hugging our goodbyes to our tour group members. We had all bonded on this trip, so it was sad to say goodbye to everyone. Early the next morning, we transferred to the airport for our flight home to JFK via Helsinki, Finland.

Noakai’s Top 10:

10) The Bloomberg farm. Learning about the Bloomberg farm is so interesting, that I think I’ll remember it for probably my life. I love that Stephanie was able too share this with us.

9) The tunnels. Especially the longest road tunnel in the world with the cool Leigh caves, but also the tons of other tunnels. I also really liked the tunnel with the roundabout intersection inside of it.

8) The reindeer. I have never seen a reindeer before Norway, and they are very beautiful and very small, I thought they were really cool.

7) The completely real trolls. I liked the way Stephanie explained them to us, and, even though Yvette doesn’t like them, I do, and think it’s funny that they are so deeply embedded in Norwegian culture.

6) The ski museum. Although the stair hike was tedious, the museum itself was probably my favorite museum of all. I liked the simulator, and the museum itself was both interesting and fun.

5) The one that you’ve been waiting for: the food! The food in Norway was amazing and I loved it especially because there isn’t a lot of Norwegian food in America. It was second only to Japanese food. (Sorry, you can’t beat Japanese food, at least for me)

4) The fjords. The beautiful fjords, which also prevented the boat from rocking and making me seasick, made the trip both longer and more enjoyable.

3) The hiking. I loved the hiking in Norway because, for not as much work as you do in America, you get a better view. Also, I liked the exercise and fresh air.

2) The Orion lounge, for obvious reasons

1) The people. Everyone in our group, including Stephanie was awesome and funny, and also the Norwegians themselves, little though they were, were nice, welcoming, funny and very trusting.

Lari’s Top 10:

(On previous trips, I had already done/seen Vigeland Park, Flam Railway ride, Bergen and Sognefjord. So these are not on this list although they are wonderful.)

10) The cool, sunny weather

9) The story of Fla village, saved by Olav Thon

8) The story of Lady Bloomberg living on a small farm high up on the cliff of a fjord

7) Crossing the Arctic Circle and visiting North Cape

6) The Laerdal tunnel with all its high tech amenities

5) Farm visit with horses, sheep and delicious lunch with raspberry drink

4) The friendly and fun tour group members

3) Stephanie Johannssen, our tour guide extraordinaire! Her knowledge, her efficient organization of our group, and her interesting stories, made this a rewarding and educational trip

2) The many gorgeous views of Norway’s fjords, mountains, and waterfalls

1) Spending quality time with Noakai, forming life-long happy memories with him

Posted September 7, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe

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2018 Barcelona & Bilbao Spain   1 comment

Presenting the latest episode of
“Hawaiians in Spain”
Starring: Lari & Mary Kadooka
April 23 to May 8, 2018

Mary asked me if I could go with her to Barcelona and Bilbao. Although I had been to Barcelona twice before, I always wanted to go to Bilbao, so I said yes. I booked Haw Air to NY and United from Newark to Barcelona. Mary booked our hotels and tours for our trip. It turned out that almost everything we did in Barcelona, was new to me, so it was thoroughly enjoyable. In New York, I spent time with Yvette and Marlowe and visited her preschool to tell the kids a story. Then I took the subway to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to check out my old stomping grounds from 2004 when Yvette, Erik and Noakai lived there. It has totally become upscale and pricey! First I visited Grandma Gina then walked up Bedford Ave and saw a new Apple Store and a new Whole Foods along with new restaurants.
When I arrived at Barcelona airport, I had to wait a bit for Mary’s flight to arrive. Then we both took a cab to our hotel close to the La Sagrada Familia, so we could walk there for our tour. We went up to the top of one of the towers and really enjoyed the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudi.

La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona

Coming down from the top of the tower in Sagrada Familia

Gaudi created blue stained glass from the east and yellow orange from the west

I captured the western sunset light coming through the stained glass inside Sagrada

The next day, we toured another Gaudi marvel, the wavy condo building called Casa Mila. His architectural design was amazing and wonderful, and people still live in Cas Mila. We took a bus to Park Guell and enjoyed all the beauty there and returned to Casa Mila for our night show tour on the roof top.

Casa Mila has owners that live there in unique design by Gaudi. All spaces have natural light.

Beauty on the rooftop of Casa Mila.

Gaudi’s Park Guell

On Sunday, we took the metro to Placa Catalunya and walked the Ramblas. We had lunch and were disappointed that the Boqueria Market was closed on Sundays. Then we walked to the end of the Ramblas where we found that we could go up to the top of the Monument Colom of Christopher Columbus. We enjoyed the views of the city and the waterfront from up there. That evening, we enjoyed the Los Tarantos flamenco show and paella for dinner.

