Tuesday, December 24, 2002

December 24, 2002 - Wellington, New Zealand

Merry Christmas!!  We are having an extremely lazy morning here in Wellington.  All the Christmas shopping is done (1 present each) so it should be a very stress-free day.  The biggest challenge will be scouting out a good restaurant to have dinner tonight.  We are staying in a lovely apartment-hotel right in the centre of Wellington and will be here until the 26th when we begin the last leg of our journey up to Auckland.

Our time with Johnny and Carolyn couldn't have been better.  They showed us a fantastic time and it was a real pleasure to see them again after a couple years.  On our last weekend they took us to a place called Hanmer Springs which is a lovely little mountain town a couple hundred kilometers from Christchurch.  They organized a beautiful house with stunning views of the town and mountains and only a short walk from the hot spring pools where we enjoyed a good soaking in the afternoon.  We had the most chilled out night sitting in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace with some great wines, cheeses and music.  Johnny and I learned that it is actually possible to have an enjoyable night together without getting absolutely blind.  But for old times sake, we got the big guns out for our last night in Christchurch which resulted in a magnificent hangover the next morning.  I was happy to wave Johnny bye-bye one last time as he trotted off to work with bloodshot eyes and this alcohol vapour seeping out of him which gave him the appearance of being surrounded by a force field.  He called me from work to report that the staff in the office had taken up a collection to go buy him some breath freshening gum.  Mission accomplished!


Tuesday, December 17, 2002

December 17, 2002 - Christchurch, New Zealand

I was born to be a biker, of this I am now sure.  Our Harley ride was spectacular and to make the experience complete, day two was a complete washout and we looked like eels after spending a full ten hours on the bike through torrential rainstorms.  Luckily, we made it back safely and had pure sunshine on our last morning's ride into Christchurch, which was a stunning ride through Allan's Pass which had some incredible views.  We did a total of about 1200 kilometers which isn't too bad considering it was very slow going on many of the mountain roads.  One of the most scenic things was the proliferation of gorgeous yellow and purple wildflowers in the fields around the mountains.  Now all we need to do is settle down somewhere so I can get myself a bike!

We are nearing the end of our visit here in Christchurch.  We leave here on Thursday and will be heading up to Nelson for a few days then we'll take the ferry to the north island and spend Christmas in Wellington.  After that we only have a few days to get back up to Auckland for New Years and the next leg of our journey... to Chile!


Tuesday, December 10, 2002

December 10, 2002 - Christchurch, New Zealand

It's been a busy time in New Zealand!  We arrived in Auckland about a week ago to gorgeous weather and decided to bus north to a town called Paihia which is on the coast of the Bay of Islands, an idyllic island paradise off the northernmost part of the north island.  We took a 24 hour tour on this unbelievable houseboat called "The Rock" and packed in a lot of activity including fishing, snorkeling, diving for mussels, sea kayaking, hiking, billiards, dolphin watching, and even some relaxing on the beach!  I also did a half day fishing excursion (Ana passed on this) and caught a pile of red snapper which we ate for dinner that night.  We returned to Auckland and then flew to Christchurch where Johnny Eyre-Walker was there to meet us with a smile and three cold beers.  It was great to see him again!  We moved into his and his girlfriend Carolyn's house then settled in for a night of hangover construction.  I made sure to arrive on a weeknight so I could wave Johnny bye bye as he left the next morning for work - revenge is sweet!

It was Carolyn's 30th birthday last Saturday so they had a big barbeque party at their place where we met a lot of their friends and family.  We got a little rained out, but that didn't stop anything - it was a great party.

We are now getting ready for our tour of the South Island and have reserved a Harley Davidson Softail Classic for two days beginning tomorrow!  I am so excited I can hardly contain myself as I've never ridden a Harley before.  I think we are going to ride to Queenstown then back up the west coast and over to Christchurch, as it's meant to be a spectacular drive.   We will return on Friday then are planning a weekend away with Carolyn and Johnny, destination unknown.  Next week we'll likely hang around for a few days then make our way northwards and find a nice place to spend Christmas.  We'll be missing you all but at the same time enjoying the weather!


Monday, November 25, 2002

Nov 25, 2002 - Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

Today is Ana's birthday!  And we are celebrating by getting on a bus at 7:00 and traveling to Brisbane where we will go out for a nice birthday dinner and spend the night.  Tomorrow we will continue to Byron Bay where we will spend a night or two before making the final stretch to Sydney.

