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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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Roger & Lari’s 3 Winter Trips   Leave a comment

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Roger & Lari’s Three Winter Trips

We took a trip to Vancouver in November, to Durham in February and to Denver in March. All were off-season with cheap fares to visit friends and family. Roger says why go on so many “little” trips? Why not go on one “big” one? My idea is to rack up miles on cheap fares so we can use our miles on long and expensive trips, like going to Europe and Africa in September, our next “big” trip.

It was rather relaxing to travel this way… no big plans, no “must sees” or touring around. We just go to visit friends and family to hang out, so I didn’t have to do much research. And even Roger claims that it was relaxing for him, not having to drive long distances or visit museums, cathedrals or other touristy things.

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Autumn in Stanley Park

We’d been to Vancouver a few times before, and love the city. We stayed at Maple House B&B in Kitsilano, which was very conveniently located. We went to Encore! an improve theater show in Granville Island and to Science World, a fun museum. In Stanley Park, we enjoyed the fall colors and Vancouver Aquarium. We took the ferry to Victoria and enjoyed the Royal Museum and the Parliament, before driving north to Chemainus, a town filled with murals on many of their buildings. We ended up in Nanaimo, where we visited Bill & Diane and Bev & Jan, whom we had met on our Galapagos trip. Bev is the only one of the four who is not working, so she showed us around town and nearby sites.

In Durham, we stayed at Taki Scoville’s home. She has a huge collection of Japanese kimonos, dishes and artifacts. And her back yard has vegetable gardens, fruit trees and chickens. We visited Noaka’s school where he shared us and where I taught the hukilau hula to his classmates. Yvette took us to Nasher Art museum to see Alex Calder’s work, to NC Botanical Garden, to Duke Lemur Center, to the Durham Farmers’ Market and to the Roller Derby in Raleigh. We had so much fun hanging out with Noakai.

Then we drove to Laurel, Maryland to visit cousin Gary and Sally. They are both retired now, so we spent time just hanging out with them and got to see their daughter Kat& her hubby Billy.

After being home for a week, we flew off to Denver to visit my sister Christine in Boulder. We had to check out their new restaurant, Riffs, and it was divine. We ate there 3 times! Everything is delicious! Again, since we had no special plans or things to do we mostly hung out. We did check out the Boulder History Museum, shopped at thrift stores and went to Kirkland Museum in Denver. It was restaurant week in Denver and Boulder, so we got 2 three-course meals for $52.80.

We drove to Ft Collins to visit Tom&Tyke, whom we met on our Croatia tour. Again, we just hung out. But they did take us downtown for lunch and to the Art Museum to see Chihuly blown glass exhibit, which was exquisite. They also took us to Estes Park for an afternoon drive into the mountains.

Our last stop was to stay with Shirley Stokoe in Denver. We mostly stayed home and talked stories with her. We drove downtown one morning to meet Amy Ogawa for breakfast. She is a  pharmacist for Walgreens in Denver. On our last night, we had dinner at Shirley’s son Rick & Jeanne’s lovely home in Northglenn. Sarah and Robbie are both in high school and all grown up from when I last saw them.

Posted March 22, 2012 by lariyasui in Canada, USA

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Roger & Lari’s Chicago Trip   Leave a comment

ROG AND LARI’S CHICAGO TRIP

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ROG AND LARI’S CHICAGO TRIP

“Hawaiians in Chicago”

September 13 to 22, 2011

Once again cheap airfares prompted us to go somewhere… this time to return to Chicago after a 25-year absence. There is so much to see and do in the Windy City, that we couldn’t do it all in 9 days. We used the CTA trains and buses to get around while we were there and saved time and money getting around. The weather was nippy at 50’s and 60’s and mostly sunny with light showers for a couple days. We also got the City Pass, which includes 4 museums and Sears Tower at a huge discount.

I used VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and found a wonderful apartment in the very nice Lincoln Park neighborhood right next to De Paul University and Fullerton stop on the red line. The owner, Fran, was very helpful and suggested some great shows and restaurants in the neighborhood. We had a completely furnished apartment, like a B&B without the breakfast. Our ground floor apartment could sleep five and has a washer dryer, full kitchen, living room, dining room, study, and a full bath. We loved our home away from home, with wifi for my ipad and cable TV for Roger.

We enjoyed the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute.

Navy Pier was fun1 We rode the huge ferris wheel, took in a play and loved the free Stained Glass display.

With the City Pass, we could bypass the long lines, and our tickets included some extras like the

At the Sears Tower, now renameWillis Tower, at the 103rd floor, they have The Ledge, where you can go out into a glass enclosed deck looking down and around. We also went to Chicago History Museum, which tells about the Great Chicago Fire, and the resulting city plan after the fire. We did the architectural boat ride up the Chicago River where we could see all famous buildings.Imax movie at science/industry, the trained sea mammal show at the aquarium, and headphones at the art museum.

We went to Cellular Field to watch the White Sox play the Tigers and also to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs beat the Brewers. Wrigley Field was built in 1914 and only played day games until 1988 when lights were installed. What is unique about this ballpark is that the houses outside right and left field are taller than the field fence and they have bleachers on top of their houses.

