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North To Alaska Part 6

Breaching calf

The last part of our Alaska adventure took us to three ports:  Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Skagway          Skagawy

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://skagway.com/

The first port was Skagway, home of the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 when thousands of prospectors came to find their fortunes. Many of the buildings here look like they might have back in those Gold Rush days.

          Teddy at Red Onion          Teddy in Skagway

It was an overcast and windy day. We just strolled around town, went to the Klondike Museum and had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon. The Red Onion is a bar, restaurant and brothel museum.

Juneau          Sea lions

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.traveljuneau.com

The second port was Juneau, Alaska’s state capitol. We started our day early because we were on a whale watching tour. On the bus going down to Auk Bay where we would catch the boat, we drove by Mendenhall Glacier, one of the few glaciers you can get to by car. But we were there to see whales. And did we ever see whales!

Whale watching

It was a beautiful, clear day and we were so fortunate to see so many whales, including a calf who seemed so happy he breached like 5 or 6 times. We were told that is very rare. What was also rare was seeing a pod of five humpback whales feeding. They usually feed alone. Next to seeing the majesty of Mt. McKinley, seeing the whales was my favorite part of the Alaska vacation.

Ketchikan

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.visit-ketchikan.com/

The third port was Ketchikan, Salmon Capital of the World and home of the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.

Ketchikan          Creek Street

It was a normal rainy, drizzling day in Ketchikan. We walked around town and went to the Visitor’s Center, did some shopping at the Creek Street shops. Then, before heading back to the ship, we had what was supposed to be the best clam chowder in the world. Though it was good, I found it quite peppery.

Vancouver          Rioting crowds

The cruise ended in Vancouver, Canada, where we stayed an extra day. And what a day it was! That was when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. Riots broke out in the streets! And we were there to witness it. What a way to end our Alaska vacation!

 

Dates of Visit:  June  2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 4

Denali Express

This day we boarded the Denali Express train taking us from Denali National Park down to the cruise ship port in Whittier.

You would think that a 10 hour train ride would be boring and uncomfortable. But this one wasn’t. The seats were very plush. Everyone had a great view of everything with the glass-domed observation railcars. And there was a Princess Cruise Line “guide” of sorts who told us a lot about the area. His name was Paul. And as it turned out, he was celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary that day. His wife, Doris, was a cruise line employee as well.

Train Interior          Teddy on train

I saw probably the most moose I’ve ever seen in my life while riding on the train. Besides the moose, there was quite a lot of beautiful scenery traveling the almost 300 miles from Denali to Whittier.

Train around bend          Train-scenery

The train had a nice dining car where I tried another unusual meal: macaroni and cheese with reindeer kielbasa. It was quite yummy.

There are two different itineraries for cruise-tours on Princess (and I’m sure other cruise lines do the same thing) where you can either cruise before or after your land portion. We choose after so that we could relax on the latter half of our vacation. The land portion did tend to be hectic, changing hotels every night. So we were glad to be able to have the last seven days be onboard the Island Princess.

Island Princess

TEDDY’s RATING: 

 http://www.princess.com/

At this point, I have to say that I wasn’t all that happy or impressed with Princess Cruise Lines. I had been on a Princess ship way back in the early 1990s on a cruise of the Mediterranean. But since I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, I much prefer that line. But Princess had more offerings in Alaska, so we went with them. There were just a lot of little things about Princess that annoyed me, things that I wouldn’t have encountered on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Ship-Atrium          Ship-Pool

The first was that embarkation was unbelievably slow. We got on the ship much later than expected, which meant we got to dinner much later and in turn missed the first stage show that night. Then when they had the mandatory muster (drill in case of emergency, wearing your life jackets, etc.), the audio didn’t work where we were so we had to wait until it got fixed and then listen to the entire presentation again, all while standing cluttered with about 100 other passengers in a hallway.

Teddy-desk          Teddy-balcony

But anyway, we were onboard the ship looking forward to seven days of cruising to Glacier Bay and the three ports: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 3

Lodge property

Continuing where I left off a few weeks ago, here’s Part 3 of my adventures in Alaska.

The next stop on the journey was Denali National Park and on this day I was celebrating my birthday. More on that later.

