John & Kari's World

John & Kari's World

Our Journal Covering Adventures Near and Far

St. Petersburg: August 2009

For our last trip while living in Europe, Kari and I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia. Kari has wanted to go there since she took a Russian history class in high school. John has been excited to visit the Hermitage and missed the chance when he was working in nearby Finland.

There's a lot to see in St. Petersburg and we only had 5 days which meant we walked, and walked and walked. Although it was August, the weather was windy and cold. The two days we spent in the Hermitage gave us a break from the rain outside. We stayed at a small hotel called The Comfort Hotel which was in a great location just off of Nevsky Prospect for a reasonable price.

The Hermitage was spectacular, and if we had a week, we could not have seen it all. One of the most pleasant surprises was the Museum of Russian Political History where we learned about the revolution and the time since. One does not go to Russian often, so we decided we had to have an authentic caviar and vodka experience. The Caviar Bar at the Grand Europe Hotel was sublime. We sampled four different type of caviar including Beluga, and of course had some ice cold Russian vodka to wash it down.

Switzerland: August 2009

In August 2009, Kari and I travelled to Switzerland for our Summer holiday. Our adventure began in Zürich where Kari spent two Summers working at the Universität Zürich. After nearly 20 years, Kari was glad to be back, and she provided John with a personal tour of many of her favorite places. We were fortunate to arrive on Swiss National Day, so we joined the celebration to enjoy the braut and beer.

From Zürich we travelled by train to Interlaken, then on to Lauterbrunnen and finally into the Alps to the small village of Wengen. Wengen is vehicle free and is a great central location to explore the many walking trails in the area. We stayed at the Hotel Bären which had a wonderful chef, delicious meals and friendly staff. During our stay, we managed to hike most of the trails beneath the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, see the 5 star Trümmelbachfalle, and we made it up to Jungfraujoch on one of the most gorgeous days of the year!

From the Bernese Oberland region, we travelled to Appenzell. Appenzell is much different from the Alps region with rolling green hills, more cows and lots of tasty (strong smelling)cheeses. We took the train to Wassenrauen and then walked to Seealpsee, a stunningly beautiful lake at the base of Säntis. We climbed up from Seealpsee to have lunch at the cliff-side cafe at Wildkirchle.

Our trip would not have been complete without a celebration, so we joined the Appenzell festival and enjoyed the local music performances, great food and cold beer. Let's hope it does not take 20 more years to get back to this beautiful country.

Hawaii: May 2009

What better reason to visit Hawaii than to experience golf on some of the most beautiful courses in the world or taste some of the most amazing fish and sushi you can imagine. Oh yeah, and there was also the wedding of Kari's brother Kyle to Sylvia. The wedding took place on the beach at sunset at the Grand Wailea Resort and Spa. It was followed a delicious dinner at one of the resort's restaurants. Of course we had Kyle out the next morning for 18 holes of golf!

New Years 2009

We celebrated New Years in Amsterdam this year. Our good friend Andrea joined us for a special dinner at home complete with champagne, foie gras (John's first attempt) and venison. We walked to the end of our street just before midnight and counted down the seconds to begin 2009. There was an amazing fireworks display in front of the Westertoren that lasted 30 minutes. Some nice cheeses and dessert followed back at home. A very nice way to ring in the New Year. Best wishes to our families and friends!

Namibia: 17 Oct - 1 Nov 2008

We started our trip in Cape Town, South Africa, where we stayed at the remodeled Cape Heritage Hotel. The hotel is well situated to explore the city. It has a wine bar, Caveau, conveniently located next door that serves just about every South Africa wine imaginable. We tried 3-4 wines the first night. Cape Town is a beautiful city, which we enjoyed with the warm weather and clear blue sky. We headed up Table Mountain for a spectacular view of the city before visiting the District Six Museum, the Dutch Castle Fort and the touristy harbor area. We had a yummy Cape Malay meal at Biesmiellah (no alcohol served!)

