Archive for September, 2012

I woke up in the hostel, took a shower in the full home-like bathroom with the great water pressure and no stress about finishing quickly. I paid for my room, sat in the general living area eating my breakfast and it was just really really quiet. I finished quickly and asked the guy I paid for my room about the bus into town. He showed me the poster that someone had hand drawn about how to get to the closest bus stop with the attached schedule and I figured out what I needed to do to get there. I asked for change for the bus, since it cost $1.75 and he pointed me to a change machine. I hadn’t seen one of those in years and best of all, it actually worked! Another surprise. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to drag my large bag to the stop and really how far it was, so about 30 minutes before the bus came (it was a Saturday, so they only came once an hour) I set off for the stop. It was a lot closer then I realized, so I sat in the bright and sunny Anchorage day and waited. It actually got quite warm! The bus arrived on time and the driver was this really nice hipster girl who showed me how to put my money in and that I didn’t need a ticket as I was only going one way. I dragged my bag to the back and enjoyed the ride into town.

My view while I waited for the bus.

The bus dropped me off at the Transit Center and I had printed out a really good map of the downtown area from the Anchorage Transit website, of all places and walked to the Ramada Inn, which was the joining hotel for my tour that night. Downtown Anchorage is on a grid, so it was really easy to figure out my way around. I walked past the market which I had heard a lot about and looked forward to going after I dropped my bag off. Thankfully, the hotel was only a block away from the market! Even though it was barely 11am when I got to the hotel, I really just wanted to drop my bag in (free!) storage for the day, the front desk said I could check in if I wanted a ground floor room. Sounds good to me! They gave me the name of my roommate and I claimed the bed closest to the window, which ended up being a very good choice. I just claimed the bed and arranged myself for the day and off I went. I highly recommend this hotel. Great location in the center of town, walking distance from everything, free airport shuttle, friendly and very helpful front desk, great lobby inclusive of hanging out and not feeling guilty (as you’ll see later), free computer for limited use, apparently free internet (don’t really care as I can use my phone and I’ll never carry a laptop) and a free breakfast included! Anytime there is a make-your-own-waffle bar, you know the quality is good.

My first stop was the Anchorage Museum which was awesome. A glance at my student ID and I got in for $9 vs. $12! Every little bit helps. The place was really cool and showed a lot about Alaska, why people came, why people stayed, why is it part of the US and not Russia or Canada. There was a lot on the native people also but unfortunately by then, I didn’t get to it until the end of my visit and I was getting hungry . Oh, you aren’t allowed to take large bags in and it took me a moment to figure out the locker system in that you have to put a quarter in them, but you get it back when you open it. YAY! I love that system. So free lockers!

View from the “Sounds of Alaska” room. One of my favorites.

After the museum, I went across the street to the mall in search of cheap food and found it in the form of a food court so I just grabbed a bottle of water and a slice of pizza and people watched for a while. Otherwise, the mall is your typical American place. There is a Nordstroms and JC Penny that anchor it as well as an Apple store right outside Nordies. I couldn’t help but laugh. When I was tying my shoes that morning, I noticed that my laces were starting to come apart and the last thing I needed was them breaking while I was in the middle of nowhere, so I stopped at Payless and grabbed a spare pair for $2 before finally headed toward the town market.

One of my favorite signs, what Alaska thinks of Texas! Too funny.

I had a nice wonder around the market to see what was on offer and get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, I had already eaten lunch, so I wasn’t that hungry for all the delicious food on offer! Oh well, reason to come back. I did have a discover my new favorite coffee though in Kalandi Brothers. So good! They are only in Alaska (and WA, I just checked) and when ever I saw them on my trip, weather I wanted or needed it, I bought a cup. So good! I also got my mom a pair of earrings. I sat on a bench near the bathrooms where there was chalk on the ground for the kids to play with and called my parents, which was actually kind of weird in itself. I can’t remember the last time I was on vacation, like a proper vacation, and had the abilities to use my phone without extra charges. It was so weird! As I was talking to my family, it started to rain, so I took shelter near the bathrooms and continued the conversation like nothing happened.

My view at the market, drinking coffee, chatting with my parents. Rain came about 5 minutes after this picture was taken!

After that, I was a bit tired and wet, so I just went back to the hotel to relax. I didn’t really want to sit in the room as besides the bed, there wasn’t really anywhere to sit and the lobby was so nice. I cuddled up in a chair near a window and read and wrote for a while before someone came up and asked if I was part of G Adventures tour that was starting. I said yes and met my first tour mate! We chatted for a while before someone else came into the lobby and over heard us talking and joined us and before I knew it, I was meeting my roommate and tentmate for the first time! Both were lovely and we talked for a long time as more and more of the group joined us before the welcome meeting.

We were all present for the welcome meeting except one person and we got an overview of the following two weeks before breaking for dinner, which we all ate at the bar attached to the hotel. I had the nachos and they pretty much sucked, but at least the company was good. Most of the group was pretty jet lagged and even though I wasn’t, I didn’t want to OD on the group too fast and I wanted to take advantage of the hotel room while we had it, so I came back to the room and took one last shower and packed up my bag for the following day and snuggled into a real bed for the last time.