Our trip to Queensland has been magnificent!  We'd say that the six days sailing in the Whitsundays was definitely the highlight of our stay in Queensland.  It felt great to be back on the water enjoying the salt, sun and surf.  The only disappointment was the diving which was unremarkable, but we weren't too worried about that.  We put together a page on our sailing trip with plenty of pictures.  I was wishing that the boys from the Lost Shaker could have been with us on the trip as it would have been a great reunion!  After such a great time, Ana and I have decided that we definitely need to own another sailboat in the future!

Last night we returned from a three day tour of Fraser Island, which is the largest sand island in the world with some amazing natural features.  There are no real roads on the island so the only way to get through the sand is with a good 4WD vehicle.  It is quite a feeling doing 80 kph down a beach with the surf crashing in!  One of the most amazing things we did was a hike across a huge "sandblow" which was just like being in the middle of a desert.  The hike ended in a beautiful clean freshwater lake that was great for swimming.  Now that I think about it, I better put together a little feature page on Fraser Island.

We are getting very close to the end of our time in Australia.  It has been an extremely easy place to travel through due to the highly developed (and competitive) tourist industry.  By the same token it makes it much more difficult to get off the beaten path and explore on your own, which is what we like doing.  Oh well, we are going to get plenty of that in South America so we're just enjoying the easy traveling while we have it!

The next update may be from New Zealand....


Monday, November 11, 2002

November 11, 2002 - Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia

It's already been a week on the east coast and the time is passing much too quickly.  Ana and I arrived in Airlie Beach this evening after a 12 hour bus ride from Cairns which was surprisingly relaxing and comfortable.  Tomorrow we embark on a six day and night sailing trip around the Whitsunday islands on the Solway Lass - a 127 ft Tall Ship!  We are hoping that this will be one of the big highlights of our trip.  The ship was built in The Netherlands in 1902 and has been through two world wars, four name changes, innumerable countries, and has served as a cargo vessel, ice breaker, war ship, coal transport, floating restaurant, and now a fully restored tourist sailing vessel (check out www.soxsail.com.au).  Our plans after that are to visit Fraser Island on a multi day trip then work our way toward Sydney in time for our Nov. 30 departure to New Zealand.

We had quite a nice time in the Cairns area.  We found Cairns to be a very busy tourist town, but quite a fun place to be.  The first hostel we stayed in was called Castaways and seemed okay until we found that our bed was infested with bed bugs which were biting us as we were sitting on the bed.  Unfortunately, the office was closed by that time and there was no staff around so we had no choice but to strip the bed and clean it the best we could then put our own sleep sheets on it.  We still got a few bites during the night but not too bad.  The next day we found another place called Dreamtime Traveler's Rest which turned out to be a real gem with great staff.  From there we took a lovely two day tour to their sister hostel called On The Wallaby which was located near a rainforest.  We went on some interesting walks in the forest as well as biking, swimming, and even canoeing where we saw three platypussies (not sure of the grammar on that one, but that's the most humorous word I can think of for the plural of "platypus").  Strange little creatures, sort of half duck half muskrat but impossible to differentiate between the head and the ass end.

One thing that has surprised on the east coast is the tourism saturation.  It is certainly one of the more commercialized areas we've ever been to.  In fact, there's so many backpackers around that it's sometimes tough to find an Australian!  The average age of backpackers here is also much younger than it was in South Africa, likely because this is such an obvious place for a first time traveler to visit, and I think that any 20 year old would find the party of their life here!  The other day we saw a t-shirt in a shop window that said, "The Liver is Evil and Must Be Punished!".  Made me think of my time in the Bahamas...

We were lucky enough to meet up with our friend Pavin, who is from Saskatchewan but is currently in school in the States.  We spent an afternoon together in Cairns enjoying the sun and some cold beers before seeing him off to the airport for his flight back home.  Too bad he wasn't staying overnight then we could have punished our livers more thoroughly.  Actually, I'm going through a little dry therapy at the moment after the ten days I spent boozing with Jamie in Western Australia which I enjoyed thoroughly and am still enjoying every time I look in the mirror and see those little spare tires peeking over my swimsuit.

Next update after the big sailing trip!


Thursday, October 31, 2002

October 31, 2002 - Busselton, Australia


Yes, we made it to stop number two on our round the world wine tour. We have been in Western Australia touring around with our friends Karen Barlow and her boyfriend Jamie and they have been showing us an absolutely splendid time!