After 1 and 1/2 days in Cape Town, we were off to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, on a flight leaving at the crack of dawn. We met up with our workshop group consisting of Hans our trusted driver and guide, Jonathan our expert photographer, Maurizio the videographer (and brother-in-law of Jonathan), Pom and Patra from Thailand and Lynn from Colorado. We spent the afternoon walking around Windhoek and taking a few photos along the way.

Our photography workshop took us south to the Kalahari Desert and the beautiful cheetahs of Camp Bagatelle. We managed our first of nine flat tires, a "sundowner" whilst learning to photograph a desert sunset, an early morning game drive and sunrise shoot. We spent two sweltering hot days photographing the amazing red sand dunes in the Namib Desert. Still covered in a layer of fine sand, we took a scenic flight Northwest to Swakopmund to escape the heat and clean our kit (camera equipment).

In Swakopmund, we went into the desert to shoot reptiles with a local expert. We got up close and personal with a variety of snakes, a large, hairy scorpion, and a chameleon. All shots were taken from a safe distance. Good thing for telephoto lenses!

We drove north along the Skeleton Coast, visiting the Cape Cross seal colony. Jonathan was kind enough to bring some balm to help us cope with the smell! Hans took us to few shipwrecks along the desolate coast before heading inland to Damaraland. Our afternoon was all about finding the famous desert elephants. Hans, in addition to being a good driver, guide and amateur photographer, is also an accomplished elephant tracker. We found a large herd of elephants making their way down the river bottom, even a few babies.

There were many highlights during the 14 day trip, but one of the most memorable was the two days we spent photographing two Himba tribes near Opuwo. These semi-nomadic, pastorial people are living a life much like they did when they migrated to the area in the 16th century. Most striking is that the Himbas paint their skin with ochre which gives them an orange hue. We were able to overcome our insecurities of photographing people for some amazing shots.

The final leg of our journey took us to Etosha where we managed to get some great photos of wildlife. We had never been so close to rhinos before! It was a bit intimidating to step down off the vehicle and be eye to eye with a 2 ton creature. The long drive back to Windhoek allowed us to unwind and for Hans to change a few more tires.

It was an amazing trip and highly recommended. If you would like to try a photo workshop, Jonathan's company, VSP Workshops, has a number of workshops planned throughout the year, and he'll be back in Namibia next year.

Check out our pictures from Namibia by using this link.

Algarve, Portugal: 22-25 August 2008

After a long, cold, dreary summer in Amsterdam, we escaped to the warmth of Portugal for a long weekend. The sun was shining and we were happy! We spent much of each day playing golf. Kari finally got her official handicap and is currently at 33.5!

Turkish sailing trip: 20-29 June 2008

We took this trip together with our friend Gary, his brother and wife, their two friends and our friend Jennifer. We were on a 75 foot Turkish Gulet sailing from Bodrum to Gocek. One highlight of this trip were the amazing meals served 3-4 times a day. Our captain Mahmet and first mate Ali tended to our every need. Besides spending each day sailing, we also had some interesting side trips including a visit to a turkish mud bath.

More pictures from our sailing adventure can be seen by using this link.

Kari's promotion: 3 June 2008

We were very happy when Kari's PhD promotion finally arrived in June. As you may have noticed, We had placed ourselves on a short (but very necessary) travel ban until she had completed her work. Not only was our travel ban over in June, but we also had a great time celebrating this acheivement. Check out more pictures from the PhD ceremony by using this link.

Arizona & California: 27 Feb - 8 Mar 2008

We took a week long holiday to the US, visiting Arizona and California. Our excuse this time was to attend the wedding of our good friends Denis and Andrea in Tucson, Arizona. Along the way we also visited our friends George and Bitsy in Phoenix and our friends and families in California.

The weather in Arizona was fabulous. We had a chance to play some golf and do some sightseeing. The Saguaro National Park was the greenest we've ever seen.

In California, we took John's Mom and Dad to the New Getty on Sunset Boulevard. The grounds of the museum are beautiful.

