23 Aug 2019

Bruges, Belgium 2019

Guest Blogger - Allyn Shulman

Bruges is a magical city that will mesmerize you and leave you wanting more. Its history and architectural footprint is so rich that it is a UNESCO World Heritage City.  



Bruges is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings.

It has maintained its historic fabric with Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance buildings, even as it has evolved over the centuries. 

Tucked in the Southern most corner of Bruges is one of the most romantic places in the world, The Lake of Love where today we find swans instead of merchant ships navigating these waters.




The Church of Our Lady dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 379’ is the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.  Inside the church is a famous white marble sculpture of Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, made in 1504.




The Market Square  (Markt) was the scene of mediëval festivals, fairs, tournaments, uprisings and executions. Today, the square serves as a meeting place for the locals with 3-4 million yearly visitors. The most striking building is the Belfry, a medieval bell tower with 47 melodious bells.  It leans quite a bit but our guide assured us that it’s not a problem.




In the Market is the beer museum and brewery. Belgium has more than 250 active breweries, the most famous being De Halve Maan which has a beer pipeline that runs from the brewing hall in the center of Bruges through a tube of 3276 meters to the bottling plant outside the city, The beer is wonderful, as are the moules and frites!! The story about beer is so interesting.  In ancient times, the local hospital was on the water and dumped everything in the water polluting it beyond use.  Therefore, the locals made very weak beer which everyone drank all day long!!





Bruges is often called "the Venice of the North", referring to the numerous canals and bridges on the river "Reie where only 20 boats are permitted on the canal at once.




The Flemish Primitaves (Groeninge Museum) has paintings from the 14th, 15th and early-16th Centuries. World-renowned works of Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling, and other prominent Flemish Masters can be admired there.



21 Aug 2019

London - Victoria and Albert Museum 2019

We had a day in London and spent it at The Victoria and Albert Museum.
It is still awesome to see Buckingham Palace even if it was just on the way. What a beautiful day we had today.
The V&A is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design. It is the so vast, interesting, fun, and eclectic. 
The very first thing you see when you walk in is a magnificent huge piece from Dale Chihuly that is 27 feet high and 12 feet at its widest. 
This is what they wore for an evening out in the mid 1700s.
The museum is so huge it has the actual real rooms from various places taken down and rebuilt insde the museum. This is a music room from a castle.
The have all kinds of miniature things. One of my favorites was the snuff boxes.
A large section is dedicated to real items used in theater such as the horse, and so many outfits used during performances from personalities such as  Fred Astaire, Elton John and Bjorn Ulvaeus (ABBA).
We saw Charlie Chaplan's real cane and Cinderella's ugly stepsister's outfits. Then there was Vivien Leigh's Oscar for Best Actress.
Queen Victoria's diamond and sapphire coronet was quite nice.
They have an entire room devoted to cameras.
There are so many full life reproductions of famous sculpture that you don't even need to leave London to see and learn about them.
Imagine a young Mozart playing a harpsichord like this one.
I could keep going on because they have over 2,270,000 items. You get the point.

20 Aug 2019

Oslo, Norway 2019

Being sick is the pits. It is nice to be back up and around. It makes one appreciate health even more.
We spent most of the time walking around Oslo's beautifully revitalized waterfront. It seemed like the entire city was out today.They have such a variety of street food vendors which really jazzes things up.
We had the best salmon ever at a place called The Salmon - sushi, salad, appetizers, grilled ... It was so good that both of our friends with us who are major fish restauranteurs (Chart House Waikiki and The Original Fish Company in Los Alamitos) are arranging for recipes, sourcing and whatever restaurants do with each other. And these folks search worldwide for the very best product.
Best sashimi ever.
They had a great film on the Norwegian salmon industry. Since 70% of the world is covered with water and only 3% of the food supply it makes lots of sense to devote significant resources in this area.
Allyn even bought a salmon skin purse there. I hope she doesn't accidentally eat it.
Last time I visited Oslo, their Resistance Museum left such an impact that I just had to return with Allyn. It is fascinating to see the chronicling of German occupation impacting an entire country and the steps folks would go to to try to help the cause.
It is absolutely chilling to see how close the Nazis came to winning.

19 Aug 2019

Haugesund, Norway 2019

Guest Blogger - Allyn Shulman
Today was exhilarating!!
It’s caviar Sunday on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. Usually this means waking up leisurely for champagne, caviar and other yummy treats on this gorgeous ship.  However, eight adventurous souls woke up about 7:00 AM to venture out in the morning chill in Haugesund, Norway for an early RIB tour knowing full well that we would get soaked! 
A RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) is a lightweight, high-performance and high-capacity unsinkable small boat designed to speed upon the sea but small enough to get in places unreachable by a big boat.  I immediately befriended Robin, sitting next to me. We promised to save one another’s life if need be.
The freezing water splashing all over, the flowers growing on rocks, the lighthouse built in 1892, and the Island only accessible by boat, were only a few of the delights that added to our excitement!
The cold crisp water of the Norwegian fjords provides perfect conditions for fish farming. That combined with strict Norwegian aquaculture law makes for a safer fish environment all the way around. This salmon farm is only filled to 10% capacity leaving plenty of room for the fish to swim.  Salmon is exported from Norway to 140 countries.
After our RIB adventure, I was happy to learn it was Haugesund Harbor Day, a yearly tradition since 1990 with a focus on the local traditions of the Haugesund harbor.
This kind gentleman, Thor Jansen, gave me a lovely handmade keychain.
In the stalls on the quayside, participating exhibitors displayed their wares including local food (best waffles in the world!), local crafts, knot tying lessons and unusual fish displays. The boats along the harbor were all decorated making this another fabulous travel day.
The girls wore their feline attire tonight to commence birthday celebrations for Yana. (Note from Barry: I have no clue what the correlation is, but they had a blast.)

18 Aug 2019

Flam, Norway 2019

We woke up in Flam with a cloud strip right in front of us when we opened the curtains.
The town itself is quite cute.
The highlight was a 50 minute ride on the train for 12.6 miles rising almost 3,000 feet. The low land farms and panoramas were so lovely.
The closeup waterfalls were the best. Can you see see the troll lady half way up on the right of the waterfall?
 Allyn snagged a shot of her again on the way back down - this time in the woods.
Even the view from dinner as we left was wonderful.