We wrapped up our South Africa trip with a few day in Johannesburg with our friends Trudy and Philippe. They were the perfect hosts! We spent more than a couple hours enjoying their mind blowing home entertainment system and vast collection of DVDs which was a great break after all the driving around. We also enjoyed some great meals together and really had a nice visit. It was the best ending to a wonderful time in South Africa.

We arrived in Perth about a week ago and were met at the airport by Karen and Jamie, who had both taken time off work to spend a long weekend with us cruising around Western Australia. It was so nice to see Karen again and also to met Jamie, who is a super guy. We spent the first night in Fremantle, which is a coastal town near Perth, and sampled all the local beers we could find. The next days we drove to a small town called Denmark which is on the south coast and spent for two nights. We saw some great things around there including a magnificent canopy walk through the "Valley of the Giants" which is a forest of huge karri and tingle trees. We also saw our first kangaroos! Ana tried her best to catch one and ride it but it was just too fast for her. We visited some lovely wineries and sampled many varieties of delicious wine.  Unfortunately, the price of wine here is astronomical compared to South Africa, likely three times the price!  But I'm glad to report that hasn't stopped us from consuming vast quantities...

The last few days we've been hanging around Karen and Jamie's place in Busselton, keeping ourselves busy with squid fishing, crabbing, and drinking beer.  Poor Karen has been working all week but Jamie managed to ditch work and is spending his hours showing us around, lucky Olsons!!!  This morning Jamie and I were up at 5:30, same as yesterday, fishing for squid off the incredible 2 km long jetty.  We caught four including two biggies so have amassed enough squid for a big feast tonight.  In a couple hours we are traveling to Karen's parent's place which is near Bunbury.  The plan is to try and catch some marron (lobster-like shellfish, indigenous to western Australia) this afternoon then join Karen's parents for a big barbeque tonight, which they have kindly invited us to.

We extended our stay here to include this weekend (Karen's off work, yeah!) so we plan to do some interesting day trips and probably drink some more wine.  Jamie introduced me to Emu Bitter so we'll likely drink a few more crates of that as well.  It's good to be on vacation!

We will be leaving from Perth on Monday for Sydney, then catching a flight to Cairns to hit the beaches and diving!  We are planning on meeting our friends Pavdaddy and Jayesh somewhere along the east coast...meeting point as yet unknown but that is sure to be a blast.

That's it for now, next update from the east coast!!


(almost forgot, Happy Halloween!!!!!!)

Thursday, October 10, 2002

October 10, 2002 - N2 Highway on the way to Drakensburg Mountains

We apologize for the lack of communication in the last week.  We've been busy making our way up the east cost of S. Africa.  It's been fantastic and we've seen so much...it feels like we've been here for months.  After we left Hermanus we made our way into an area in the mountains called Outdsdoorn.  It is Ostrich capital of the world.  There are more there than anywhere.  They grow them for their meat and their feathers.  We went on a great tour of an ostrich farm and I even got to ride one.  I'm sure will show you the hilarious video at some point. 

The area is also known for its caves.  There is a huge cave system in the mountains there called the Cango Caves.  We went on a tour into the caves called the adventure tour.  I must not be very adventurous because it was hard work.  We firstly went into 3 large caverns, all with their own unique names and stories.  Then the more we walked the smaller and smaller the caves and their entrances got.  The last tunnel we had to climb through a chimney like formation.  If you weighed 10 lbs more then I do you'd have a hard time make it up.  Then the last one you had to lay on your stomach and pull yourself through and then go head first out of another hole.  It was an interesting experience, not for the timid or claustrophobic.   

Our next stop was a beautiful place, aptly named Wilderness. This is where our friends Trudy and Philippe have built a gorgeous home overlooking a cliff and the Indian Ocean. The village is also home to a lagoon so it has plenty of places to go canoeing and hiking. We mostly stayed around the house and tried to help out a bit with a plumbing problem that soaked their entire main floor. They showed us such a splendid time there from the champagne sunsets to the fantastic meals out at the local restaurants.  From Wilderness we also made a trip on the local steam train to a place called Knysna.  t has a beautiful harbour area and we went on a tour of the Knysna Oyster Co. For a whole $1.00 we went on a little tour and did some oyster tasting. 