France & Spain: 22 Dec 2007 - 5 Jan 2008

For our Christmas and New Year's holiday this year, we took a driving vacation through France and Spain. As seen from the map, we covered a lot of ground in only 15 days...over 5,600 kilometers, or 3,500 miles.

Our trip had us staying in Rouen, La Rochelle and Bordeaux, France before crossing the border into Spain. We spent Christmas Day in coastal resort city of San Sebastian where we learned that even the Spanish eat out Chinese on this holiday. We visited the gorgeous Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, along the route to Cangas de Onis at the foot of the Picos de Europe.

We drove the coast to A Coruña and watched the pounding surf near the Torre de Hércules, the oldest working lighthouse in Europe. Although we arrived by car, we later joined the many pilgrims that had walked their way to Santiago de Compostela by foot.

South of Santiago, we explored the Rías Baixas, Spain's most fertile fishing grounds. The royal fortess at Baiona, now a Parador, stands on the Monterreal promontory. In the late 1920's, a national network of state-run hotels called paradors was established. Parador is an old Spanish word for a lodging place for travellers of respectable rank. Many of the nearly 90 paradors are coverted castles, palaces or monasteries. We stayed at four Paradors on this trip, and we highly recommend them.

Starting our return, we drove East to Leon. We diverted Southward to Salamanca to spend New Year's Eve. We joined the local tradition of eating a grape with each stroke of the clock at midnight. Easy? You haven't seen the size of the grapes they grow in Salamanca! On New Year's day, we stayed in the capitol of the Rioja region, Laguardia. During our time in Spain, we sampled many of the superb Rioja wines. All restuarants were closed for the holiday, but Kari and I managed to buy two bags of potato chips for dinner. So much for eating healthy in the new year!

Our last stop in Spain was high in the Pyrenees at the Parador in Beilsa. The snow began to fall, and we had to put the snow chains on the car in order to drive the last 14km (11 miles) to the hotel. The next day we had an exciting drive over the pass into France during a blizzard. The holy city of Lourdes rests at the foothills of the French Pyrenees. 77,000 sick and infirmed visit this city each year hoping to benefit from it's healing waters. Kari brought back 5 liters of the stuff for future use.

In the last few days of our trip we visited Toulouse, Lyon and the Burgundy wine region. We managed to bring back a few bottles to add to our wine collection. We didn't take the most direct route between Toulouse and Lyon in order to see France's new engineering masterpiece, the Millau Viaduct. The bridge is truly impressive and worth the diversion.

Check out our pictures from France and Spain by using this link.

London: 2-4 November 2007

Our friend Pete Meisenzahl was in London this past weekend. His job brought him to the UK for a meeting earlier in the week, and we took the opportunity for a rare get together at the weekend. Pete had never been to London, so we showed him some of our favorite places and some of the famous landmarks.

Pete wanted to see St. Paul's Church and the Tower Bridge, so we made these our first destinations. Next, we crossed the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, which Pete thinks is still moving too much. The Tate Museum was filled with tourists and school children on their Fall Break, so we moved on. We managed to talk Pete into going up in the London Eye which takes you up 135 meters (450 feet) to provide an amazing view of the city.

We continued along the Southbank to the Westminster Bridge where we crossed back, passing by Big Ben, the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The Queen was unfortunately not home when we dropped by Buckingham Palace. We guess that the Saudi King wore her out and she needed a break. After so much walking, we needed a much deserved pint at a local pub.

On Saturday morning we strolled through Covent Garden and SoHo. We visted the Photographers' Gallery at Leicester Square and then on to Piccadilly Circus. We did some gift shopping at Harrods, experienced the wonder of the Science Musuem, and after a great Indian meal at Cafe Spice Namaste, we capped off the day with a visit to the Tower Bridge for some night photos.

Devon & Cornwall: 4-8 October 2007

We were aching for a holiday, so we took a long weekend to visit Devon and Cornwall counties on the Southwest coast of England. This area of England was once occupied by the Romans before the incursions of the Saxons and eventually the Normans who built many of castles in the region. Far from the political and industrial centres, Cornwall and Devon have a heritage of fishing, cloth trade, pirating and a wealth of tin mines.