We saw 3 plays. The first one at Shakespeare Theater in Navy Pier, called Murder by Two. One night, we had to rent a car to drive out to Aurora because I bought tickets to My Fair Lady, but didn’t realize that Paramount Theater in Aurora was so far from Chicago. We also loved Million Dollar Quartet, about Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all at the same place and singing their music. Great rock n roll on our 46th anniversary.

We visited Harpo Studios, Garfield Conservatory, Lincoln Park, Millenium Park with Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate sculpture nicknamed “The Bean”. We went on a boat ride on the Chicago River and saw all the wonderful architecture. We went to Navy Pier and rode the giant ferris wheel and enjoyed the free stained glass museum. We shopped at Trader Joe’s. We had deep dish pizza at Pequod’s, Italian at Mia Francesca and at Rose Angeli’s both near our apartment, and wonderful steaks at Select Cut also nearby. All in all, we had a great time in the Windy City, and highly recommend it to those who have never been there.

Roger’s Top:

9.          I had such delicious meat. A pork chop over an inch thick that you could shred with your fork and it almost melted in your mouth. Plus we had salad and dessert for only $6.50. On this trip, I had steak 3 times. All were excellent but the one at Rose Angeli’s was one pound, dry aged, and just broke the mouth for only $18.00. I’d go back to Chicago just to eat! (Like Japan, Paris, New Orleans and London-NOT!)

8.         Chicago has great museums. Interesting and all, but for me, too big and my mind already has so much knowledge accumulated that I could not take in too much more.

7.         My Fair Lady. You know, “the rain in Spain”. Excellent play in Aurora, 50 miles outside of Chicago and no train, so we had to rent a car.

6.         Museum of Science and Industry. From anatomy to xdqoartuztomy (whatever) for us kids and intelligent adults. Interesting to see how things work. My best museum.

5.         Shedd Aquarium was neat and I liked it better than the museums cuz everything was alive and moving.

4.         Wrigley Field built in 1914 and the Chicago Cubs. They win less than the White Sox but they won. It’s an old field but very comfortable and easy access to all facilities.

3.         White Sox baseball. They don’t win so much, but we saw them winning. They were ahead 5-2 over Detroit Tigers. In the top of the 9th, we figured no sweat, so we left only to find out that they lost in the 10th inning 6-5. What a bummer. At least we never watch them lose.

2.         The CTA bus rides. Why? No need walk.

1.         By far, the L (elevated train) rides. Why? No need walk.

Lari’s Top:

10.  2 baseball games… especially the historic Wrigley Field

9.  All the museums… terrific!

8. The Bean and other public art around the city

7.  Our comfy apartment, so convenient

6.  The convenient CTA system of the L train and bus system.

5.  Theater plays… we saw 3…

4.  The delicious meals we enjoyed mostly right in our neighborhood

3.  The friendly and helpful people who work at CTA and the general public

2.  The Architectural boat ride

1.  The Stained Glass Museum in Navy Pier

Posted September 30, 2011 by lariyasui in USA

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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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Roger & Lari’s Galapagos Trip   Leave a comment

ROGER AND LARI’S 2010 WINTER VACATION

“Galapagos Islands, Equador”

Starring US, OF COURSE

Dec 1 to 14, 2010

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Nancy Eastlund, of Sun Tours Hawaii in Aiea, invited us to join her group on this Celebrity Xpedition cruise package. She went in 2008 and reserved several cabins for 2010. So we decided to go on this adventure to Equador to see the islands that fascinated Charles Darwin. We used our AA miles to get there, so we saved a bundle on airfare. The 10-day Celebrity package includes 2 nights at the JW Marriott in Quito, Equador before the 7-day cruise and one hotel night after the cruise. It took us 2 days to get there and another 2 days to get home, for total of 14 days.

The flights were a killer… we had to fly through Miami to get to Equador on 4 flights  w/3 layovers to get to Quito and 3 flights/2 layovers to come home. Quito, Equador is a UNESCO world heritage city. It is high on an Andes plateau, at 9,000 ft altitude. Quito has a population of 1.1 million and they were celebrating their annual Founder’s Day. All over town, we saw many colorful Chivas, open-air buses with bands playing music on the top and filled with families celebrating the holiday. The heart of the city is the Plaza Independencia with a huge cathedral built in the 1500s.

Celebrity flew us from Quito to the Galapagos on a chartered flight and as soon as we landed on Baltra, buses took us to the ship just minutes away from the small airport. We were greeted by sea lions sunning on the dock w/more barking under the dock. Because the ship holds only 90 passengers, it was intimate and informal. We checked into our comfortable cabin, which would be “home” for a week while cruising among the islands. We headed directly to the dining room for a wonderful buffet lunch and back to our cabin to unpack before going to muster stations with our life jackets. We had our very first tour that afternoon. We were enchanted by all the wildlife we saw on our first day: sea lions, iguanas, frigates mating with their bright red chests ballooning out, and more.