Monument Colom of Christopher Columbus at the bottom of the Ramblas

View of the Ramblas from the top of Colom of Christopher Columbus

Flamenco dancers

The next day, we took a tour to Monteserrat, a bunch of jagged mountains outside of Barcelona with a cathedral nestled in the mountain. After the short visit to the Cathedral, which housed the Black Madonna, we took a funicular up the mountain and hiked back down. After returning to the city, we decided to check out the Boqueria Market, then we had a tapas dinner.

Monteserrat

Monteserrat

View of the Cathedral at Monteserrat from funicular

Hiking down Monteserrat

Boqueria Market just off the Ramblas

We checked out of our hotel and took a cab to the airport for our flight to Bilbao. In Bilbao, our rental apartment was right across the street from the famous Guggenheim Museum. Right in front of the Guggenheim, we saw ‘Puppy’ a dog 12 metres high, made of flowers. We enjoyed the view of the Guggenheim at sunset w/some wine on the terrace of our apartment building.

Puppy, made of flowers at the Guggenheim in Bilbao

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim at sunset from our terrace

We took a bus to the town of Bakio and had to walk 4 miles to reach the parking lot for San Juan Guztelulgatxe, [ɡas̻teluɡatʃe] comes from the Basque gaztelu = “castle”, “fort” and gaitz = “difficult”. It is an islet on the coast of Biscay and is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage dedicated to John the Baptist that dates from the 10th century. After walking 4 miles, we had to walk 2 more miles downhill to get to the foot of the islet. Then up 241 steps to reach the hermitage on the top. Walking back up those 2 miles to the parking lot was a killer! I almost died! At the parking lot, we caught a ride back to the bus stop so we didn’t have to walk the 4 miles back. We rewarded ourselves by having a wonderful seafood dinner right next door to our apartment at Mazarredo.

San Juan Guztelulgatxe

Mary walking up 241 steps up to the top of San Juan Guztelulgatxe

From the top, we look back at the long 2-mile walk down on the mainland side and 241 steps up on the island.

Thursday we went to the Guggenheim Museum and enjoyed seeing Frank Gehry’s architecture from the inside and all the modern art displayed there. We took the tram to Ribera Market in Old Town where we had a tapas lunch.

Fabulous architecture by Frank Gehry inside the Guggenheim.

Outside the Guggenheim in front of one of many outdoor sculptures

Friday morning, we got up early to catch the metro to San Sebastian, a seaside resort. We caught the bus to the other side of Kantxa Bay and rode the funicular up Mount Igueldo for gorgeous views. We enjoyed tapas in Old Town. The tapas bars were amazing!

The view of the San Sebastian bay from the funicular

Painted walkway tunnel in San Sebastian

Fun at a tapas bar… look at all the choices we had! Delicious!

On Saturday, we took the metro to Getxo just north of Bilbao by the sea and walked along the marina and enjoyed the lovely mansions along the promenade. Then up the famous Transporter Bridge, where we took the elevator up one side, walked across the bridge and down the elevator on the other side of the river to Portugalete. Another way to cross the river is by gondola, which can carry 6 cars and dozens of people.

Bizkaia Bridge

The gondola goes back and forth across the river, suspended from the bridge

Mary and I crossing the Bizkaia Bridge

The next day we flew back to the US, me to NY and Mary to DC. Back in NY, I did some shopping and watched Noakai play ping pong at his school. We celebrated my 75th birthday at Wagamama for dinner. I flew back home the next morning.

Celebrating my birthday at Wagamama in NYC with Yvette, Noakai, Marlowe and Erik

Mary’s Top Six:

6. Monserrat – hike and view

5. San Juan de Guztelugatxe – exhausting, yet exhilirating view of stairs and scenery

4. Casa Milo and Park Guell – more amazingly creative stuff

3. La Sagrada Familia – inspiring connection to nature

2. Guggenheim Museum – architecture and even the modern art exhibits

1. Pintxo’s (tapas) at San Sebastian bus depot and all the Basque food

Lari’s Top Six:
6. Going up to the top of Colom of Christopher Columbus
5. Tapas meals, seafood and paella
4. Transporter Bridge in Getxo
3. La Sagrada Familia
2. Guggenheim Museum inside and outside
1. Casa Mila Tour by day and by night

