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A Trip to Alaska

Thursday Thirteen

Last month hubby and I spent a fortnight in Alaska. Alaska is one place in the world, which is still a real wilderness. It is beautiful.

Thirteen Things About Alaska and Our Holiday

1. Alaska is the largest state of the USA, but is sparsely populated.

2. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier National Park and Whittier, all places with limited connection by road. During the summer though, tourists flock to these towns via ferry and cruise ships.

3. Ketchikan is known for its rain but during our two visits (we cruised up from Vancouver to Whittier and back down to Vancouver) we had sunshine. It’s also called the salmon capital of the world, although Mr. Munro would dispute that fact since his fishing trip was a bust.

4. In Ketchikan, we wandered along Creek Street, the previous red-light district of the town and checked out the salmon returning to spawn. Lots of the salmon had died already and seagulls picked over their carcasses.

Ketchikan

5. From Ketchikan, we did a float plane flight to Neets Bay. There is a salmon hatchery there and it’s a favored place for the black bears to fish.

Beer at Neets Bay 

6. Our next stop was Juneau and the excursion I was looking forward to most. Here we did a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier and went dog-sledding. We had so much fun and now I’m obsessed by all-things dog-sledding.

Dog Sledding

7. Skagway is another frontier town and it has its roots in the Klondike goldrush. The boardwalks and wide streets were full of tourists. During the summer, the locals must become tired of wandering tourists who stop in the middle of the street, right in front of vehicles.

8. Glacier National Park is 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, rain forest, fjords and wild coast line. It’s pristine and beautiful. We saw a glacier calving, sea otters and seals. Breathed in lots of fresh air!

Glacier

9. Whittier was the turnaround point for the cruise where some passengers left and others joined. Whittier is a city but the population as at 2014 was a mere 217.

10. From Whittier, we went on a bus tour. A tunnel (the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel) connects Whittier with the Portage Glacier Highway. The tunnel is 2.5 miles long and is used by both rail and road vehicles. Access to the one-way tunnel is run by a strict schedule on the hour from Whittier and the half-hour from Bear Valley.

11. We visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This 200-acre center provides refuge for orphaned, injured and ill animals—ones that are unable to survive in the wild. They also release animals such as elk and bison back into the wild. We saw bears, porcupine (the cutest things), elk, wood bison, a wolf, an eagle and musk-ox. I really enjoyed our visit here.

12. On our return to Skagway, we hired a car and drove up to the Yukon. The fall colors were starting to show, and once we drove above the mist and clouds that covered the mountains, we had gorgeous weather. This is a shot taken not far from Carcross.

Yukon

13. One of the highlights for me was seeing all the different animals. Whales and otters, seals and salmon, black bears and brown bears, eagles and the husky dogs. A part of me would love to visit during the winter, just to see how cold it really gets. If you haven’t had a chance to visit Alaska, do put it on your bucket list. As the biggest state, there is heaps to explore and they have good local beer.

13 Destinations in My Future

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Hubby and I are counting the days until our holiday, which starts in about seven weeks. Here are some of the places we intend to visit.

Thirteen Places We Will Visit

1. Southampton, England

2. London

3. St. Petersburg, Russia

4. Copenhagen, Denmark

5. Oslo, Norway

6. Helsinki, Finland

7. Stockholm, Sweden

8. Tallinn, Estonia

9. Venice, Italy

10. Valetta, Malta

11. Cadiz, Spain

12. Gibraltar

13. Dubrovnik, Croatia

We’ve visited London (lived there for six years), Gibraltar and Venice before and the rest will be an adventure. I’ve wanted to visit Dubrovnik for years, so I’m happy we’re finally getting there.

Have you visited any of these places before? Any tips?

Five Great Reasons to Visit Singapore

Singapore is a small island country with a big heart and presence. Around 45 km west to east and 25 km from north to south, the population is densely packed. I’ve visited Singapore three times now, usually on the way to another final destination since Singapore is around ten hours flight from New Zealand and makes a great stopover.

But those people who don’t spend time in Singapore are short-changing themselves because it’s a great holiday destination in its own right.

Five Reasons to Visit Singapore

1. It’s a safe, clean and friendly place to visit. Definitely easy to get around on your own.

2. The food is delicious! Dine on Chinese, Indian, Malay or stick to something more familiar. Dining out is a treat for the taste buds.

3. Retail therapy. No matter what you want to buy you’ll find goods ranging from designer to bargains in the older market areas.

4. The international airport – Changi Airport is one of the nicest and most interesting airports to visit. Save some shopping time for the airport too.

