Hard to believe it’s been a year since we closed on the mountain house in North Carolina. Here’s a link to some reflections and advice if you’re considering a vacation home…
A break in the daily cruise travelogue to praise our fellow writers and photojournalists. Check it out on hypeorlando…8 Global Journalists who take you to foreign lands without leaving home.
After two nights and a full day of cruising, we arrived in Juneau. Surprised at how small this town is, especially since it’s the capitol of Alaska, we were told that most of the jobs were in state government or tourism. Of course, fishing is a major industry here, also. Our ship docked just after lunch and we had an excursion planned a couple of hours later.
We bravely, but with a fair amount of trepidation, chose a Wings Airways seaplane (or floatplane, as they’re called in Alaska) touring five of the glaciers of Juneau’s massive icefield. Strapping into the 10 passenger De Havilland Otter was scary, to say the least, especially on such a cloudy day but we just sucked it up, donned our headphones and held our breath.
Side note: You WILL be asked to divulge your weight and it WILL be written on your ticket in big red figures. If you choose to lie about your weight, you might feel a bit of panic as the plane takes off, worrying that everybody else might have lied, too. Not that I have any experience in this, just sayin…
To say this was a #HolyShitMoment is an understatement. From the moment our bush plane’s floats left the water until we drifted back to dock, the views were exhilarating and we were glad we chose this adventure. Observing the glaciers from above offers an amazing insight into how these huge structures are formed.
The 40-minute adventure covered five glaciers, most of which are receding. The Taku Glacier, however, is the largest in the ice field and the only one still advancing. Wearing headphones, we listened to educational narration throughout the flight with oodles of photo opps as every seat has its own window.
There were a few anxious moments when we were buffeted about a bit but the experienced pilot kept us level and before we knew it we were gliding into the bay for a smooth landing, wishing the flight wasn’t coming to an end.
Afterward, we strolled the streets of the town and ducked into the infamous Red Dog Saloon. During the mining era, the owner would meet tour boats, with a mule wearing a sign stating, “follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.” Now, modern tourists and cruisers fill the sawdust-floored bar looking for a brew and a raunchy song.
Tomorrow finds us in Skagway…
An incredible opportunity opened up for Charlie and I to join a press group, cruising Alaska’s waterways with Holland America Lines on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The offer was last minute, as in 2 ½ weeks, but the calendar was clear and, luckily, we brought our passports to NC, so we were in. The key to a happy retirement is flexibility and spontaneity. No moss growing on our rolling stone!
The plan was to fly from Asheville to Vancouver and back via Chicago. It takes an hour to get to the airport from the mountain house and the flight was on time when we left. Arriving at the airport, however, we discovered our flights, in both Asheville and Chicago were delayed. We started sweating bullets when our originating flight wound up 3 hours late but managed to find our terminal and gate in Chicago in time.
The rest of the trip was seamless as we were picked up in Vancouver, driven through the streets of the city and dropped off at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, atop Canada Place’s cruise ship terminals. Arriving around 6 pm we had time to walk a few blocks to dinner at Original Joe’s on Robson Street. Of course, our brains were telling us it was 3 hours later so we were disinclined to imbibe in the local beer offerings as we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel.
The Pan Pacific is gorgeous and next morning our ship was in dock waiting for us to board. We met our fellow journalists for breakfast and were amazed at how far some of them traveled…Australia, Holland, London, Austria, Belgium and a few more from the states…all lovely people who were a joy to accompany on this trip of a lifetime.
The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is one of HAL’s larger ships, much bigger than the ms Maasdam, on which we cruised through New England and Nova Scotia last year. The comfort level and beauty were the same, however, this time with a touch of Manhattan and NYC art deco touches. Our Verandah was roomy, located at the back of the ship, which proved to be a perfect place to view all that Alaska had to offer.
We met our group again at the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck, for a welcome cocktail and then dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food on these cruises is just phenomenal and the champagne was flowing that night, along with perfect wine pairings. We were reminded that we needed to take it easy and not eat our way through the trip…not an easy task!
Next morning, we met for a private Galley tour. What we saw was a well-organized effort to feed over 2,000 guests and more than 900 crew members. The kitchens were spotless and we saw smiling faces and beautiful culinary creations. Here are some stats…a typical 7-day cruise goes through 23,000 eggs, 1,675 pounds of butter and 137,500 pounds of fresh vegetables. It’s mind-boggling the amount of work that goes into storing, preparing and serving this much food. And they do it cheerfully and meticulously.
That night we met at The Pinnacle Grill, one of three fine dining choices, which will cost extra but are well worth the price. The menu highlights Pacific Northwest steak and seafood along with an ample choice of wines. Looking out the window we spotted the backs of a few whales cruising alongside the ship. I should mention that the other dining choices, which are included in the price of the cruise, are top of the line. You can choose the Lido buffet which changes offerings every day, along with the Manhattan Dining Room, which is a 2-level, formal dining experience.
Here are a couple of links to my blog posts on hypeorlando about this trip… Sushi virgins no longer and What the rest of the world thinks of Americans – Next up, Days 3 and 4, sailing through Tracy Arm, arriving in Juneau and Skagway.
So the deal wasn’t done and the papers weren’t signed, lucky for us we had an honest inspector who immediately saw structural issues and did not continue the process. Inspections are pricey in the mountains and he saved us quite a few bucks by not going any further. He said a structural engineer needed to see the damage and go from there. It was enough for us to cancel the contract and move on. Very disappointing, especially since the owner is a structural engineer and should have disclosed the problems on the contract.
We’ve learned not to become emotionally attached to anything we attempt to purchase so we weren’t envisioning family holidays on the deck quite yet. There were others on our short list and some more popped up on the MLS, so we kept shopping. Our criteria and must-have list was short – 3,000 feet in elevation, a view, high ceilings (we want to feel like we’re in a mountain house, not sitting in a subdivision somewhere with low ceilings), and a location that doesn’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Elevation is a must as our main reason for purchasing a summer home is to get out of the heat and humidity of Orlando. Our research has shown that 3,000 feet pretty much insures not having to turn on the a/c all summer. A panoramic mountain view is fleeting. The house that failed inspection had a killer view off the deck but that deck might be sliding off the mountain in the future. Another house had a great view but was too small and, inside, felt like we were anywhere but in the mountains. Another one had a death-defying drive-way and a larger car would have to back out of it without being able to turn around.
In the end we’re losing the view with the chosen abode, but it’s just a short walk away, along with the Appalachian Trail, and the size and location make up for it. Check out my hypeorlando.com blog at Forever Young but Growing Old for details on our last visit. Hopefully, we’ll close in early December and have more to report with pictures. But those photos might include snow!
Check out my hypeorlando blog post, Forever Young but Growing Old, about Home Exchanges gone wrong…and they all could have been avoided!
Recently the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City celebrated its first anniversary. On a recent trip to Manhattan we made sure to reserve a day to visit the 911 Museum. It is a pilgrimage that feels like one’s civic duty. We need to be reminded of the pain that was felt that awful day. Our pain has subsided but for those who lost family members, it never goes away.
Walking through the museum one never knows what might touch the heart or cause you to tear up. My husband was particularly affected by the Maasi Tribe, who felt so bad for our country’s loss that they offered up 14 of their prized cows to be sent as a gift. The shipment to America of cattle never happened because of financial and health concerns, but there is a special spot for the herd in Kenya where they are cared for and are free to roam. You can read the entire story here but go grab a tissue first. I don’t think anyone can get through the tale without a lump in the throat.