Sapporo Beer Museum: Hokkaido


If you ever visit Hokkaido, go to Sapporo! It’s a super modern town with great beer and lots of great food. You must absolutely have their famous Sapporo Ramen! The town definitely has a more European influence. I didn’t get to really explore Sapporo as much as I would have liked, but I did see how the city had a lot of Christian & European influence. I had the feeling that Sapporo felt like what Vancouver or Seattle feels like.

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We took the local bus to the Sapporo Beer Museum. Everything in the city pushes the tourist and visitor to go and check it out. I was enticed by the beautiful brick building that reminded me of some of the German Beer Houses in Munich. For a second, I thought I was going to a communist factory when I saw the Sapporo Red Star.

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Make sure you walk around the property before going in. I was very interested in actually seeing real “hops”. “Hops” are a key ingredient in brewing beer and apparently there are many varieties of “hops”.

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I can’t remember how much the entrance fee for the museum was, but I highly recommend that you go in for an English speaking tour. This was definitely a low point of the museum. Luckily, I had my mother, who is a fluent Japanese speaker and reader, but I like to take my time at museums and actually read the panels. EVERYTHING WAS IN JAPANESE! I was pretty upset, because the city of Sapporo is pretty modern & international, yet they don’t even try to put the panel readings in English. I saw several foreigners trying to figure out what the panels said. The museum definitely needs to take some customer comments from tourist crowds. Well….I guess one thing you could do is chug at least 3 beers before you go in, then maybe things will make more sense.

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A model like this is pretty explanatory, even if you cannot read the Japanese panels.

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Here is a close up of what hops look like. They are a distant relative to cannabis, but they do not have the “drug effects” of what natural cannabis have.

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I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful vintage advertisements and retired products. Sapporo made other beverages such as soft drinks and other various alcoholic beverages. I would love to have the amber beer bottle pictured in the top left as a house decoration.

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Here is that great vat of beautiful beer fermenting and getting ready for the thirsty beer drinker. I’m smiling because I am thinking about all the summer nights that I spent on top of a roof at a “nomihodai” (All you can drink) beer garden with my friends drinking Sapporo beer, eating edamame (soy beans) and “kara-age” (fried chicken pieces).

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KOMPAI (Cheers) I was so ecstatic to see such rare and unique advertisement posters. Even better, there was a beer bar right across the way. I chose the trio beer sample and tried the original draft Sapporo beer and then moved on to a dark lager.

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This poster by far has to be the BEST MANLY beer poster of Japan. Toshiro Mifune is my Japanese hero for acting. He was one of Akira Kurosawa’s premier actors and has starred in several classics ranging from Yojimbo, Rashomon, & the Seven Samurai. On a more modern note, he was also in Shogun.

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The outside facade was stunning with green shrubbery hugging the brick exterior. They have a great setup outside with lots of tables and benches and hanging lights for a festive and fun evening of beer drinking.

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If I was to do my trip to Sapporo again, I would definitely have come in the evening with lots of friends. Couldn’t come at night when I was visiting because my grandmother and mother were with me and they were exhausted from traveling. I also highly recommend eating “kakipi” (Japanese rice crackers with peanuts) which happens to be a lovely snack. The “kakipi” has little crescent shaped persimmon colored rice crackers with peanuts and gives just the right amount of savory and crunch that pairs well with the crisp and refreshing beer.

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Cute Cooking Show: The Little Paris Kitchen


Was watching the cooking channel and came across a cute show called “The Little Paris Kitchen” starring Rachel Khoo.

It’s a BBC special. I just adore hearing her British accent. Reading up a little on her biography, she decided to go live in Paris to study at “Le Cordon Bleu”. Of course that is one of my dreams, but not sure if that is in the cards or my future at the moment.

The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo

Rachel cooked a dish called “tartiflette” The ingredients included lardons (cubes of smoked bacon), julienned potatoes, Reblochon Cheese, butter, onions, white wine and a bay leaf. She paired her tartiflette with a simple salad and said it would be a great spring or summer dinner (can’t remember which).