Lodge property          Teddy at Denali

Lodge room          Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/denali-lodge.cfm

The drive from Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was about 2 hours.  Our room was wonderful, with a view of the river below.  This is supposed to be the largest hotel in Alaska. Like the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line.  You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises.  It’s a vast piece of property with the hotel, restaurants and shops.  This is where I took the Gravatar photo of me in the fur coat!

Denali Park Sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm
http://www.denali.national-park.com/

The Denali Natural History Tour started at 2:30pm, so we had a great lunch at the King Salmon Restaurant. We boarded an old school bus for the tour of the park. At the park’s front entrance, we saw a moose with her babies and there were plenty more moose to see along the way. Of all the animals that are abundant in Alaska, I saw more moose than anything. Not any bears, a few sheep, but lots and lots of moose. Thirty-nine species of mammals make their home in Denali along with about 170 species of birds, 10 types of fish and one amphibian, the wood frog.

Denali National Park and Preserve is, of course, named after the centerpiece of the park, Mount McKinley. Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. The park will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017. There are six million acres of land, but there’s only one road through it.

Denali National Park          Alaska Salmon Bake

For dinner that night, my birthday dinner, I had totally yummy elk sliders at the world famous Alaska Salmon Bake restaurant. You can eat exotic in Alaska without eating salmon. As you know, I’m not a fan of seafood.  On my birthday this year, 2013, it will be 100 years since the first man reached the summit of Mt. McKinley’s South Peak.  He was a native Alaskan named Walter Harper.

The following day we would board the train for the 10 hour journey down to the port of Whittier where we would embark on the next leg of the tour aboard the Island Princess cruise ship.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 2

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge sign
The second leg of our Alaska cruise-tour didn’t start off all that well, but it ended up being great. We were told that the bus would pick us up to take us to the Mount McKinley Princess Lodge at 10am. Well, were waiting in the room and got a call at 9am asking where we were! We were told the wrong time. Luckily, we were ready to go and ran down to get the bus.

It was a three hour drive from Anchorage to Mount McKinley. Of all the sites and experiences I had in Alaska, seeing Mount McKinley is one of the best. We were very fortunate to have had a crystal clear sky, no fog, no clouds obstructing the view of the very top of the highest peak in North America.

Teddy at Mt McKinley          Mt. McKinley

Here are some facts about Mount McKinley:

Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The summit is 20,320 feet above sea level.

The first recorded attempt to climb the mountain was by James Wickersham in 1903. He climbed the Peters Glacier and the North Face which is now known as Wickersham Wall.

The first ascent of the main summit was on June 7, 1913. And the first man to reach the summit was an Alaska native, Walter Harper.

In 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit. And her husband, Bradford, became the first to reach the summit twice.

The first solo ascent was by Naomi Uemura in 1970. Sadly, she died upon returning in 1984 to make the first winter solo ascent.

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/mckinley-lodge.cfm

The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line. You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises. (But I’ve read that you get a better room with a better view if you are.) The rooms were nicely appointed and large, but the property is so big you have to take a shuttle from the main building to many of the outer buildings where the rooms are.

When we arrived we had a nice lunch at the Grizzly Bar which had a great view of the mountain. Then we walked around a nature trail on the property.

Teddy-McKinley window          McKinley Room

We had booked a horseback riding excursion at 5pm. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the horseback riding place. Our guide was Laramie – what a character! We were the only two on the trail ride and he told us some colorful stories about his life as a rodeo performer. He was only 26 and already had an artificial hip. The trail ride lasted about an hour and we got even closer to Mt. McKinley. The view was like something from a John Wayne movie.

Horseback Riding          Horseback Riding

For dinner, we ate at the 20,320 Alaska Grill, named after the height of McKinley.

The next day we would be exploring Denali National Park.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 1

AnchorageThere are a lot of people who have said that a trip to Alaska will change your life. Now, I know they are referring to experiencing the majestic beauty of our 50th state, snow-capped Mt. McKinley, Denali’s population of amazing animals, glaciers, whales and more. I did greatly enjoy all those things, but not to such an extent that I’d rush right back there anytime soon. The major life changing experience I had was how much the trip depleted my bank account. But don’t get me wrong. I am very glad I went. It’s a trip I had always wanted to take and one that I did enjoy very much.

