Monday, July 28, 2014

Air or Error Ports

We have done a lot of travelling since May and I don't know how I will ever be able to write about what we did each I think I will do topics.  Of course, I might change my mind and write about each day...but today...I will write about our transportation.  I will start with airports.

I have been in ten different airports this summer.  Some experiences were great...others not at all.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport:  I know...lots of people hear the name 'Detroit' and automatically think that something is in disrepair or old.  I have found Detroit's airport clean, friendly, easy to get from place to place (signage telling where things are and people movers).  An unexpected gift is in the McNamara terminal.  A fountain greets the weary traveler.  I have watched people stop and stare at this unusual fountain as it spits out arcs of water in an almost hypnotic rhythm.  After viewing this for a few minutes, the travelers leave...smiles on their faces...and it seems that they have more of a bounce to their steps. 
Fountain at Detroit Metro Airport
I am glad that Detroit airport is where I usually begin and end many of my trips.  I look forward to stopping from the rush of traveling and take a few minutes to renew my energy level.  Here is a short clip of the fountain that I found on line.  There are others...but they have music added to them...and I like listening to the water as well as it floats through the air.  You can see it here: Detroit Metro Airport Fountain designed by WET  WET also designed the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

Fort Lauderdale:  This airport was a big disappointment.  My friend, Ann, and I traveled there to pick up a car.  Once we walked out we realized that once we walked to the pick up area there was only one small food place...the kind with over priced wrapped sandwiches.  We had not eaten breakfast thinking we would be able to grab a bite at the airport while waiting for the car dealer guy to arrive.  No luck!  There was also a musty odor and things didn't look clean.  The bathroom was messy.  One good point was that we found a row of seats with many outlets nearby so we could charge our iPhones. We also learned that they are in the process of expanding this airport and figured that was why things looked a bit shabby.

Phoenix Airport:  I have flown into this airport a few times.  It always seems busy, but people were able to move about easily.  Nothing stands out as being wonderful...but we did not spend much time there...we were catching a connecting flight...and were able to get to the next gate with no problems.  The airport was clean, bright and welcoming.

Vancouver Airport:  I think Vancouver is a beautiful city and I would love to visit there again...but if I have to travel through this airport, I doubt I return.  The process of getting into the country seemed unorganized.  The lines reminded me of those at Cedar Point for one of the big featured roller coasters....but moved much slower.  We were dragging our suitcases, zigzagging with all of the rest of the travelers.  I was expecting a long interrogation when we finally reached the boarder security person, but was relieved that he was reasonable and friendly.  I think they must need to have a better system and hire more people so that there is not such a mass of people guided into one line.
Here is an example of lines at Vancouver airport.

Our friends who came to Vancouver the day after we got there
  had lines twice the size of ours.

Anchorage Airport:  We got there so early in the morning (4:00 a.m.) that I really don't remember much about it.  Once people got there to process our tickets things moved along quite well.  Everything was clean and that is about all I remember.

Minnesota:  This was just a connection flight airport, so we just departed and went to the next gate.  It was easy....people movers and good signage.  Things looked clean...and we were soon at our gate and ready to fly back home.

Atlanta:  This airport gets the worst rating.  I was traveling with my friend, Rae, who had just undergone major chemo treatments and had requested a wheel chair.  When we began this trip (in Detroit) there was a wheel chair for us and a young man wheeled her to our gate and stayed with her until he got her onto the plane.  When we got to Atlanta, there was no wheel chair...even though it had been requested...and even though I heard the flight attendant call in to request it (after finding out that there was not one waiting).  That did not bother me so much...but we did have a connecting flight that I feared we might miss if we had to wait too long.  The pilot noticed that we were waiting and had Rae return to sit in the plane and said he would get a wheel chair.  He soon came back...following a woman pushing a wheel chair.  (The pilot helped Rae to the wheel chair and told her to keep up the fight...that he had had chemo two years earlier and had beaten it.  I was really impressed with the care he took.  This was a Delta flight...and I have usually had great experiences with them.)

Back to the woman and the wheel chair....she meandered toward the gate of our next flight.  We had about fifteen minutes.  She stopped and looked at a piece of paper in her hand...looked around as if she was not sure where she was....all in all...I was getting a bit concerned.  She got us to the gate, and left us in the middle of the aisle.  So I was left to maneuver the wheel chair and two carry on bags.  Some kind young man saw me struggling and offered to help and his seat for me.  He disappeared before I could get his name to thank him...but it sure gave me confidence in our young people.

So...Atlanta gets a really bad rating from me.  It might be clean and easy to get around...but my experience this time was terrible.

