Tag Archives: vacation
Last week Marci and I were finally able to take a week off and go on vacation, something we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years. Last summer we were stuck in a local hotel most of the summer (with people who were vacationing here) and I had a bout with Bells Palsy. All that to say that last summer wasn’t so great for us, vacation-wise. So we made sure to plan at least a week this summer to do something fun.
As we were considering options for our vacation week, we got the crazy idea of visiting our good friends Gary and Georgia Bell who moved to Belize (Central America) earlier this year. I checked on flights and the airfare wasn’t too bad so we decided to throw caution to the wind and just go. We had no idea what we would find in Belize (other than the Bell’s) since we had never been there before, but it sounded like an adventure.
And it was. We booked a first night hotel room on a Belize island called Caye Caulker. The island is small, reachable only by water taxi, and there are no cars on the island–only bikes and golf carts. We stayed at a nice little hotel and enjoyed the island atmosphere. We even went snorkeling with stingrays and sharks swimming all around us.
After a couple of nights on Caye Caulker, we headed to a place called Placencia which we heard had the best beaches in Belize. We took the water taxi back to Belize City, rented a car (a real clunker as it turned out) and drove about six hours to a wonderful hotel called The Inn at Roberts Grove. We stayed there for three days and just took that time to relax. We didn’t do any sightseeing at all but just stayed put and enjoyed the beach. This being the off season for tourism, we literally had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic.
After our time in Placencia, we drove our sputtering rental car to San Ignacio, an major inland city in Belize close to the Guatemalan border. Our friends the Bell’s were gracious hosts. We loved staying with them even though we found the heat and humidity somewhat suffocating. They have a very nice home by Belizean standards but it was not air conditioned. Thank God for fans.
Gary Bell has been a dear friend of mine for many many years. As a high school student, he attended a Campus Life Club that I led back in the 1960’s. Ten or fifteen years later, his graphic design firm was hired by Youth Specialties. When I started Understanding Your Teenager in the early 90’s, Gary did all of my graphic design work. He’s a talented guy and a committed Christian.
For several years, Gary has served on the board of a mission organization called Sparrows Gate and in January, he and his wife Georgia moved to Belize to work with children. They opened a children’s center in downtown San Ignacio called “Kid’s Corner” which offers homework help, tutoring and lots of fun activities for kids who need a place to hang out after school. They are also helping Sparrows Gate set up a mission home base for short term missionaries who come to serve in Belize. After visiting with them and seeing what they are doing first-hand, we are even more impressed with the work they are doing and amazed by the sacrifice they have made to pursue this call of God on their lives.
San Ignacio is also a wonderful place for tourists to visit, so the Bell’s gave us a tour of the area. We visited Mayan ruins (archaeological sites) and an Iguana preserve. We ate in some very nice restaurants and truly enjoyed spending time with our wonderful friends.
Sometimes when you plan a vacation like this one, there’s no way to predict how things are going to go. “The best laid plans …” and all that. But this trip definitely lived up to our expectations. As they like to say down there, Belize is unbelizable.
If you would like to see more photos of our trip, click here.
We flew home from London on Saturday night and I’ve been a bit jet lagged and real busy trying to get caught up. We had a great time indulging ourselves on the cruise and the bathroom scale proves it. I gained 10 pounds which isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Back to the low carb diet for me!
I posted about 200 random photos (of the more than 800 I took) on the web. Just click here to see them. I may add a few more and some captions soon so that you can figure out what you’re looking at. When you take pictures of scenery, it’s hard to tell Amsterdam from Copenhagen after you get home.
Yesterday we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark and spent most of the day exploring the city which has some very interesting sights to see. There are lots of tourists, shops and crowded streets. We took a little tour this morning and our guide pointed out some huge churches, mentioned that the Lutheran Church is the official state church and further commented “You might assume that Denmark is a very religious country with a state church and so many churches all over the city but that’s not the case. We are not a religious country. The only religion that is on the increase here is Islam. In fact there is quite a controversy right now regarding a mosque that is going to be built in Copenhagen.”
It truly is sad to go into some of these huge, very ornate church buildings in Copenhagen and see that they have just become tourist attractions and restaurants. I sometimes wonder if the same thing is going to happen in the U.S. if we fail to pass our faith on to our children and grandchildren.
But Copenhagen is a beautiful city and again, there just isn’t time to see it all even though we’ve had two days here have been to most of the tourist attractions (palaces, castles, cathedrals, downtown areas and even the Tivoli Gardens theme park which was Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disneyland.) We’ve taken lots of pictures and when I get home I’ll post a few more here on the web.
We are finished visiting ports (we stopped in seven altogether-Amsterdam, Helskinki, Stockholm, Warnemunde, St. Petersburg, Tallin and Copenhagen) and now we cruise tonight and tomorrow back to England (Harwich) and fly home Saturday from London. We’ve seen a lot of incredible sights and we’ve had a great time with Mary and Gary and their friends who are now our friends. It’s going to be hard to return to normal life without all the good food and people to wait on us hand and foot but I guess that’s what vacations are for. We are amazed and grateful that we actually got to have a real one this year.
The last few days have been incredible. Saturday and Sunday we visited St. Petersburg, the former capitol of Russia. It’s a fascinating city with a lot of history which I discovered I don’t really know much about. The city is beautiful with canals all through the city, much like Amsterdam and Venice. We took a little canal cruise on a longboat to see some of the sights and take a lot of pictures.