I’ll be posting about my trip to Alaska in several parts over the coming weeks. Part 1 is about the first leg of this 10-day cruise-tour which started in the city of Anchorage.

Though Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, it’s not the capital. (The capital is Juneau.) Over 40% of the population of the whole state lives in Anchorage. More than 60 glaciers, 6 mountain ranges, 300 miles of wilderness trails, and the nation’s 3rd largest state park are all around Anchorage. There’s even a salmon stream downtown!

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://captaincook.com/

Hotel Captain Cook          Teddy-robe

We arrived around 11pm and it was still light outside. For this first night, we stayed at the Hotel Captain Cook, a very nice, nautical-themed upscale hotel. Unfortunately, arriving that late meant that no restaurants were open. So, room service was the only option for any food. Chicken pot pie for a midnight snack?

The next morning we wandered around town, stopped at the Anchorage Farmer’s Market and then visited the Anchorage Museum.

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/

Anchorage Museum          Anchorage Museum

Opened in 1968, the Anchorage Museum has a great collection of artifacts and exhibits about the unique history and culture of Alaska and its people. We spent several hours in there and didn’t even see all the museum had to offer.

Anchorage Museum          Teddy at Anchorage Museum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.flyrusts.com/

Rust's          Rust's

After a quick early dinner, it was time for our flight-seeing “safari” over the city. A bus came to the hotel to pick us up and take us to Rust’s Flying Service. I was a little apprehensive about flying in such a small aircraft, but it was a fantastic experience.

Rusts Flightseeing          Mountains

The half hour tour took us over Anchorage, the Chugach Mountain range and Cook Inlet. Unfortunately, there weren’t any sheep, bears or moose in sight during our flight. But it was very picturesque and the pilot, Andy, very entertaining and knowledgeable. And you wouldn’t believe how smooth a floatplane’s takeoff and landing are. I highly recommend this type of sightseeing tour, in Alaska or anywhere.

Early to bed that night for the next day we were to begin our cruise-tour, starting at Mt. McKinley.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Take in the view at the Bayfront Inn

Bayfront Inn sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I had intended for my next four-day weekend getaway to be on Marco Island, Florida. Now, Marco Island is a lovely place, but after some research, I found that there was much more to do in nearby Naples. (I’ll be writing about all those fun activities in weeks to come.) And I also found I could book a really nice hotel in Naples at an affordable price. That hotel was the Bayfront Inn on 5th Avenue.

Bayfront RoomThe luxury bay view room indeed had a wonderful view of the bay. The pillow-top beds were very comfortable. (Premium luxury rooms have Sleep Number beds.) And the huge shower was great.

There’s complimentary on-site parking, even a small parking garage. There’s a lovely heated pool and spa, although the pool seemed rather cold to me. And the Bayfront Inn is within walking distance of touristy Tin City and the upscale shops of 5th Avenue. This 5th Avenue is similar to its namesake in New York City with many posh restaurants and quirky, fun stores.

The Bayfront Inn is less than a mile from the beach. They have a 12 slip marinaBayfront Pool where you can dock your own boat or charter or rent one. The Naples Trolley Tour has a pickup/drop off point on site and you can catch a water shuttle right outside the hotel. Segway, kayak and bicycle rentals are also available.

The restaurant, The Bambu Tropical Grille, is a covered and open-aired dining area where you can sit by the marina and grab a bite to eat or sip your favorite tropical drink. And in my opinion, they make those drinks nice and strong.

Bayfront ViewI do have to say there were a few negatives at the Bayfront Inn, dropping the rating down from 5 to 4 paws. The landline phone was not working, but the front desk did send someone up to repair it right away. And unfortunately, there are a few little things that bothered me that are out of the hotel’s control. The Bayfront Inn is located on a major roadway, so there was a lot of noisy traffic. And the hotel is directly in the flight path of Naples Municipal Airport. Also, though it’s great that there’s weekend entertainment down near the marina, the music was quite loud and could be heard even though the windows were closed on our 4th floor room.

But overall, the Bayfront is a great place and I would stay there again. The staff was very friendly and attentive. The room was clean and comfortable and the location centrally located to all there is to see and do in Naples.

Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

http://www.bayfrontinnnaples.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Sanibel’s Song of the Sea

TEDDY’s RATING: 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about beautiful Sanibel Island and how much I love visiting there. It’s the perfect place for a short romantic getaway, especially if you stay at the charming Song of the Sea.

This small, intimate inn is right on the beach. The 30, newly-renovated guest rooms are decorated in a French country motif. All have kitchenettes, a full refrigerator, microwave, flat screen TV and screened in porches. Our room overlooked the heated outdoor pool.

          

Where other hotels charge for certain amenities, many are complimentary at Song of the Sea. Parking is on site and free. You have use of their bicycles – ideal for touring around the island. Beach umbrellas and chairs are at your disposal. Breakfast, including fresh-made Belgian waffles, is free. And you’ll find a complimentary bottle of wine in your room upon check-in.

          

I was very pleased with this hotel. Cheryl, the manager at the front desk when we checked in, was extremely friendly and helpful. She provided us with maps and a coupon book to use on the island. The only thing that I wasn’t crazy about was that the room had tile floors which tended to be a bit dirty. I had to wash my feet before bed each night! But I would stay at Song of the Sea again. It’s very reasonably priced for all that they offer, plus it’s right on the beach. We got a great deal through AAA.

            

Song of the Sea is one of four properties in the Sanibel Collection. The others are the Sanibel Inn, Sunset Beach Inn and the Seaside Inn.

Dates of Visit:  October 2012

http://www.theinnsofsanibel.com/songofthesea/
www.sanibelcollection.com/song_of_the_sea

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Getting away from it all at Abner’s Cabin

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all on your next trip to the Asheville, North Carolina area, Abner’s Cabin is a nice little place to stay.

This quaint, cozy cabin was built in the 1920s by Abner Gwaltney. At the time, it was only a one bedroom cabin with no running water and an outhouse. It may still be rustic on the outside, but inside, after renovations, there are two bedrooms, a full kitchen (with running water), a living room and yes, a full bathroom.

      

Even though Abner’s Cabin is off the beaten path, tucked away in the quiet hills near Weaverville, North Carolina, it’s still very close to all there is to see and do in the Asheville area. And less than a 10 minute drive to downtown Asheville. So, it’s a great central location for your Western North Carolina vacation.

      

There are a few things about Abner’s Cabin that kept it from getting a higher rating from Teddy. The cabin had been closed up for some months, so it smelled a bit musty. Even airing it out for a while didn’t help much. When we first arrived, there was static on the phone line and the internet didn’t work. (An internet connection is listed in the amenities section on their web page.) There are limited electrical outlets in each room. There are some minor repairs that need to be done on the interior: the ceiling is cracked in one of the bedrooms, the bathroom tiles and linoleum are discolored and the front screen door is coming apart which let in a lot of bugs.

On the positive side — the landscaping around the property is very nice. One of the beds has a pillow top mattress, so it was very comfortable. And the owners, who are very friendly, provide some food in the fridge (milk, eggs, cereal, coffee) in case you arrive too late to do any shopping. The owners have also stocked the cabin with plenty of brochures about the area and easy to read maps. And Abner’s Cabin is very affordable. We shopped around and you couldn’t get a two bedroom cabin of this size for the price. It was less than $100 a day (plus tax) if you stay  seven nights. And there are no extra fees, unless you bring a pet.

Overall, our stay was pleasant. I think I might look at some other places in the area for our next visit, but Abner’s Cabin was still very comfortable.

Dates of Visit: May 3-10, 2012

http://www.vrbo.com/144742

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Port Orleans Resort

TEDDY’s RATING:

With Walt Disney World being so close to Orlando where I live, it’s easy to drive down to the theme parks just for the day. But sometimes, it’s nice to get away for a short Disney vacation and stay over for a night…or two.

One of the nicest, of the modestly priced resorts at Walt Disney World, is Port Orleans, nestled along the banks of the Sassagoula River. The resort is made up of two distinct sections or parishes: Riverside and The French Quarter. For both of our visits, we stayed in the Riverside section. Riverside consists of the Southern plantation style mansions of Magnolia Bend (where we stayed in 2010) and the rustic cottages of Alligator Bayou (where we stayed in 2011). The architecture of the French Quarter is, of course, inspired by the famous area in New Orleans.