Albuquerque AirportBy far...this is beautiful.  There are sculptures throughout depicting the Southwest.  The colors are browns and turquois...welcoming you to "The Land of Enchantment."  I have traveled through this airport many times and still stop to view the designs and artwork.  Another reason I like this airport is because there was a wheel chair with Rae's name on it waiting for us when we stepped off the plane.

Sculpture in Albuquerque Airport

Paris, Charles De Gaulle Airport:  I was expecting a nightmare after our experience in Vancouver getting through the boarder security.  What a wonderful surprise!  The line was short and moved quickly.  We were through and on our way so quickly I kept thinking there had to be another step. 

When we left through the same airport we were coming from Vienna.  Again, things went smoothly and quickly.  The only complaint I have about this airport is the design.  It looks a big hangar....but the windows are such that there are not many places to sit without being in the sun.  I like the sun...but this was a bright and hot day...and it was quite uncomfortable.

Charles De Gaulle Airport...pretty but hard to get out of the sun.

Vienna:  We left Austria through the Vienna airport.  Things were organized, and like Paris, went quickly.  There were no long lines where people had to wait over an hour.  People were friendly and even though we were ready to get was also kind of sad to leave.

So, that is my experience with airports this summer.  I had great adventures in Alaska and Europe that I hope to write about in the next couple of weeks....with pictures. favorite airport so still Detroit.  I hope you watched the video of the fountain.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tale of the Whale....and Other Adventures

I am back in Toledo and finally feeling well enough to continue writing about our trip to Alaska.  I will try to combine days of the trip per post because I want to finish this trip before we leave for Europe on Sunday.
I was excited to get to Juneau because we had signed up for a Whale Watch excursion.  There were so many choices of things to do....but "Discover Alaska's Whales" caught our eyes.  This excursion also did scientific studies of the waters, so we got to be a part of that, too.  We collected water samples and checked for sea stated in the excursion explanation... "Whale sightings are guaranteed, and you’re also likely to see seals, porpoise, sea lions and other marine animals, all while doing some significant good as you contribute to a whale research program. You’ll explore the foundation of the food chain by drawing plankton samples in a touch tank."  I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
Cy looking at Juneau from our deck.

Juneau with low clouds covering the mountains.  It was stunning!

Some Sea Urchins We Collected while on the Whale Watch
They were returned to the water after we counted them.

Thar She Blows!
You can see the whale blowing out carbon dioxide as it surfaces for air.  It looks like a small geyser.

This is a dorsal fin of a whale.  It is swimming on its side and waving its fin out of the water.

Even when there were no whales to see...the scenery was awesome!

Another dorsal fin.  This is a humpback whale.  I was hoping to get a picture of the tail.

YES!!!  Even though the tail is almost in the water....I was still thrilled to
be able to get a picture of it.

Another tail shot!  This gives you an idea of the size of the whale.  I am glad that boat was there.

This was the best I could get of the back of the whale.  It did not want to breach for me...but I know those
photos are rare when going on a whale watch for just three hours.

Another tail!  There is also a small sea lion to the left of the whale.

This looks like the whale is saying 'good-bye' to us.
 As you can tell from the pictures....I was able to get a few pictures of a whale's tail.  I am so glad we were on a smaller boat with fewer people.  Everyone was able to find good spots for taking pictures.  Being short makes me somewhat assertive in trying to find a good spot when I am in a crowd as I worm my way through giants and let them take pictures over my head....and I did not have to do that this time.
The next day we cruised to Skagway.  We had signed up for a 'new excursion'....called "Bridge, Brew and Brothel."  We took a bus to this long suspension bridge where we also had a lunch of chili, bread and beer (I chose a soft drink since I don't like beer...but Ray chose the local ale.)  After our lunch we walked to the bridge and crossed over the Tutshi River.  It was so exciting to feel the energy of that river as it tumbled over the rocks below.  I don't think my sister would have liked walking across the bridge though.  She does not like heights...and this bridge also had  a mesh bottom so we could see the river by looking straight down.

This was taken along the way to the bridge.

These are called 'Enukshuks'...people stack rocks here.  This reminded me of the place in Sedona where there were hundreds of stacks of rocks.  We made our stack and took a picture of Cy next to it.

Here is Cy with the Enukshuk that we built.

I am getting ready to cross the bridge.  It was a bit nippy that day so I wore
a big headband to cover my ears.

I am halfway across the bridge!

Rae and Charlotte went with us on this excursion.  Here I am helping Rae cross the bridge.

Scenery on our way back to Skagway

More beautiful mountains

The scenery was captivating.

