Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 3

We had 2 days of sleeping in and enjoyed all the activities on board the ship as we sailed along the river admiring the beautiful scenery.  We even took part in the power walking class on the sky deck.    Our next stop was a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum with its fabulous collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso to bring a little culture to our trip.

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Then on to our next stop and the highlight of our trip the Keukenhof gardens, also known as the Garden of Europe.  There are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that fill over 32 hectares with colour and fragrance. These gardens are only open for a total of 8 weeks during the year.

We ended our trip with a canal cruise in the wonderful city of Amsterdam.  Our experience with Avalon Waterways was amazing and we would definitely recommend it to everybody wanting to see Europe.  Can’t wait to cruise again!

If you are interested in a river cruise of your own or have any questions about the experience, you can reach Joanne by calling 306-934-3400 or emailing joanne@uniglobevacation.com.

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Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 2

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We boarded our Avalon river cruise which was docked just 5 minutes from the Mövenpick hotel. We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility which can accommodate 130 passengers.  We walked into our panoramic suite and were amazed by the floor to ceiling, wall to wall French balcony.  What a great way to watch the scenery go by.  After a leisurely lunch we took an optional excursion to Zaanse Schans where we saw windmills, cheese making and watched a wooden clog making demonstration.  Then back to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.

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Amazing food onboard the Avalon Tranquility

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Clog Making

Our highlight the next day was our tour to the bulb farm where we saw tulips growing inside and outside.  We learnt all about the lifecycle of the tulip and just what it takes to grow the world’s most beautiful flowers in land reclaimed from the sea.  We also saw an amazing hyacinths field in full bloom.

We loved experiencing the Dutch culture as we wandered around the towns on guided walking tours which were included in our cruise.  It was such a beautiful day in Kampen that we decided to take in the true dutch culture in the local square by sitting on a patio people watching and having a few beverages.

Windmill

Stay tuned for more from our sailing onboard the Avalon Tranquility.

Check out our Instagram for more photos from Annette & Joanne’s trip as well as pictures from all of our team’s travels.

Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 1

We flew with Westjet from Saskatoon to Calgary then KLM to Amsterdam.  Both flights were uneventful which is something we all want when we fly.  It was our first time on KLM and it is a very good airline.  The direct flight was nice.

Appies from club lounge at movenpick Amsterdam hotel

Perks of the Executive lounge at Mövenpick Hotel

Upon arrival in Amsterdam we decided to take a cab from the airport to the Mövenpick hotel.   The cab ride was $80.00 Euro.  That was a very interesting experience! They drive very fast and in and out of traffic but we made it to the hotel in one piece.  The Movenpick hotel was a very nice hotel and it included breakfast.   It was very handy as it was right next to the cruise ship terminal.   We walked from the Movenpick hotel to the city centre it was about a 20 minute walk.

We spent our first day in Amsterdam wondering around the streets on our own taking in the Dutch lifestyle.  We stopped  at a local pub and had a local cider,  then wondered around  the different shops and stumbled upon the red light district.  We stopped for supper at a place that had a hot dog in a pizza bun and a waffle coated in chocolate.  All was very interesting.  Thankfully we brought our heavier coats as it is chilly as you walk around especially at night.

Tomorrow we’re on to our next adventure the Avalon cruise – Tulips of Northern Holland.

 

 

 

ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 3

October 11, 2018 – Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, Russia

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Petropavlovsk is a fairly architecturally uninteresting place with streets lined with grim, Soviet inspired apartment blocks.  However, it does have a magnificent setting on Avacha bay and is overlooked by two giant volcanoes and surrounded by a long line of snow-capped mountains.

A visa is required by Russia for Canadians visiting the country.  The easiest way for us to accomplish this was by booking one of the ship’s tours which then included the visa.  Frankly, I was not expecting much from this remote Russian town that can only be accessed by plane or by ship.  Being quite isolated, I expected that we would see a bunch of worn out, rusty old Lada automobiles driving around gravel streets.  On the contrary, there are a lot of Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans.  The reason we were told, was that they were a lot more reliable and easier to get than Russian made autos.  The funny thing was that while they drive on the right side of the road, the majority of vehicles also have the steering wheel on the right side of the cars.

Our first stop was Trinity Cathedral, Petropavlovsk’s largest and most impressive church. Despite looking ancient, the church was built in the early 21st century.  From here there are great views of the bay.

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From the church we proceeded to the Crimean War Memorial.  This memorial and small chapel commemorates the lives lost in the Battle of Petropavlovsk, a little-remembered clash between the British, French and Russian forces during the Crimean War.

The drive up to Mishennaya Hill was an easy ascent and provided excellent views of town and Avacha Bay.

On to the Museum of the USSR.  We had been warned not to expect much from this museum where most everything has been donated by the local population.  As such, we were not disappointed.  Lot’s of old stuff but still interesting to see things we grew up with, but Russian made or dare I say, copied.

