Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chug into Saturday and out of Alaska

All Aboard - Tuesday September 13 - Denali to Anchorage via train

We boarded the McKinley Explorer  at 9:30 am. I love trains and this one did not disappoint. We had comfortable seats in a glass open  bubble. The views were breathtaking. Misty clouds, golden leaves, reflecting lakes, burbling  rivers.

"Termination Dust" is a light snow dusting signaling the end of summer.
Look up the Dr. Seuss House in Alaska. You could see it's unique design from the train.
So smooth, we zoomed over look out after look  out. How many vista pictures could I take? Oh, yes, I can bore you to tears.  Go do it yourself.

And an eagle soared by the train as we pulled into Anchorage. So fitting...............

We arrived in Anchorage at 5:45 pm.  A bus took us to our hotel. Back to reality. Not fancy, just a way station.  We did get a reservation at 7:30 at Simon & Beauforts - a worthy last meal complete with sunset vistas. Salmon!!!

Wednesday September 14th was our farewell to Alaska. We enjoyed the Anchorage Museum - a mix of art and native culture. Arctic themes and native Eskimo installations.  We learned a lot and  glad  we went.

Onward to to the airport for an 8:40 pm flight that will last six hours and go through  three time zones.  We land at 6 am in Dallas on Thursday September 15th.
Tired troopers. Our  bags arrived with us. Time for reality, laundry, and sort through our pictures.
So many memories.   Farewell Alaska - what an awesome state
Excellent Ray 60th Birthday Treat

Go book your land/sea adventure now........................

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alaska - Denali Grand Finale

Land Ho.  Monday September 12.  Okay, I admit I do take some dramamine because we are going  to be on a bus all day. You never know - better safe thank sorry.  Ray did check around midnight for the Northern Lights. Alas, too much cloud cover. We never did see them.

2 pm tour bus for the Tundra Wilderness Tour.  Book this, what a splendid day.
Justin, our tour guide, was studying for his masters in biology. He's been studying wolves. His gig as a Denali bus driver is a bonus for us - the man knows his park, the animals, and he sought to give us the best experience possible.

The National Park system of the USA is a treasure and funds should not be cut. That's my political statement of the day. In Denali they maintain a natural eco-system.  No interference. What lives. What dies. That's how it goes. No hunting or thinning of herds. It's maintained naturally.  Regulated buses run during the day. The park shuts at night. Only a certain amount of certified photographers are allowed in per day. It is controlled  for a good reason - try to NOT interfere with  mother nature. I was very impressed.

Denali is the size  of Massachusetts. Again the scale  is mammoth  and it's reassuring to know there is so much wild still not developed. Trust me - go see and you'll be glad.

Caribou had migrated already. We could see the tracks. One lumbering grizzly  sought berries. His huge  paws  dug furiously and found a yield. Justin stopped the bus and we watched him. He dug, strolled, walked in front  of our bus, and proceeded to continue his  search for food. The whole bus stayed quiet as we snapped pictures.  He was SO big and just freaking amazing.

Altogether, in  our seven hour day (which flew by), we saw  eight grizzly, eight moose (they are humongous), grouse,squirrels, bear cubs, an  eagle,and a rainbow. 

Book this trip now

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Alaska Cruise - of course it's sunny the next day

Of course, Saturday September 10th dawns glorious. It's our day at sea, not the Glacier Bay day. Oh well.  There's a lot of motion on the ship and we both have a slight sore throat and cough. Probably best to stay on the down low. Ray does his one gambling foray in the casino. That's a bust. We hang on our verandah in the sun and read. We do get in our one mile walk on the Lido deck, but even that's getting tiresome. We are ready to get off the boat for good. I can highly recommend Holland America.  The staff has been fantastic, the shows awesome, food is delicious, etc etc.  But we are not "cruise" people. We want to be on land and into the adventure.

Sunday September 11th - we say farewell to the Noordam. We have cruised. Bus trip through Seward and we learn about the great quake of 1964. It obliterated the city. Zoom on through Anchorage, Wasilla (I can see Russia from here - ha!), Willow, and finally outskirts of Denali by 5:30 - the McKinley Chalet.  Nifty resort with a room overlooking  mountains and a river. The yellow aspens pop - gorgeous fall colors.  We are now on  our LAND adventure. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Beauty and the Beast

A tale as old as time….Beauty and the Beast gets a live action Disney remake that is absolutely gorgeous and worthy. Go see it on a monster big screen. Spring for the good theater with XD fancy screen and sound. Get the big tub of popcorn and bask in an old fashioned musical.  Not much new to the story. Belle (Emma Watson) is the odd girl in an old French town. She reads books, for goodness sake, and dreams of more to life. No, she does not want to marry Gaston (Luke Evans) – the hot male in town who’s an egomaniac.  Her father (the always good to see Kevin Kline) is eccentric and when he goes off to market loses his way and ends up a prisoner in an odd creepy castle. His faithful horse shows up and takes Belle to find him. There she says, “Step into the light” and meets the Beast.

This formerly vain prince had a curse placed upon him and his castle.  Now, until a final rose petal falls, he must remain a hideous creature and his servants are stuck as candelabras (Ewan McGregor), clocks (Ian McKellan), teapots (Emma Thompson), and the fancy wardrobe (Audra MacDonald- fabulous voice),  etc.   Belle swaps places with her father and shows her strong will. She’s not going to put up with crap from the Beast. But slowly she realizes he is her match – he’s well read, has a fabulous library, and she slowly makes him less selfish. Meanwhile, she charms the characters and they love her.

