Alaska 2013

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We are now home and I couldn’t write the blog while on the ship.. because duh.. I forgot to set the program up before I left and so it wouldn’t have done me any good to write and then have to write it all over again to be able to post.

But I don’t want to deprive any of you from the interesting pictures I think I took while there.

Before I start I need to reiterate about what this cruise was all about.

We got a request  from the Holland American Rep who books clergy on the ships that she had this back to back Alaska cruise that needed a Rabbi and would we be able to take it. Since we really had nothing planed for these high holidays we said sure.. thinking that it would be better than staying home. Well, little did I realize that most of the days we would be in port would be days of the holiday and we really couldn’t do much except walk around, which is why my pictures are pretty lame!

I am going to write the whole trip to Alaska in one post, mainly because I don’t have that much to write and the same goes for the photos I don’t need to post double photos of the same thing since we did the cities twice.

The back to back cruise (for those who don’t know what that means) is just that. You end up doing exactly the same thing twice. Going to the same ports, traveling the same route.

This cruise made me realize that the poor captain, does this all summer long, must feel like a bus driver taking the same route every time. Good thing is, he knows exactly where to go and how to get there!

I don’t remember this captain’s name but he was great. He made announcements whenever we passed something interesting. Let us know the routes he was taking. When we would be passing certain areas, and of course talked about the weather.

The first week was kinda drab and rainy until our last stop, Ketchikan where the weather cleared up and we had a lovely day. After that, the 2nd week was perfect (weather wise)..

My biggest disappointment was that no one I knew except Satria (more about him later) was on this cruise. I truly missed my cruisin’ buddies.. especially Wools and Jim!!!!  ctually, not many Americans on the ship. Mostly Asian, Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians.

I bet I must be boring you guys already, talking up a storm without any photos.. so let’s get on with it!!!

We boarded the ship and was assigned our room.. (actually, it’s the opposite.. you get assigned then board the ship!)

We could not believe the room we got! We usually get a windowless room (which we understand and accept) but usually the rooms are tiny.. I mean SMALL! But this time.. it was huge.. and we had two closets.. amazing.. Just around the corner where the curtain is on the right, is a whole additional part to the room with an another closet.. wow, two closets in one room. Amazing.. so K took that closet and I had the usual one and the drawers all to myself. Shame this wasn’t a long cruise!!!

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The terminal from the ship. You can just make out the “airport” jutting out into the water…

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The runway… there were planes (seaplanes) taking off and landing constantly on the water.

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Sunset as we left, everyone must be unpacking!

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The clouds were so low.. It was rainy and foggy! But the second time around.. The weather was perfect!!!

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First stop, Juneau!  As seen from the 4th floor of the Library where they had free wifi.. (which basically sucked! SO SLOW! But it was a larger library than I expected and seemed well stocked. The building is being rehabbed and so there was no elevator and we had to walk 4 flights.. No biggie..especially since it seemed to be the tallest building in the area with a pretty decent view. You can see the fog sitting low on the mountain. We could have taken a cable car ride up that mountain but what would we have seen in the fog?

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I did a little research before we got to Juneau looking for….. a yarn shop, and found a  really nice one.  The shopkeeper, Jennifer, was really helpful and informative about living in Juneau. (There are no roads into or out of Juneau, you either fly in or come by ship or ferry.) Whenever I am somewhere I try to purchase yarn that is made locally.. and this time  I did.. they have yarn that is dyed in Juneau by a company called… A tree hugger’s wife yarns. You can find her on Etsy if you want.

These next two pix are from their website.. I get so excited about finding a yarn shop I usually forget to take pictures…

The warehouse complex, where the shop is located, has many different shops and restaurants.

Fish and Chips the mainstay on all menus!

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We were in Juneau till 10:30pm, perfect time for a night shot.

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On to Skagway… Skagway has an interesting past.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skagway,_Alaska for those who really want to get into it.. but basically the most interesting time for Skagway was when it was the jump off point for the Gold Rush during the late 1800s. When the word heard that gold was being found in the Yukon, many people flocked to Skagway which was the nearest US city to the Yukon.. but they would have to travel a very long and treacherous  way to get to the gold fields. The path was called the White Pass which basically passed over the mountain to the Canadian Yukon. There was no way to get any supplies to the area, so you had to drag a years supply of goods with you.. So they would haul one batch over the mountain and go back for the next and they kept doing this until the snow fell. Many did not make it. It was a 33 mile hike back and forth over the mountain to the gold fields. Many realized it was best to stay in town and sell supplies to those who were determined to go and find their fortune. Slowly the town transformed from a “wild west’” sort of town to a thriving city with buildings and shops, sidewalks and railway.  There is a historical part of town where we walked around. and you’ll see the pix..

There is also a tour of the pass with a train ride, called (you guessed it) The White Pass Train. Behind the train you see announcements on the rocks. Today they are of the ships that pass through but in the 1800’s they were advertising for local businesses and messages..

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Town was about a 1/4 of a mile from the ship so we decided to walk, even though we knew we couldn’t do much it would be fun to browse.

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The Red Onion Saloon was built just in time for the Gold Rush in 1898 and was a brothel. It is still in the exact location but of course now they just play at it.. and it’s a restaurant/bar where you can get a drink, something to eat and a tour by one of the ladies!

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This building was the building for the Camp Number 1 of the Artic Brotherhood which opened for the prospectors who came to join the Klondike Rush..  It’s really a cool building. Looks like it was made out of twigs.. many thought badly about the brotherhood, but the brotherhood took care of their members and even buried them if there was no family to do so. This is the original façade.

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I thought this was kinda weird.. the hood ornament????? Shouldn’t it be on a Ford not a Toyota? And the license plate says it’s an Oregon license.. That was a drive!

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Another building that was a brothel at the time of the Rush.. now a B&B..

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A beautiful quilt I saw in a store. (Nothing special about the stores, but I loved the colors of this quilt and thought my quilting friends would like it) It’s made up of fabric with Alaska flowers and berries.

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The next day we were on our way to Glacier Bay and saw this rainbow.. nothing has been altered in the photo..  This rainbow stayed with us for a very long time that day. It was so very strong and vibrant, you could see all the colors so clearly.. But if you wanted the pot of gold.. You would have to dive since it started and ended in the water!

