Saturday, October 6, 2018

Another trip in the books

Well. Our two weeks cruising around Alaska has come to an end. In fact, it came to an end at the end of July, yet I’ve just managed to finish posting at the beginning of October. I’m woefully behind!
And I still have problems with blogspot. Damn it!

I’ve jumped ship (pardon the nautically-referenced pun) and at some point in the near future my posts will come from a different platform. Fear not, when that happens you’ll be sure to know.

Next up for the remainder of the year is a 2 week cruise from Amsterdam to Rome, a week in Rome on my own (which is where I am now), 34 days traipsing around the Mediterranean on another ship, and then an inaugural 14 day cruise on Holland America’s new Nieuw Statendam.   I’ve always wanted to be on a first sailing of a new ship.

I’ll try to be more timely.

Ciao for now.

More Victoria

Walkabout in Victoria

Victoria Finale

Our last port before returning to Seattle was Victoria, British Columbia. The obligatory “foreign port” to satisfy the antiquated Jones Act, Victoria is an absolutely lovely little city. Very walkable from the pier where ships dock, you can count yourself lucky to have enough time to take a stroll or even a longer walkabout through the downtown area.

There’s a bunch of things you can do in Victoria and the two main points of interest for tourists are the Butchart Gardens and the Empress Hotel. The Gardens are located outside of town so a car or bus excursion is a must. And may I tell you that the Gardens are a thing to behold. They’ve been around for 100 years with 55 acres of gardens of flowers - over 900 varieties! - and 26 greenhouses. Over a million people visit this place every year. I’ve been twice and loved it both times.

Closer in, in downtown, sits the most elegant Empress Hotel, one of the Fairmont properties. It was built in the early 1900’s and opened in 1908. Its very pretty - a Chateauesque design. A popular event at the hotel is the wonderful and super expensive high tea most afternoons. It faces the inner harbor and recently completed an extensive renovation. In fact, this year was the first time in quite awhile that scaffolding was missing from the outside of the hotel, as noticed on my previous visits.

Adrienne and I chose to meander into town and enjoy the cool weather, sunny skies and people watch. We browsed a few stores and street craft vendors, and eventually made our way back to the ship in time to make it to our last dinner in the dining room so we could say goodbye to our wonderful dining stewards.  We would be disembarking early the next morning in Seattle.

After dinner, with the sun still out, Adrienne busied herself with some final packing, and I went for a walk off the ship, along a jetty of sorts, out to a small lighthouse.

A Few More Pics of Sitka

Kayaking in Sitka

Since we'd both been to Sitka several times already, I thought it would be fun to take a kayaking excursion this time. Good grief. It was not quite what I had envisioned. While the scenery was gorgeous the act of kayaking was hard work, especially when you have one bossy person (that would be me) and one not so bossy but a little pissy person ( that would be Adrienne). In all fairness, my bossiness creates her pissiness. But we're also not equally matched, strength wise, and that created hardship for both of us.

Despite our temporary struggles, we enjoyed the excursion because the scenery was gorgeous. What rain we left behind in Kodiak, the sun blessed us in Sitka. Even Snort enjoyed the day.

Hubba hubba Hubbard Glacier 2

Hubba Hubba Hubbard Glacier 1

Please don’t rain on us Kodiak

Visiting Kodiak for the second time, and Adrienne’s first, I really wanted some sunshine. Alas, that was not to be. It poured. And poured some more. There were a few minutes of rain stoppage here and there , but that was it. Not even a hint of sun nor blue sky. Poop.  When I was here a couple of years ago, it was pretty much the same, although there was a short period of sunshine. When the rain clears and the fog/mist lifts it’s quite a beautiful place. I wanted Adrienne to see some of this sunny beauty.

We had no specific plans for the day other than to take a nice leisurely walk along the marina into town and then do a little window shopping, perhaps stop in the bookstore and maybe have lunch. The rain pretty much nixed that plan. Rain is one thing. Pouring rain with lots of wind is quite another. We finally opted to brave the elements and take the shuttle into town. We knew there was a bookstore nearby and figured we could at least get ourselves there without too much trouble.