We returned to Skagway and visited the Red Onion Saloon where we learned the history of the brothel there
and got to visit the rooms upstairs.

When we got here we were giving some sparkling wine or lemonade and then
taken on a tour of the brothel.  We learned that the bar tender would have a row of
dolls...each one looked somewhat like one of the 'ladies'.  A man would pay the bar
tender and point to a doll, the bar tender would then put the doll on its back and send
the man upstairs for fifteen  minutes with the lady.

Good-bye Skagway
I have a few videos of the bridge and the brothel....but this computer is acting up, so I will deal with those later.  Right now, I have to get this posted and then get ready to go to see Ringo Starr at a concert at the Toledo Zoo.
Good-bye Skagway....we are on our way to Glacier Bay!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Cy looking out our deck at Ketchikan.
Well, it has been two weeks since I have written anything about our Alaska cruise.  Long story...Ray got sick during the cruise but did manage to go on all of the excursions and get some good pictures.  I stayed well until the last day.  I will write about that last day later....what a nightmare...but now, I can look back and smile...maybe later I will find more humor in it.  For now, I will try to catch up on our cruise. 
We left Vancouver and had a day at sea on our way to Ketchikan.  The seas were rough and lots of people were not feeling well.  For me, the rolling is peaceful...especially at night...gently rocking to sleep. I am sure most people welcomed the quiet water as we sailed and docked at Ketchikan.  We had signed up for the "Everybody Duck" amphibious vehicle that would tour through the streets and then drive into the water for a tour along the shore.  We got there late and were at the tail end of the line.  Somehow the excursion was overbooked so there was no room for us.  We were told we could take the one three hours later.  No big deal...we spent the time walking through the streets and getting a flavor and history of Ketchikan.


This was the Duck we were going to ride through the town and in the water.
One of the Totem Poles in Ketchikan that we saw while walking around town.

Dolly's House of Ill Repute :-)
Docks at Ketchikan

Another picture of Dolly's House.
Another Duck we saw while in the water.
This eagle had caught some sort of marine life.

This eagle wanted to fly along with us.

 We left Ketchikan after a pleasant day of seeing wildlife and learning a bit of history, too.  Now we head to Juneau where I hoped to see some whales on our whale watch excursion.

On our way to Juneau....the mist on the mountains was stunning.

Waterfalls and mountain streams.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Catch Us in Ketchikan

It is Monday, June 2, 2014, and we are on our first full day of the cruise to Alaska.  This is my second cruise to Alaska, but Ray’s first.  We spent two nights at Vancouver at the Pan Pacific Hotel.  What a beautiful view we had!  The sky was blue with puffy white clouds.

This is the view from our room.

This is Vancouver as we are leaving on the ship.

This is the sunset from our hotel room.
Now we are headed to Ketchikan where we are signed up to go on the ‘Everybody Duck!’ excursion in the morning.  After that we hope to get some good pictures of Ketchikan.  I don’t have a good photographic record of my last trip to Alaska because that was the first digital camera I had.  In the excitement of getting pictures of the glaciers crashing into the ocean….I accidentally formatted all of my pictures that were on that media card.  Fortunately, I had some on other cards, but lost a lot of pictures.

This sculpture is called "The Drop"...Ray took this picture of it from the
hotel window.  I am leaning on it.

This is a zoomed in picture of me
leaning on the drop,
Right now all of the decks on the ship are closed because of rough water.  I know many people don’t like the rolling of the ship, but I like it.   Since this is a small ship it does not have the big stabilizers that the larger cruise ships have….so at times we have felt like we are on a gentle roller coaster.  (I learned about the stabilizers from a man who sat with us at the wine tasting this afternoon.)  I am just glad that our room has a deck so that we can sit outside and watch the waves…even though it is a bit nippy.

Ray snapped this picture of me as we were leaving Vancouver,

Ray tried to catch the rainbows formed from the mist of
the large waves, but he couldn't quite get it.

I told Ray that when I was on my first cruise to Alaska
it was hot most of the time.  Well, he still does
not believe me...because it has been quite nippy,  Ray is
enjoying the sun on our deck. :-)
This is our ship coming in.  We could see it from our hotel room.
 I am going to let the pictures tell the rest of the story because I am short on time…and also short on internet time as it is a bit (no….really a lot) expensive to buy time.  I will write more when I get back to Ohio.

Cy is saying good-bye to Vancouver

I am looking at a beautiful sun set on our way to Ketchikan
I am going to let the pictures tell the rest of the story because I am short on time…and also short on internet time as it is a bit (no….really a lot) expensive to buy time.  I will write more when I get back to Ohio.