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Our final stop was at their town market.  Was I ever surprised!  Again, I expected an outdoor market with a few things but this was a very modern indoor market with many shops selling every kind of ware.  Since Petropavlovsk is essentially a fishing town (although the Russians have a nuclear submarine base there which we were not privy to see), I was interested to see the fish market.  An unbelievable assortment of fish but a huge amount of salmon, their main catch.  There were containers and containers of salmon roe (caviar) from several salmon species.  The picture below was only a very, very small sampling of the local caviar offerings.

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Back on the ship, I just had to take a picture of the Customs Officers checking everyone’s documentation leaving and returning to the ship.

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That’s it for this blog…next stop Japan after a couple more days at sea.  Thanks for reading along.

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 8

So our tour of Spain has come to an end and we have had an incredible trip. Spain is quite inexpensive compared to other European countries. Where else can you get a beer for 1.60EUR and Sangria for 3.20EUR. Our suppers were running around 20-25EUR depending on the menu and tipping one or two euros was met with smiles and gracias.

Here are a few tips for your trip to Spain:

  • In the larger cities, always take the Metro. It is inexpensive and a quick and way to cover a lot of ground. If you are not sure how to use the Metro just stop by the office and I can give you a quick lesson.
  • Always buy your tours in advance. The lineup for tickets to the Royal Palace was 1 hour long in 37 degree heat so having your tickets and skipping that line is a no brainer.
  • Arrive in your destination the day before your first tour so you can get the lay of the land and find your tour office or pickup location before the tour.
  • Learn a few words in Spanish as they really appreciate the effort and English is not Blog 8 - travel essentialscommon in the smaller towns.
  • Use the local transportation. In Spain the bus is very efficient and very affordable. We took a bus ride from Lugo to Sarria which is 30 minutes for 2.10EUR. Trains and busses will get you where you want to go and take you to the heart of the city.
  • In the smaller communities credit card is not always accepted so you will need cash. ATMs can be found in the smallest of cities.
  • Stop and spend time at the many outdoor cafes. They are happy to have you even if you are only having drinks
  • last but not least; our two best purchases were a small shampoo bar from the Lush store which was easy to carry and no worries it will spill and a charger for the phones for Spain. We stopped in at the Ale-Hop which is like a Knick knack store and bought on for 5.00EUR so we could charge 2 phones at one time. No converter needed.

If Spain is not on your bucket list it should be. The history along with so many different regions make this destination a must to visit. City to sea it is all there waiting for you in Spain.

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Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 7

Madrid CathedralWe left Santiago de Compostela by high speed train and arrived in Madrid 5 hours later. We are staying in an apartment by the Atocha train station and what is known as museum row. It is really hot. We arrived at 1:00 and it was already 32 degrees and went to 37 that day. It is much too hot to walk so we have to take the Metro most places to limit our time in the sun. A 3 day metro pass is 18.00EUR and we have put it to good use. Madrid is a beautiful city made up of some of the world’s best art museums, beautiful buildings, 400 fountains and home of Real Madrid for all the soccer fans. If you have time a tour of the stadium is really something even if soccer is not your thing. It is massive and seats 85,000 people with area for standing room fans. We also did a tour of the Royal palace which is really great. In most of the big cities we have visited we’ve ran into a walking tour that is free and you just tip what you think the tour is worth. It’s a great value for a 3 hour tour.   If you have time, a trip to one of the cities rooftop terraces will give you a great view of the city complete with drinks and water misters to help combat the heat.  A couple of nights we headed out after dark to see Madrid at night. All of the buildings and fountains are lit up giving you a different view of the city.  This is a city that we would gladly visit again.

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Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 6

Well today was our last day on the Camino Monument 2 - Blog 6and we walked about 5 hours to get to Santiago. The trail became very crowded and there were a lot of groups all heading into the city.  The mood became festive with singing and cheering. Everyone seemed eager to get to the end.  And then suddenly you could see the city and we stopped at the pilgrim monument just before the city to take it all in. We arrived at the square in front of the church and it was great to watch the people.  Some had walked 800km and were on the trail for over 30 days.  As for me, I am glad to finish our 113km but also a little sad to say goodbye to the people in our group. We are a group of 13 people that have bonded over the journey. You get the opportunity to walk and talk with everyone. We were usually out about 8 hours a day so there was plenty of time to get to know everyone. We took our pictures and then head back to the hotel for a shower.  Now we will do what all pilgrims do. We will get our Compostela (ours will be written in Latin), go to the pilgrims mass at the cathedral (this mass is all in Spanish), hug the statue of St James, buy our Camino trinkets have one last supper with the gang and then off to bed.  One more thing on our bucket list has been accomplished!

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If you are interested in experiencing the Camino de Santiago for yourself I would strongly recommend working with G Adventures.  Our agents would love to help you with all of your travel arrangements.

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