Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Girls Trip: Departing NOLA Aboard the Triumph


 Our ship set sail on St. Patrick's Day, but the first order of business that day was shopping on Royal Street. It's my favorite street in the Quarter full of unique little gift shops, antique stores, and art galleries. We picked up some goodies and headed back to the hotel for our car and drove to the Port. I'd never parked in the Cruise Parking before but it was the easiest thing ever and the porters come right to the car to get your bags out and whisk them away.



After we parked we headed down to get to the escalators to go up and through security and check-in. As I stepped onto the escalator I started to cry. My crew was worried about me and I could hardly talk to tell them that they were tears of joy. First I knew how much my bestie, Debi was going to LOVE cruising, but also I appreciate every single wonderful thing that I ever get to do and don't take anything for granted. So I had a little moment as we headed up to get in line.

My girls totally got me. 





Check-in was easy peasy and before we knew it we were on the ship with drinks and food. Later as the ship sailed down the river Debi asked me if I wanted to split a burger from Guy's Burger Joint. "Oh sure. Why not?"

Y'all. This was my first burger in 7 years. 

Apparently, the answer to yesterday's question: Who are we? (for me, at least)  is someone who listens to rap and eats beef.




Did burgers always taste like this? Is Guy putting crack in the burgers? Is it so good because I haven't had one in so long?  I should probably just confess that I had one every day. 



After organizing our things for the week we headed out to dinner and a show. Then we settled in at karaoke. The fun thing about karaoke is that some of it is surprisingly good and some of it is, well...awful. The best thing is when the bad singers are having the most fun and the crowd tries to help them out by singing along. Karaoke became a nightly event for us.



 I need to tell you a funny thing that happened. 

One of the bad singers was a young guy who took his shirt off in the middle of his song which was hilarious. Later, while someone else was singing a guy in the crowd yelled: "Dude, take your pants off!" Someone in our party didn't hear it and my friend pointed to the guy and repeated what he said.

Just in time for a man to turn around.  All he heard was "Dude, take your pants off."  and to see her pointing in his direction. He looked a startled as she tried to explain, but you can't unring that bell. Whenever we saw him afterward he was known as No Pants Guy.

"Look, No Pants Guy is over there."

"No Pants Guy is here with his sons."

"No Pants Guy's sons are laughing and pointing at us."

Any trip is enhanced by a running joke. They tend to be among the "You had to be there" stories but I know you are my people. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Girls Gone Mild: Our Girls' Trip Begins


I have a fun hangover. But it's Saturday, and I'm keeping up with my three posts a week one of which has to happen today. Last Friday my oldest friend, Debi, and I, her daughter, Casey, and niece, Maggie drove to New Orleans to catch a cruise to Mexico the next day. This was what Maggie wanted to do for her 21st birthday.

Here's a secret: if you ask me to go on a cruise I'm in. No occasion necessary. 

We rode down in a driving rainstorm the entire way listening to rap. Now, if you had asked me before I got in the car if I liked rap I would have said no and probably made a face like you were asking me how I felt about root canals. I can't even imagine what I would have said if you had asked if I wanted to be in a car for 7 hours listening to it.



But...

By the time I got out of that car, I had started a new Spotify playlist that included Nelly and Juicy J. According to Debi's Fitbit, she had taken 7 thousand steps in the backseat of the car. You can't sit still when listing to Lil Mama and Ludacris. Just sayin'.

We kept looking at each other and saying "Who are we right now?" 

No. seriously. Who. Are. We?

We arrived in The Big Easy, checked into our hotel, and headed out to the Quarter in search of food, drinks, and beignets. We happened upon a restaurant called Deja Vu and fulfilled everyone's po' boy requirement. While we were settling our bill a Saint Patrick's Day parade went right by and we racked up several handfuls of beads.



We also ran into some ladies dressed like bees and a man dressed as their beekeeper. Not sure what the connection is to Irish saints but if you've been to New Orleans you know that things don't always have to make sense. Like all the men in kilts. Only in my mind did I say, "Wrong country, guys." Details aren't all that important in party mode.



