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ASK JOURNEYS: Keukenhoff Gardens a sight to behold

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IN Flanders Fields has taken on a deeper meaning than the geographic pinpoint this most powerful poem describes.

The poem has come to represent a broader memorial to those who have fought in and died in all wars.

I have had the honour of having visited the burial fields Canadian colonel John McCrae wrote about in 1915 during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium.

My own experience came at the Second World War cemetery in Holten, Netherlands, which holds the remains of mainly Canadian casualties of that conflict. The images of that day will stay with me forever. It created in me a lasting appreciation for those willing to fight and die for a just cause.

Today we also remember the sacrifices of more recent conflicts as well as those of the past; saluting our modern-day military men and women who have given their lives so others could pursue freedom and a life of safety and security.

I hope each of us can pause tomorrow to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a land of freedom, and give thanks to all those who commit themselves to keeping it so.

QUESTION: I have heard a lot about the Keukenhoff Gardens in Holland. Have you been there and is it too early to book for next year?

ANSWER: Just last month Keukenhoff Gardens completed the planting of over seven million tulips.

While some of these will be shipped to florists and gardens around the world, many thousands will adorn the walkways of the Keukenhoff park for the visitors that flock to see them annually.

As you walk along the 15 kilometres of pathways you will find millions of colourful displays of a wide variety of flowers such as hyacinth, daffodil and other spring bulbs designed for maximum appeal throughout the 15-hectare-wide property. With the park only open from March 21 to May 20 in 2013, your visit must be planned as a pre-summer visit. But it is a decidedly worthwhile excursion.

My visit there was only four years ago and while not by nature a horticulture enthusiast, I have to admit the experience was overwhelming.

Cascades of colour greet you at every turn. Unique-shaped creations carry a variety of flowers, forming recognizable characters or places.

Viewing plazas along the way allow you to rest and contemplate the beauty of the scenes unfolding before you.

Particularly in spring as the park opens, literally hundreds of tour buses pour into the motorcoach parking area to offload tourists speaking languages from around the globe.

Professional and amateur photographers capture scenes that will decorate picture books for decades of memory revivals.

While Holland offers much to see as a destination unto itself, there are many tour operators that offer river cruise, motorcoach and private tour excursions of Keukenhoff to Canadians who wish to visit. And I would suggest the sooner you book your trip the better.

QUESTION: After hearing so much of the savings in flying from the U.S, we decided to fly to Las Vegas from Grand Forks via their so-called low-cost airline last week.

Sure we saved over $500, but it was a frustrating event. Ticket purchases can only be done online and if you have a problem (like we did), it's difficult if not impossible to talk to anyone.

Employees are lax in enforcing the few rules they do have and their only interest is charging you for any extras including the "nuts and berries" they serve on board. In fact, its a wonder they didn't charge us for using the washroom.

I don't think it was "worth the trip" for all the hassles and extra charges we encountered. Have others experienced the same frustration?

ANSWER: With new ancillary fees being added on a frequent basis, including charges for carry-on bags, it is clear the frustration is mounting.

It is also a fact that any online bookings make it more difficult to resolve unexpected problems as they arise.

For those who have not experienced problems and are able to put up with the seemingly never-ending array of new charges, any savings seem to be worth the extra travel time, transportation costs and occasional disruption.

North Dakota hotels and airports have initiated major marketing efforts to build the belief it is a convenient and worthwhile exercise to drive and fly.

I have found that sale prices, as they frequently come out from WestJet and other airlines that compete on those routes, go a long way to eliminating the motivation to go across the border for flights. As previously published in this column, the reality still exists that Canadian taxation on fuel, airport fees and other charges can never really level the playing field compared with jurisdictions in the United States that don't face those punishing charges.

But you have experienced the other side of the equation that Manitobans should consider. In describing the nightmares that can occur when connections or departure challenges create problems, you really are spot on in coming to your conclusion. Finding anyone who cares can really create an extreme frustration.

Likewise, follow-up to companies that are based outside of Canada can occasionally bring on additional nightmares of their own.

Forward your travel questions to . Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at or read Ron's travel blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 D4

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