Monthly Archives: September 2019

Alaskan Cruise – Anchorage to cruising at Sea

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Our taxi arrived right on time at the hotel to take us to the Anchorage train station for our 6:45 AM departure. It was crowded but orderly and we were soon on our way to Seward still in the dark, leaving our bags there for their handling.

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The train was very comfortable but we did have a long walk forward to the coffee bar.  Spectacular glaciers, mountains, rivers and marshes filled our window. There was a mad scramble to take photos, first left, then right. We saw five moose running madly to get away from the train. Lazy beluga whales (small whiteish ones) rolled over off shore. Marie saw a trumpet swan. Fantastic beauty and rugged experience everywhere.

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The spectacular Spencer Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula

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Our engineer hams it up once we arrived in Seward

We arrived in Seward 4 hrs later, a deep water port where the Holland America (HAL) Westerdam awaits us.‎ It was drizzling and cool. Check in was very smooth and we were on board eating lunch with Dave and Mary by 12:30. Food is OK so far but nothing like on Oceania Cruise Line which is renowned for it’s food.

Seward is named after William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s capable Secretary of State during the U.S. Civil War.  He negotiated the Alaskan Purchase from Russia in 1867 at a bargain price and is very highly regarded here.  Alaska entered the Union as the 49th State in 1959.

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Seward harbour

We have done quite a few cruises before and this will be our 2nd on HAL.  The Westerdam is an older ship built in 2004 with a capacity of 1964 passengers, making it medium sized in our view. It was renovated a few years back but has a bit of a tired look to it. It is adequate and clean.  Our cabin is very good, an aft balcony i.e. a balcony facing the stern of the ship.  Our cabin steward named May introduced himself and was very friendly and helpful.

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Our aft balcony, top row third cabin from right

Two of our bags arrived quickly but the 3rd and biggest one got delayed 3 hrs. Apparently the tag with the cabin# fell off and they had to trace it to us by name. It was a frustrating delay but all was well at last.  We had the standard safety drill on deck but mercifully did not have to don the life jackets this time.

We had dinner in the Lido and met a nice couple from Oregon. We turned in early but not before hearing a talk by the cruise director on Alaska, it’s history, people and spirit. HAL was the first cruise line to “do” Alaska in 1975. It proved very successful and the other mass lines quickly followed.  HAL owns the McKinley Chalet Resort and the Westmark Hotel chain too.

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Warm enough for we Canadians.  Heated pool too.

We learned that few years back, a jet taking off from Juneau collided with a salmon lol! Apparently a bald eagle saw the plane coming and dropped it’s prey onto the windshield. Windshield Sushi read the headline, lol!  It was Captain Cook who discovered Alaska in 1778. 15% of Alaskans are of indigenous origin.  Each Alaskan receives a generous cash dividend each year from the State’s rich resource account.  The cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than in the lower 49 (as much as +30% in Anchorage and +50% elsewhere).

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Marie on the aft balcony

Ship rocked a bit that night as we crossed the Gulf of Alaska but was still very quiet for sleeping.  The next day was a day at sea on our leisurely way to Glacier Bay.  We enjoyed the ship’s facilities and then dressed up a bit for the 1st gala evening.  Sadly, some of our friends had picked up a fever, were on medication and confined to their cabin.  We looked forward to seeing them again as soon as soon as they felt better.

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Me too.

Here is a map of our cruise routing.

Alaska routing

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Alaska the Last Frontier

 

Scan_20190918 (3)“Alaska the Last Frontier” is the catchy tag line that seems to capture visitors’ concept of Alaska well.  However, Marie coming from Newfoundland and Dave having lived in Vancouver, remained a bit skeptical at first.

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After 2×3 hr flight‎s from Winnipeg we arrived safely in Anchorage on a warm sunny day.

Our taxi driver gave us a running commentary on the way in.  Everyone loves the outdoors here – fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.. “If you don’t, you probably won’t like living here.” he quipped.  He loves fishing and is used to the colder weather now.  He loves it here.

We notice that it was visibly hazy.  He explained this was smoke from some nearby forest fires. You could really smell it. There are more airplanes in Alaska per capita than anywhere he stated, as we drove by the biggest float plane port in the world.  We later learned only about half of Alaskan pilots are licensed to fly!  He went on to praise Canada and said “Paris married New York and they had a baby and called it Montreal.”, which he really loves to visit.  Cute.

Coming in we saw small trees, a lake, brown grass, some ducks, all much like home. We adjusted our clocks back yet another hour from Vancouver.‎ We could see that there are a lot of indigenous people here with a Pacific look about their faces.  Wow, another rich cultural experience here.

Our hotel was functional but on the outskirts. Fortunately there was a mall next door with a grocery and wine store. The clerk in the wine store insisted we show age ID!  So we contented ourselves with a nice meal in the room of crab, baguette and wine. Then we slept 10 hrs!

The next day we picked up a rental car and drove SW out the pretty Turnagain Arm off the Cook Inlet.  It was Captain Cook who “discovered” and mapped the coast of Alaska in 1778, hence the name.  Magnificent mountains come tumbling down to the Sea as the tide runs out and back in quickly. We stopped for some photos in the sun. Magpies everywhere, beluga whales offshore.  Continuing on we headed for the Mt Aleyaska Resort Hotel. The sun staid out and the smoke dissipated a bit.

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We took the tram up about 1500 vertical ft and gazed at snow covered Mt Aleyaska. It’s peak is almost 4000 ft above sea level. There is a massive ski hill here too with double black diamond trails. This reminded Dave of his Whistler skiing days long ago – 9000+ ft above sea level and a whopping 5000+ vertical ft ski run!  Aleyaska rivals but can’t compare.  Aleyaska means “great country” and was the original name of Alaska we learn.

