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Adventures With Robin

Your Go-To Travel Source

Welcome! This space serves as a platform for travel agent Robin Norell to share her trips, experiences and expertise with you. Exceeding your customer service expectations is Robin’s primary goal. Having worked for Disney for 2.5 years, she knows how to make your vacation magic. 

Robin has visited 25 countries (Caribbean, Europe, Asia) and 31 states, and has been on 26 river and ocean cruises (so far), visited Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris multiple times, and she is happy to share her travel experiences and knowledge with you to make your vacation the best it can be.

Robin has been awarded the distinguished certifications of CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) Certification, as well as earning her CTA (Certified Travel Associate) certification, has completed the College of Disney Knowledge, and continues to learn more about the travel industry every day.

Excelling in administration and customer service, she takes care of all the details, leaving you free to relax and enjoy!

Independent Vacation Planner

  • rnorell

March 21-22 Antwerp and Nijmegen

Updated: Mar 29

Thursday March 21

Antwerp, Belgium

Another new country for me! That brings me to 44 (I will hit #45 next week) !

Today was a walking tour – our ship was docked right near the city center, so we broke out into 4 groups and went for a walk. 

  •  Het Steen is a fortress right on the river, built in the 1200s – there was a castle here and this was the gateway to the castle (which was demolished in the 19th century). There was a significant rebuilding around 1520, and that’s when it became known as Het Steen (which means the rock). It was later used as city hall and as a prison. 

  • We are docked on the Scheldt river.  

  • Antwerp has a half million people.  

  • Flemish is the official language – our tour guide said it’s close to Dutch, but they don’t spit as much (lol).

  • Across the river there are a lot of apartment buildings, but no restaurants or stores (those are all on this side). There are 3000 cafes, and the same number of restaurants. 

  • There are 3 tunnels – the largest is the Kennedy tunnel. They built a pedestrian tunnel in 1930. The third tunnel is so small it’s called the rabbit hole. 

  • 90-95% of the world’s diamonds come through this port. 

  • Many Japanese tourists come to the cathedral here, and many cry when they see the painting inside. It baffled locals until they realized that in Japan children are read a book called “A Dog in Flanders,” in which a poor little boy struggles to survive. He finds a little dog and cares for him. The boy's dream is to see a painting by his favorite artist, Peter Paul Rubens, called "The Elevation of the Cross" which is in this church in Antwerp. At the end of the book, the boy brings his dog to this church, they finally see the painting but then they freeze to death here (charming children’s story, isn’t it)? So it is a highly desirable location for Japanese to visit. And to honor the story, there is a little sculpture outside the church of the little boy and his dog.   

The organized tour ended, and we could stay in town if we wanted. Trish, Quent and I stayed together for a while, then I decided to walk to the Train Station – our guide had told us it was one of the most beautiful anywhere. It was almost a mile away, so I went that way and Trish and Quent went back.  

I went to the train station, passing Peter Paul Ruben’s house (the famous 17th century painter). It was absolutely beautiful. Outside the train station, they have added a large ferris wheel. But even better than that – there were cherry blossom trees, and they were in bloom! Not very many, but still beautiful. 

I decided to walk a different way back through less tourist-covered streets. I had decided I wanted a Belgian waffle and hot chocolate, so I asked in one place, and was directed back to the main (tourist) street (which was actually the opposite direction from my ship). I walked until I saw a little café with a sign in the window saying waffles. I went into the Wafelhuis Van Hecke and ordered the Belgian waffle - I asked which was the traditional version, and she said Crème De La Crema (waffle with powdered sugar and whipped cream), and a cup of hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was every bit as good as you are imagining right now – LOL! The Belgian waffle was a little greasy, not as fluffy as we have at home, but it was tasty. 

After I finished, I paid and started talking to the woman who had made the waffle – she’s the owner. She bought it from the family who had owned this business since 1905, and she did it for her son and daughter-in-law (the gal who had taken my order and made my hot chocolate). We got talking and she was telling me that she is getting ready to hand over the business and wants to travel, so we both shared snippets of the places we’ve been and the places we want to go. Absolutely perfect experience. 