Well, the bookstore turned out to be a big bust. It was a tiny coffeehouse with a smattering of religious books for sale. Sigh. So we left and figured we’d walk back towards the shuttle drop off and go back to the ship. On the way, we cut through a small strip mall kind of place and happened upon a very cool yarn shop.  That was open! Well. Things were looking up. We stashed our umbrellas by the door and spent a good half hour inside. The shop had some wonderful yarns! It also had these paper bags of three different but complementary skeins of yarn that you could buy at a good deal. Probably enough yarn for a shawl. We each bought a bag. It was great fun figuring out which color scheme we identified with.

Purchases complete, we geared up again and made our way towards the shuttle bus. There were a couple of souvenir shops open and that was where most of our compatriots were gathered. Too bad other shops weren’t open in that strip mall because those two stores were pulling in some serious cash. Nothing like some rain and boredom for people to open their wallets. Of course, that included us, so I can’t be too judgy can I?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Homer Sweet Homer

I love Homer.  I can't tell you why, I just do.  It's a small town, set at the edge of Kachemak Bay, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.  Population - about 5,000.  It's also known as the halibut fishing capital of the world, and nicknamed "the end of the road."  That's because the Sterling Highway ends right there.  And you can drive there all the way from California!  That's something I might want to do one day...........  Anyway, Homer is a cool little town set in a beautiful area.  What's not to like?

The other really great thing about Homer is that they have 3 bookstores in town.  Amazing!  One of the stores is a secondhand store, with an eccentric owner who knows where every single book in his store is, and whether he has a book you're asking about or not.  It's one of those places where you walk in and it smells like old books, and books are everywhere, on the floor, stacked 50 high, on dusty shelves, you get the picture!  The store across the street on the main road, and conveniently next to a car wash, is the creme de la creme of bookstores, at least for Alaska.  It's chock full of amazing books about Alaska, but it also boasts a great children's section, and all the latest best sellers, both fiction and non-fiction.  It also has the "surprise" book section, where you browse a selected 10 or 12 books that are wrapped in brown paper bags.  They are marketing copies of soon to be or newly released books.  There's a brief description of the story, but really still quite vague.  You know if it's meant for adults, or teens, or if it's a kids book, and just a tiny bit more.  You can pick one or all of them and decide on a donation amount for each. Suggested donation is $3 per book.  With that donation, the shopkeeper gives you an amount of buttons.  You use those buttons to allocate your donation between 3 or 4 different charities that are local to the Homer area.  When I was there in 2016, I got a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  It's about a man whose wife dies and he finds something of hers and then goes on this journey to figure out its meaning.  It turned out to be such a lovely book!  Engaging, funny, bittersweet.  Anyway, I loved it and I was very entranced by the whole "mystery book" idea that the shop had.  I've never come across it in any other store.

Another nice thing about Homer is that there are some really great artists that live in the area.  From paintings, to photography, to jewelry and pottery/sculptures, the area is full of talent.  It's nice to be around that, especially when you aren't in the least! Ha!

Then there's the spit.  It's about 6 miles from town, and it's out where the ship docks.  The spit runs along the edge of the bay and there's a nice beach, walkways, campgrounds and the marina full of boats.  And there's restaurants and stores - mostly catering to tourists, but fun to browse nonetheless. 

I enjoyed my time there in 2016 and Adrienne and I really liked it this time, in 2018.  You can take some nice tours from here, as well.  Fishing, hiking, glacier viewing, boat rides to see marine wildlife.  Homer has a little bit of everything.

And, this time, we got to see an eagle's nest, up close.  And with a young eaglet still in residence, not to mention mom and dad.  I got a little obsessed watching them and photographing them.  In addition to the eagles, tons of sea birds congregate where the ship docks and they yak yak yak all day long.  They are too funny.  I got a little obsessed with them as well.

This was my favorite sunrise picture.

The Salty Dog Saloon, a fixture on Homer's spit.

Inside the Salty Dog Saloon, on the spit.  Famous place.  Kind of creepy inside with all the money hanging all over the place.  But locals love it, as do the tourists.

This is where the eagles nest was.  About 30 feet out in the water from the road on the spit.

Kachemak Bay

A ring of volcanoes and glaciers.

Da baby eagle!!

Mom and Dad, hanging out nearby.

Assuming this is mom, moving nearer to baby.

Sea birds, mom and baby.

Someone is having a lively discussion!!

Mom, I'm hungry!!

Birds on a wire - is rain in the forecast???