Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Tag

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


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


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



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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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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