2018 Winter in Tuscany with Leanda   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Italy”

Starring: Lari & Leanda Santos

January 28 to February 8, 2018

Last fall I called Leanda and asked her if she knows how to drive stick, and she said yes. So I asked if she wanted to go with me to Tuscany on a 1-week Air, Hotel, Car deal for $600 pp. And she said yes, because she had never been to Italy and that she would drive. It was an unescorted package from Gate1 Travel-what a deal! So we flew to New York and stayed with Yvette. Noakai let us sleep in his bed and he slept on the floor. We visited Marlowe’s pre school. Leanda had never been to NY, so I showed her places like the Oculus, 9-11 Memorial, riding the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty, walking the High Line to from Meatpacking to Chelsea Market. We had lunch at Serafina’s Meatpacking, where my friend, Miko works. I met him years ago in Florence.

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Lady Liberty from Staten Island Ferry

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Grandma Lari visits Yellow Room at Marlowe’s pre school

We flew on a red eye on Emirates Airline to Milan. They have HUGE planes: 88 rows of 10 seats per row. There were so few passengers that everyone could lie flat in  empty rows. In Milan, we got our rental car and drove to Tuscany and found our hotel in Montecatini, a small village in Tuscany. It was cold and rainy almost every day there, but we made the best of it. We walked around the village and went to a hot spring pool to relax. We enjoyed delicious Italian dinners.

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Our hotel in Montecatini

We drove to Pisa where we went inside the cathedral and climbed up to the top of the leaning tower. Then we drove to Lucca, a lovely walled village. We walked partially around the city wall, then into the city for lunch. Leanda loved all the beautiful doors, so we took a collection of photos with Leanda and her doors.

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The iconic Leaning Tower in Pisa

The bell tower at the top of the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

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Love this tower with the tree on top in Lucca

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One of many Lucca doors Leanda loves

We took the train to Florence, because parking would be a problem there. We walked all over the city, first to Mercato Centrale then to Duomo and Piazza Signoria to see David, then to Ponte Vecchio. We had lunch at Gatto La Volpe where I met Miko several years ago, and back to Central market to shop for omiyage. Back to train station for gelato before boarding train back home.

Rainy shopping at Mercato Centrale in Florence

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David in Florence

We had lunch here in Florence, where Lari met Miko in 2007.

It’s the law: Gelato every day in Italy

On the one sunny day, we took the train to Viareggio for Carnivale. It’s mardi gras in Italy! They had a parade and people are dressed in costumes. It was so much fun!

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Carnivale in Viareggio

On our last day, we checked out and drove to Cinque Terre. We got all-day train tickets to the 5 villages. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in English and is composed of five crazily constructed small fishing villages located on rocks along the cliff in a spectacular landscape. First stop Riomaggiore, next Manarola, then Vernazza, (we skipped Corniglia), finally Monterosso. Leanda drove all the way to our hotel near Milano airport.  We stayed overnight and the next day flew back to NY on Emirates.

Riomaggiore

Manarola

Our last night at Milano airport hotel

Back in NY, we stayed with Yvette’s family again. We did more touring of the city, first to Times Square, Luke’s Lobster, Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Mood, Flatiron, Eataly, Union Square and Trader Joe’s. At Mood, the fabric store on Project Runway, we met Swatch the mascot at Mood. He is super cute!

We had fun with Swatch at Mood

It was a wonderful trip with a good fun friend, Leanda! We had a blast!

 

 

 

Posted July 30, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe

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2017 New York, London, VA & MD   1 comment

2017 October
NY, London, VA-MD

I found a good deal on Gate1 for air and hotel to London. So I asked Debi if she wanted to go with me, and she said yes, because she’d never been to London. I have been there twice before, but never went to the museums, and so I planned to go to some London Museums. I flew non-stop on Hawaiian Airlines and stayed with Yvette for a few days. I visited Marlowe’s pre-school and spent time with Yvette and Marlowe during the weekdays. On weekends, we hung out with the whole family. I usually try to give Yvette and Erik a date night, and stay home with the kids while they do their own thing. So this time, I took Marlowe to the movie theater to see My Little Pony and then dinner at Hudson Eats while Noey was with his friends. On Sunday, I went with the 2 kids on PATH to NJ for brunch at Sapthagiri, their favorite Indian $10 brunch buffet. I like to stop at the threading shop to have my eyebrows threaded for only $6. We met Miko and Donna for late lunch with Donna’s parents. I had a date night with Noey, and we had tons of food and fun doing the “East Village Crawl”-we ate at 3 different restaurants to try different kinds of food!

 

Sunday brunch at our favorite Indian buffet in Jersey.