Next up was the legendary Cafe DuMonde. Afterward, I had hoped to take them to the Bombay Club but that secret is apparently out and it was packed to the brim. My next choice was the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, but it was also filled to overflowing. We managed to snag some drinks from the bar and sit in the beautiful lobby and chat nonstop.

I did mention it was a girls trip, right? 

Y'all I actually lost my voice from so much talking! The rest of the week I sounded like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and James Earl Jones.

The communication only stopped when we collapsed into our beds that night and dreamt of palm trees and glimmering seas.

Just kidding. We all had the weirdest dreams that night. 

*black and white photo compliments of Maggie Murray

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cruising the Inside Passage: White Pass Yukon Route Train Ride

alaska travel

Our last excursion in Alaska was a train ride from Skagway to the White Pass Summit. That first photo up there is my favorite from this ride. It doesn't even look real, does it? Actually I was so caught up in the moment I don't think I grasp that it does actually look a little treacherous.

train to white pass summit

The train literally leaves right from the boat dock and and brings you back to the same spot roughly three and a half hours later. It was the most convenient thing ever and so much fun. After boarding and securing our seats the train left and just a mile or so up the tracks they announced that we could go out to the platform and stand.

white pass summit yukon route

 I had no idea that would even be an option!

caution sign on train

I immediately jumped up and headed for the platform at the rear of our car to secure a good spot for our little foursome. I just knew there would be a mad rush and so I wanted to stake out our territory. I'm so glad I did, otherwise I'd never have gotten this amazing video!


I waited...no one followed me. I looked inside the car and everyone was just sitting in their seats. On the platform of the adjoining car an Australian gentlemen with an enviable camera said "I thought I'd be fighting people off over here. There's people asleep in there! I mean, you paid your money didn't you? Might as well get the most out of it, I say!"

alaska train

 Eventually a woman and her husband joined me and while she leaned over the edge with me to look at the view he stood in the middle of the platform and said "I wish you wouldn't do that."

alaska train

I like to call myself a cautious adventurer. I don't like danger, not really. So though a few of these pics look a little scary, I promise I was perfectly safe the whole time. Even if I was leaning over a gate, just a little, to get the video and some of the pictures.

white pass yukon rail

 Notice how lush and green everything is at the beginning of the ride.

cruising the inside passage excursion

 As the train began to ascend the mountain I caught this glimpse of another train coming up where we had just been. The ascent wasn't that noticeable so this sight surprised me.

white pass yukon rail

 Now the trade off for being outside the car was that I completely missed all the interesting history of the railroad, gold rush, and sketchy characters who opened up this area. But, hey, that's what the internet is for. For history of this railroad as well as information about riding it, check out American-Rails.com

So many horses died on this route it was known as "Dead Horse Trail." You don't put that on a tourist brochure so it's just called White Pass. Probably best. 

white pass trail

By the time we reached the area near the Canadian border it was cold and the snow was still fairly deep along the tracks. I'm pretty sure I'd have stayed home in the lower 48 and opened up a dress shop or something. Trudging around up here on the way to the Klondike to look for gold doesn't seem like a good idea to me at all. See what I mean? Cautious adventurer. Plus, I really like to be warm and oh, I don't know...alive.

white pass yukon rail

At the summit the landscape looked moonlike.

white pass summit alaska

Hello, there, Canada!

white pass summit alaska

It might have been spring in Skagway but at the summit it was still winter.

alaska

Seriously, no amount of gold.

yukon rail


So along this part I had to be careful not to stick my neck out too far, for obvious reasons. See that rock? Building this railroad was a blast. Literally. Through 16 feet of rock in many places and that isn't even talking about tunnels through mountains.

yukon rail


The Food Maven joined me even thought she is scared of heights, but you'd never know it! Look how relaxed she looks!