I walked back – ended up with 20,000 steps for the day! 

I made it in time for Teatime – that is when they have the best snacks. I grabbed a couple and brought them back to my room. I had a 5pm virtual meeting (with my consortium), then port talk at 6:45 and dinner at 7. 

Friday March 22,


Today was the only day we didn’t have a morning excursion, so I slept a little late (not as late as I wanted), grabbed a light late riser breakfast from the lounge and brought it back to my room, and watched the countryside pass by as we sailed back into the Netherlands. 

The afternoon excursion was a 1.25-hour bus ride to Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn. I wish I had paid a little bit better attention before I got on the bus – I probably would have preferred to just stay and wander in the small town where we docked. I’ve seen my share of European palaces. 

Facts and information from the bus tour guide: 

  • The city of Nijmegen is the largest in this province. 

  • It’s the only town in the Netherlands built on 7 hills (like Rome). 

  • It was originally settled by Romans 2000 years ago - there are even a few ruins left. 

  • In the 15th century they built a defending wall, and there are still some remains of it in the city. 

It is most known for a famous battle in World War 2 – Operation Market Garden, when the city was liberated from the Nazis in September 1944. It was the biggest airborne operation ever. 10,000 British soldiers and 2000 Polish soldiers parachuted in to take the bridge.  700 British pushed through the German troops and kept both sides of the bridge from the Germans for 4 days, but reinforcements were delayed liberating Nijmegan – they made it, but too late for the British.  If that bridge hadn’t fallen, the Allies could have pushed straight on to Berlin and the Germans would have been defeated before winter that year. Many Hollanders died from starvation that winter.  

More than 12,000 US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted in and walked 10-12 miles to the city of Arnhem. 48 were killed on the way. They built a new bridge 10 years ago. There are 48 lights across the bridge, and every day at sunset they turn on slowly in succession. A veteran and guests walk slowly as each light is lit. There is also a small memorial (2 stones) to honor the 48. A few years ago, someone in the US 82nd Airborne Division came and participated in the ceremony. He said that they should do that in the US too, so now at Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg), the home of the 82nd, they began that tradition as well. 

As we drove to the palace, we crossed the Rhine River on our way to Arnhem, which is the capital of this province. 

When the bus arrived, our guide took us to the gardens and then into the palace, where it was a self-guided walk. Some rooms remain decorated as they were in history, others have been renovated for more recent royal use. 

I think the most impressive room was the Grand Staircase – the walls and ceilings are painted in one mural that covers the entire space and looks like outdoor scenes. They are among the largest paintings in the Netherlands.  

On the way back, we passed some houses with thatched roofs – in the past, that is what poor people used on their houses, and the wealthy used tile. Now it’s the opposite – thatched roofs are much more expensive and have to be redone every 10 years (plus the insurance is much more expensive). 

We left the palace at 4:45pm and it was a long drive back, so we arrived at the ship around 6pm, so our evening activities were a bit later. Port talk at 7pm (and an announcement by the ASTA President Zane, who is flying home tomorrow), dinner at 7:15pm. We didn’t finish dinner until after 10pm. 


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Robin is an Independent Travel Planner who has been awarded CLIA's (Cruise Line Industry Association's) Accredited Cruise Counselor Certification and The Travel Institute's Certified Travel Associate designation. Her excellent service is yours at no cost - she's paid by the suppliers (hotel, cruise line, etc.), nor does she charge a fee for services. She may even save you money over booking it yourself, as she follows all the specials and will get you a better price after you book with her. When you are planning a family vacation or celebrating a special occasion through travel, you want the best experience possible, and Robin is ready to help you! She provides excellent customer service, and your happiness and satisfaction is her top priority. With the knowledge gained by her extensive travel experience (25 countries, 31 states, and 26 cruises so far) and customer service experience (2.5 years employed at Walt Disney World Resort), she's excited and ready to help you plan new adventures!

Location: Alexandria - VA
Phone: (567) 307-3476
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