Her kitchen was cute, small and practical. She was lighting the stove with a match and moving around in a small space. I appreciated this, because my kitchen is small and seems helpless. Watching shows like Top Chef and other famous celebrity chef kitchens, everything they do seems so easy because they are fully equipped with top of the line products. Yeah….I would be cooking like a celebrity chef if I had a huge ass kitchen and every cooking tool you could imagine. So her humbleness was refreshing and inspiring. I love her mosaic tiled wall.  “Si tou vois Mere” song by Sidney Bechet played while she was sauteeing her dish! I also caught a fun and sweet song called “Je Suis Seul Ce Soir” by Swing 41.

She finished off the show with a parfait glass of decadent chocolate mousse.

I look forward to ordering her book. She cooks from the heart, smiles a lot and makes cooking seem easy. I like that, especially with the crazy schedule that I have. The book looks like it has great photography and her fashion is fun to watch. Happy Cooking! So glad I channel surfed today and found her! She’s on BBC!

Little Tokyo Los Angeles


My mom had to renew her passport so we went for an adventure in Little Tokyo.

Lunch: The Curry House. We miss this place terribly. We had a location in Convoy, but they closed. They serve lots of curry dishes that you would typically find in Japan. Omrice, which is an omelet with fixings of rice and topped off with some Japanese curry. They serve hamburg, which is a Japanese hamburger patty that is served with a side salad, and corn pottage. I usually get the chicken curry set. It comes with rice, curry with chicken, corn pottage and a salad. I love their tropical iced tea, but most people order the green iced tea.

Tonkatsu Curry set. Tonkatsu is breaded pork cutlet. Just watch the calories on this one

Weller Court: After we had a reminiscent Japanese curry lunch at the Curry House, we walked to Onizuka Street. In case you are not familiar with with the last name, Onizuka street was named after Ellison Shoji Onizuka, the astronaut from Hawaii that lost his life in the Challenger explosion back in the 80’s. I remember being a little kid going to the multipurpose room to watch the Challenger take off into space, only to see the Challenger explode. Us little kids were confused and were quickly asked to leave the multipurpose rooms to go back to our classes. I remember Christa McCauliffe being one of the first school teachers to go up in the Challenger. As for Ellison Shoji Onizuka, he was one of the first Japanese Americans to go up into space. He had been to space before, but his second expedition did not serve him well. The Japanese American Community made a memorial street for him in Little Tokyo.

Go check out Kinokuniya Book Store in Little Tokyo. If you are looking for books like Japanese folk tales, anime, manga, how to learn origami or Japanese cook books this is the place to go. Be prepared to shell out a little more money, but these are books that are difficult to find. They also sell cute stationery items and various types of Japanese gifts.

While you are in Little Tokyo, also go check out the various shops around. You can find your signature Hello Kitty Items along with fake samurai swords, chopsticks, Japanese dishes, Japanese festival wear and crazy t-shirts. Walk around to find a few bargains. Most all of the shops carry the same type of souvenirs, so focus that bargain eye of yours.

So the locals say that Daikokuya has the best Japanese ramen. The only way I discovered this place is when my mom and I stayed in Little Tokyo. We saw a line that was at least an hour, so we waited. The interior felt like a Japanese diner for ramen. The hipsters were definitely showing up in their trendy clothes and we knew that there would be good food here.

My favorite type of ramen. Chashume Ramen. Chashume is the small pork cutlets that are placed in your ramen.

Coffee: When you get tired, go check out a place for coffee. I yelped this one: Demitasse Coffee Shop. It’s on the corner of Onizuka Street. If you like good coffee, then this is the place to go. This place fits the bill of serving designer coffee in small setting that reminds me of Europe. The Japanese are coffee snobs, so it seems appropriate that it is located in Little Tokyo. What I love about this place is that there is a coffee bar. I saw at least 5 customers come in, sit down, bust open their newspapers, sip their coffee, talk to the coffee barista and then leave to go back to work. My mom and I sat on a couch, relaxed and rested.