The highlight of this trip happened yesterday (Sunday) with our visit to the Hermitage Museum, which is located in one of the many palaces built here by the Russian czars. Like the Louvre in Paris, it is home to some of the world’s greatest art treasures. Ever since Henri Nouwen told us about his pilgrimage to the Hermitage to study and meditate upon Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son,” I’ve always wanted to see it myself but never dreamed I ever would. But there it was, just hanging on the wall of the gallery. It was stunning in its beauty and because it has been somewhat iconic for me over the years, it was a spiritually moving experience to see it so close, so big. I wondered what it must have been like for Henri to sit there in that room and gaze upon it for several days in a row and let it speak to him.
We only had a short time in the museum and we had to return to the ship on time so we had to scurry through several other galleries (the Hermitage is HUGE) which had Picassos, Monets, Renoirs, Cezannes, even works by Leonardo da Vinci hanging on the wall and we had to just zip past them without even taking a look. Somehow this experience reminded me of much of my life. Just too busy to stop and enjoy all the beauty all around me. Still, I’m grateful I got to enjoy what I did.
We left St. Petersburg last evening and arrived in Tallin, Estonia this morning (Monday). I don’t think we had even heard of this place until we were invited to come on this cruise but we walked all over its cobblestone streets today. There are probably lots of beautiful places like this we haven’t heard of.
While we did get some rain in St. Petersburg, the weather has been good and the seas have been flat and calm so far although I think that’s changing right now as I write. We’re now on our way to Copenhagen, Denmark and I can feel the ship moving a little more than usual. I may need to take a little Dramamine tonight just in case.
Along with the incredible sights, we’ve been doing some world-class eating and drinking on this trip. We had an amazing meal last night with the group we are traveling with (my sister Mary, her husband Gary and some of their friends) at the best restaurant on the ship. Gary and his friend Robert are wine experts and brought some nice bottles to share. We are definitely going to come back from this trip a few pounds heavier.
I haven’t posted more because the internet access is expensive on board the ship, but hopefully this will keep you updated on where we are and how we’re doing. We’ve been concerned about the hot weather and the fires back home, especially since they are so close to Mary and Gary’s home in La Canada. But we pray every day for our family and friends and hope all of you are doing well.
Just got back from a fascinating tour of Helsinki, Finland and some of the surrounding countryside. I’ve learned quite a bit about these Nordic countries that I didn’t know before. I’ve always heard of Finland (like during the Winter Olympics) but otherwise, haven’t paid much attention to it. Despite their long and cold winters, the people here seem to be very proud of their country and wouldn’t live anywhere else.
We also visited Sweden a couple days ago (Stockholm) and enjoyed our short stay there. We had some vodka in an ice bar (everything inside is made of ice, including the glasses you drink from) which was very cool (pun intended). Stockholm is a very picturesque city, especially the old part of town with its cobblestone streets and such.
These have been whirlwind tours so far, only a day in each city. We’ve been typical tourists on this trip, riding on tour buses and walking around town clicking away on our cameras and following guides with their number signs held up so we won’t get lost. We probably look pretty silly (like tourists back home) but I’m sure we are important to their economy so they seem to treat us nice.
Speaking of economy, everything is very expensive. The dollar is not strong compared to the euro and other foreign currency, so we’re unable to contribute much to the local economies over here. Just taking pictures and enjoying the sights.
The weather has been nice so far-no rain and temperatures in the 60′s and low 70′s. From what we heard, the last cruise had awful weather (very rainy) so we’ve been lucky.
We’re continuing to enjoy this trip very much which has been a gift to us in more ways than one. There are times when I don’t feel that we belong here (most of the people who “cruise” are people with a lot of money and expensive tastes) but we’re making the most of it-pretending that we fit right in.
Tonight we travel to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m looking forward to our visit to the Hermitage Museum where Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal” is on display. I have a print hanging in my office at home so it will be amazing to see the real thing.
Marci and I left Harwich, England on Saturday on the cruise ship Constellation and woke up Sunday in Amsterdam, Holland. We did a walking tour of the city under clear blue skies and also a boat right through the many canals which run throughout the city (much like Venice in Italy). City highlights included the Anne Frank house, Rembrandt’s home, the Heineken brewery and the famous red light district. The “coffee shops” in Amsterdam are actually marijuana dealers (legal here).
Yesterday was a day at sea (very relaxing) and this morning we arrived in Warnemunde, Germany, a popular resort town in the north of Germany on the Baltic Sea. We did a some sightseeing and learned a lot about this part of the world which was once part of the old East Germany (GDR) before the Berlin Wall came down. Warnemunde has a nice beach and the weather was warm so there were a lot of people sunbathing-in the nude. They let it all hang out here (literally.).
We also visited Rostock, a historic German village on the Warnow River. The beautiful cathedral in the center of town is-like many in Europe-nothing more than a tourist attraction now. It seems sad to me that the churches who once occupied these buildings somehow lost their vitality and failed to pass their faith on to future generations. Churches in the U.S. are not immune to this.
We’re been having a lot of laughs with Gary and Mary and their friends who also came on this trip. We are relaxing, eating too much and generally being overindulged. Next stop, Stockholm, Sweden.
Tomorrow Marci and I fly to London for a cruise to northern Europe with my sister Mary and her husband Gary. We’ll be visiting places like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, St. Petersburg. Just unbelievable. We never thought we’d ever get to do something like this but we have been blessed by a loving family. I’ll try to post some pictures and fun stuff if I have access to the internet while we’re on the trip.