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The Glaciers in Glacier Bay

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These pix were shot thru a window in the Lido (casual dining area on the 8th floor of the ship which is really the 11th)

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Do you see the splash? I didn’t even notice it when I took the picture, but obviously there was a piece of ice that caved (fell off the glacier) The ship has to say (they say) 2 miles away from the actual glacier otherwise the ice that falls off can harm the ship and if a large  enough piece falls it can cause a small “tsunami” and damage the ship. So we are far away!

A Glacier is a river of ice that has formed over many years of fallen snow that accumulates and moves down mountains. You can see from the spikes of the ice that it is moving otherwise it would be smooth like regular snowfall.

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It actually does look like a river meeting up with the sea, don’t you think?

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Waterfall from the melting ice. We saw a ton of waterfalls starting at the top of the mountains and trickling down but this one was a gusher..

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Here you can actually see how the river of ice flows…

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and here

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Because of the movement of the ice, which is always pushing the ice forward it develops these peaks and valleys which eventually fall into the sea. Not a good idea to walk on it.

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Some animals, mammals, and fish we saw along the way..

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Those blobs of brown are seals.. if you can’t see them!

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I saw a number of Orcas (Killer whales) but they move so fast and were pretty far away that it was difficult to take a pix.. but this is the best one I got.

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Once a week on every cruise when they are in a ridiculously cold area they have the polar plunge.. not too many people showed up for this one while we were in Glacier Bay. The guys you see jumping in the pool are crew members who have no choice! Poor kids, good thing the pool is heated!

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This is a cave under the glacier. In the second picture you can see where the cave is do you see the water dripping?

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Some of these pics of Glacier Bay were from the second week, The first week the weather was way worse, so no one went out to take shots, but the second the weather was so perfect people were out and about.

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My favorite ship in the fleet! Passing us by.. two weeks later, many of my cruising friends will be on it heading to Asia! The Amsterdam in Alaska..

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The pilot boat after picking up the pilot and  leaving our ship.. a pilot from each different waterway comes aboard the ship to help the captain steer through. The pilot knows all the nooks and crannies under the sea and knows the best way to go.. Once you enter another waterway he leaves.

It’s hard to get a good shot when you are 11 stories above them.

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And now my favorite of Alaska Cities.. Ketchikan…

Ketchikan is the Salmon Capital of the World and they know it!!!

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Since Ketchikan is the salmon capital you would assume there has to be some salmon around. Well, There is a river (they call it a creek) that the salmon come to spawn in.. There is a hop on hop off bus that drives in a little circle around the town for free so we hopped on.. and hopped off at the highest point.. and saw this…

You see how they have white on them? A local told us that once they have white strip on them, that means they have spawned and are now ready to die.. so they congregate until they do so. There were tons of dead fish around the edge of the creek.. but when you look at the pictures you really should look at the pictures from the bottom up.. since they had to travel to this point from all the way down the creek. The pictures further down show the “creek” they had to swim up to end up at this point. So the ones that you see in the first few pictures are the heroes in my book! They swam upstream and survived and did their job to the fullest!

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This isn’t just rapids.. it’s all uphill too!

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You can see how the salmon struggle to get up the river. They literally jump out of the water and hope to land higher and above the current

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We followed the creek down the river to Creek Street which was built on stilts over the river. Of course they have shops and  brothels from the past,  which they try to lure you in for a tour and a good time!

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Do you realize that that is the driveway for the house??? Their transportation is parked in the driveway!

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The airport!

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From there we went to check out the stores. There’s a mall at the end of the pier. As you can see they are still trappers and hunters.

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But in that little mall they had one amazing quilt shop.. Actually, two. One was generic fabric and a smaller one for Alaskan designs. The whole second floor of the mall was decorated with quilts. It was beautiful.

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I found this one amazing. It must be called shadow quilt or something like that.. Quilting buddies this is all for you!

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Can you imagine dragging groceries up those stairs.. No gym for you!!!

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Beautiful entry to a home, I couldn’t resist.

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Mid-day traffic!

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The crew of the ship presented me with a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to me in Indonesian.. I was so excited I tasted it and then realized I didn’t take a photo… Duh, me!

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Now we talk about Satria! There are not enough good things that can be said about this man.

We first met Satria on the Asian Voyage and was so taken by him. He is a wonderful person with many talents.

He would make origami for the kids in seconds.. He would sing and make everyone happy up in the Lido.. We were thrilled to hear he was promoted to dining room waiter on the Asian trip, and so made sure that he was always our waiter for dinner in the main dining room.

I had a feeling that he would be on this cruise, since I  was reading some blogs about the Alaska cruise that someone wrote a few weeks earlier and she mentioned that a waiter in the Lido was making origami for the kids.. and I said to myself.. It has to be Satria.. and low and behold so it was..
He made this trip for us. He was so helpful with everything, whatever we needed or wanted it was right there within minutes. He made us laugh and was so thoughtful he even gave me a birthday present, a pair of handmade Bali slippers.  He is married to a lovely woman (haven’t met her but seen pictures and no way he can have anything else but a lovely woman for a wife). We wish him all the best in life and hope to meet again in the very near future!!!

Thank you Satria, for making this trip great!

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Vancouver–2013 Alaska Cruise HAL Volendam

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Finally, I can write my blog. I am not sure what happened, but I didn’t have the program downloaded so that I could write offline, especially since the internet is extremely slow on the ship and insanely slow in Alaska.. But now I am up and running (I hope).

 

We were called last minute to host a back to back cruise to Alaska. (14 days)  We were offered the opportunity to stay a couple of days in Vancouver, which we agreed to (of course why not???)  but after checking out the prices of hotel rooms we decided find another way to enjoy Vancouver before the cruise.

DAY 1: On the way to the airport in Vegas we stopped at a really cool breakfast place downtown called EAT. The restaurant was spacious and the food was great, especially the coffee.

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We found a room for rent on a new site (maybe just new to us) called Airbnb. They have listings of rooms in people’s homes. There are photos of the room for let, plus the home it’s in, plus profiles of the owners, so we used airbnb for this trip. Would you believe I forgot to take pix of the place…

 

The condo we rented was lovely, it was spacious and very modern. The room had a memory foam mattress (king size) and the bathroom (which we shared) was ultra modern and the shower was great. It was located in Chinatown which we thought would be a cool place to stay in. Close enough to everything and we even had parking under the building. Jacky, the owner of the condo was a sweetheart, trying to stay out of our way whenever we were in.