Alaska – My 39th State

I am going to format my recent trip to Alaska a little different then normal. Instead of writing by topic, I am going to write out whatever the hell I want in chronological order. There will probably be some sort of topical relation in the post, but essentially it is going to be a day-by-day take on what I did, saw, stayed and ate. On a personal note, I am sort of getting away from travel blogs. I comment less because I am caring less. Everything is sponsored these days, which is just annoying and I am getting more into reading personal lifestyle blogs, which is kind of hilarious as I have neither a life nor style. ANYWAY.

So yeah, if I forgot to tell you, I went to Alaska for my summer vacation this year. It was sort of a last minute thing as I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford it, with the dog and all but around May I started getting depressed that I wasn’t going to do anything this summer, so I booked another G Adventures tour to Alaska, as I wanted to keep it local and on the cheaper-ish end side. Yeah, cheap did not end up working out too well, but at least I stayed semi-local (didn’t have to worry about being international and only one time zone and flight away). I wanted to be lazy for this trip. I wanted someone else to take care of the details. I didn’t want to have to be aware of everything all the time. And this trip was perfect for that.

Typical street in Anchorage. They speak ENGLISH!!!

After I booked my tour, I knew I wanted to essentially arrive and leave as close as I could, no dicking around for extra days in the area, just in case someone went wrong, like I did last year in Peru when by the end, all I wanted to do was come home. I found a decently priced flight on Alaska immediately for the exact days and times I wanted, so I bought it only to find out the following week that the exact same flight went down in price by $20!! GAH!!! Not the end of the world and since I bought it directly from Alaska, I qualified for a voucher refund, which I processed, so now I have $20 to spend on Alaska or American in the next year, if I spend it at all. Oh well! Just a little annoying, but it could have been worse.

High tourist season in Anchorage.

Since I left during rush hour on a Friday, my parents dropped the dog off with me first at boarding and then dropped me off at the FlyAway bus because they didn’t want to drive me all the way to the airport, which I was fine with. As long as they picked me up, as my flight back was arriving around 6am. Kill me now! Bus was fine and I had to check luggage for my one-time-a-year. On the Alaska website, it says that if you have an AAdvantage credit card, you can check one piece of luggage for free and since I knew the check in counter would have no idea about this, I brought a print out of the website, but thankfully I talked the guy into it and checked my large bag for free! I noticed the tag he attached had the code MTF and I was like, wait, that doesn’t look right. I check the boarding pass he gave to me (without even checking my ID! Love that LAX security) and see that it was not my name. I tell him and he apologizes profusely as that is the person in front of me’s information, it was printed twice. THANKGOD I always know my destination airport code (ANC) and I checked my ticket before leaving the counter. Lesson of the day!! Security was a bit of a clusterfuck, but what else is new. I had plenty of time to go and grab food, but who knew a baked potato would take nearly 30 minutes to cook! T6 just went through some changes and now there are charging stations at every seat, which is great, so I sat and charged my phone and ate my dinner before boarding. Since all I had for bags was something that would fit under my seat, I was in no rush to board, what’s the point? I waited until last call and finally boarded only to find someone who only spoke Spanish in my seat. She kept yapping away and I was like, Yeah, I don’t understand you, you can shut up now, thanks. I roll my eyes, knowing she is wrong and I go back to find an attendant and tell her the situation and the attendant rolls her eyes and says, Yeah, I told her 11F, NOT 11A. I say, no worries and we cause a huge jam up in the aisle, but hey, not my fault. The thing I like least about this whole situation is that someone has been sitting in my seat, keeping it warm and unlike the general population, planes are ALWAYS too hot for me and the last thing I want is to sit in someones warmed seat. Gross. But everything the works out.

The flight is fine as it’s an 8pm-1am flight and almost everyone sleeps EXCEPT for the person in the aisle in my row, who keeps his light on the whole time. At least it wasn’t behind me, but it was still annoying as hell. Why do I always end up in that row? Same thing happened on my 10000 hour flight to New Zealand 5 years ago. We land, it’s nice and cold, my bag comes out and I go out to find the taxi line to take me to my hostel.

These wood statues are everywhere! I love them.

Originally, I was just going to crash at the airport. I didn’t want to pay $150-$200 for a hotel room for one night and since it was peak season and I waited until like 2 days before I left to realize this, all the hostels were booked. But I finally found the Spenard Hostel nd booked a bed to crash in for like 7 hours. I’d just have to suck up sharing a room for a few hours, I knew it wouldn’t kill me, plus it was close to the airport. What’s the worst that could happen? The taxi line, or lack there of at ANC is a clusterfuck. There is no order and everyone just runs for the first one, so don’t stress. Everyone will get one eventually. I chatted it up with a pilot for DHL in line, who asked me if I was headed downtown (I was not) because I think he would have given me a lift if I was. That would have been awesome as that is how my sister gets into NYC every time we visit. Anyway, I finally get a cab, chat with the driver and make it to my hostel in record time.

I’m a sucker for a fun sign. And I hate Starbucks.

The place is really quiet and there is a note for me and I find my room and the light it still on. I hit the jackpot! There are two sets of bunks, but there are completely empty except for one made up bed for me!!! $25 and I get the whole room to myself. SCORE!!!!!!!! I dress for bed and snuggle in for a cozy, quiet night sleep.