Now for my favorite photographs of the day. I saved the best for last. Of course the very best one of all is that one at the top of this post.

white pass yukon route

train in alaska


white pass yukon route

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cruising the Inside Passage: Icy Straight Point

alaska


We arrived in Icy Straight Point the day after Ketchikan. We hadn't planned an excursion here and that turned out to be a good choice because this is the most beautiful port for roaming around, taking in the seriously stunning view, and eating doughnuts. Okay, maybe eating the doughnuts isn't something you have on your bucket list, but you should add it right now.


native dance

Our day began at breakfast with my husband spotting whales right between the ship and shore. He's a regular Captain Ahab, apparently. Our ship was so close to shore it was hard to believe the water could possibly be deep enough for them to swim between the two but later we learned that immediately offshore the drop off is 160 feet deep. Okay, no wading then! 

We were greeted at the port by a group of teenagers demonstrating their native dances. Their colorful garb with the breathtaking landscape all around made me feel like I was in Alaska more profoundly than I had up until that moment.

alaska

We were immediately in love with this landscape. Everywhere we looked there was a level of natural beauty it is hard to describe. We were headed for a little hike through a rain forest nearby but stopped first to walk along the rocky shore. You have never seen a group of adults more excited about rocks. With every step we discovered treasures so beautiful that they looked unnatural, magical even. We picked up a few to bring home and photographed some of the beauties too big to carry. I am actually embarrassed by how many rock pictures I have. I do love details when I travel.

alaska rocks

I'm only sharing these two. The straight lines and colors just dazzled us! 

rocks

The trail through the beautiful temperate rain forest was the perfect introduction to the area.


Sometimes you just have to take that cliche touristy photo.


The whales were visible from time to time throughout the day. When they appeared everything and everyone stopped to take in the sight.

alaska whales

My favorite style of photography. Some charming detail in the front with a sweeping vista in the background.

alaska

Like the rocks, there are a ton of these but I'm sparing you. 


Okay, y'all. Let's talk dandelions. Alaskan dandelions are on steroids. They are everywhere, HUGE, and treated like wildflowers instead of weeds. Maybe this is how beautiful they get when everyone isn't constantly spraying them with Round Up. Okay, so dandelions were also a theme of the day.


I'm a little disappointed that I didn't do a better job of taking pictures that give you a better feeling of the beautiful and charming complex they have built at this port.

For a description and history of this area check out, Icy Straight Point/Hoonah, Alaska: Our History.
 
It was well thought and and adorably constructed. There were restaurants, the old cannery had been turned into a museum and was filled with darling shops. There were outdoor eating areas, the longest zip line in the world, and then there was this. 

alaska donuts

This is the Salvation Army Doughnut Hut. Or as I called it, Icy Straight Mecca. They are making the tiniest most delicious doughnuts ever right there and shaking them in a bag of sugar. There are various flavors of sugar like Maple Bacon. MAPLE BACON! And apple cider, cinnamon, vanilla, and about a dozen other flavors. Here's their link on Yelp. This is where Paleo comes to die.

My favorite thing about this area was how photogenic it all was. There was a stark charm that reminded me of other arctic areas of the world. But as you can tell from the photos I really struggled with the glaring light of Alaska in May.



alaska

You can take a bus into Hoonah for a round trip of five dollars. It was so beautiful though that we walked back. Against a fierce icy wind the whole time. Walking to Hoonah and catching the bus back would have been a better plan.

We stopped into the Icy Straight Point Brewery while wondering around. So adorable.

alaska brewery

On the walk back we passed this sweet cemetery covered with dandelions and forget me nots. Again, I have a ridiculous amount of photos of this graveyard.


Okay, maybe the walk back was worth it even with the pounding cold wind. 


I couldn't resist trying to photograph an Alaskan bumblebee. You guessed it. So many photos. 

dandelion




This is one of my favorite photos of the day. I think it symbolizes Alaska perfectly.


What could possibly be a better way to end a day than this? Whales even swam by one last time while we were sitting here recounting our day and saying "We're sitting by a fire in Alaska!"

alaskan cruise port
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