Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Alaska Photos part 1

I promised photos, so here they are.  Most of them are the same ones I posted on Facebook, so if you've already seen those, sorry for the repeat.
When I thought about going on a cruise, I never really thought about the logistics of it, the huge number of people, the ordeal of getting to the ship, on the ship, through the ship to the cabin, etc.  I'm not an impatient person, I don't think.  I understand that sometimes you have to stand in line for something worthwhile.  I look at it as an opportunity to people watch, so I actually enjoyed the process of boarding the ship.  There were long lines of amusing people.  Every one was in a festive, pre-holiday mood.  I did not enjoy the hour long runaround my GPS gave us before we found the parking lot.  Luckily, we left the hotel in plenty of time, so we were still over an hour early for our boarding time.  
Our floating home, the Golden Princess.
The ship was worth the wait. The Golden Princess was luxurious. I didn't photograph it, but our cabin was actually bigger than I thought it would be.  
One of the many pools. Our cabin was just down a corridor past the stingray sculpture.

Seattle skyline as we left port.  The tents you see on the shore below the Space Needle were Hempfest, which we did not attend. 

Ship interior, the Atrium.

A string quartet playing Strauss in the Atrium. They played nearly every day, from classical to Beatles tribute songs. 

This is the Princess Theater, where the uber cheesy evening entertainments were perpetrated. In the day they had lectures and other things. The guy down front was my favorite member of the bar staff. Instead of taking drink orders like he was supposed to, he'd wander around the room flirting and playing with all the little kids, showing them tricks and telling jokes and stories. He was adorable.
I say the on board entertainment was cheesy, but I have to give the performers props for being able to dance around on a stage in heels while the ship was listing and rolling.  They looked as though nothing was amiss, but when the audience stood up to go after the show ended we all lurched around like a Star Trek fight scene.

My awesomely fabulous friend Gabrielle.

Formal night.  Do I look uncomfortable?  Because I was.
 Let's talk about the food, because frankly, you could eat 24/7 on a cruise.  You hear stories about cruise food, about people gaining mega poundage while cruising.  All the stories are true.  The food is amazing, our waitstaff was just the best ever, there were so many options and too many things to try.  Here is a sampling:
Our waiters brought me gluten free bread every night :)

Salmon, veggies, mashed potatoes and I think parsnips?

Flourless chocolate cake.  SOOOO GOOOOD!!! I wish they'd had this every night.

Caprese salad.

This looks disgusting but it was so good.  It was stilton mousse and cucumber slaw.  Drool.

Beef medallions and veggies.

Crab legs.  I should have ordered 3 plates.  These were the best food I had on the cruise.

Beef, veg, potato.
They made me gluten free pasta as an appetizer one night.  It was sooo goood, but so big for a starter.  I had a hard time eating the rest of my dinner. 
This was disgusting.  Mushroom soup.
Roasted pork, asparagus and potatoes.  I would have loved this if it hadn't come right after my pasta starter. 
Neapolitan ice cream cake.
Cheesecake.  I didn't eat the crust...
In Juneau Gab and I took a raft float trip from Mendenhall Lake, past Mendenhall Glacier, down the Mendenhall River.  I'm sensing a theme here.  They were all named for Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, who was responsible for defining the boundary between Canada and Alaska, among other things.  Hah!  I did listen to our guide. 
 On this trip we weren't sure how wet we were going to get, so I took my phone, but only took a very few photos and then tucked it away during the river part of the excursion.  Gab didn't take her camera or phone, for which I am immensely grateful, because I looked like an ass clown.  They gave us wet weather gear, which was awesome, except that as a very girthy person, the pants didn't quite fit.  They were way too long to begin with and then I couldn't pull them all the way up, because, you know, belly.  So the crotch was down by my knees and I was waddling around like a penguin.  Add boots that were literally 5 sizes too big, a huge rain slicker with a hood, and a life vest.  I could hardly move.  If the raft had flipped I would have drowned, dragged down by the 127,000 lbs of rubber I was wearing.  When I went to get into the raft, I sat down and tried to swing my legs over into the raft, but I fell over onto my back and was stuck there like a turtle, waving my rubber clad limbs in the air, gurgling for help.  Gab pulled me in and we were off, but I have rarely felt so foolish in my life.  The guide just laughed and said, "best part of the trip!"  Thanks, dick.