Since we saved so much off the hotel rooms we rented a car to be able to travel as much as possible out of Vancouver proper since we have been here a number of times. Vancouver is a city of many cultures. There is a very large Asian section from when Hong Kong was turned back over to China. Many of the residents moved to Vancouver and made new lives there.  Chinatown is a bustling typical Chinatown as you would find all over the world but at night this particular Chinatown becomes a haven for the homeless and they are everywhere. I just couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of all of the people hanging out in the alleys lighting crack pipes. Smoozing with their compadres.. It was very depressing actually to think that there are so many, even if they are harmless and friendly. There are now homeless shelters and halfway houses all over Chinatown, including alleyways that you can hide in. It’s so very sad. 

That evening Jacky told us there was a Chili Festival and a Chinese Fair in the neighborhood. We  decided to walk around the neighborhoods near Chinatown check out the Chili and the Chinese and walk around Gastown with its pubs and fun shops. We actually found Vegetarian Chili which K loved. There were some very interesting characters hanging about.

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Some of the things they are selling in the shops. A prelude to what is coming in Alaska. Since Alaska and BC were pretty close they have very similar if not the same,  First Nation artworks and crafts.

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They had tons of knitwear.. Heavy and itchy as all “get-out!” and so expensive! A sweater that must have weighted 50 pounds was $350.. Not sure if it was actually made in Canada or Alaska or maybe CHINA???

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A typical wood carving. I personally love the designs. Each carving or painting tells a story. They are very into totem poles too. Each section of the totem says something from the bottom to the top and the story ends at the top.

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Gastown Street

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The Chinese Fair

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Wonder what the health department would have to say about this booth!

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Street Fair fries

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DAY 2: The next morning we headed out toward Whistler Mountain.. but got waylaid and saw a turn off for Lynn Canyon and a suspension bridge. But of course, the foodie in me had to stop in a quaint spot for breakfast.

Tommy’s, we literally bumped into it. It juts out into the main road toward Lynn Canyon so we stopped and had our usual breakfast. They had seriously delicious eggs, just look at the color of the yolks, no touch up here!!! And the coffee was ever flowing and good.

 

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My all time favorite breakfast! Avocado, tomato on English Muffin with poached eggs and homefries (add some smoked salmon and you have a feast!).. What could be better? Oh yes, FRESH EGGS! DSCN5637DSCN5638

I loved their little quotes around the café. Like the two following ones:

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Satisfied and ready for hiking we drove out to Lynn Canyon and the suspension bridge. Since it was Labor Day it was packed.. once we finished with the bridge we decided to take a hike in the canyon. It was lovely.. we meet 2 women hiking and stopped and chatted for about a half hour.. While there, some dumb kid decided to jump off a bridge into the water ignoring the sign posted there that said.. BEWARE, DO NOT JUMP MAY RESULT IN YOUR DEATH.. I guess he couldn’t read.. we heard screams from his buddies.. and he did survive but barely.. you could hear him screaming while he tumbled down the rapids… idiot yet lucky…

Surprisingly the bridge didn’t collapse under all these people!

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The beginning of the hike. Steps to take you into the canyon

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You can see how many steps we took to reach the lower (stationary) bridge. Also, the bridge the dumba** kid jumped from and the water he jumped into to. And the steps that bring you back up to the park entrance.

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This seems to be a very popular area for runners and we did run into quite a few running up and down the stairs.

This plaque was on a bench on the running trail.

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These signs were at the Ranger Station cautioning you to watch out for not only bears but also_______

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The kid was pooped!

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The weather started to turn and the fog and rain began. We realized it wasn’t a good day to drive up to Whistler and so decided to head back in the other direction toward the seaside and see what Stevenson , a little fishing village on the sea south of Vancouver was like. Many people recommended the place and the two women who we met on the trail suggested an eating spot for fish and chips… I wonder if they eat anything else besides fish and chips since wherever we went that was on the menu..  Some ladies from KnittingParadise suggested the place too but talked about a yarn shop there. In truth, I knew that K wouldn’t really enjoy spending time in a yarn shop so I didn’t mention it.. but wouldn’t you know it.. we found a parking space right in front of it!!!! Faith!!! Had to go in now!!!  We spent about an hour there and K couldn’t stop talking to the saleslady about a sweater in the shop that the owner made for her daughter that took about 4 years to make and by the time it was finished the kid didn’t want it anymore!!!! It was selling for $1000.. seriously! I did buy some beautiful purple sock yarn made in Vancouver.

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From there we were just a few blocks from the pier. The weather totally cleared up by the time we got to Stevenson so it was perfect walking weather and eating al fresco!  The docks had lots of boats selling fish straight from the morning catch and of course we just had to have the fish and chips the ladies on the hike suggested!

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After the pier and lunch we drove around the town, which was lovely full of hydrangeas and sweet painted houses, many were for sale.

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As if we weren’t exhausted enough, Jacky told us about another weekend summer market that was open in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver. It was on the way back to the city and since it is only open on weekends during the summer we probably would never get a chance to check it out so as tired and we were we drove to it.. The fair was a cross between a swap meet, midway and an Asian street food market. It was the usual Chinese stuff. There was even a “Doctor” who offered reflexology and massages.  For some reason known only to them, I guess, the place was full of rubber Duckies!

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Even the cops were getting into it and having fun!

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They had a stage where people preformed.

The father tried to help the kid sleep by putting his finger in her ear so that it would muffle the sounds from the stage and not wake her up.

They had some awful performers. Like a Michael Jackson wannabe, quite pathetic, but you have to give him credit for getting up on stage and preforming! And a young kid who wasn’t too bad but was trying too hard to be Michael Buble singing Frankie and crooner music.

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As darkness fell more people showed up and the food court started to really get busy. Again, since this is a very big Asian area that was the food that was offered.

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DAY 3:    The next day we started driving up to Whistler Mountain again and got waylaid yet again.. It was pouring and foggy, of course there was another turn off into a park that wound its way up a mountain to show us some beautiful views of the city, if the weather would have cooperated, which it did not!

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Must be a ski resort and these are the ski runs during the summer once the snow has melted!

And again we hadn’t had breakfast (what’s up with us and breakfast?????)  and found our way to another lovely little village, even though it was pouring cats and dogs we found a great little bake shop (Called The Bake House) in Dundarave. They have a Main Street with lots of cute shops, markets and cafes.We should have stuck with the pastries instead of trying to have a decent breakfast, the breakfast was so very nondescript but the bread was great and so were the lovely scones, muffins and cakes.. They make fantastic breads and even have this great rainbow bread they use for the kids grilled cheese sandwiches. They sell the loaves by the pound. The scones were great but not TRACY’s award winning scones and they didn’t have clotted cream, either!  Across the street was a yarn shop but it was raining so badly we just wanted to get back to the car. Will have to wait till next time.