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Descending we drove lazily back to Anchorage in time to meet our friends from Arnprior, the Dohertys and Correaus, for dinner.‎  The Doherty’s had taken a land tour first and spent time in Denali Park where the great Mt. McKinley towers 20,310 ft. The Correaus had flown in to Anchrage the day after us and were staying at the same hotel.  A great night was had by all!

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The next day we drove with the Correaus NW to Eklutna Lake for a photo shoot.  It was very beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of Lake Louise. ‎After returning the car we hooked up with the Dohertys and went to the town market which was full of artisan works. During a humorous scenic trolley ride around town we learned:
– pop of Alaska 740,000
– pop of Anchorage‎ 300,000
1964 Alaskan earthquake near Anchorage magnitude 9.2, the 2nd strongest ever recorded in history
– only 7 fatalities in Anchorage as it hit at 5 PM on a Good Friday with no one in school, on the road etc. (126 elsewhere in Alaska died sadly due to tsunamis and landslides)

Finished with a tasty succotash dinner (corn, lima and other beans), the end of our short wonderful stay in Anchorage.‎  Alaska, the Last (American) Frontier is sure a great place to visit so far.

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Swing West

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Elias welcomes our swing west

We just returned from a swing out west.  We started in Winnipeg with a family visit to Kyle, Ashley and Elias. Next was a short stay in Anchorage, AK.  Then we cruised the Alaskan coast to Vancouver.  Finished up with a fine stay with the Oblates in YVR.  It’s good to get away and it’s good to be home again.

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Elias, now 11+ months old, is a ball of joyful beauty and energy.  He is so accepting, allowing us to hold him, feed him and play peek a boo.  He fills his days with fun activities such as a stroller ride in the park, some bouncy play time, stories, naps and eating.  He is standing with assistance, communicates his needs very well and will be on a real tear soon.  Love you little Elias!  Your parents are doing such a great job.  Ashley, you are so wonderful and Kyle too!  Thanks so much for hosting us on top of your busy schedules you guys.

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Dad and son had a nice round of golf.  Kyle hits the ball a mile with a natural swing that amazes.  Dave is playing well this year and nudged for the win.  Next time could be very different.  It was a great day in the warm August sunshine! Loved the game, thanks again Kyle.

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Marie had some extra time with Elias in the park and at home.  This was her 3rd visit to Winnipeg this year and Dave’s 2nd.  Can’t wait to return.

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Of course we headed to the Forks for a walk and a bite, always a fascinating place to go exploring.  We also had time to visit St. Kateri Tekakwitha (Oblate) parish on Sunday for Mass.  They had a nice social after.  We met the new priest assigned there, Fr Vijay Dievanayagam, OMI, and some fellow Oblate Associates.  We love Winnipeg, our home away from home.

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Dave explored Elias’ future school, just 3 blocks away from home.  Wolseley is a lovely neighbourhood with mature trees, nice parks, paths, shopping nearby and friendly neighbours – lot’s of young families.  You sure are lucky Elias to be a Winnipeg boy!  We are so blessed to have you in our lives.

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P.S. Happy Birthday Kyle!

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Return Home and QC/NB Trip by the Numbers

We returned home from St John, NB via Maine as it is a shorter route.  We stopped overnight in Waterville using our Best Western points.  The next day we drove to Magog, QC and walked around the lovely park on the shore of Lake Memphremagog.  That night we stayed near Waterloo, QC where one of Dave’e university buddies comes from.  We really enjoyed the beauty of the Eastern Townships – hills, lakes, streams, hiking trails, picturesque little towns and bicycle paths everywhere.

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Leaving NB

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Maine

When we got to Ottawa we stopped at the Oblates residence for dinner.  Outgoing Provincial Fr. Ken Forster and Vicar-General Fr. Jim Bleakley were turning leadership responsibility over to Fr. Ken Thorson and Fr. Richard Beaudette.  It was great to say goodbye for now to these great friends and hope to see you again soon.

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QC/NB Trip By the Numbers

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The purpose of this road trip was to visit Marie’s brother Kevin and sister-in-law Phyllis. in St John, NB.  For a map of our basic routing, click here.

The highlights we found most enjoyable were:

  • Old Montreal – the architecture, food, music, shopping and Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Manoir Dauth – exquisite room, welcome and breakfast by Brigitte and Christian
  • Auberge de Belle Plage – in Baie-St-Paul, beach, restaurants, boutiques, live music
  • Finding a room at La Villa D’Antan, Sainte-Luce when all was full in Rimouski
  • Our great visit with Kevin and Phyllis, lunch and city tour in St John on a sunny day
  • great pool table and game at Kevin’s and seeing Troy and Tyler
  • Visiting departing Oblates in Ottawa while on our way home

Overall trip by the numbers:

  • 2700 kms driven over 13 days
  • 12 nights, 2 provinces, 1 state
  • 11 sunny days, rain 2 days
  • 35 beautiful old churches visited or photographed
  • 3 seafood  and 1 duck dinners, best chowder
  • the best breakfast we ever had
  • 3 swimming pools
  • low traffic, convenient parking available, friendly people
  • 300+ photos taken
  • accommodating our English and putting up with Dave’s French
  • first Airbnb experience very positive
  • good shopping in and around Montreal (Point Claire)

Another great trip.  Thanks be to God and for travelling with us.

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D & M  xo

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