As we continued our way up the coast, things are getting less and less developed and more and more African. The next area we went to was called the "Wild Coast" or also known as the Transkei. The Transkei use to be its own  country, but in the last 10 years they have become part of S. Africa.  Not soon enough as the locals have stripped every tree in sight, so the initial drive was a bit of a bore. The trees were replaced by these interesting little green and brown clay huts. These belong to the local Xhosa people.  This tribe dominates the area and we spend some time getting to know a bit about their culture.  We stayed on the coast in a teeny little town called Coffee Bay. The hostel was owned by a couple who have turned this very primitive place into a paradise. There are hammocks and a bar, a walk to the beach and lots of place to hide and read a good book.  They even have yoga!!!  In the evenings they have traditional drum lessons and they have the local kids come and sing and dance their traditional music. 

Perhaps the nicest part of our trip so far was on a Town Tour we went on. Silas our Xhosa guide took up to his house to meet his family and told us about his tribe. We walked to their sacred pools were they baptize people and make sacrifices to their ancestors.  Lastly he took us to the local bar.  It was quite dark as there was only one candle, (no electricity in the village).  Inside there was a few ladies and 3 men smoking and enjoying a brew as they sat on some beer crates.  Silas bought us some local beer made from corn and the music came on and all the ladies got up to dance.  It was like a regular nightclub except that the women were wrapped in blankets and some didn't have shoes. One even had a beautiful baby wrapped on her back. So we danced, and drank and laughed. It was amazing. 

So today we left our new friends, to find a few new ones in the mountains. Hope to hear from you all soon.  Happy Birthday Mom!!!


Sunday, September 29, 2002

Sept. 29, 2002 - Betty's Bay, South Africa

We have so much to tell and so little time to write about it.  We have had an absolutely fabulous few days touring around the southern Cape.  We got our car on Friday and decided that we would visit the west coast, north of Capetown.  Few people actually visit that area, as it is not as scenic as the Garden Route along the south side.  We took off and ended up in the West Cape Nature reserve.  It is the end of wildflower season so there are piles of purple, pink and yellow flowers everywhere.  As we got in the reserve, we stopped at the Tea Room and had a great Earl Grey and watched a slew of yellow birds in their hanging tree nests.  As we continued into the reserve,  we came upon a turtle crossing the road, springboks (sort of like a big antelope), a wildebeest

 and a herd of zebra, how exciting!  But our best animal of the day was a Puff Adder snake we saw at the side of the road.  We stopped and took some photos (not too close!), but didn't realize at the time how venomous this snake really is.  We'll stay far away from African snakes in the future, don't want to risk a bite.   So a great trip and our first experience with the African flora and fauna. 

We said good bye on Saturday to our friends at the Big Blue Hostel in Capetown and began the next leg of our trip which will take us through the Cape peninsula, then over to the Garden Route, where we will meet with Kris' friend Trudy and her partner Philippe this coming weekend.  We spent much of the first day on the most beautiful mountain roads ever!!  The view of lush green mountains with wild flowers on one side and the blue and white sea crashing on the cliffs on the other, was just spectacular.  We drove all the way to the bottom of Africa to another reserve called the Cape of Good Hope Reserve.  In the reserve we came across a little pack of baboons.  They were really cute!!  On the way there, were were also fortunate enough to see a whale in one of the bays.  So we made our way to Betty's Bay and stayed the night.  In the morning we planned to get on the road and make our way to the great white shark diving capital of the world, Hermanus, but we met a fantastic couple in the coffee shop.  Michael and Cheryl are South African and offered to show us a little of the coast.  They are from Capetown, but have a beautiful summer home in Betty's Bay.  We spent a great afternoon with them seeing a little more of Betty's old whaling town.  We love South Africans!!!  So we have now arrived in Hermanus.  Our $15.00 USD per night room at the local hostel is nicer than most hotels we've been in and they have a pool, a TV rooms and a bar about 7 steps from our bedroom,  Kris is in heaven!!  To top off an already fantastic day we spend the last 2 hours watching 6 whales frolicking in the bay.  It doesn't get much better than this.  So we are off now to finish the day with a $0.60 beer and a $3.00 steak.  More soon....


Thursday, September 26, 2002

Sept 26, 2002 - London and Capetown, South Africa

We are exactly one week into our trip and everything has been GREAT!

Upon arriving in London, we went immediately to pick up our round the world tickets at the travel agency.  That done, we went to meet Toddy and he gave us the keys to his place so we could have a short nap during the afternoon.  It was a beautiful three hours nap, at least enough to power us up for the night.  We went to a local pub with Toddy and his flatmates TJ and Simon and Simon's girlfriend Angela.  We had a nice meal and a chat and drank about four pints of Stella then went back to the ranch.  The next morning I woke up with a stinking, filthy headache the size of a small continent.  It was the kind of headache that wakes you up at seven in the morning then hurts so bad you can't get back to sleep.  Aaaaaggggh!!  Needless to say that ruined our plans to get going early and meet our friend John Murray out at Windsor.  I should know that I just can't take the beers like I used to.