This was taken from the raft in the middle of Mendenhall Lake, just before heading down the river.

Mendenhall Glacier

After our float trip, Gab and I had planned to take this tram ride, but when the time came we didn't think we'd have much of a view from the top. 

 In Skagway we arose at the crack of dawn and took a jeep ride to the Yukon to go off-roading.  It was awesome!  The drive was gorgeous.  There really aren't words to adequately describe the beauty  and the enormity of Alaska.  Every description falls short of the reality.  And photos never really do any great landscape justice because it's not just about the view, is it?  It's the smell and the feel of the place.  The wind and the sounds.  It's magnificent.  You should go.

Jeep caravan.

TMI alert: When we got to the off roading part all the bumping and jostling around made me horribly aware that my bladder was near exploding so I was forced to do something I generally avoid at all costs. I've never been good at peeing in the woods, but I did it here. Yukon Territory - I came, I peed, I conquered.

Proof that we were there. I think that's Montana Mountain behind us?

Carcross.  I love the art on the buildings.

Our guide pointed out that this statue is anatomically correct. 

After the jeep trek, I took the White Pass Scenic Railway excursion.  The next bunch of photos are from that trip.  Sorry about the weird reflections off the glass. 

Glacier Bay
There's not much to say about Glacier Bay.  The photos will speak for themselves.  It's just magnificent.  I will say though that I haven't edited these photos at all.  The colors are true life.  Also, I have to mention how totally, utterly lucky we were to have such clear, sunny weather.  Everyone kept saying everywhere we went how the last 10 cruises before us all had nothing but rain and fog.  We. Lucked. Out. 

That's it for the first half of our cruise.  I'll post the rest later.

I've been thinking more about the disconnect I feel about this trip, like I haven't really been to Alaska.  I feel as though I've been to the zoo and seen Alaska through the glass, you know?  I think it might have to do with the fact that we didn't actually STAY in Alaska for more than a few hours at a time.  We didn't sleep there.  We didn't eat one meal there.  We came, looked, and left.  We didn't touch.  We didn't play. 
If visits are like relationships then I have a long term, committed relationship with Oregon, I had a torrid love affair with New Zealand. I met Paris at a party, we had a conversation, held hands.  I hope we meet again someday. Alaska - I saw Alaska across a crowded room.  I thought it was beautiful, but it didn't notice me. 
I'd really like to go back... in a car.  I'd like to drive there, sleep there, stay in one spot for more than 3 hours.  Eat local food, meet people who have nothing to do with the tourist trade.  See places that aren't on the cruise line.  Apparently it's a 32 hour drive...

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I just got back from a cruise to Alaska with my lovely friend Gabrielle.  I'll post photos later, (after they've finished uploading to Dropbox.  I only took 900 or so,) but I wanted to process some of what I felt on the trip and I think writing about it will help me do that. 

It's a strange way to vacation, cruising.  3000 people, most of whom have never met before, living within inches of each other for a week, crowding into lounges and theaters, gift shops and dining halls.  Cruises are billed as relaxing getaways.  It's an odd way to relax, in such close proximity to so many strangers.  Maybe the disconnect between the ideal and the reality would have seemed less broad if our destination had been less grand in scale, but Alaska...  Alaska is breathtaking in its enormity.  It is pure wilderness, and to have it sullied by the hordes of capitalistic cruise goers... it just felt wrong. 