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Then we heard about these Gardens called the Elizabeth Gardens that are suppose to be beautiful. They were ok if you hadn’t already gone to Buchardt Gardens over on Vancouver Island in the city of Victoria. NOW THOSE ARE MAGNIFICENT! I know I’m spoiled!!!   There was an interesting plaque in the Garden that lead us to believe that someone  had something to do with the Holocaust. Driving the neighborhood around the Gardens showed us that we were in a pretty dominant Jewish neighborhood with Chabad occupying a large building in the area, kosher groceries the JCC and Jewish Hebrew Schools.  We went to check out the grocery store to see what they had in stock and they were pretty well stocked, even had honey cake and round raisin challahs. Plus, a decent meat department and we purchased some beef jerky would you believe?

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From there (since it was raining and foggy) we decided to go to Granville Island with it’s interesting artisan food and art market. 

A broom maker, I wonder if her name is Broomhilda!

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Cherries piled high!

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My new life motto!!!!!!!!!!!!

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First Nation artwork and cloak see all those little white buttons sewn on it? I think they are from whale bone.

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Yarn bombing!

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Under the Granville Bridge

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Before and After! Fish and Sweet Potato Fries.. Salmon, Cod and Halibut!! YUM!

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Back to Chinatown and packing!

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Off to Alaska we go!

Grafenwhoer and Munich

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We spent Thursday at the base .. the base is made up of an old area which was once Hitler’s barracks and a newer area. The old area is eerie.. being very “German” in style and knowing that it is where Hitler had  a military base. Thank God it is now all AMERICAN!!!! But they do train with many different nations. It is huge.. The old barracks and buildings are all in the German style and there is even a tower that everyone calls “Hitler’s Tower”. So strange that there are cute painted shutters on the windows.. Very strange to me..

Anyway, Kelly and I spent the day there. We woke up at 4:45am to take Ezy to the base and we watched Revelry from the car (actually when they play Revelry everyone must stand at attention and that includes us)..  It was cold and dark even at 7am.

Around 7am.. Cold and dreary…

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Revelry

Line up at 5am

Going to the range Ezy 2

Kelly showed me around the base including the PX which makes you feel like you are back home.. feels like a Super Walmart! With a big supermarket with almost everything you can think of..Pretty cool!

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Here are the barracks and Hitler’s Tower, notice the shutters?

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Street in Munich

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Entrance to Old Town Munich

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Do you see the icicles on the fountain?

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The New Town Hall

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Glockenspiel

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The Old Town Hall rebuilt after WW2

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town on the way to munich

The weekend showed up we decided to go to Munich a 3.5 hour train ride away.. It was really cold but this time we were prepared and bundled up and it was great!

We got to the train station with its food courts and modern facilities and headed to the old town. Old town is just within a block or two, so off we went.

Munich was basically destroyed by the Allies in 1945 so most of it was rebuilt but the “New Town Hall” has a glockenspiel which plays at 11am and noon.. It depicts a story of a 16 century wedding where the bride and groom (a Duke) watch while their families joust with each other. (His German, her’s French)

The Town Hall sits in a Plaza called the Marianplatz which means Mary’s place. There is a gold statue of the Virgin Mary that was made in 1638 and brought to this place and not destroyed.

Across the way is the Old town hall that was completely destroyed and rebuilt the way it was.

We walked and walked.. there are areas that are residential, commercial with designer stores, restaurants and beer houses.

Since Ezy and Kelly have been here a number of times they knew where they wanted to eat.. and the Hofbrauhouse was the place.. it is a very old and HUGE brewery and restaurant.. totally packed, jammed packed full of tourists and locals eating all kinds of German food.. from Bratwurst to dumplings and apple strudel. They even have 2 women who walk around selling pretzels.. German pretzels are suppose to be the best.. but I was not impressed.. I love PA soft pretzels way way better..

What is way cool is that they have a special room for locals to store their beer steins under lock and key. They have a copper sink where you wash your stein and then lock it up for next time.

Once we had enough food.. we stayed there over 3 hours!! The best part of the meal was the apple strudel. YUM!

We made our way (or rolled our way) out of the crowded restaurant and found a gorgeous store similar to Harrods with all the fantastic foods you can possibly think of.. beautiful cakes, breads, jams, wurst, coffees etc. Good thing we were stuffed to the gills otherwise we might have gone nuts in the shop and as you can tell from the price of the avocados.. it sure ain’t cheap.. but we just browsed and took pix and out into the cold we went.

The plaza was completely overrun with people by the time we finished lunch and since each of us were done by then, we headed back to the train station for the 3.5 hour trip back to Pressath..

I messed up loading the pictures in so the post is a little funky.. so please forgive.  I am also working on a slow computer and it takes way longer then it should.

I hope most of the pictures are self explanatory.

Next weekend we plan to go to Nuremberg so hopefully will have more pictures by then and more stories.

First day in Pressath, Germany

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Hi everyone, for anyone who doesn’t know, I decided to go visit my daughter Kelly and SIL Ezy.. Ezy is in the US Military and based in Bavaria Germany. They have been here for 2 years and it is time to pay a visit.

Here are pix of the airport in Dusseldorf during my long long long layover.. 9 hours and when I get to fly from Dusseldorf to Nuremberg and that flight is all of 1/2 hour.. Crazy..

More in a couple of days!

Hawaii

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Hawaii

We are Aruba, on the way home (finally). This second cruise that we took isn’t half or even a quarter as much fun as the Grand Voyage! I can’t wait to get home (wherever that might be!)

Once we get back (in a couple of days) I hope to post a couple of posts on this part of the cruise (Panama Canal cruise) but won’t do it till we are home.. Hope that’s OK with everyone!

The ship is decorated for Christmas already and Eddy and his wife (never did get her name) has outdone themselves as you will see later.

Be well and Happy Holidays to all!!!

Here’s Hawaii!

I am dumping all the islands we visited in Hawaii together since there isn’t that much to say.

We visited:

Ohau/Honolulu

Maui/Lahaina

Hilo/the big island

We were basically done by then and all I wanted to do was chill and relax so we only toured Maui with Ken and Ellen, more about that later.

OHAU – Honolulu

View of Honolulu from the ship at daybreak.