We had a late lunch with Miko and Donna and her parents.

East Village Crawl with Noakai.

Monday, Marlowe, Yvette and I took a car up to 6th Ave Michael’s store, shopping at Trader Joes and Old Navy, then lunch at NY Burger. That evening, I went with Erik and Marlowe to watch Noey’s soccer game then home for dinner. The next day, I read a story to Marlowe’s pre-school class and sang a song.

Marlowe has 3 teachers: Miss Janet, Miss Gyro and Miss Mildred.

On Wednesday, Yvette and Marlowe flew to Germany to visit Tara and I relaxed, packed and took the subway to JFK and met Debi at our gate for our red-eye flight to London. We arrived at Heathrow on Thursday, Oct 19 and took a city transfer to our hotel. They gave us a room right away so we could shower and rest then we walked around to eat Fish n Chips for our dinner at Hobsons. On Friday, we at breakfast in the hotel and caught the tube (London’s subway) to Leicester Square to buy discount tickets at the TKTS booth for The Mousetrap, a long-running mystery by Agatha Christie. We walked to the British Museum and had lunch there. Then we spent the afternoon riding on the HOHO (hop-on, hop-off) bus. We sat upstairs and enjoyed a relaxing tour of London. Then we went to see The Mousetrap play, after having some difficulty finding the theater. Afterwards, we saw Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant, so we had dinner there and took the tube back to our hotel.

At the British Museum

 

Victoria & Albert Museum

On Saturday, we went back to Leicester Square to buy discount tickets to see An American in Paris at 2 pm and tickets for Lion King at 7:30 pm. After getting our show tickets, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we spent 2 hours enjoying the exhibits. Then to our matinee by the tube, a light supper, then to our evening show at Lyceum Theater for Lion King.

We loved Lion King!

On Sunday, we got up early and took the tube to the Coach Station for our bus tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. Our guide was Lucy and she was very charming and our bus driver was Ricardo. First stop was Windsor Castle, where we saw the Queen Mary Doll House and the State Apartments. Then a bus ride to Stonehenge then to Lacock village for lunch at The George Inn, oldest Pub in Lacock. Then a bus ride to Bath-by then we were tired so we just shopped.

Windsor Castle

Stonehenge

After breakfast on Wednesday, we checked out, stored our luggage and went to Camden Market and then to lunch at Taste of India. We caught a cab to Heathrow, flew back to NY, arriving close to midnight, and said goodbye there. Debi stayed overnight near JFK and I took a cab to a hotel in Chelsea.
Tuesday morning, I caught the GoBus to Vienna, VA for only $18. It was a large and new bus that arrived at 2 pm at the Metro stop in Vienna and Janne Hudner picked me up. We cooked dinner and watched Dancing with the Stars. The next day, Janne and I went to the movie Marshall after breakfast, and it was wonderful! After lunch, I borrowed Hudner’s car and drove to Laurel to cousin Gary and Sally’s home. We chatted and relaxed until dinner of Salmon, peas and rice noodles. Their Siamese cat, Tubs had passed away, and I played with the other Siamese, Crocket before bedtime. Thursday after breakfast we relaxed and drove to Ellicott City. We walked down Main St, checking out the many shops and had lunch at Trolley Stop. Then we shopped at Trader Joes and Savage Mill closer to home. We prepared dinner and Kat, Billy and Lily came and Matt and Audrey followed soon after. We all enjoyed the baked chicken dinner and of course, 14-month-old, Lily was the center of attention.

When I was there, they had just recovered from a huge flood, and now this June 2018, there was another flood in Ellicott City.

Kat, Billy and Lily-the golden child!

Front: Matt, Audrey and me Back: Sally, Gary w/Lily and Kat

On Friday, we relaxed all morning until we went to Mission BBQ for Navy Day lunch with some friends. Back home we rested and worked on organizing old photos from Aunty Carol, Gary’s mom who passed away. After lunch, I drove to Severn to stay with Sharmaine, David, Collin and Addison. After dinner, we went to watch Addie play soccer and she is dynamite! Even the ref came over afterwards to say she was his favorite player of the game! The next day, Collin left for a boy scout camping trip. We had quiche for breakfast. I helped them clean closets and went to help sell Girl Scout cookies. We went to Casa Dela Nonna for Italian dinner.

David, Addison and Sharmaine live in Severn, MD

On Sunday, we had breakfast burritos and went to help sell GS cookies, but it was too rainy so we closed up shop after half an hour and Addie’s soccer game was cancelled. After cleaning Addie’s room, we had lunch and I left Severn to drive back to Vienna, VA to return Hudner’s car. We had cannelloni for dinner with Dennis’ Mom, who comes every Sunday for dinner.
Monday morning, I had to leave for the airport, so Dennis dropped me off and I got home after a layover in San Francisco.