Blue footed booby

Our daily routine: we had one tour in the morning and another in the afternoon and for each tour you get to choose either a long walk or a short walk. We would board the zodiacs called pangas in groups of 16 with a naturalist who explained the flora and fauna on each tour. Every time we returned to the ship, there was beer and wine and snacks waiting for us followed by lunch or dinner after cocktails. We always had time for a 2-hr nap after lunch before the afternoon tour. All meals, drinks, transfers, snorkel gear, tips and tours were included in this all-inclusive deluxe package. We were spoiled!

Red-shirted Baldie and sea lion

The Galapagos islands were formed by shield volcanoes just like the Hawaiian islands. Active volcanoes are located in the northwestern islands. The Galapagos has 2 seasons: the dry season from June to December and the wet season from January to May. The islands are located on the equator, but because they get the cold Humboldt current from the south pole, the weather is cool and comfortable in the dry season. The waters are quite cold, so Celebrity supplies wet suits for snorkelers.

Chicken skin moments when we all shut up and were in total awe: On Floreana Island on Tuesday, we were disappointed that the salt marsh had no flamingos. But on Wednesday, on Bacha beach, Santa Cruz Island, we spotted 6 flamingos flying and when we reached the pond, we were happy to watch them feeding. On Thursday, we were on our way back to the ship on our zodiac when a large group of dolphins swam next to us. It was so amazing to be so close to the beautiful creatures. Then on Friday, we were at Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island, and were lucky to see 6 more flamingos feeding in the pond. On Saturday, buses took us up to the highlands of Santa Cruz above the town of Puerta Ayora, where we walked through open fields and saw, close-up, many tortoises. They are such peaceful, ancient creatures.

Most lunches on the ship were buffets down in the dining room or hamburgers and crepes up on the 4th deck. But on Thursday, we had a huge BBQ buffet lunch out on Deck 4. Unbelievable… all you can eat grilled lobster, huge shrimp, beef, pork, chicken, fish, salmon, salad bar, and dessert bar. They also served lobster 3 times for dinner. As I said, we were spoiled indeed.

The entertainment was very casual. They had one professional musician on board who played keyboard and piano at various times of day and evenings. The naturalists are very talented, and they performed salsa music for us to dance to. We also had a talent show night on Thursday and karaoke night on Friday. It turned out that I was the only passenger that participated in the talent show with my hula performance… the rest were the crew who played music, sang and danced.  Karaoke night was fun with many people singing.

This truly was an adventure of a lifetime. We don’t see ourselves going back there, but the Galapagos is not to be missed.

Roger’s Top Ten:

10.         We used our AA miles to fly to and from Equador and flew 1st class on our flights home from Quito. We usually fly economy/coach… no class… so this was a big hit!  Big, wide, soft recliners where the food tray sits flat and not inclined due to my six-pac (more like keg) abs.

9.         The cruise ship Celebrity Xpedition holds only 90 passengers. Everything was first class and everything was inclusive… food, beer, wine, bottled water, hard liquor, tips, etc. etc. Our bill was ZERO at the end of the cruise, but we did give extra tips to our favorite staff. The ship’s crew made me feel like a king!

8.         I went snorkeling 3 times and swam with or saw oodles of different kinds of fish (visions of pulehu, sashimi, baked or fried), manta rays, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, sand sharks, but no eels. Never thought I would snorkel anyplace better than Hanauma Bay. I felt like Jacque Cousteau.

7.         The inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands were extremely friendly. Marine iguanas, sea lions, turtles, land iguanas (which were bigger and more colorful than the marine variety) would be lying all over the place and you had to literally step over or walk around them. Same with the birds.. they were so tame, they almost posed for photos. Pelicans would land on our zodiacs and sea lions would just plop on and off.

6.         The only mean vicious creatures were some biting flies on one of the islands. They bit right through my shirt… making me very itchy with small welts like mosquito bites.

5.         Tortoises don’t really like us, because they hiss and retreat into their shells when we went close to them. Long time since I found an animal that I could race with and win.

4.         Thanks to Darwin, we got to visit and see all these animals. Blue-footed boobies, red chested frigates, whose chest expands like a big red balloon when trying to find a mate. Blue herons, pelicans, mocking birds, ground finches, tree finches, oyster catchers, yellow warblers, flamingos and so much more, which I don’t know the names of, and I cannot spell anyway.

3.         All in all, plenty walking but by far, one of my most memorable vacations. A guy we met said to go to South Africa for real wild animals and no need to walk since you can’t outrun those animals, and besides, they’ll eat you. So go on a safari and ride vehicles for protection. That’s all folks…

2.          P. S. (porgot something) –This trip is highly recommended. ***** (5 stars)

1.          P.P. S.S. Did you know Lari can dance the hula? She did the hula for a passenger talent show and had everybody in awe. She’s a bigger fake than me!

Lari’s Top Five:

5. Making new friends on the cruise

4. The delicious food and drinks on the Xpedition

3. The knowledge and friendliness of our naturalist guides

2. Seeing such a wide variety of wildlife

1. Being so close to the wildlife (but cannot touch them

Posted December 20, 2010 by lariyasui in South America

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