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Honolulu was our first stop and since we had been to Honolulu a number of times. Actually, one of the best excursions I have ever taken had been to Pearl Harbour, the sunken USS Arizona Memorial, the battleship USS Missouri AKA ”Mighty Mo” and the Punchbowl Memorial Military Cemetery.  Pearl Harbour is definitely a sacred site and standing above the USS Arizona is one of the most humbling moments of my life, knowing how many lives were taken that day and that so many were still trapped within the ship was very sobering. When and if you ever get the chance to go to the island it should be your first stop!!!  And of course it is the place of Waikiki Beach.. One of the most famous of all beaches.. Not to worry, if you haven’t been but have been to Miami and South Beach it’s pretty similar.. miles of white sandy beaches with waves for all the surfer dudes and dudets  We didn’t go… wanted wi-fi..

One side:

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The other side:

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But since we hadn’t been on the net for so long we decided to spend the day online at “Hilo Hatties” a huge Hawaiian souvenir shop that had free wi-fi and great Kona coffee.. but first we had to get to Costco to exchange something and get some macadamia nuts. It was like Nirvana.. seeing the red strip around the building.. felt like home!!!! Now we knew we were back in the States!!!

 

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I believe we were finally done with touring and quite exhausted  and after wi-fi we just got back on the ship which was having a Hawaiian Luau around the pool.

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Eli, one of the great crew members dressed for the luau.

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As night descended I  went back off the ship to check out the Aloha Towers shopping center which was right by the pier where we were docked.

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The Mall at Aloha Tower has a couple of sculptures, one doing a Hawaiian Dance, I am assuming.

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Anyone know what type of bird this is??? It was just on the side of the road.. never saw one like it before.. any bird lovers out there???

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Maui:

The next day, September 28th, our shipped dropped anchor in Lahaina Bay on the island of Maui, where we were tendered in to the Lahaina docks. (If I didn’t say so already, “tendering in” means that the port is too shallow for the ship to pull in alongside the shore, so it drops anchor in the bay, lowers the life boats, and takes passengers aboard from the ship and into the lifeboats, and the lifeboats take the passengers ashore; reboarding the ship is done in the same way, going in the other direction.)

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Lahaina is shaped kind of like a figure-8 laying on its side, with one half of the figure 8 smaller than the other. Lahaina is located on the smaller section of the island. We had arranged to rent a car with Ken and Ellen, and together the four of us began the drive from Lahaina to the summit at the center of the larger half of the island, located in the Haleakala National Park. (Our US National Park Cards came in handy here, as we got in for free.) we had been to Haleakala (pronounced hah-lay-ah-KAH-lah) on our last trip to Maui, but the landscape is so interesting we didn’t mind going again.

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You can see the shape of the island from above ..

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The first part of the drive from Lahaina to the “neck” between the two parts of the island, is right along the coastline. We were very surprised to see so many people (and cars) parked among the low trees along the beaches, who were clearly there to surf. It was a weekday, and one could only wonder whether visitors would rent cars just to go to surfing spots, or whether there was anyone who lived on Maui who was actually working, since there were so many surfers in the water. Through a tunnel and into and through the “neck” of the island and we found ourselves driving along miles of sugar cane, which is still processed here (the large sugar cane processing plant is in or very near to Lahaina. Does anyone remember one of the old commercials from my youth for “C & H Cane Sugar – Pure Cane Sugar from Hawaii”?).

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Turning near the airport in the direction of Haleakala (AKA following the road signs) we passed through more lush sugar cane plantations and gradually began an ascent that would eventually take us over 10,000 feet high to the summit in Haleakala National Park. As we went higher the foliage changed from tropical lush to forests of eucalyptus trees to some pine and finally, above the tree line, to scrub brush and the natural habitat of Hawaii’s state bird, the Ne’ne (pronounced NAY-NAY) or Hawaiian goose, which is supposedly related to the Canadian goose, is a protected species and which lives only on the islands of Maui and Hawaii, as I recall.

Is it this one???

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Or this one????

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Another interesting inhabitant of the scrub brush is a plant called Silver Sword because when light hits the leaves of the plant (which has thick projectile leaves that slant upward, like fingers pointing toward the sky), the leaf color looks not white but actually silver, something I do not recall having ever seen in another plant. These plants are also a protected species because in spite of their name, they are delicate; apparently they have a very shallow root system that is adversely affected by people walking on ground near the plant. They appear to be related to blooming cactuses, although they don’t have thorns, the plants grow a long stem that blooms before the plant “dies”. I don’t recall how long their life cycle is; I do recall seeing some blooming cacti in Arizona and having been told that they live for about 100 years, and the year that they bloom is the year they are going to die. I don’t know if the same thing applies to Silver Swords, but they are remarkably beautiful for plants that have no flowers for most of their lives.

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As we continued our climb to Haleakala, the road became steeper and we saw a few bikers trying to peddle uphill.  Downhill looked easier!

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The distance from the turnoff to Haleakala to its summit is about 28 miles, but this part of the drive takes about an hour because of the steep inclines along the entire route and the many, many switchbacks and hairpin turns along the road.

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There were many beautiful flowers adorning the gardens of private homes all along the way uphill until we arrived at the entrance to the National Park and hit the scrub brush area, which was above the tree line.

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On the final portion of the ascent to the summit was the reason why we had come here: Haleakala sits on an area containing many ancient volcanoes and volcanic runoffs, where the calderas (rims) of the volcanoes had broken off while the volcanoes were still active and where spewing lava had run over the broken rims of the caldera and formed runoff stream beds of molten lava that later cooled and hardened – something of great interest to geologists and volcanologists, but of interest to me only in order to understand the phenomenon of what happened in order to give the area its unique look.

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Because the area had been a source of great volcanic activity, the entire surrounding area that was not part of the crater basin was comprised of a reddish brown lava rock, much of which had been smoothed and worn by the elements over the eons, and looked like a moonscape or a Mars landscape.

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In fact, NASA used this area as part of its work in training astronauts and nearby at the top of an adjacent summit, although closed to the public, are a number of telescopes shared by the US Department of Defense (USDOD), the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Hawaii in projects used to track man-made objects in space (mainly satellites of all kinds from countries all over the world) and for purely astronomy research. We spent nearly an hour at the summit taking photos of the silver swords, the moonscape and the craters to the extent that they were visible (the drive from Lahaina to the summit took just under 2 hours, although it was only perhaps 50-60 miles away).