Our trip took us from London to Dartmoor National Park near Exeter where we stayed at the country house Mill End Hotel in Chagford. In the morning, we took a walk from the hotel along the Teign River to the Fingle Bridge. From there we made our way across the moor (wasteland) to Tavistock where we visited the historic Pannier Market. North of Tavistock, we climbed to the top of Brent Tor to see the small church of St Michael.

We drove Northwest to Port Isaac where we checked in at the Bay Hotel which has a gorgeous view overlooking the sea. We decided to take in the sunset along the Glebb Cliffs and visit Tintagel, King Arthur's Castle. Kari found a new favorite beer - Doom Bar - while having dinner at the Slipway restaurant in Port Isaac. In the morning we drove East of Tintagel and walked along the cliffs back to the castle. We found some magnificent views and steep drops. Both of us managed to come back alive.

From Port Isaac, we made our way down the coast to Wadebridge where we rented some bikes for a ride down the Camel River to Padstow. We tried a Cornish pastry and some clotted cream carmel before visiting the famous Rick Steins for some fish and chips. We finally arrived in St. Ives in time to watch another beautiful sunset.

The next morning we took in the Tate Museum in St. Ives which is dedicated to the artists from the region. From there it was out to Cape Cornwall for a beautiful view out to sea and of Lands End in the distance to the South. We drove across the peninsula to Penzance and Mousehole.

We decided to stop by Earth Station Goonhilly to see the giant satellite dishes. The station is more of a museum now technology has advanced so much in recent years that dishes of this size are no long needed. It was worth the stop to for those of us that grew up with NASA and the beginning of the space age.

We finally arriving at Lizard Point for the night. We stayed at a cozy B&B called Landewednack House, a Wolsey Lodge. Dinner was prepared by the resident chef, Antony. The owner Eric and Sue were also on hand to greet us and make us feel at home. One of their many dogs, Sam, took us for a walk around the point before supper.

The next day, we drove like bandits to get back to London for our flight, but not before we did a 60 mph drive-by photo shoot of the famous Stonehenge.

Check out our pictures from Cornwall by using this link.

Amsterdam - Gay Pride Parade: 4 August 2007

The annual Gay Pride Parade was held in Amsterdam this weekend... always guaranteed to be a wild and wacky event. Since it is just down the street from our apartment, we decided to check it out and take a few photos. The weather was cooperating, and it was finally over 20°C (70°F).

Venice: 17-22 July 2007

It's been 10 years since we've been to Venice. Kari surprised me for my birthday this year by arranging for us to take a three day photography workshop. She found a guy that offers traveling workshops and he also gives one-on-one workshops in Venice under the company name of Venice School of Photography. We have both been calling photography a hobby, and we wanted to improve. It was pretty basic stuff - learning to use light, shapes and colors to produce more creative shots. Maybe you'll see the influence when you visit our PictureTrail album . While we were in town, the 52nd International Art Exhibition (Biennale) was held. It made for some interesting subject matter.

North Sea Jazz Festival: 13-15 July 2007

We went to the NSJ Festival in Rotterdam for the first time last year. We had such a good time, we decided to go back again this year. It is one of the major international jazz events, and it happens in our backyard. We went with our friend Andrea again this year and had a blast. We got a chance to see so many good bands. On Friday night we saw the legendary fusion artist, Joe Zawinul, Katie Melua, and our favorite was Ojos de Brujo, a Spanish Flamenco band. The Reverend, Al Green, also performed on Friday, but unfortunately he was a big disappointment.

On Saturday, we took in Raul Paz, a Cuban artist living in Paris part of the new Latin movement, India.Arie with her "testimony" performance, The Holmes Brothers with their special gospel soul, the Keb Mo Band and a young new artist named Sonya Kitchell, only 18 years old and she has already toured with Joe Jackson.