5. A wide range of attractions to visit and things to do for all age groups. Ride on the Singapore Flyer. Visit the renowned Singapore zoo or Jurong Bird Park. Have a Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel. Take a walking tour around the old parts of the city or laze away the day on Sentosa Island. The choice is endless.

View from Singapore Flyer

View of the City from the top of the Singapore Flyer

Tai Chi Botanic Gardens

Morning Tai Chi at the botanical gardens

Singapore River

Singapore River, lined with restaurants and pubs

Mosque and Market

Sultan Mosque and surrounding market stalls

Singapore really is an exciting and vibrant place to visit, and I’m looking forward to the next time we can fit it into our travel itinerary.

Have you or would you like to visit Singapore? Does it appeal to you as a destination?

13 Facts About Shipboard Food on the Pacific Pearl

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I’m home again after our cruise aboard the Pacific Pearl. Those who have been on a cruise before will know about the sheer amount of food available. It’s very tempting to have a little of this and a little of that and before you know it, clothes strain at the seams. I’m afraid I am physical proof of this fact, and I’m officially on a diet. Sick smile

The catering is a huge operation, and I found the food related facts they gave us fascinating.

13 Facts About Shipboard Food

1. 3000 dozen eggs are used during a 10 day cruise.

2. Plus 1000 kg of lettuce

3. 4000 litres of milk

4. 2000 kg of watermelon

5. 1400 kg of steak – hubby ate quite a few of these!

6. 7500 tea bags are dunked and drunk

7. 600 kg of cheese is consumed – I like cheese.

8. 12500 plates, 10000 glasses and 15000 items of cutlery are washed each day

9. There are 29 people on the dishwashing brigade

10. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are delivered when the ship is in port

11. On average 90 tons (180 pallets) of food are loaded on board after passing inspection by the Food and Beverage Director.

12. There are five butchers on board to prepare different cuts of meat

13. 99% of the passengers put on weight. Unfortunately, I didn’t fit into the 1% category. I blame the pastry chef!

Do you tend to eat more when you’re on holiday?

The Holiday That Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations

Diamond Princess, Sydney

At some stage during most of the cruises we’ve taken, the cruise director will read out a list of the top ten complaints/questions they receive from passengers. Here are three for your amusement:

1. The passenger with an inside cabin who complained because they didn’t have a view and wanted the cruise staff to cut a porthole for them.

2. The passenger who complained because the sea was keeping him awake.

3. The passenger who complained because he didn’t get a suntan. He was cruising in Alaska.

This made me think of our past holidays and the things that have gone wrong. Luckily, to date, we haven’t experienced any huge dramas, merely minor irritations.

1. The hotel room in Egypt with mouse droppings all over the bed. The second room also had mouse droppings and I gave up. I slept with one eye open and used my sleeping bag.

2. The hotel shortage in Zanzibar. We stayed on Zanzibar for three nights with the hotels becoming worse and smaller each night. The last room was a small square box with no windows or facilities and we had to run the fan or melt. The fan was really noisy! Didn’t get much sleep that night. Oh, almost forgot. The first night our friends, who stayed in another room, had a nocturnal guest—a rat. They called the hotel desk and it was like a Greek comedy. The story and the size of the rat has grown over the years. We still chuckle about the rat story. Also, the ferry going back to the mainland broke down and we spent time drifting in the humidity while they fixed it.

3. The hotel in Greece that was really still a building site. After two nights we complained and were shifted to a new and much better hotel.

4. The camp site in Kenya. The porters asked if we’d heard any noises during the night. “No,” we said. They’d had to chase elephants away from our tent. When we didn’t believe them they showed us the footprints. They were really close to our tent!

5. The camp site in Tanzania. I was petrified about having to go to the loo in the middle of the night. Luckily I didn’t need to, but the roar of the lions kept me awake all night.

6. Camping once again, this time in Rotorua, New Zealand. It was a wild and windy night, so windy only our weight kept the tent on the ground. There was a few times when I didn’t think that would be enough to keep us earthbound. We ended up driving home at about three a.m.

Do you have any bad holiday stories to share?

The Week That Was

The months are passing so quickly. We’ll be off on holiday again very soon. This time we’re going on a cruise of another part of the Pacific. We’re visiting Norfolk Island, Vanuatu and Noumea. I’m looking forward to the short ten-day break.

Mr. Munro visited a school or play center recently for his work. They had a worm farm and Mr. Munro arrived home with everything he needed to create his own worm farm. We already recycled all our kitchen waste into the compost bin, but these days I have to separate out the onion and garlic skins and any citrus scraps. I keep forgetting and that means a telling off. I think I’ve got it straight now, although I haven’t worked up the courage to peer inside the farm to see if I can spot the worms.