Posted June 25, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe, USA

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Viking River Cruise April 2014   2 comments

 

Corner House hotel in Amsterdam

Corner House hotel in Amsterdam

Stroopwafels! Yummm!

Stroopwafels! Yummm!

Our ship, the Viking Jarl

Our ship, the Viking Jarl

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Roger with Karen & Kim (mom & daughter) from AZ

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This is our party group that danced every night in the lounge.

Dancing to Charlie's music after dinner

Dancing to Charlie’s music after dinner

Kinderdijk windmills

Kinderdijk windmills

Kinderdijk: Got Wooden Shoes?

Kinderdijk: Got Wooden Shoes?

Madonna by Michelangelo

Madonna by Michelangelo in Bruges

Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips at Schiphol Airport

Tulips at Schiphol Airport

 

ROGER AND LARI’S 2014 SPRING VACATION

Presenting the latest episode of

Hawaiians in Netherlands & Belgium

Viking River Cruise

April 20 to 29, 2014

We have been to Amsterdam a couple times before, but never in spring, so this year we booked a Viking River cruise, called Tulips & Windmills. It was a 10-day cruise from Amsterdam to Belgium and back.

We flew into Amsterdam and took the train from the airport to Central Station in the heart of the city, where we purchased 3-day passes for unlimited public transportation. Amsterdam has a great system of trains with trams for the city center. We stayed 2 nights at the small Corner House Hotel right on the tram line next to Dam Square, a very convenient location. On Saturday, we went to Winkel for apple cake next to Noorder Markt, where I shopped. Then we caught the tram to Heineken Experience. It was so much more than just a tour of the beer-making process and very entertaining. Of course, we drank beer! Cheers!

Jarl, our Viking riverboat, was docked far from the train station, where most riverboats dock, so we found a free shuttle to the Jarl. We settled right away in our cabin, which was very roomy and comfy. The first day, the ship stayed in Amsterdam and we had a walking tour of the red light district. The very first day, we met 2 couples from Canada, who were so much fun to hang out with. Every night, after dinner, we’d go up to the lounge with Donna, Jeff, Stewart and Brenda, where Charlie plays music and we’d sing and dance the night away.

The next morning, still in Amsterdam, we had a boat ride through the canals of the city and learned about the history, culture and architecture of the city. After lunch, we had a bus tour to Delft, where they make the special blue and white porcelain.

We toured the village of Hoorn, and had a Home Hosted visit to have tea, coffee and apple cake in a private home, arranged by Viking. After lunch, we walked over to a small herring shop, where they let us sample some pickled herring. After dinner, they had a clog demo. Clogs are made of poplar or willow, which repels water.

Next stop was Arnhem, where the Allies lost a battle to the Nazis. We toured the Paleis Het Loo the summer residence of the Royal House of Orange. After lunch, I walked back into the village with Shelby and we went to the top of the church tower and went shopping and to the Battle of Arnhem museum.

In Kinderdijk, our guide was Jack, who took us walking to see the windmills. We were lucky to watch them turn the windmill to face the wind, saw the guy at the first windmill hanging his laundry, then watched the guy at the second windmill put the canvas on the blades to catch the wind. We were able to walk into one, which is a museum for tourists to see how they lived in that small space. Even though there are modern and more technically advanced ways to move water, they maintain the old windmills so that this part of Dutch heritage is kept alive.

Antwerp, Belgium is a large port city. We went to the Cathedral of Our Lady to see three of Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings. We walked through the cobblestoned streets and saw the famous Brabo fountain statue in Grote Markt. “Antwerp” means “hand throwing” from the legend of the evil ogre that cut off sailors’ hands if unwilling to pay the toll to pass his bridge on the river. Brabo saved the town when he slew the ogre and cut off his hand and threw it into the river. Free time after lunch allowed us to meander the city streets on our own, to sample or buy Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolates and Belgian beer.

The next day, we arrived in Ghent, Belgium and rode in buses to Bruges, a beautiful old medieval city. We visited the famous Madonna by Michelangelo in Our Lady’s Church. Free time to buy more chocolates!

In Walcheren, we learned about the great flood of 1953 that broke through the dykes in the middle of the night with causing 1836 deaths and no communication. After the great flood, they built a museum to commemorate the flood and a massive storm surge barrier to protect the area.