We had a famous naturalist on board with us who has lived in the wilds of Alaska and has many well rehearsed tales to tell.  He's published books about his adventures and even had one of them produced by PBS as a television program of some sort.  He gave lectures on the ship about his life in Alaska, his adventures in nature and with the natives.  He is very practiced at making everyone listening feel as though they want to throw off the shackles of modern civilization and brave the wild unknown.  I couldn't help looking around me at all the pampered guests who can't cope if the waiter brings them regular Coke instead of diet, all of them with the fervor burning in their eyes that said, "I am mighty!  I will conquer this great land!  I will go on a wildlife viewing excursion and I will return to tell the tale!  I will have photos to prove it!"  (Gab, I do not mean you.  I don't know anyone who gets more pure enjoyment out of being in nature than you do.) 

I should state at this juncture that I enjoyed my cruise, that the vast majority of the people we met were lovely, friendly folks, and that I very much enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  I also liked the touristy things we did.  We went on many fun excursions.  I just don't feel like I've seen the real Alaska.  And while I was enjoying being waited on I felt ashamed of myself for enjoying it, for allowing it.  I guess I felt like it was all a big show.  We were all participating in this grand charade of pleasantness and politeness, but underneath I was causing a lot of people a lot of inconvenience and because it's their job, they smile and pretend like they enjoy it too.  My hope is that the people who work on the ship and in the towns we visited and on the tours we took really do like their jobs, but I know I'd have a hard time tolerating, let alone enjoying a lot of what they do. 

I guess I'm still myself, even on vacation.  Crowds make me uncomfortable, or I should say small-talk makes me uncomfortable, because I know I'll be quizzed later.  You meet someone and exchange pleasantries.  This might happen 20 times a day on a cruise ship.  Two days later you meet the same folks, they ask you how you are, how you enjoyed your insert excursion name here, how your mother is feeling after her recent surgery, if you've heard any more about the news story you were discussing the last time you met, and if that strange rash that might be developing on the arch of your left foot ever came to anything.  If you are me, you struggle to remember a single detail about them.  I HATE THIS SCENARIO.  And it happens all the time.  I do come from a long line of social retards, so I guess I come by it honestly.  Sigh.

Gabrielle will read this and never want to go on another vacation with me again.  She is a lovely traveling companion.  There aren't very many people I could stand to share a room with for 8 days, or who would willingly tolerate the same amount of time with me.  She is the best vacation buddy.  She puts up with my cluelessness and odd ways.  She's been my friend for 23 years and I feel grateful to have her in my life.  She gets me to do things I'd never do without her, things that would never occur to me.  She knows how to have fun and she has a bright, optimistic nature that I admire and envy. 

I'm not sure if I will cruise again.  I have to decide how I feel about the whole rich person being waited on by poor person thing...  It's most certainly the least expensive way to see Alaska.  I don't think you could drive there for what we paid for the cruise, let alone have accommodation and food included.  (And the food!  The FOOOOOOD!!!  Cruise food is pretty darn fabulous.)  Plus it's a long drive.  Looooonnnnggg.  You'd have to have a month off to do it properly, and who can swing that? 

Those are my thoughts for now.  I'll post an obscene number of photos soon. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cow Philosophy

I've been given the opportunity to be a vendor at a new shop in Salem, 35 miles from my home.  I'm happy to expand my market, and the shop sounds like it's going to be pretty fabulous, so I'm way excited.  The shop is called Eclectic NW.  It will be all local area artists and craftspeople, 200 vendors but not set up like so many of these places are with individual booths or stalls.  Eclectic NW will be arranged like a boutique shop with everything in sections like housewares and clothing, etc.  It opens on June 1st and I have to deliver my inventory of 25 new works 11 days from now!!!  So I'm folding and cutting and looping in all my spare moments. 
This is what I'm working on this morning:
It's from a book called Cow Philosophy.  Really.  I love how it's turning out.  It looks better in person.  I wish it was Ovine Philosophy.  It sort of looks wooly :)
Here are a couple of other recent works that will also be going to the shop.
This is Pride and Prejudice :)
This is a book of seashells, not that you can tell from this awful photo :-/
I'm also still painting ceramics, just for me, because it makes me happy.  This is my most recent project.
Before firing:
After firing:
I have to say, I'm gloating a little over this one. 
Oh, and I suppose it has to be said today.  May the Fourth be with you.