That evening we joined Toddy and his flatmates at a backyard barbeque which was being held by one of the guys on their cricket team.  It was a good party, but got even better when one of the boys got out the snuff and started handing it around.  In the true spirit of adventure, both Ana and I lined up a bit on the back of our finger and snorted it back.  Yowwwwww...what a wasabi blast!!!  If we were getting drowsy at that point in the party, we were certainly awake after that stuff!  The party ended up with us spending about an hour and a half in Catford trying to find a bus/taxi/mini-cab - anything to get back to the Docklands.  We finally got one to stop, but he told us we couldn't all fit into a single cab, so Toddy volunteered to go back to the party, that's the spirit!

Next day we did actually make it up early and were off to meet up with Heinrich and his wife Davina for Sunday lunch.  They took us out to a lovely country pub where we stuffed ourselves with traditional English grub then took the scenic route back to their place for a cup of tea.  Before long we were at the airport and on the plane looking forward to the twelve hour journey to Capetown, and the last few hours of Sept 22, 2002 - the first anniversary of our marriage!

We arrived the next morning to a beautifully clear and sunny day in Capetown!  The first sight of Table Mountain was just as fabulous as I was expecting.  After arrival, we found some hostel information and jumped on the "Backpacker Bus" to a great hostel near the Waterfront called The Big Blue.  We spent our first day taking a big walk through the Seapoint and Waterfront areas.  We went to bed early that night, since we didn't sleep much on the flight, and work up the next morning, 12 hours later.  And for some reason, the combination of the bad airplane seat, followed up with 12 hours in bed was enough to give me a horrible back ache, so I spent most of the day hobbling around Capetown's city centre like an old man.  It is slowly starting to feel better, but I think it will be with me for a while yet.  Despite this small problem, we spent the last few days exploring Capetown and making plans for the rest of our time here.  We did a wine region tour yesterday which included stops at four wineries and five wine "samples" which were actually about half a glass each, at each of them.  After 20 of those beauties, the facade of a cultural/educational event was completely shattered and all the participants were well and truly smashed.  Today we took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, which was definitely worthwhile.

We have decided to rent a car and start slowly making our way up to Johannesburg.  We get the car tomorrow and are going to do a day trip up the west coast then the next day we'll leave Capetown for a small town east of here called Hermanus.  Should be lots of fun!


Thursday, September 19, 2002

Sept 19, 2002 - Ready for the Ultimate Wine Tasting Tour

Well we are only hours away from embarking on the trip of a lifetime.  We have talked for years about the BIG trip, but finally the time is right and we have been lucky to have jobs which allow us to save for such an adventure.  This didn't start off as being the "Ultimate Wine Tasting Tour" but a few nights ago we realized that we are going to some of the best wine producing countries in the world, so why not!  Now if I can only keep Kris into the wine and out of the beer.  Who knows, he may even add a wine review to the website. 

We plan on seeing many friends on the way so we are really looking forward to catching up, and also keeping the folk at home updated on our travels. So off we go......more from London.


Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Sept 10, 2002 - Saskatoon, Brantford, and the Big Trip

It is the end of the Canadian summer and the temperature outside today is 32 degrees Celsius, yow!!  We are coming to the end of the longest vacation I have had in Canada for many years.  We spent three weeks in Saskatoon with the Olson crew and are now at the end of our second week here in Brantford.  Though we have kept ourselves quite busy, it has not been at the usual chaotic pace of our trips home so we have had a very relaxing and enjoyable time.  I updated the page for the Olson Family Reunion with a few pictures as well as updating the Ontario page with a few new pics, have a look at those.

And how about the Big Trip?  Here's the itinerary we'll be starting with, though there's likely to be changes as we go along:

Sept 19 : Depart Toronto for London, England

Sept 22 : Depart London for Capetown, South Africa

Oct 23 : Depart Johannesburg for Perth, Australia

Nov 1 : Depart Perth for Sydney

Nov 30 : Depart Sydney for Auckland, New Zealand

Jan 1 : Depart Auckland for Santiago, Chile

April 1 : Depart Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for London, England

April 3 : Depart London for Toronto, Canada

We are obviously giddy with excitement to be embarking on such a long trip to such diverse locations!  We are lucky enough to have friends in many of these places so we'll be having some great visits with long lost buddies!