The highlight of our trip was our visit to Keukenhof Gardens on the last day of the cruise. This 70-acre garden with winding streams, tranquil ponds and meandering paths, is a feast for your eyes! Over 7 million tulips and other flowers of every color are so dazzling and enchanting.

We made some wonderful friends on this cruise and we had such fun at dinner and after dinner in the lounge dancing and singing along to Charlie at the piano. The crew and staff on the Viking Jarl were very fun and made our cruise so enjoyable.

Posted September 1, 2014 by lariyasui in Europe

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Roger & Lari’s South Africa & Belgium Trip   3 comments

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ROGER AND LARI’S 2012 FALL VACATION

Presenting the latest episode of Roger and Lari’s Travels

“South Africa & Belgium”

September 6 to 28, 2012

It was a wonderful adventure to go on safari in South Africa! I hesitated booking a safari trip for years because of the high prices. Just the airfare alone, is costly. Early this year, my sister Christine, went to a silent auction at a fundraiser for a local hospital in Boulder, Colorado where she lives. She was able to purchase a 6-day safari package for two for $2,200 at Zulu Nyala Lodge in South Africa, which includes lodging, 3 meals a day, and two safaris per day. And she offered me the same deal, which is good anytime in 2012 or 2013. So I immediately said yes, and bought the certificate for the safari package. I decided to go this year, and she is going next year. We were gone for 3 weeks because we went to Cape Town on our own after the safari and then to Brussels for a week to visit family, who live near Brussels.

It took us 3 gruelling red eye flights to reach Durban S. Africa, where a shuttle picked us up to drive us to Zulu Nyala. Our lodge was beautiful with a swimming pool and large dining room and our room was lovely with a large bathroom and comfortable beds. They even had wifi so my iphone and ipad worked! Amazing! We were assigned to Chris for our driver guide who took us out each morning and each afternoon with 6 other people. 4 times, he drove into the mud and we had to push our vehicle out of the mud. On our last day the mud was so deep, and there were only 4 of us, so we could not push him out. Chris had to walk us out to a main road where another guide picked us up, and he waited for a tractor to rescue his vehicle. We saw rhino, impala, nyala, warthog, giraffe, zebra, cheetah, cape buffalo, vulture, and more. The daily routine was to have breakfast, go out for a morning drive, come back for lunch and rest, go out for afternoon drive, come back to relax and have dinner. Once, we went out for a night drive and once on an early morning drive before breakfast. The most exciting sight was watching a male cheetah feeding on his kill-a nyala. We were able to walk up as close as 6 feet away from him while he was eating.

Most of the guests were there through silent or live auctions, and everyone paid a different price depending on the highest bid at their respective auctions. In our group, there was one couple that paid less than us, ($1800) and everyone else paid more than us, the highest being $7000. Trevor Shaw is one of South Africa’s most reputable diamond dealers. A lover of African bush and wildlife, Trevor acquired a small private game lodge and reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, naming it Zulu Nyala. It started out as a place for his family and friends, then it was used for filming movies. Eventually, he started giving travel packages to Zulu Nyala as donations to help raise funds for charities in the United States, which bring many Americans to this beautiful country.

We had to pay extra to go to other reserves. Our reserve has 3 elephants, which we could see on a ridge from our swimming pool, but we could not see them up close. One day we went to a neighboring reserve, called Phinda Private Reserve, hoping to see lions and elephants. We went in their vehicle, which has a ranger/driver and a tracker who sits up front looking for animal tracks. Although we did not spot a single elephant, we saw a pride of lions twice. Once we saw them on the road, and when we stopped our vehicle, they walked right past us! Later, we saw them resting, so our ranger drove up close to them so we could all snap photos in awe.

On our last day, we went to Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park. We were lucky to see wild dogs, hyena, baboon, rhino, a dung beetle rolling a ball of dung, and finally, we saw elephants. Several of them crossed the road right in front of us, with their babies. We were satisfied after seeing the elephants. So we got to see 4 of the Big 5: Rhino, elephant, cape buffalo, and lion. We did not see leopard since it is nocturnal, although there was one on our reserve and some of our friends saw it.

We flew to Cape Town, located at the tip of South Africa. We hired a driver to take us on tours, since we did not feel comfortable driving on the left side. Our first tour was a beautiful drive down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We saw ostrich, penguins, had lunch at a seafood restaurant by the sea, toured one winery and went up Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town.  The next day we had a winery tour, and stopped at two wineries and had lunch at Moyo restaurant, where we sat up in a tree and had South African buffet. We stayed at a B&B in Sea Point, a lovely part of the city.