Demitasse Latte

Coffee Bar

Japanese American National Museum: I didn’t get to go this time, but I used to work there. Go check out this museum because it is essential to the community of Little Tokyo. The presence of the museum serves a great deal for the community in Little Tokyo and for the outer community of Japanese Americans. To make a long story short in history, the Japanese Americans lived in this area and thrived in the 1920’s-1940’s. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was intense racism and prejudice that ran through Japanese American communities. In the U.S. Japanese Americans were forced to go to internment camps. The once bustling community of Little Tokyo was taken over by African Americans and became a pretty popular jazz community. After internment camps were closed by the government, the Japanese Americans wanted so bad to come back to their beloved community. They fought blood, sweat and tears to gain back their community and took some legal issues to court. They won and received Redress and were given $20,000 for their their losses in WWII. Each Japanese American family received money from the government, but most decided to help their kids with education or gave their money to help educate people about the injustice that took place. The lessons that I learned from Internment camp survivors will forever be etched into my brain. I met some amazing people and worked with them.

Of course there are so many other things to see and do, but give it 1/2 a day to go and explore Little Tokyo. Other places in Los Angeles to go check out are Sawtelle Street and Torrance for a good Japanese experience. Matta Ne! (translates to again, some other time)

Before you head home: Grab some Japanese groceries at Marukai or Nijiya. These two grocery stores have all the Japanese essentials from dashi (Japanese fish sauce), goma (sesame seeds), shoyu (soysauce), rice crackers, various Japanese produce to rice cookers, tofu, natto (fermented soy beans). I know that a lot of people are really into mochi ice cream and you can find many different varieties.

Famous San Domenico Uovo Ravioli


Of course I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Episode where he was whisked away to Emilia Romagna in Italy. There were two sections in this beautiful episode that struck a chord with me in a GOOD WAY! I am awestruck when I see people using old world methods to make something delicious. I love how Europeans, especially the Italians are in love with making things from scratch and love fresh ingredients. I get goosebumps when I see or hear about generations of family members or workers who uphold a tradition for something as simple as making a ravioli, noodles, or some kind of a special dish. Of course I am a sucker for history!

I was especially inspired by the story of Chef Michael White. Chef Michael White decided to travel to Emilia Romagna to study under chef Valentino Marcattilii at Ristorante San Domenico in Imola. He studied and learned how to butcher old world style. He asked every question he could about Italian cooking. He studied the culture, the ingredients and fell in love with daily routines like shopping at the local markets. He got to know the local butchers very well and got to know the local cheese maker in his village. It was through these daily adventures, that he fell in love with the culture and fell in love with old world style food.

The second thing that made me gasp in a good way was the famous San Domenico Uovo Ravioli that he cooked on the show. This ravioli is so famous that it has made its way to Chicago, New York and other major foodie cities. I have yet to try it, but let me try to give you an idea.

Imagine sinking your teeth into a tender “al dente” hand made ravioli that oozes out a creamy orange yolk. Nestled inside this beautiful ravioli frame awaits some ricotta cheese & spinach. Sprinkled on top are decadent thin slices of white truffle, flakes of parmigiano along with dashes of fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. It sounds heavenly! In fact this dish was originally crafted for an Italian royal, so the phrase “fit for a king” is absolutely true.

I’m sure you can find this dish in a major city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. I was able to find a similar recipe on the web. Copied below is the recipe for Uovo Da Raviolo via Mario Batali on the Food Network. Hope you can be inspired to put on that apron and cook, if so, let me know how it turns out. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small white or black truffle, shaved
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnishing pasta
  • 1/2 cup fresh sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup spinach, blanched, drained and chopped
  • Scant pinch nutmeg
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 recipe basic pasta dough, recipe follows
  • 7 very fresh eggs
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted and kept warm

Directions

In a non-reactive bowl, combine 1/2 the truffle shavings, the Parmigiano, the ricotta and the spinach, mix well, and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Set aside.

Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine. From the thin pasta sheet, cut 12 circles with a 6-inch diameter. Set 6 of the circles on a sheet tray dusted with flour, cover withplastic wrap and set aside.

In the center of each of the remaining 6 circles, mound an equal portion of the ricotta mixture. With the back of a small ladle or spoon, hollow out a well in the center of each mound. Carefully break the eggs, 1 at a time, into a small bowl, and transfer 1 yolk and a bit of white into the center of each well. It is imperative that the yolk remain unbroken.

Cover each filled circle of pasta with an unfilled circle, and press the edges together with fingers to seal.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Gently, using a wide spatula, lower eachravioli into the water to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and place gently into a 12 to14-inch saute pan with the remaining butter, shave the remaining truffle over, add a generous grating ofParmigiano-Reggiano and carefully put 1 on each plate.

Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and the olive oil. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Roll or shape as desired.

Picture of the famous San Domenico Restaurant in Imola, Italy.
Ok, I lied….there was one more thing that inspired me, CULATELLO! A place that you should schedule in your future travels is Antica Corte Pallavicina Anthony Bourdain and Chef Michael White both bought a culatello together that they will share in 2 years.
It takes about 2 years for the ham to set to its deliciousness. The story of the culatello genius’ discussed how every component into making this delicious salt ham takes special care, time and passion. The window placement in the ham cellar for sun and air, the hanging of the ham and even the trussing of the string around the ham are all important in the final product. I appreciate all the little details that each of these ham artists are experts in. We need more people to learn to appreciate the little things. You can see the love, sweat, tears and history in the detail. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on the bigger picture and often forget the time and consideration that goes into something this lovely.

How students do listen to lectures and go see the world


We often wonder as teachers if students apply our lessons to life or go past the textbook. Teaching history, many students come in with the impression that history is “old” and “boring” and that it doesn’t apply to them. I always dispel that myth on the first week when students come into my classroom. History is what you make of it. It is totally personal and can be fascinating. I often show pictures of my travels, tell them funny, sad and interesting stories about history that are not in the history textbooks. You would be so surprised at how much students remember those stories rather than what is in the text. There is history in everything. Each person and how they were named usually has an interesting story. Whatever your hobby may be, there is a history to that as well. I also tell students that when they leave my class, they will see all kinds of things that they will now know and understand. Students will make connections to the video games they play, they have referenced that they have seen things like the Hindu “OM” symbol or “Ganesha”.

The “OM” is a Hindu word referring to the breath of life.

Ganesha is a Hindu God that helps remove obstacles

Just today, I received a short and sweet email from a former student who is now in their 3rd year of college. Here is this student’s email.

Before my study abroad in Cordoba, my friend and I are travelling our way through some European countries for two weeks! Right now, we are in Istanbul. Here are some pictures from my trip so far (it has been 2 days) that I thought you would appreciate. After this we are going to be in Athens, Rome and then Paris before going to Spain. It has been a blast so far! I absolutely love Istanbul. It is truly a vibrant yet still cultural and historical city.
Here are some gorgeous pictures from my student! Glad they are taking beautiful photos!
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Sisterns in Turkey
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Map of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia)
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Exterior View of Ayasofya in Istanbul, Turkey
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Interior of Ayasofya
So teachers, keep on teaching and remember that those stories you tell in class inspires students. Yes, the books are there, but those personal stories that you tell them are what counts! Happy Teaching!

Puerto Vallarta on Christmas Day


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Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad in Puerto Vallarta. Never thought I would be disembarking from a cruise ship on Christmas Day in Mexico. As soon as we flashed our cruise cards, we were walking on Mexican “Tierra”. We piled into a white van with other tourists who were getting impatient. Apparently they had been waiting in the taxi van for at least 20 minutes. The Taxi driver was going to maximize his trip with as many tourists as he could. The lady who was super impatient yelled out in the van “I’m from LA, I have no patience” She stormed out of the van and yelled at the taxi cab driver. The taxi cab driver was able to squish in two more unfortunate souls and it was a $4 taxi cab drive to old town.