There will be plenty of journal updates in the coming months so stay tuned..


Thursday, July 25, 2002

July 25, 2002 - The Hague, Portugal, Leaving Europe

It is our last 15 minutes in the office and I have time to do a quick update on our very envious situation.  We have decided not to renew our contracts and instead go on a round the world backpacking trip!!  To start things off right, we are leaving for Portugal early tomorrow morning to spend four days vacationing then we will be returning to The Hague to catch our flight back to Toronto then onwards to the big Olson reunion.  But, as usual, we both have that happy/sad feeling of leaving our friends and familiar surroundings and moving on to something new.  We can say that we took advantage of our short time in Europe and explored a great number of interesting places and met some special people.

Time up!  Many more updates to follow as we begin our big journey.....


Monday, July 1, 2002

July 1, 2002 - Budapest, Kazakhstan

Happy Canada Day to all you Canucks out there!!!

Ana and I are on the last day of our long weekend trip in Budapest, Hungary on the way back from Kazakhstan.  Ana was working there for almost a month, and me almost three weeks so we are happy to have a few days off before returning to the Hague.

The time in Kazakhstan was actually quite pleasant.  We had a few nice meals out in the town but most of the time we hung around the office and hotel complex.  One Sunday we did take off a half day to visit two of the museums in town (Atyrau) which were very interesting.  We also went for some nice walks along the banks of the Ural river which runs through the city to the Caspian Sea.  One of the key things the Caspian Sea is known for is the sturgeon which produce the world's best caviar.  I actually managed to find the fish store so I picked up a few tins of it before we left.  I believe we'll be having a little caviar party tonight in The Hague with James and Carmen so we'll finally get a chance to sample some of the stuff.  To purchase it outside of the region is extremely expensive (up to $400/can) so I suspect we will not make caviar eating a habit!

Back to the present.  Budapest has been a lovely city to visit.  We arrived on Friday afternoon, relaxed for a couple hours, then went out to the opera!  The Danube Symphony Orchestra was playing with four opera singers, who rotated through various snippets of famous operas and it was absolutely splendid!  The voices of those singers have to be heard live to be believed.

We spend much of the rest of the time exploring the city on foot.  There are hundreds of beautiful buildings and interesting monuments to see.  The Danube river flows through the city and on Sunday afternoon we went to a boat cafe on the river to watch the Germany/Brazil final of the World Cup.  We were happy to see Brazil win, but the only problem was that we had drawn Germany as one of our teams at the sweepstakes we had at the office so a German win would have pocketed us 150 euros!!  Oh well.

Our trip to Canada is approaching very fast, in fact we only have around three weeks left of work before we leave!  We'll be happy to catch up with all of you again!

See you soon,


Sunday, June 2, 2002

June 2, 2002 - Paris and Barcelona

Another Sunday night...we are absolutely exhausted after a very busy few weeks.  Our visitors have now come and gone, but left us with some wonderful memories and stories!  Grandma and Grandpa Gustafson were here with Lynn visiting for a week and we all went away for a weekend to Paris which was very nice.  The rest of the time they spent exploring various locations around the Netherlands and the Hague.  They walked some pretty serious kilometers while they were here and seemed to enjoy the exercise.

Curt and Carrie arrived just after the first guests left so we off again on a weekend trip - this time to Barcelona, Spain.  We all got a good dose of sunshine and Spanish culture including some nice seafood meals and a long, long session at a great tapas bar which we nearly cleared out.  Toddy joined us for that one as well so we had a nice chance to catch up.

I'm afraid the eyes are getting droopy...so this will have to be a short one for now!


Sunday, May 5, 2002

May 5, 2002 - Scheveningen, Canada's East Coast, England, Norway

It is a windy and rainy Sunday in Scheveningen.  Our friend Carmen Demelo arrived last week to work on our project!  So we had a big movie night here at our place last night and Carmen stayed over.  We just finished a big breakfast and are planning on spending the day doing lots of nothing.

We had a trip back to Canada during Easter which was great.  We spent half the time in Brantford and the other half on a vacation through the east coast of Canada where we finally got to see the provinces of New BrunswickPrince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.   We flew first to Moncton then picked up a rental car and started driving.  Since we were there before the beginning of the tourist season, things were very quiet, including the bed and breakfasts we stayed at - often we were the only ones there.