Then we flew to Brussels, and stayed for 2 days where we drank Belgian beer, ate Belgian waffles, decadent chocolates, had mussels in Brussels, and other delicious French food, such as frog legs, escargot and onion soup. Belgium is a unique country without a language of its own. They speak French in the western part of the country close to France and Dutch on the eastern part close to Netherlands. In Brussels, we visited the Royal Palace and Grand Place-the main town square with outstanding architecture. We visited the Atomium, which was built for the World Fair in 1958 and is still a popular attraction, just outside of Brussels. We rode the elevator to the top sphere, with views all around.

We drove to La Louviere and visited with Sharmaine, my cousin Brian Kimura’s daughter and her husband David and two children, Collin and Addison. David is in the Navy and works at SHAPE-Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The children are learning French at school. Sharmaine volunteers at a little shop that recycles household goods on the Army Base, called Grandma’s Attic, selling her crafts.  We spent the weekend with them. On Saturday, we went to SHAPE and the Army Base to shop for our omiyage. On Sunday, we drove to Liege, a city on the other side of Brussels to the famous Sunday Market, with vendors along the river for a mile, selling everything you can think of. On Monday, Sharmaine left her family for 2 days and went with us to Venlo, Netherlands to Floriade, a special exposition that is held every 10 years. Many countries have display tents/buildings and one large building has fabulous flower displays. We stayed overnight in Venlo and walked around the huge Floriade grounds for 2 days. They have entertainment, food, and many display buildings.

We had a wonderful trip!

Lari’s Top Favorites:

8         The delicious food in Belgium: beer, waffles, onion soup, frog legs and more

7         Brussels is a very easy city to get around in with lots of culture and history

6         Visiting with Sharmaine’s family in Belgium

5         Beautiful Cape Town and environs, especially Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

4         The pride of lions walking right next to our vehicle

3         The elephant sighting on the last day of our safari

2         I loved seeing the female cheetah with her 3 cubs up close

1         Safari experience: having to drive around the game reserves searching for different animals and watching the male cheetah eating his kill, a nyala.

Roger’s favorites:

At Zulu Nyala Safari we saw, from only 6 feet away, a cheetah grinding a nyala he downed . He was cool and never let us bother him, while he dined-such a pussy cat! We saw a mama cheetah and her 3 cubs. Was pretty tough because they took about 50 shots and never flinched-camera shots az why. After searching for 2 days, we finally saw about 2 dozen elephants crossing the road in front of us. Just like the rhino, when the big bull buggah looks at you, you get this creepy feeling and wonder why the driver doesn’t reverse and haul ass.

We saw warthogs, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, wild dogs, hyenas, impalas, hippos, baboons, monkeys, buffalos, vultures, eagles, cervals, and more. As for the animals, last, but not least, a pride of lions walked right by our vehicle as if they own the jungle. I could have reached out to pet them as they passed our vehicle, but the law says no feeding.

Cape Town is a beautiful city, and very clean and modern. We had a nice view of the city from Table Mountain, with a gondola which turns 360º as it goes up and down. It was the first spinning gondola I ever rode. Wine tasting was okay and lunch of African food up in a tree house was a farce. We ate in the tree house, but had to climb down to get our buffet lunch.

Brussels is a beautiful city with a lot of green parks, a palace, many churches, and old hotels. Their city square (Grand Place) is really a rectangle, but the nicest one I’ve seen.          The Belgian waffles are so crispy they broke your mouth. Coffee and beer are all 5 stars. Mussels in Brussels is true, but Uncle Bo’s clams are mo betah by far.  One negative thing about Belgium, is that you gotta pay 25 to 60 cents to use the facilities. For toilet services, South Africa is the best. In Belgium, the homes no mo water pipes outside for water the yard. The farm and garden irrigation comes from the sky – – get so much rain, it’s super green. Brussels is a typical European city with lots of beautiful architecture old buildings and a lot of statues.

Posted November 4, 2012 by lariyasui in Africa, Europe

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Lari’s Trip to Germany & Italy with Sisters   Leave a comment

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LARI’S 2011 SPRING VACATION

“GERMANY AND ITALY”

With my sisters, Karen and Chris

APRIL 26 TO MAY 11, 2011

My sister Christine, who lives in Boulder, CO invited me and my sister Karen to go to Spoleto, Italy to stay with her in her apartment that she owns with 3 other couples. So Karen and I used our miles and booked our flights to Rome. Karen also wanted us to go to Germany to see Mother Meera, a spiritual leader from India who lives in Germany, where hundreds go to be blessed by her. So we flew to Frankfurt, rented a car and stayed in a small guest house/hotel in Balduinstein, spending our days walking and relaxing and 3 evenings receiving Darshan from Mother Meera. We found a wonderful little restaurant Lahn Blick, owned by Jessica across the river from our guest house, where the food was delicious and cheap.