The first thing that I noticed was that the streets were cobblestone, a direct influence from hundreds of years of colonization. I was so happy to get away from the painstaking view of Walmart and Sam’s Club and major shopping mall located right by our cruise ship. The deeper we got into Puerto Vallarta, I was happy to see mom and pop shops. Although there was a Starbucks scattered in between our drive. I was reminded about the differences of safety standards from the U.S. to that of Mexico as I launched out of my seat in the back of the van as my head slammed up on the top of the van. Inner Dialogue: “I’m in Mexico….just go with it”

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As we fought through traffic on a one way in road and one way out road, I saw lots of families traveling to go to the nearest relatives house for some kind of Christmas festivity. I heard blasting music that mimicked good old polka music and noticed that license plates showing Jalisco. There were a few cool buildings here and there as we briskly raced by via van. I would have much rather been in a truck than a van trying to blend in with the people. Coming from a cruise ship, you have a direct target on your head reminding everyone that practically everything is being catered to you, that is the only thing I dislike about the cruising club. I’m more of a traveler who likes to walk the side streets, pop into a cozy cafe, and try my language skills and impress a few here and there with some history.

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Yes, in case you are wondering, Puerto Vallarta is commercialized. Old Hollywood brought some glitz and glam to it in the 60’s-70’s. There was a scandalous affair that unfolded in Puerto Vallarta that brought a lot of paparazzi to the sleepy old fishing town. What actress may have brought such attention to this small fishing village you ask? Elizabeth Taylor. I got a glimpse of her house in an area called Gringo Gulch. I wasn’t able to make the climb up some stairs because my mom has a difficult time walking as it is. But I was able to catch a sneak peak of her house. Apparently an American bought her house and is now turning it into upscale and exclusive condo property.

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One of the beautiful parts about Puerto Vallarta is the stunning coastline. We were there on a hazy day, but I can imagine how gorgeous it would be on a clear day with no clouds up in the sky to damper with one’s day. The coastline is filled with clubs, restaurants, tequila tasting shops and souvenir shops. By the way, the prices for souvenirs has definitely gone way up compared to the days that I used to barter in Tijuana. A typical tourist t-shirt is anywhere from 7$ to $15. You’ll find tequila packages, caracas (Mexican skeletons), magnets, handpainted ashtrays, crazy postcards, maracas, and lots of jewelry. There are lots of specials on the boardwalk like 2 for 1 margaritas to draw you into an establishment. And of course, there are the guys that still loiter and yell out pick up lines. As you cruise along the boardwalk, you’ll see street entertainers, an occasional flyby parasailer, an ice cream cart with a bell and families sitting and relaxing.

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Seeing some sand castle art was pretty surprising. The Virgin Mary is one of the most important saints in Latin America, specifically Mexico. This stunning sand art caught my eye.

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There were less people on the boardwalk than usual since it was Christmas Day. The building facades reminded me of a small beach town in Sitges, Spain. Seeing specks of lime green, tangerine orange and whitewashed buildings brought back a sense of spirit of “fiesta” and summer. The boardwalk was clean and well manicured. It was nice sharing a bench with many Mexican families and hearing Spanish in their native tongues. I wish I had paid more special attention in Spanish class in high school.

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Puerto Vallarta is a good compromise of Mexico. There are many opportunities to “feel” how the local people live. You can go to the local flea market that is run by local “Indios” and you can go to your upscale trendy restaurant. There are plenty of seafood restaurants and seafood shacks. It is relatively clean and it feels pretty safe. If you go into Viejo Vallarta (Old Town), you can really feel and see people engaging in their daily activities. You’ll see a mix of jungle and urban street life in the area. There were little juice stands, chicharonnes (fried pork rinds) stands and peanut vendors.