Sunday was a fun day starting with the rather large Afro-salsa group named Africando, Candy Dulfer joined with Marcus Miller and Roy Hargrove in an impromptu jam session when, Amy Winehouse was a no-show. John was lucky enough to have Candy autograph a new CD. Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint played some old favorites, remember "Red Shoes"? Sly & The Family Stone (well, mostly the Family Stone) played. We ended the evening by watching Snoop Dogg, a very unlikely jazz artist. We still can't understand why he's so popular, but that must just mean we're getting old. We can't wait until next year!

Wimbledon: 7-8 July 2007

Lightning does strike twice. We got a chance to attend the Men's Final at Wimbledon for the second year in a row. Federer was once again defending his title against Nadal, but this time it was close. A five set nail biter in which both players demonstrated their ability and stamina. In the same weekend, we saw the Prolog time trials for the Tour de France.

Kari's trip to Harvard: 17-22 June

I flew to Boston on Saturday afternoon to arrive the day before the Leading Innovations in Health Care & Education conference began. Since we weren’t told in advance who the conference participants were, I arranged to have Saturday night dinner with my friend Melissa who I had met when she was also an American Expat in Amsterdam. We had a few cocktails on the roof deck of Fiore before eating Italian in the North End of Boston.

The opening session on Sunday presented the case of Harvard Medical School’s curricular change in the 1980’s. The case was reviewed in the context of Kotter’s article, “Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail”. This is the same article I had used to assess our efforts to incorporate P’Col and P’Therapy in the LUMC curriculum. It seemed an easy start to the week. However, we were given several additional articles and cases to read for the following morning, and jet lag was catching up. I visited the cheap burrito take-out my friend had pointed out for the necessary sustenance for a long night of homework.

On day two, we were on the bus to Harvard Business School at 06:45 to start the conference at 07:15! We explored the concept of "disruptive technologies" and worked to apply this concept to changes in education and health care.

On Tuesday, we began to study processes. We were given cases and articles on the Toyota Business Model. The basic principle behind Toyota's success is to have specific rules to the processes that each worker is expected to perform. Although this seems like Toyota creates robots of it's workers, it creates scientists instead. Each step of the process has a specification that can be tested using a scientific method, and any change is a result of this assessment. We spent many of hours debating whether building a car could be related to building a student. Tuesday evening many of us went to enjoy the Boston "Pops" Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Marvin Hamlisch.

On Wednesday Harvard gave us a supplement to the book "Good to Great" which was written by Jim Collins. He has an interactive website for learning his 4 stage process. However, I think that most participants were interested in Stage 1: finding out how to "get the right people on the bus". After a few serious hours of studying, I headed over to Melissa's met have dinner with her and some friends. Luckly her house was within walking distance to my hotel.

Thursday, we explored the article " Getting past Yes" which provides pretty good example of how we at the CHDR could negotiate with our Pharmaceutical Company partners. Lastly, we had some incredibly inspiring words from Richard Miller, president of the very innovative Olin College of Engineering. If you ever want to see an example of thinking out of the educational box, this is it. Thursday evening we had a reception and dinner with the group. The reception was late getting set-up, so we had time to explore the Harvard book store. Unfortunately, I loaded up my luggage with an additional six books.

Finally, it's Friday. One last day to synthesize it all together. We were presented cases of the innovations that took place at the Cleveland Clinic and Florida State University while they where starting new medical school programs. We reviewed Arie de Gues' work describing " The living company" which looks like an interesting book to read. The program ended at 13:30 and I was on my way to the airport by 16:00. These are just a few highlights from an exhausting yet invigorating week.

Cologne: 26-27 May

We drove to Cologne (Köln) for an overnight stay. Cologne is about 2.5 hours drive from Amsterdam, so it's a wonder why we haven't gone there before. A charming and relaxed city with a huge gothic cathedral as it's centerpiece. The construction of the cathedral took 632 years (1248-1880), and at the time it was finished was the tallest structure in Europe at 157 meters and remained so until the Eiffel Tower was built.