Then we flew back to Rome and took a train to Spoleto, a lovely hill town about an hour or two east of Rome in the hilly countryside of Umbria. Since we had no car, we walked everywhere, and since it’s a hill town, we walked up and down stairs and cobblestone streets. The old town has a castle on the top, a large duomo (cathedral) and the modern part of Spoleto outside the ancient city walls. Chris’s apartment was near the duomo and just a few steps away was the Mercato Piazza, a small plaza with an ancient Roman fountain, gelato shops, restaurants, salami/cheese shops and our favorite bar, Café Artiste. We hung out there every day because they had free wi -fi for my iphone and ipad. They serve coffee, tea, wine, beer, gelato and various light fare such as pizza. Salvatore, our waiter, and owner, Mauro became my friends. Every afternoon a bunch of men hang out and play Italian cards in foursomes. I would watch them play between checking my email and facebook. We also made friends with Elcinio, who owns a little produce shop in the piazza. He always gives us a little fruit to eat.

Chris’s place was very comfy, with a living-room, kitchen/dining-room, 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Chris cooked risotto with porcini mushrooms one night and another night cooked pasta. We got fresh salad greens from a truck farmer who came to our piazza every morning next to the roast pork truck. We walked down to the super market, Maxi Tigre, just outside the village walls and walked back up with our loads of wine, pasta, cheese, and fixings for dinner. Most nights we ate out, but many of the restaurants open late at 8 pm. So we’d go to Artiste for free pupus and wine or beer before dinner.

Cafe Artiste my hangout in Spoleto

Inside Spoleto Cathedral

We spent the days looking for different churches, museums and shops in town. One day we decided to hike up the mountain of Monteluco next to our village, and it took us two hours to get to the convent and hotel at the top. We walked through the little convent where St. Francis had a sanctuary and had lunch at Hotel Ferretti where the salad and pasta were very delicious! Then we hitched a ride back to Spoleto, because I refused to walk back down the steep trail.

Every Friday is market day in Spoleto. We were excited to see what would be sold there. So on Friday morning, we walked down to Garibaldi Piazza, and right outside the village wall was the market. It is sort of like our swap meet where vendors set up their tents. We found farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, underwear and socks, scarves, cookware, tableware, shoes, clothing and much more. One vendor had piles of clothes on a huge table for 2 pieces for 5 euro so I got 4 pieces (blouse, slacks, skirt, and sweater) for 10 euro! Another table had leather jackets for 10 euro so Karen and I each bought a leather jacket. Great deals! Good fun!

Mother’s Day, was my birthday and the monthly market came to Spoleto. On the second Sunday of each month, vendors come to set up their tents/tables right in Mercato Piazza, down the street to the next piazza. Most of the vendors sold antiques, but there was jewelry, spices, honey, truffles, and more. We had fun shopping again! That evening we walked down to a Church where they had a free choir concert. It was divine with the wonderful acoustics in the old Church. Then we went down the street to Chris’s favorite pizza shop, where her hubby Phil, who just drove in from Rome, met us for dinner.

Our last day was spent with Phil driving us to neighboring villages. We took a wrong turn and got lost on our way to Assisi where the magnificent St. Francis Basilica has 3 levels: two cathedrals, one on top of the other, and St. Francis’ tomb in the bottom level. We also went to the villages of Spello and Montefalco. The countryside drive was so beautiful with olive trees and vineyards as far as your eyes could see on the rolling hillsides.

Phil and Chris took us to the train station where they saw us off to Rome. We caught a flight to London, where we stayed overnight near Heathrow, before flying home the next day via Los Angeles.

Lari’s Top Seven:

7.  In Spoleto, no need stairmaster or treadmills, we just lived without a car and walked everywhere, and we could eat all the pasta and never gain weight

6. Ohh, the wine! We got the cheapest wine at the supermarket and house wine in a carafe at restaurants, and it always tasted so good!

5. Ancient Roman architecture still standing after thousands of years- the teatro, the arches, the cobblestones, the fountains, and more

4. The food! So ono! Love the fresh, non-processed food. Italian food is the best! We even had great pasta in Germany.

3. Not being on a tour, and spending time with my sisters

2. Experiencing darshan from Mother Meera

1. Hanging out at Artiste Café every day, like a local

Posted May 25, 2011 by lariyasui in Europe

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