Cruising with Class on the Holland America


Happy New Years! Gotta start off the year right with actually writing about some kind of travel. I crossed off another “to do” item off of my travel list. Believe it or not, I have never sailed the high seas on a cruise ship. Cruising was not high on my travel list, but many of my friends had lots of positive things to say about cruising, especially when you are EXHAUSTED. I heard that when you cruise, you are wined and dined. Apparently, people have also had withdrawals after leaving a cruise. People have boasted about turn down service, gourmet meals, not keeping track of time and not having to cook or clean. Sounded good from the start, but I had to experience what people were talking about. Cruise to Puerto Vallarta & Cabo San Lucas, here we come!

Talk about convenience. The cruise ship was docked in San Diego. It was a simple drop off at the port station. I had no transfers at the airport. It was easy breezy. Cool thing about a cruise, there are not as many restrictions regarding how much you bring on. This cruise allowed a bottle of wine per person, Cha Ching!

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Customs: Going through customs was a “cinch”. My mother and I had our passports ready to go. We filled out a quick paper that asked us about our current health status. So personal questions about stomach issues and bowel movements were asked pre-boarding. We waited in line for about 5 minutes and then were flagged down by the next attendant. They checked our boarding passes, passport and we smiled for a quick camera shot. Right away, our cruise card was issued and we walked on board. We were greeted right away by an Indonesian staff. We took the elevator to the Dolphin Deck.

Room: We had a small cabin that had a medium sized window. The room was smaller than I expected, but then again, I’m not sure what I was expecting for a cruise cabin. I expected it to be a bit more colorful. I was a little disappointed with how sterile the room looked. There was a sprig of color with a few toss pillows that had bits of orange, brown and blue. The Dutch map from the 1800’s brought a bit more historical pizazz to the room and fed my curiosity for a moment, but I felt that the room would have to grow on me a little more. It did as the week progressed. A little unpacking from my suitcase did the trick. There were about three closets and some dresser drawers to start making the place feel like it would be my temporary home.

Exploring the Boat: There were 9 floors to the Zaandam. Right away, I jumped on to the closest elevator and went to the Lido Deck, 4th and 5th floor and checked out the dining room ASAP. My mother and I went to the LIDO deck to go get some lunch. As I quickly scanned the deck in Terminator fashion minus the laser beams, I saw spaghetti, salad, chicken, paninis, fruits, desserts, soup, sushi etc. There were at least a hundred people or so already engaging in cruise behavior. Right away I noticed that there were hand sanitizer stations all around the buffet area. I saw lines of people already waiting to be served. I went to go grab a california roll, but right away we were told to let the servers serve us the food. I’ve heard about gastrointestinal issues on cruises, but the very gesture from the servers reminded me that the cruise would mean “close quarters”.

It was nice to walk around and see a boat with little pieces of history here and there. Just seeing a harpsichord on my way to the dining hall was awesome. I saw some Egyptian Art as well as some Indonesian Masks.

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Dining Hall: I was very impressed with the dining room on the Zaandam. I felt like I was transported back in time. I felt like I was experiencing classic dining from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Yes, I grew up watching Bob Hope, Doris Day, Marlon Brando type films. I would watch Bob Hope and Bing Crosby films and remember their classic dining experiences where women were “dolled up” just for an evening dinner. I loved the glam and details of the dining room. Even as a young child, I can recall table settings, artwork, draperies, chair covers, beautiful stages where some kind of entertainment was going to unfold. The Rotterdam deck reminded me of all these beautiful things that I used to watch back in the day.

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It was refreshing to see a Maitre’ D direct us to our table. I watched as he circulated around each table section to make sure everything was efficient. It was delightful to order an appetizer, a soup and a main entree followed by a dessert and coffee or tea EVERY DAY. A girl could get used to this type of treatment on a daily basis. My mom and I really enjoyed conversations based around our meal selections. Of course we tried each others dishes and the portions were just right, European size! THANK GOODNESS!

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Shrimp Cocktail split in half. Just the perfect size!

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Beef Wellington on the first night! Delectable & Divine!

More to feast on, just hoping that the cruise wont add more pounds like everyone has warned me about. Time to walk the teakwood decks for some exercise.