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It turned out that we were lucky that day – first thing in the morning we went to Haleakala (sunrise at the top would have been beautiful as you could see the Pacific Ocean from the top), which at the summit is well above the clouds, so the views looking down from the summit, for the most part unobstructed by clouds, were just spectacular and very clear (there was what looked like a small smog cloud in the distance). By around noon or shortly thereafter, as the weather warmed the clouds had rolled in from the sea and covered almost all of what just an hour earlier had been a marvelous view. We had expected it would be cold at the top of the summit, and each of us brought some kind of jacket or windbreaker, but it turned out that even at the top the temperature was only 57 degrees Farenheit (the last time I was there it was much cooler – probably in the high 40’s, and windy as I recall – so the nice weather was an added plus), so there was no weather issue at all. When we returned to our car to descend from the summit, we passed right through the ethereal “cloud belt”, which we could barely notice until we got below the “cloud line” and looked up, only then to see that we were now below the clouds.

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Haleakala we descended back to the floor of the island,

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From stopped for a quick bite to eat and proceeded to our next stop, one we had not visited before, the Iao Needle, located in the Iao Valley. (“Iao” is pronounced “ee-AH-oh”.) The Iao Needle rises out of the ground in a lush valley surrounded by high mountains and looks like a giant phallus, and apparently it was considered a symbol of the area’s fertility by the ancient inhabitants of the area.

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The Iao Valley is a lush area on the island where 4 or 5 rivers apparently run and bring mountain waters to the valley, which the ancient natives diverted by means of canals in order to water their field crops. The Iao Valley was important in Hawaiian history because it was here that the Hawaiian warrior Kamehameha defeated the troops of the Maui king in a battle in the late 1700’s, I believe, and after securing an agreement with one of the other islands (Lanai, I believe), became the first Hawaiian king, Kamehameha I, who is seen as the ruler who united the disparate tribes on the islands into one nation, and whose descendants ruled Hawaii until, I believe, close to the end of the 19th century. The Ioa Needle is a Hawaiian State Park and also contains what is called there a rain forest. However, when we looked down on the supposed rain forest area, it looked as if a lot of human hands had been at work “developing” the trails in the area, including benches for sitting next to the stream that flowed through it. Since we have been to untouched and pristine areas of the Amazon rainforest, Hawaii’s “rain forest” held no interest for us and we decided to “pass”.

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After finishing our visit to the Iao Needle we left and headed back to Lahaina via a different route for part of the way, passing through more fields of sugar cane and – UGH – NEW SUBDIVISIONS of homes that looked like California builders had put them up – all constructed of sideboard, all looked alike, all in HOAs, all with next to no space between the houses, nearly zero lot lines and nearly zero back yards. What a shame! We drove past Lahaina to the Ka’anapali coast and the Maui Sheraton, where the Enterprise Car Rental office was, dropped the car off and got a guy from Enterprise to drive us back to the Wharf area at the Lahaina docks.

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We spent perhaps a half-hour browsing but not buying in the many there-for-tourists shops along both side the Wharf (which actually appears to be built on dry land abutting the water but still referred to as the Wharf) before returning to the tender area and returning to the ship at the last “All Aboard” at 4:30 P.M.

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HILO:

HILO: We took the shuttle to the original Hilo Hattie’s (this was Hilo, after all), which was located just across the street from a large shopping area that held a Wal-Mart.

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After nearly 75 days away it was time to get a couple of new things, including a new large, drinking bottle  which we had traded away to one of the vendors on Komodo Island for two pearl bracelets.

Shortly after our arrival in Hilo yesterday morning the Sapphire Princess pulled up behind us and docked for the day. Our ship, the Amsterdam, a Holland-America ship, holds 1280 passengers at full capacity, but as this was near the end of our voyage (we had discharged large numbers of passengers in Sydney, Auckland and Honolulu) we now had only 600-700 passengers remaining on board. The Sapphire Princess, on the other hand, from Princess Cruises, held 3600 passengers and was in port on one of those 15-day LA-Hawaii-LA trips I described earlier, and the way the Port of Hilo is laid out required that the Amsterdam passengers had to walk to the part of the port where Princess passengers were disembarking in order to catch shuttles into Hilo proper. Talk about a zoo….. so many people it was impossible to pass by another person without bumping shoulders, and so forth. Especially coming from a ship where gracious, friendly service creates a feeling of camaraderie between passengers and staff, hitting head-on the Princess’ disembarking floating mass of humanity was not so much a sardine-can episode as a cattle-car experience.

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K’s thoughts and closing to a very special cruise!

I am happy that every-so-often we have this kind of experience, because just as I am about to forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to sail in the gracious manner to which we have become accustomed, an experience such as this offers a timely wake-up call to remind me that there are less gracious, less elegant and less appealing ways we could be cruising. And this, in turn, makes me thankful and grateful for the wonderful opportunities we have had over the years to visit so many places around the world which otherwise we would never have the opportunity to see (if for no other reason than that they are so off the beaten path and so difficult to get to except by ship – Robinson Crusoe Island, anyone?) and so many others where by ship is the most practical way – and sometimes, the ONLY practical way – to get to them and to get to see them (think Antarctica, the river communities along the thousand miles up the Amazon River coastline to Manaus, and Manaus itself, or the Straits of Magellan, or the Kingdom of Tonga and many more I could mention). We are now 5 sailing days out from San Diego and, on December 5th, the end of this Grand Voyage to Asia (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Viet Nam and Indonesia), Australia, New Zealand, the South Seas (Fiji and Samoa) and Hawaii, and it has been grand indeed – new cultures I never experienced, particularly in Asia, many of which have left me with the taste in my mouth of wanting “more” (which is always a good thing).

But as if to illustrate that every end is also a new beginning, at the same time we end our Grand Voyage in San Diego on December 5th, we will be starting another 17-day cruise from San Diego and along the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Panama Canal and to several Caribbean islands, eventually ending on December 22nd in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sydney, Australia

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Sydney, Australia

Extra: For all of you who read this and have no idea who Tracy is…

I met Tracy online on Knittingparadise and have been chatting with her for a little over a year now and was thrilled to know that I could visit with her on our trip..

I have waited for a while to write about Sydney because being in Sydney/Penrith with Tracy and her family was just so special I didn’t want to run through it like I did with other ports of call.

Get ready everyone, because this will be a long post with lots of pictures.