Since returning, we have been quite busy at work, but have also had some weekends away.  We caught up with Steve, Abby, Mike, and Toddy on a recent trip to Cambridge in England.  It was a very tranquilo weekend and a great chance to catch up with some good friends we haven't seen for a while.  I also had the pleasure of a ride in Stevie's sports car!

Last weekend we did a KLM "click and go" to Bergen, Norway!  The weather was not superb, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.  I bought myself a brand new Norwegian sweater to replace the one which seems to have found a new home with my brother...

Ana and I are looking forward to a very busy month.  Grandma, Grandpa, and Lynn arrive next Sunday, which also happens to be my 30th birthday!  They will be staying with us here until May 23rd when they depart for Sweden to visit our cousins Birgit and Stig.  On May 24th, Curtis and Carrie arrive and will be here with us for a week.  We are taking them on a "surprise" weekend trip....destination unknown to them, but which is sure to be a blast!  Unfortunately Ana and I have to work during the week but I'm sure our visitors will enjoy exploring the Netherlands on their own while we are slaving away!

Of course, the next big event coming up will be the Olson Family Reunion this summer!  We are counting the days...

Take care,


Friday, March 22, 2002

March 22, 2002 - Brussels, Belgium and Atyrau, Bautino, Kazakhstan

Hello everyone,

Can you believe it is almost Easter??? Things here in The Hague have been great. We have been busy traveling and working and are looking forward to our upcoming trip to Canada.

In the last 2 weekends we have been to Brussels, Belgium and Atyrau, Kazakhstan. Both places on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

We hadn't planned to go to Brussels, but a we thought why not. Brussels is a 2 hour trip on train, from where we live, so it was a easy place to get to. Well.... we loved it!! It is a very typical European city with lots of little cobblestone streets and restaurants and cafes for miles and miles. They also have a very impressive square with gold covered buildings and a most impressive city hall.  We enjoyed a great evening out with our friends James and Lisa and kids Cassandra and Ainsley.  We especially liked a great jazz bar we found which featured a live band and a good crowd.  Chocolate, waffles and beer were the staples of the weekend.  We plan to return to Belgium soon to explore Bruges.

Well now Kazakhstan....it was quite an experience.  We went there on a business trip as our company's other office is located there.  From there they support the rigs that are drilling for oil in the Caspian Sea.  So we left Friday and spent most of the day traveling to Atyrau (where the main office is).  Saturday morning we had to travel to another town called Bautino where the materials base is.   So another 1 hour plane ride and 2 hour drive got us to Bautino. The drive was extremely dull as the place looks like a lunar landscape - no trees and everything covered in dust. Apparently nothing grows because of the salt content in the earth but we suspect that all the nuclear testing the Russians did in Kazakhstan doesn't help either.

The hotel room we had was fantastic...with a kitchen and VCR and even movies. It was a busy trip but ended up being a better a place then we had anticipated.

So that is the latest.  We are now gearing up for a hard work week and then our Easter trip to Canada.  The plan is to spend the first 4 days with my mom and dad and then leave for Moncton for an east coast Canada holiday.

I hope everyone has a great Easter....and we'll write more soon.


Wednesday, March 6, 2002

March 6, 2002 - Athens, Greece

It's been a while since I've contributed to the journal so I suppose this better be a good one.  As Kris has said we are well settled into The Hague.  We are really enjoying our apartment, even though we seem to spend very little time here.  One of our goals for this year is to see Europe and we have already accomplished a little of that goal.  Our friend Nancy from work has got us hooked onto this "last minute" area on the KLM Airlines site called "Click and Go".  So every Thursday at 1:00 pm they publish cheap flights for going away that coming weekend.  So at promptly 1:01 pm Kris and I logged on and Athens, Greece was at the top of the list.  To be quite honest, we had never really thought about going to Greece.  There are many other spots on out list, but it was cheap and available....so off to Athens we went.

We really didn't know much about Greece, but after a little surfing on the web we found there were plenty  of things to see in Athens, such as historic monuments and the old city.  So we arrived late on Friday night, took a bus to the city centre then got ripped off by a taxi driver before reaching the hotel and checking in for a good night sleep.

The morning brought sun and warm weather, which we have been craving since our departure from the Caribbean.  So we spent the morning climbing Acropolis, which was beautiful, but as expected full of tourists.  We also went to the Temple of Zeus and saw from a distance Attica.  By that point we had reach our threshold of touristy spots so we headed to Plaka (the Old Town) for lunch.  We found a cozy spot and proceeded to get our suntan/burns back as we ate.  We spent the rest of the afternoon moving from outdoor cafe to outdoor cafe contemplating how to spend the rest of the weekend.