This picturesque waterfront resort is a wonderfully quiet change from some of the other busier Disney resort hotels. It really feels like you’ve stepped back in time or at least away from the hectic life you left behind.

There are a couple of restaurants and shops on property and plenty of things to do if you want to take a break from the theme parks. The Riverside Mill Food Court serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Depending on what building your room is in, it can be a bit of a walk to Riverside Mill Food Court, but it is a nice quiet walk through the property. We had breakfast there every morning where I enjoyed a Mickey Mouse waffle! For a sit down dinner, there’s Boatwright’s which serves steaks, prime rib and seafood. Fulton’s General Store carries Disney merchandise, snacks, beverages and sundries.

For recreation you can swim in one of the many pools around the property, rent bicycles or boats, take a guided fishing excursion or board a horse-drawn carriage for a romantic ride through the resort.

Port Orleans is on Disney property, but not directly connected by boat or monorail to any of the theme parks. However, bus service is easily available to take you to all theme parks and water parks.

There is also a riverboat that can take you to the Downtown Disney Marketplace and West End. This tranquil, scenic ride is quite lovely and relaxing and stops at both Riverside and The French Quarter. If you get a chance to take the boat back at night, you might see rows of herons lined up on the banks of the river. They wait for the riverboats to churn up the water and bring fish to the surface. It’s a pretty interesting sight to see all these white birds waiting to catch their dinner!

There’s no question that the next time we plan a Disney World getaway, we’ll book a stay at Port Orleans. For the money, it’s the best deal going.

      

Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/port-orleans-resort-riverside/

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The Hoyt House Bed & Breakfast

The Hoyt House, Amelia Island, FL

TEDDY’s RATING:

Although my experience with Bed & Breakfasts in Florida is very limited, I think I’ve found the place that surely sets the standard.  It’s the Hoyt House on Amelia Island.

This lovely home stands on the corners of 8th Street and Centre Street in downtown Amelia Island, in the heart of the town’s historic district.  It’s not the oldest of the mansions on the island, built in 1905, but it is quite beautiful and has a colorful history.  And we can thank the newest innkeepers, Myrta and Deborah, for creating what I consider more than your average bed and breakfast.

Their motto is “To Exceed Your Expectations” and indeed they do with extras that you don’t get from other B&Bs in the area, or probably anywhere else: concierge service, flat screen TVs with DVD players in the rooms, an extensive DVD library, white noise machines to soothe you to sleep, free use of bicycles, complimentary popcorn at 4pm, complimentary beer and wine at Happy Hour in the new pub-style bar, and of course, the made to order breakfast which is second to none.

Deborah prides herself in using fresh, organic ingredients from the local Farmer’s Market to create her breakfast delights.  French pressed coffee, your choice of juice and gigantic sticky buns accompany the three-course breakfast.

The Hoyt House has 10 rooms, all decorated differently.  We stayed in the Oliver Room, Room #3, downstairs on the side of the house farthest from the street with a view of the pool.  This room is decorated in soft pastel colors and can be configured with one king sized bed or two twins.

The well-kept grounds do include a pool, hot tub, gazebo and hammock, but an unusual cold snap kept us from enjoying those amenities.

With off street, onsite parking you can park your car at the Hoyt House and walk to all the restaurants, shops and the history museum which are only blocks away.

Being on the main street unfortunately has its downside.  8th Street leads directly a nearby paper mill and trucks do drive by often and can be quite loud.  The Hoyt House does seem to be quieter inside and the white noise machines help tremendously to keep the truck sounds to a minimum at night.

I would highly recommend a stay at the Hoyt House.  Deborah and Myrta have created a very inviting and comfortable inn.  They spent several hours with us talking about how they came to own the Hoyt House, the history of the house and their plans to continue improving and enhancing the property.

Thank you Myrta and Deborah for your hospitality.  We hope to come see you again soon.

Dates of visit:  January 4, 2011 to January 6, 2011

http://www.hoythouse.com/

Categories: Florida, Sleep | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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