I am using Kal’s thoughts of Sydney because he wrote the details really well. I will add things in italics so you will get my input…

Love Tracy and family and really hope that we will meet again in the near future. She is truly someone I love to call a friend. So sorry we don’t live closer, I would love to spend time hanging out with her, learning how to bake scones and knit!!! (Oh, btw, she is a great knitter and gave me some great pointers on lace knitting).

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After a day at sea, the ship arrived in Sydney on Sunday, November 11th for a two-day overnight stay. We woke up at 6 AM and had a quick breakfast before going onto the ship’s forward deck to watch the sail-in to Sydney. They provided “Sydney Rolls!” just like “Singapore Rolls” and “Hong Kong Rolls” (please ignore the guy’s hand down his pants! I can’t crop the pix and still have the rolls!)DSCN7597

Sydney has to be the world’s most beautiful natural harbor, and the sail-in from the Tasman Sea into Sydney Harbor is nothing less than spectacular.

Three years ago, when we witnessed our first sail-in to Sydney, people told us that although Sydney Harbor was beautiful, the sail-ins to Rio and to Hong Kong were equally beautiful.

RIO from land not the sea.. You can barely see Christ the Redeemer from the ship..(Last year)

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Hong Kong Harbour (This year)

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In the intervening 3 years we have had the opportunity to sail into both Rio (twice) and Hong Kong (once). Without a doubt Sydney has more natural beauty, although if the weather is clear and not foggy, Rio is also nice – but not like Sydney, where you enter the sheltered but huge natural harbor from the open sea by passing through two large rock  attached to land on either side of a channel that passes through the rocks, known as The Heads.

The Beginning of the sail-in

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Once inside The Heads, sailing down the main channel reveals numerous open side channels, all with houses along the water and on the hills above them, and so many sailing boats, yachts, and other kinds of water transport in each of the many side channels.

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As you cruise further into the channel you pass a naval base for the Australian Navy on the left, the Tauranga Zoo on the right and across the harbor, then pass the Botanical Gardens that come down the hills to the shoreline near the downtown part of town, then on t o the famed Sydney Opera House with its “opening flower petals” design next to the oldest part of Sydney, known as “The Rocks”.

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The last time we were in Sydney we docked in Circular Quay near The Rocks, just opposite the Opera House, which was separated from the ship only by a couple hundred yards of water. This time, however, that berth was taken, so we continued sailing, first under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, also known as “The Coat Hanger”,

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then past the Luna Park across the harbor, (Last time there was no moustache on the face of the entrance to Luna Park) then a left turn and into our ship’s berth at Darling Harbor.

3 Years ago

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This Year

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The sail-in lasted about 75 minutes and was truly wonderful, and the weather conditions were perfect, as they were 3 years ago.

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Once we arrived in Sydney proper our plans were to take a cab to the Central Train Station and from there a train to Penrith, a suburb about an hour’s ride by train from Sydney.

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Nina has a good friend, Tracy, in Penrith who is also a knitter, and for the past couple of years they have emailed and spoken online often and agreed to meet when we came to Sydney. We arrived at the Penrith train station and were met by Tracy, who took us to her home, sat us down at her kitchen table and served us tea and coffee and the most delicious freshly baked (BLUE RIBBON!!) English scones, with raspberry jam and clotted cream, that I have ever tasted.

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We were joined by Tracy’s two daughters: Jess, and Sam. The girls are lolly-lovers (they love candies) and had asked us to bring them cherry Twizzlers (They asked for Red Vine, but I couldn’t find them so Twizzlers were it!), and an assortment of America chocolate bar candies (we brought a large assortment of 3 Musketeers, Snickers, Kit Kats, etc.). The girls loved the Twizzlers and had never heard of a 3 Musketeers bar, so we told them what to expect. They tenderly unwrapped one of the 3 Musketeers, placed it on a small dish, cut thin slices of the candy bar on the dish and gently placed the slices in their mouths as if to savor the taste of the melting chocolate nougat. It was like watching a child discover something wonderful for the first time.

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After we had given the girls the candy we had brought for them and to Tracy a lot of white cotton dishcloth yarn Nina had brought for her, Tracy suggested that we all get in the car and drive to an area of “the bush” not too far from her home where we would be able to do a “walkabout” and visit a cave that contained aboriginal handprints. The cave, known as Red Hand Cave because the handprints are outlined by ochre colored paint, was discovered a few years ago when a child went missing in the outback, and a search party discovered it while looking for the child. It is really off the beaten path.

A couple of notes: when Aussies say “the bush” what they mean is a forest, generally pretty thick with trees and brush, but a forest nonetheless. When they say “a walkabout” they mean a hike through the bush or in the Outback. “Outback” refers to the desert area that comprises most of Australia away from the coasts.

Anyways, back to the walkabout in the bush to the Red Hand Cave. We drove into the Penrith Valley, into the Blue Mountains, followed the road signs until the paved road ended and then traversed the dirt road for another 10-12 km. until we came to a dead end that was the trailhead for the walkabout that would lead to the Rd Hand Cave. It was up and down on a granite rock-lined path, through eucalyptus forest, until we finally arrived at a small, shallow cave, perhaps 15-20 feet wide, 8 feet high and 5 feet deeps, that had been fenced from the outside cave edge in order to protect the prehistoric drawings inside. However, there were holes purposely left in the fence to enable photographers to push cameras through the fence and take unobstructed photographs of the dozens of handprints found on the cave walls. There was no aboriginal art or drawings except for several dozen (sets of?) handprints on the walls, where the handprints were outlined by ochre red, yellow and white paint. It was quite different and most interesting, and certainly buried deep in the bush.

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DSCN7731From the Red Hand Cave we walked our way back to the automobile that had brought us here and began to drive back to “civilization”. Along the way we stopped at a lovely creek that ran through the Blue Mountains – in the distance we saw kids who were jumping off a high rock into what was obviously a deep water spot in the creek.

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When we left the Blue Mountains we drove again through the Penrith Valley and crossed the Nepean River that runs through it, stopping in the small town of Glenbrooke, where we walked around the village and got something cool to drink. As some of us were getting hungry Tracy suggested we go to the Blacks Stadium but once we got there they were closing so we headed out of the stadium to “Harry’s Pies” which was a food truck selling meat and veggie pies.. YUM!! we had vegetable pies topped with “mushy peas”, which is kind of like fresh boiled peas then mashed to a thick paste with whole peas in the mix and then dolloped on top of the pie. I LOVE THEM, Kal didn’t.. Tough, I would have eaten another one if they had any left!!!