London: 17-20 May

We spent the weekend in London. We both had some work in the city on Friday, so we decided to make a weekend of it. We visited the Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A is an applied arts museum, and Kari enjoyed the stained glass and John the silver craftsmanship exhibit. We also took in Edward Albee's, "The Lady from Dubuque", at the Theater Royal Haymarket. Dame Maggie Smith was wonderful as Elizabeth.

On Friday evening, we ate dinner at Momo, a hip Morrocan restaurant located off Oxford Street. We also had a special night out on Saturday at Bibedum, a former Michelin factory. During this visit we stayed at a special hotel called "Number Sixteen" in Chelsea which was within walking distance of Bidendum and the V&A.

India: 30 April - 4 May

John took his second trip to India in May. This time he spent a day to drive from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was built from 1632-1648 by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan for his wife. It is well worth the 3-4 hours journey each direction to see this incredible site.


John's sister Cathy, and husband Richard came to Paris for a week trip in April. Kari and I flew down from Amsterdam to spend a couple of days sightseeing with them. This time we stayed in the Latin Quarter at Hotel Abbatial. The weather was unusually warm, so we spent a lot of time outside touring Versailles, picnicking beneath the Eiffel Tower, and we even had dinner outdoor at Au Vieux Moliere, a recommendation from our friend Andrea.


Kari and I went to Vienna for the weekend 23-25 February 2007. We flew into Bratislava, Slovakia, on Sky Europe because the fare was only 46€ return (+ 10€ bus fare into Vienna). On Friday night, we went to the Opera to see Puccini's Tosca. The Opera House in Vienna is gorgeous and each seat had it's own subtitle translation (choice of German or English). Before the show, we couldn't remember why we were seeing another opera (other than Kari thought John needed more culture) but after seeing Tosca, we are both motivated to see another.


In December 2006 / January 2007, we traveled to Australia with Gary, Kari's friend from Pharmacy School. Several years ago Gary was working as a pharmacist in Sydney. His experience was invaluable, and his friends' hospitality was much appreciated. Despite a month long trip, 8 domestic flights and lots of driving, we still only saw a fraction of what Australia has to offer. We highly recommend it, and we'll definitely be back! Use the Australia link to see the full Photo album.

John's Sister's Family tours Europe

In August 2006, John's sister brought her family over for a grand tour of Europe. We flew to meet Carol, Larry and Stephanie in Paris where we climbed to the top of everything tall in the city. Larry was daring enough to try snails and foie gras.
Then we went to Amsterdam via Brussels where Carol made friends with some of the locals. In Amsterdam we're sure that the Sevillas won't forget their meal at Coco's Outback.
The final stop for us (but not the Sevillas) was Madrid. We took in all the sights, and walked for hours. Madrid is a fabulous city for so many things, including the Flamenco and tapas. The Sevilla's were in heaven as they found another Hard Rock Cafe (Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid). From there we parted ways. We went back to Amsterdam and they went on to the Spanish town of Seville.


In July 2006, we went to London to take in the Men's Final at Wimbledon. Federer and Nadal battled for 4 sets before Federer won the match. The weekend was sponsored by IBM, so John invited his client to come with his wife. Both were true Wimbledon fans and helped us understand the traditions involved which made the day more meaningful. We hope IBM will send us back next year!


Our two week trip to Japan at the end of February 2006 was one of the most interesting and culturally rich adventures ever. After spending four days exploring Tokyo and surrounding areas, we set out for Hokkaido, the northernmost island. We spent a lot of time outdoors despite the very cold temps, but we were able to view plenty of wildlife and enjoy some terrific powder skiing! We were spoiled by all the great sushi and may never be able to eat sushi in Holland again. Use the Japan link to see the full Photo album.


Our second trip to Africa in March 2005! This time we went to Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. We can't begin to describe the beauty of these lands. We had a blast traveling with our California friend Siu-Fun Wong and her nephew Derek! Use the Africa link to see the full Photo album.


In October 2005, we took a quick weekend up in Ireland with our California friend Gary. It was on this trip where the idea for a future journey to Australia was born. Use the Ireland link to see the full Photo album.