We both agreed that we would enjoy seeing more than just the city, so we thought we would inquire about a boat tour or country tour.  Much to our delight there was a boat tour the following day which stopped at 3 of the Greek islands.  So we spent our Sunday in Poros, Hydra and Aegina.  They were all quite beautiful, although Hydra was the nicest.  On board we met a couple from Lisbon, Portugal and I had some nice conversations with them, as Kris tried to fill in the blanks with his broken Portuguese (which is improving dramatically, I must say).  Soon the cruise was over and we came to the quick realization that work was only hours away.  But we loved it and now are considering doing this "Click and Go" thing more often.  The weeks are flying by and we are enjoying every moment.  Even the work is challenging and rewarding....10 hour days don't even bother us anymore.

So I guess that is all the news for now.  We'll update you on our future travels to Atyrau, Kazakhstan in a week and our Easter trip to the Borges Residence and the east coast of Canada.  

Much love,


Sunday, February 17, 2002

February 17, 2002 - The Hague and Apeldorn, Netherlands

Greetings to all from Den Haag!

We are settled into our apartment which is a two bedroom unit with a beautiful view overlooking Scheveningen beach.  In fact, the view is quite similar to the view from our apartment in Puerto Rico.  The only difference being that the temperature is about 20 degrees lower...

It is great to be living in Europe.  We took a trip to Paris last weekend, which was a very easy 3.5 hour train ride from here.  Saw a few of the tourist spots such as Arc du Triumph, Notre Dame, La Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.  We also did some shopping, much to Ana's delight.

The weekend before that we met our Danish friends Martin, Marianne, and their little boy Benjamin in a Dutch town called Apeldorn.  They were visiting their friends Roy and Anka, who are absolutely wonderful people.  They invited us to stay with them so we all had a very nice weekend together.  I was surprised to find that another Danish friend named Lars was visiting as well and I hadn't seen him for a long time.  Roy and Anka have a beautiful home and treated us just like family so we really enjoyed the weekend.  Little Benjamin is growing fast and already trying to steal the old man's beer!

More news soon,


Saturday, January 12, 2002

January 12, 2002 - The Azores, Ottawa, Brantford

Welcome to the new year!  After more than three weeks of glorious vacation, Ana and I are leaving for Holland today to begin work on Monday.  We are both extremely excited about it and ready for what will surely be an interesting year.

For our Christmas holidays we spent two superb weeks in the Azores!  We were joined by Toddy Van Hees for the first ten days then by Ana's parents for the second week.  We stayed with Ana's aunt who is also named Ana and lives in a town called Santa Cruz which is in the Lagoa area of the island of San Miguel.  Ana, Toddy and I also traveled to the other islands of Faial and Pico and spent a few days exploring.  The weather was very rainy for the first part of the trip, but the temperature never fell below 15 C so it was actually very pleasant.

Some of the highlights include seeing the natural ocean pools in Pico and Lagoa, a scary plane ride from Ponta Delgado to Horta, the harbour in Horta, the view from Scrimshaw's house in Faial, the volcano blasted landscape on the west of Faial, the Furnas hot springs in San Miguel, a tea factory, the delicious red wine from Pico, fresh local bread and cheese with Tia Ana every morning, every meal we ate at Tia Ana's house, picking fresh bananas and oranges in the backyard, seeing a dog riding on top of a trotting horse, New Year's Eve on the Avenida, and the beautiful view from Lagua do Fogo!

I also had the chance to meet the rest of Ana's family who live in the Azores and they were all exceptionally nice people!  In fact, all the people living there were very friendly and helpful, making it a great place to visit!

After returning to Brantford from the Azores, we decided to take a trip to see Marty and Jen in Ottawa.  So we rented a PT Cruiser (groovy little car) and made the trip.  It was so nice to see where they were living and how things were going.  They are both doing very well in school and enjoying Carleton University.  They gave us a great tour of downtown Ottawa including the parliament buildings which were spectacular.

On the way back from Ottawa we stopped in at Mark & Linda's in Kingston where they treated us to a delicious lunch.  We had a good, but very short visit, before we were on our way to Toronto.  We stayed with Ana's brother Mark in Toronto and that night we met up with Carmen, Diane, and Lena and had a nice dinner out.

To finish off the vacation, we had a couple days in Brantford to sort things out and get all our things packed.

So now it is on to a brand new year and a brand new adventure!!  We really hope to see lots of you as visitors so don't be shy!