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North to Alaska

Departure – Canada Place, Vancouver

We took a break from our Canadian Adventure to go on a 7 day (There and Back again) cruise to Alaska via the “Inside Passage” departing from Canada Place Vancouver.  Our ship was the Holland America line “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New Amsterdam).  We had arrived earlier and as a result we had to wait, but the good news we were one of the first to board, the bad news it was a long wait for our luggage.  I shall say right off I will never sail with Holland America again. The cabin was fine, the food was excellent and the crew very polite.  However, what you pay is not the final price, they add on hotel service charge, and a service charge for a drink.  We are used to all inclusive with complementary drinks with meals, no hidden surcharges and gratuities left for us to decide on.  It did not help that they confiscated my dress  sgian-dubh (ske-an do) an imitation knife which is part of my highland dress outfit and the KILT pin.  As this was my formal dress my partner and I felt reluctant to attend the two formal evenings.  As a result of that we ate our meals in the Lido Restaurant and had a great selection of meals around the world.  Really loved those salads.

Our fist night cruising allowed us to explore the ship, the shops and go to a show (the only one we did go to).  The show team were very talented, but the volume was deafening.  I do stage photography and am used to shows, but this really was loud and yes it was colourful.

Juneau

The first port of call was Juneau – the State Capitol City.  (Following from Wikipedia) Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane. A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Centre, dedicated to local birds.  A port that has four cruise liners in is going to be busy.  While nearly all passengers headed for the Mount Roberts Tramway or other tourist attractions we opted to explore the city and visit the museum, which was very interesting on local history.  We wandered around the town making our way back to the dock plaza and the Mt. Roberts tramway station.  It takes about 5 minutes to get to the station at the 1,800 foot point. Feeling hungry we partook of lunch – very nice it was too.  Making our way to the Ranger Station we asked if there was a circular trail that would take about an hour to walk.  There was indeed, and we were advised to take the right hand as that would be easier for us going down the large flight of stairs rather then climbing them.  (We were glad we took that advice).  The views at that level we good, they got even better as we climbed up the trail.  The Ranger had given us a map and there was a point marked “Father Brown’s Cross” which was a 1/2 mile up from the Alpine loop trail we were on. In for a penny in for a pound, we plodded up that extra 1/2 mile.  Those kind souls coming down gave encouragement to stick to it as the view was worth it.  I’ll let you decide if it was.

We thought it was, and very pleased we were to have taken the time and energy to get there.

Skagway

Our next stop was Skagway: Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska, set along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It’s home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada.

If it was not for the modern traffic I would have thought we had stepped back in time.  As the blurb above states “gold rush era buildings each one with its own story.  Even new builds have to comply with “the look”.  Gateway to the Chilkoot trail Skagway had an unsavoury reputation thanks to one Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II.  We strolled up and down “Main Street” like many tourists and the spirit of “Soapy Smith” lives on with retailers enticing customers into shops with free charms.  Two routes to the Klondike Goldfields originated from Skagway – The main being the Chilkoot Trail, the other the White Pass Trail (aka The Dead Horse Trail).  Each have their own bloody history and tales of woe.  It was at Skagway  the second highlight of our adventure occurred, again it involved a train journey up the White Pass on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The second highlight on the cruise – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vast area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is flanked by high peaks, including Mount Fairweather, and glaciers like the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife includes humpback whales and puffins.

On our Canadian Adventure we walked over a minute part of the Athabasca Glacier here we stood on a ship looking at nature in the raw. In fact we saw 3 active glaciers out of the seven: Margerie GlacierGrand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier.

We stood on the deck listening to the sound of silence being disturbed by the groans and creaks of the living glaciers as the slowly moved their way to the sea. On 4 occasions we heard a deep rumble vibrate through the air.  We later found out from a passenger on another ship that was the Margerie Glacier Calving. Alas we never saw a calving.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along the state’s southeastern coast. It’s known for its many Native American totem poles, on display throughout town. Nearby Misty Fiords National Monument is a glacier-carved wilderness featuring snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It’s also home to rich wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.

According to Wikipedia: Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: SaxmanTotem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Totem Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. We never saw any of them due to the fact that it lived up to its title as “Rain Capital of Alaska”.  We did enjoy a light snack as we wandered around the city before returning to the ship for our journey back to Vancouver.

Alaskan Adventure Video

 

 


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe-Helsinki

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Helsinki sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. Its central avenue, Mannerheimintie, is flanked by institutions including the National Museum, tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present. Also on Mannerheimintie are the imposing Parliament House and Kiasma, a contemporary art museum. Ornate red-brick Uspenski Cathedral overlooks a harbor

Cultural Cities of Northern Europe (September-October 2017)

We departed Copenhagen later Wednesday  heading for our next port of call  – Helsinki.   We arrived in the early hours of Thursday and would have six hours to explore the city before setting sail for St. Petersburg.  We elected to have the city tour and set off to see the touristic sites and monuments.

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Helsinki Central Station is the main station for commuter rail and long-distance trains departing from Helsinki, Finland. The station is used by approximately 400,000 people per day, of which about 200,000 are passengers

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Alexis Kivi, born Alexis Stenvall, (10 October 1834 – 31 December 1872) was a Finnish author who wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish language, Seven Brothers (Finnish title: Seitsemän veljestä). Although Kivi was among the very earliest authors of prose and lyrics in Finnish language, he is still considered one of the greatest.He also died alone in a mental hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour took us to the Sibelius Monument and Bust.

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The Sibelius Monument by Eila Hiltunen is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The monument is located at the Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland (Wikipedia)

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Marja Leena Suvela – Keraamikko Ceramicist , Helsinki

On returning to the ship we spent some time in the Finish market at the dock – of course we bought some souvenirs, one stall in particular interested us.  Susan was delight that the objects were made by the stall holder  Marja Leena Suvela – Keraamikko Ceramicist , Helsinki

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Click for Gallery of 41 images of our visit to Helsink

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Road Trip – Killin 6-7th May

20160506-_K504564-EditMy partner Susan is into Am-Drama in a big way. She is involved in committees, costuming, organising for the Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA). I am slowly getting sucked into supporting the SCDA, but not without a fight – rear guard action it may be but it is still a fight. As we were going away for two days  I turned off all my computers on Friday morning and we set off for Killin for the two day “Killin Komedy Festival”.  It was a greyish day as we set out – but brightened up as we headed north to the Highlands.  We did not stop at our usual break point at the first car park at Loch Lubnaig due to the legendary mirror stillness of the loch waters being disturbed by a wind shift.  Instead we stopped at the next rest spot which by happenstance had a take-away cafe.

We arrived at Killin at 2:45 just in time to book into our room and go for a stroll up to the old bridge which crosses the River Dochart and the Falls of Dochart. Usually the falls funnel a large surge of water through the two arches of the old bridge. At these times not only can you hear the roar of the water and feels the force of it as it thunders beneath the arches of the single track bridge.  We discovered that our visit coincided with one of these rare occasions when the river flow was abated and the underlying rocks, boulders which cause the river waters to froth, tumble and roar were uncovered and one could walk out to the main channel leading to the first arch.

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Even with this reduced water flow the river still roared its merry way to Loch Tay.

 

 

 

 

 

Video “Lubnaig, Dochart and Tay” by Susan Wales (C) May 2016. Pictures by Walter Hampson ((C) PicturesbyWalter May 2016)