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.
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!
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.
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.
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.