Does this pic make us look thinner????

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Aussies also have some interesting slang terms: a “jumbug” is a sheep, a “drop bear” is a term used for a koala when trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes, and a “mountain dragon” is a term used for a lizard that can be anywhere from 3-4 inches to perhaps 2 feet in length, harmless but found in mountain and desert areas and also used when pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Kangaroos are called just “roos”, and contrary to what we non-Aussies think, there are numerous varieties of roos ranging in size from about 18-24 inches high to the most familiar 7-foot roos. Koalas are very slow moving. This is because they eat only a particular kind of eucalyptus tree leaf (eucalyptus trees are known here as “gum” trees) that contains almost no protein, so the koalas that eat them are very weak and so move slowly. Aussies like to kid tourists by telling them that the eucalyptus leaves koalas eat are hallucinogenic and that the koalas move slowly because they are “high” on the drugs, which would also explain why they supposedly fall out of their trees (they don’t) and are also called “drop bears”. Contrary to what they look like in photos, koalas are not warm, light and fuzzy but chunky with brushy hair texture.

Had to ad a pix of Koalas that I took last time!

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One of the interesting things about Penrith, and the area where Tracy lives, is that her home, in a city, is only a 3-5 minute drive from rural area. Tracy’s youngest daughter goes to a Catholic private high school that abuts a forest. Although the forest is fenced to keep animals inside so they don’t run onto roads and cause accidents, the forest itself is wild, covers a great deal of land and contains all the forest life one would normally expect to find on such land. As we were driving back to Stacy’s home and passing the high school, we fell upon a group of perhaps 15 kangaroos who were huddled together in what looked like a community meeting, perched on their hind legs and seemingly consulting with one another. Tracy pulled over to the side of the road and I left the car to try to get photos of the kangaroo conclave. I got off several pictures before I got up to the fence, at which time my presence must have caused some alarm, as the kangaroos sprang and scattered. When they travel they create a picture in my mind’s eye of what a four-legged animal would look like if he moved by bouncing on a pogo stick – very efficient but very funny.

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From our encounter with the kangaroos our conversation somehow turned to rivers and white-water rafting, and Tracy mentioned that Penrith has the only artificial white-water rafting course in the Southern Hemisphere. I had never heard of anything like this and asked whether, if it weren’t too far away, we could go there and have a look at it. Tracy was most obliging, and after another 10-minute ride we ended up at the Penrith White Water Rafting Complex. This structure had been built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It consists of a large, landscaped water pool with devices built in that create 20 class-3 rapids in a rectangular track with rounded edges. At the end of the run a rafter or rafting team or a kayaker can simply paddle their boat from the pool where the rafting run ends, up to a conveyor belt (like a moving sidewalk) that will carry the raft and its passengers up the center section of the track and deposit them at the start of the rafting track so they can traverse the 20 rapids again. This kind of water park sport was completely new to me, but it is clearly a going concern in Sydney, and while we were there we saw rescue teams (perhaps from the White Water Complex but not necessarily – maybe the Sydney lifeguards or even the military) practicing their rescue skills. From the number of times we saw these crews getting dumped into the water, it was clear that this course is a serious whitewater training area.

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From the White Water Rafting Complex we returned to Tracy’s home, where we met her husband Matt. The four of us went out to dinner at a local Thai restaurant – it was delicious – and from there Matt and Tracy dropped us off at the train station, where we took an express train back to Sydney, then a cab back to the ship. All in all it was a great day.

My camera died right before lunch and I had to rely on Kal and his little guy for the rest of the day which really SUCKED!!!! So I  don’t have many pix of the things I would have loved to take pix of.. like the Aussie Pies.. and MATT!!!!! UGH…

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The following day Tracy and her daughter Jess were coming into Sydney, so we arranged to meet them at the Sydney Aquarium.

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From there we walked to the Chinese Gardens in downtown Sydney, somewhere that Jess had been wanting to visit for a long time. In China we had not found any gardens that were similar to these Chinese Gardens, which were established and donated by the ethnic Chinese population of Sydney in honor of its Bicentennial. The Gardens cover a large area, and with casual strolling took us a couple of hours to walk through the various sections of the gardens.

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Jess wanted photographs of herself dressed in traditional Chinese costume, and Nina took dozens of photos of her in traditional imperial Chinese attire.  Doesn’t she look regal! We couldn’t believe it! WOW!!!

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After the gardens we went to the Haymarket District and entered the QVB or Queen Victoria Building in downtown Sydney. The building is Victorian in style with beautiful mosaic flooring and gorgeous stained glass windows that illuminate the sweeping stairways on both sides of the center of the building that were the original means of going up and down from one story to another. In the center of the building was a 3-story high Christmas tree made of Swarovski crystals. When we were in Sydney 3 years ago it was at about this same time of year, and at the time there was another beautiful Christmas tree in the center of the QVB, so this must be an annual Sydney tradition.

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Continuing our walk up George Street, the main street of downtown Sydney, we eventually reached Morris and Sons, a knitting crafts store, the girls disappeared downstairs where they kept the yarn… they had a great time looking but didn’t buy anything. Thank GOD!!!!!

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We had lunch at a Japanese fast food restaurant, where I had a bowl of sticky rice with a scoop of minced fresh tuna, seaweed and shallots, seasoned with soy sauce – simple, but the tastiest Japanese meal I can ever remember eating.

Following the meal we walked up to a nearby subway station, where we took our leave of Stacy and Jess, as they had to catch a 2 PM train from Sydney’s Central Station back to Penrith, and we had to head back to the ship, which was anchored in Darling Harbor, in time for the all-aboard at 3:30 that afternoon. Nina and I walked back to the ship and made it back about an hour before sail-away, and thus ended a most delightful visit to Sydney..

Just my take on the 2 days in Sydney!!!

They were fantastic.. I loved spending time with Tracy and the kids… What a great family.. So sad they live so far away… but I hope we will be back to see them again and possibly spend way more time with them. I really have to give KnittingParadise.com kudos for giving us, knitters, such great opportunities to get to know other knitters all over the world, and sometimes we actually get a chance to meet them.

Thank you, Tracy and the girls (and Matt, of course) for opening your city, home and hearts to us and making us feel so comfortable.. It’s as if we have been friends for years and years! I hope we can stay friends for years and meet up again, hopefully often!!!

The view as we sailed out of Sydney…

Leaving our berth at Darling Harbour.. and our views as we sailed away! Bye to one of my favorite cities in the world..

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