Emma Watson is perfect in this role. She projects intelligence. Her interplay with the Beast (a charming and worthy Dan Stevens) works. And he slowly wins her favor and ours. Deep down he is human, he does care, and does need and seek love. Can she fall for him in time to save them all?  Oh, you must enjoy the film to the end – bask in the lavish numbers (Be Our Guest). Love is unpredictable, and sometimes you do have to look into the soul, into the core of a creature to find what’s worthy.  So, yes, a bit of a lesson in this day and age. But the supreme goal of Beauty and the Beast is to entertain, to tell a tale as old as time…and golly gee, it will win your heart. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Moment - Fareed Zakaria

The finale of the UTA Maverick Speaker series featured Fareed Zakaria. His general talk on the issues of the global economy was enlightening. A key aspect he touched on was technology - money can change hands and cross borders at lightning speed. Communication has exploded exponentially. The speed of progress and automation affects perceptions and has heightened fears.

However Zakaria is optimistic. I liked his view that America has been great, is great, and if it can maintain the OLD American spirit we know - the generosity, openness, and ingenuity - progress can be made.

 This is a man (an immigrant!!) who was born in India, educated at Yale and Harvard, has traveled widely, and is well regarded for his political and economic coverage of the world. His speech offered humor and was thought provoking.

Plenty of moments to contemplate.

Let's have a thoughtful week, everyone

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Cruising - Glacier Bay, Alaska Brrrr

Friday  September 9 - It was a dark and stormy morning". Alas, the big boat event day - our tour into Glacier Bay was ominous. This would be our worst weather day. Oh  well. You never know in  Alaska what you will get late September.

We listen to a prep talk about where we are headed and what to expect. Then we go to the Crow's Nest - 10th floor of the ship. Alas, it's misty glare and way too crowded. Rumor has it they might open the bow. We hurry to our room to bundle up. First we go to deck 3. Brrrr. Reid Glacier, Lansplugh Glacier, and Johns Hopkins Inlet. Lots of wow moments despite the brutal weather.
Bow opens and we are layered with boots, hats, and multi-coats. We bustle out and gasp. Rain, wind, and a massive glacier in view. Quite dramatic. We snap pics with freezing fingers.  Okay - that's enough. We  give. Nature wins.

Scurry indoors to change clothes. We are soaked through.  Since we have a veranda we stand at the glass with our noses pressed against the glass. Lovely.  We break for lunch, then return to our room for the grand finale - the Marjorie Glacier.    The weather has broken a bit so we even venture outside - bundled up of course.  Oh, the caves and blue ice.  The Captain spins the ship slowly a full 360 degrees. Hey - we can even hear an ice calving - a dull roar and we can see the splash as ice breaks off. Tremendous.

One can only imagine a sunny day - beyond spectacular.
We finish up our day killing time. Announcements are made about expected boat rocking challenges. Ray even partakes of  dramamine. Any place you go on the boat, you weave and weeble wobble. It's a disconcering feeling.  However we are able to sleep after seeing the Noordam actors present a lovely show.

Glaciers are an amazing wonder to see. And the only way to see this National Park treasure is via cruise ship. It's well monitored and  very conscious of the environment. We want to preserve this purity!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fabulous Friday - Skagway, Alaska

Skagway - Thursday September 8.  This is one of my favorite days. I highly recommend the Glacier Point Wilderness Adventure. These excursions do cost extra but are worth the bucks spent. How else to truly experience Alaska? You have to get out there...into the rugged wild...albeit with guides. Prior to coming on a big trip like this I do recommend walking. Get into some semblance of shape - you'll want  to keep up and be worthy.

7:30 am  and off the boat. We board a harbor boat with Elise, our young perky guide, and twenty other intrepid explorers. Captain Dan pushes back and we zoom for 1-1/2 hours through fjords, inlets, passing waterfalls, mountains, misty clouds, and harbor seals lounging on shore. It's not too choppy. Yes, I took my dramamine.

On land we meet our dudes - the wilderness guides. These are twenty something guys who are college grads and not ready to settle down. They work hard in Alaska from May through end of September. They enjoy hiking, nature, and sharing  this wilderness with tourists. They've obviously done their research and their enthusiasm is contagious.

So, first stop is to put on waterproof boots. Then we hike on a narrow tree rooted path downhill to a river. Canoes await and we board. Matt is our guide - a dreadlocked white dude from the Midwest. He's very laid back and cool.  We paddle a bit and then he kicks on the motor. We zoom to the glacier.
The scale of this area is monumental. You think you are close to a glacier but you are a mile or so away. Chunks of ice float by. Matt stops briefly and hauls in a big chunk - it is crystal clear. The purity here is reassuring. Mankind has  not ruined everything.

Canoe lands and we slog ashore to walk about a mile on river walk. It's not easy - hence, you should have trained a bit for this. Blue ice gleamed.  Stunning  turquoise blue shades. Lapis hues take your breath away.  Rocks are the size of buildings. This glacier is HUGE. I'm out of adjectives to describe this.   Any pictures you see - they are true and more. Breathtakingly fabulous.

It was all exhiliarating.  We lingered  - hating to return to the canoe, paddling back, boarding our harbor boat and returning  to Skagway. Refreshed and tired for a good reason, we stumbled back to the ship by 3:30 for a nap.

I can't emphasize enough - book excursions. Get out there. Chat with your guides - it's an engaging group of young folks  seeing  the world and learning  a lot.
So, nighttime on the ship. Dinner - brie appetizer, trout with spaghetti, and a strawberry mousse. This is not buffet. The sit-down dinners are really nice.

7 pm  - Pub Trivia.  Victory!
8 pm - Mike Bliss - comedy, juggling, and magic. We are amused
9 pm - Group Trivia. Alas a tie...that's okay

10 pm - Goodnight