Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Alaskan Memories: Journey's End

Our seventh day of vacation, fifth on the cruise, found us settled in completely to the life of the rich and unemployed. We woke up early enjoyed breakfast in the fabulous Lido restaurant which had these huge windows with beautiful views of the outside and since we weren't set to arrived at our last port of the trip, Ketchikan, till after lunch, we spent the morning relaxing on deck, walking around, playing ping-pong. The weather was changing rapidly, from the constant rain and clouds of the days before to brightness, blue skies, and - surprisingly! - warmth.

After a relaxing morning, we arrived in Ketchikan to some bad news. An excursion that I had booked back in Miami and was REALLY looking forward too, a kayaking trip, was cancelled due to bad weather, a super-blustery wind that would have had us capsized in no time, apparently. To make for it, we decided on a completely different kind of trip for the day, a rather pricey (but worth it!) floatplane ride into Misty Fjords National Monument (kind of like a National Park, but slightly different). It was a clear bright beautiful blue day, not a cloud in the sky, so the name Misty Fjords didn't seem to apply, but, whatever!

Cliff faces rose hundreds of feet into the air, dusted with snow, while thin waterfalls fell in sparkling cascades into large lakes below. Fjords are created when ancient glaciers recede completely and in their wake they leave huge mountainous chasms that are filled in with lakes, some called "hanging lakes" that are perched high up in the air. It's an incredible sight to see from a low flying plane. But the best part was actually landing inside the park, in an abandoned cove a million miles (or so it seemed) from civilization and any other people. Once landed, the captain told us to "get out!" We were a little dubious. We would be going swimming. No, we stood on the flotillas (the legs) of the plane and soaked in the peace and serenity of this quiet spot. I could have stayed there for hours. I felt more at peace, more centered, more separate from the noise of the world, than ever before. It was truly cleansing. Unfortunately, we had to leave. We clambered back onto the plane, smiling and calm, and returned to the air, where more sights awaited us.

Later, we explored Ketchikan, nick-named Alaska's First City, because it is the southernmost city in the state and often the first stop for cruise ships. It is noteworthy for its proliferation of Totem Poles and for a certain street built on stilts over a creek, called, simply, Creek Street. it was once the red-light district in Alaska's Gold Rush time, but now - Alaska's Tourist Time - it's a tourist-friendly row of shops and stores. We did our gift-shopping for friends and family here and found some really great stuff.

The next day was another day out in the open ocean, on the way to our final destination, Vancouver, Canada. Like the first day, the speed of the boat seemed to immobilize both Shawn and I and we both took some Dramamine pills to settle our heads and stomachs. It mostly worked. We started to get sad, what with the end of our wonderful trip, but we tried to make the most of our last day, spending time in the Thermal Suite, napping comfortably in our room, and enjoying our last dinner on board. the Ryndam.

We were smart, though. Instead of rushing back home to work after the end of the cruise, we rewarded our general awesomeness with two days in beautiful Vancouver. It was our first time in this city, which was so impressive and so interesting. A lot of the city's older-style architecture reminded me of the brownstones of Boston while the glass-heavy urban sections reminded me of Chicago and the hills and electrical cables lines reminded me of San Francisco and the scattering of construction sites and tall metal cranes reminded us of Miami. So, it was sort of like visiting four cities in one.

Our first day we followed all the tourist guide's suggestions and went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It sounds cheesy, but it was super fun. The bridge was a little frightening and definitely exciting and beyond the bridge was a small nature park, with foresty paths, all these platforms overlooking a gorgeous valley, and something called a Treetops Adventure which is a series of small suspension bridges linking big trees to each other. The only thing missing, really, were little guys in Ewok costumes and the occasional Stormtrooper running around. That evening, we again followed all the tourist guides and went to a brewpub called Yaletown Brewing Co. for some great beer and lots of food (although the portions were huge and we barely finished what we got.)

The next day was all about Stanley Park. We'd read about it, saw pictures of it, and I kinda thought it would be like Golden Gate Park in SF, but it wasn't. It was three or four times larger, with tons to see and do. We visited a wonderful Aquarium where we saw beluga whales and walked along a sea wall overlooking a beautiful bay and the city. Finally, we walked down something Lover's Lane and although it seemed to be infested with insects, it was pretty and quiet and romantic. That night, we went to another romantic dinner, a fancy place called Vij's in the West End of Vancouver. We had a craving for Indian food - the one kind of food not available on our cruise - and so we googled around and found the most famous Indian place in the city. It was great although spicy as all hell! Canadians must like their spice.

And so, on that tasty note, our trip officially ended. It was a wonderful experience, full of incredible sights, amazing adventures, beautiful scenery, extreme relaxation, and I couldn't imagine doing it with anybody else except my lovely Shawn. We had a lot of laughs, a lot of shared WOW's, and a lot of quiet time enjoying a break from reality.

Obviously, I highly recommend doing an Alaskan cruise. You won't be sorry!


Shawn said...

What a great recap!! Thank you Elad :)

What about our Victorian Hotel in Vancouver? Wasn't that filled with memories as well? You being Israeli in the heat? The only air being the tiny fan in the corner? The walk up? The shared bathrooms? It definetly had character!!!

I think we could write a book about all the things we experienced...

Elad said...

I learned my recapping skills from the best, you and your Project Runway recaps!

There was a lot of great stuff in Vancouver, but I guess I was running out of steam at that point. We'll save it for the book.


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