The garden has also received a bit of a makeover with some lime chips and some solar lights. It’s made a big difference and the garden is looking very pretty. The lime chips should also stop the weeds coming through. Yesterday, Mr. Munro planted some spring bulbs (rununculars and freesias) because he knows how much I like them along with some garden greens and coriander. I get the job of watering.

Bella has been a little horror since I last posted about her training. I’ve been calling her a devil dog and she’s lived up to the name. She will insist on biting when she gets over excited. I know it’s a puppy thing but I wish she’d get over it. At other times she’s so cute I just want to squeeze her. Ah, the trials of owning a puppy!

Cute Bella

In writing, I’m currently working on a short hot historical and I’m also adding a few words to the follow up story to The Bottom Line. The follow up story belongs to Julia. It’s given me real fits. I don’t think I’ve ever started a story so many times before. The current version has me excited and I’m cautiously optimistic that Julia’s story is on its way.

How was your week?

A Birthday Surprise

My husband pulled off a wonderful surprise for my recent birthday. I knew we were going away but I thought hubby had organized a quick trip to the South Island of New Zealand. On the day we were meant to leave, he woke me up at a very early hour with a cup of tea. When I went to check my email there was a note attached to the computer along with a flashdrive.

The note said, “Good morning, Shelley. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to insert this flashdrive. It will not self destruct in five seconds, but you may!!”

Curious, I inserted the flashdrive and a movie started. Hubby had booked us a cruise on the Volendam and the movie showed all the ports of call. Honestly, I had no idea. He really pulled a swifty on me :grin:
Luckily I had a few hours to pack and organize/reschedule the few things I needed to sort out before we traveled up to Auckland to board the cruise ship.

Volendam

The cruise started in Auckland and stopped in Mt Maunganui, Napier, Wellington, Picton, Akaroa, Dunedin (Port Chalmers), cruised the Milford Sound before crossing the Tasman Sea to Hobart in Tasmainia, Eden on mainland Australia and ending in Sydney. The surprises kept coming with some fun tours booked and a new bracelet for my birthday. We went dolphin watching to see the rare Hector dolphins, wine tasting, hiking, swimming and sightseeing. We even visited the real Middlemarch where I took loads of photos. I half expected one of the Mitchells to round the corner and say hello. In fact, the Mitchells are so real to me, I was a bit disappointed when they didn’t!

We both had a fun time and arrived home rested and ready for Christmas. It was the best birthday ever.

The Best Holiday Ever

Thursday Thirteen

Since I’ve just returned from holiday I thought I’d use my Pacific cruise holiday as my topic for this week’s Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen Things I Did During My Cruise Holiday

1. I tried Line Dancing for the first time ever.

2. I went to my first art auction.

3. I went helmet-diving in Bora Bora, Tahiti. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it was fun looking at the fish face-to-face with nothing but water between us.

4. I went to a series of lectures by a marine biologist and inspiration struck for one of my stories. The lectures were great.

5. I sat under the stars on a lounger, watched some recent movies on the big screen and ate popcorn. My favorite movies were Sherlock Holmes and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

6. I went to the Apple store in Honolulu and played with an iPad. I want one!!

7. I went to the gym every morning.

8. I took some Photoshop classes.

9. I climbed and descended lots and lots of stairs. It was 107 steps from the Patisserie (where I had my mid-morning coffee) to our stateroom and 140 steps to the Horizon buffet at the top of the ship.

10. I went to the casino and donated $5 most nights. Last of the big spenders, that’s me.

11. I met the captain and several of his officers when we visited the bridge. These days the security is high and security guards accompanied us.

12. I went to a theatre show every night and saw singers, dancers, comedians, ventriloquists and magicians. Some were better than others, but my favorites were the Princess singers and dancers with their excellent stage shows.

13. I visited 13 ports and explored Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, American Samoa and Fiji. We also had two nights in Sydney and attended the Royal Easter show and explored the central city and Darling Harbor.

Your best holiday ever – where did you go?

Back From Holiday

I’m back! The Pacific cruise was wonderful–relaxing, full of new experiences and fun times. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’m ready to face the real world again. In the real world I have to cook, do dishes and make my own bed. Hubby had to drag me onto the plane to fly home from Sydney. Once we emptied the suitcases, the pile of laundry was downright scary, but thankfully that’s almost under control now.

Here’s a sample of what we saw on our holiday. This is the island of Moorea in Tahiti. The photo was taken from the ship. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Moorea sunrise, Tahiti

I’m On Strike!

Camera Critters

This photo was taken at Bear Country in South Dakota, USA. Mr. Munro and I loved watching the bears because some of them were real characters. This one wasn’t letting any traffic past.

Photobucket

To see more photos visit Camera Critters.



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