Saturday, July 29, 2017

Alaska Cruise & Land Tour Notes (2)

My expectations of the land tour turned out to be totally unrealistic. In my imagination, I saw myself trekking, dressed in my warm, lined Adidas pants, sturdy Timberland hiking shoes (bought in Banff, 2009, after realizing that my beloved Reebok Princess were just not up to dealing with snow and glaciers) --
Nina on Athabasca Glacier (Canadian Rockies), in thin gym pants and Reebok Princess sneakers
-- not to mention stylish trekking poles which we borrowed from our son, the real hiker-and-trekker in the family:
Daniel trekking in the south of France
Now, when we signed up for tours, we were asked to select the level of difficulty or adventure we were up for. I assumed I was less fit than I was in 2009, for example, on our Canadian Rockies trip (see here, and there), and we opted for "moderate difficulty".  Well, moderate my foot, pardon the pun. The hikes we ended up going on turned out to be embarrassingly easy. Some of which was our own fault -- we simply chickened out of anything laborious. Speaking strictly for myself, I'll say I also chickened out of anything involving even the  remotest chance of coming across a real, live predator. Some of our co-trippers, like Susie and Stuart (an Israeli couple, originally from the U.S., and the only other Israelis we encountered on this trip), were more enterprising and hiking-oriented.

So there we were, on our way from Toronto, via Minneapolis, to Fairbanks. The stewardess on the Minneapolis-to-Fairbanks leg of the journey was quite amusing: A tall, good-looking woman of indeterminate age, who told us -- the small, premium-class audience -- with open cheer and relief, that this was her last day of work, her penultimate shift, after which she would never again have to say "Please fasten your seat-belts"! She would finally have time to go skiing, spend time with her grandkids, follow her own pursuits and have fun. Yes, eventually she will fly again. As a passenger. As well she should, being eligible for free flights [on that airline] for the rest of her life.

Landed in Fairbanks with its adorable Curtiss GN4 biplane * hanging over the conveyor-belt: (Sweet childhood memories: my dad used to take me to hangars at the air force base where he worked.)

Picked up our far-too-heavy luggage and took the awaiting shuttle to the Hotel Springhill Suites /Marriott, Rm #513.
I must have been tired, because I did not take any pics of the large, well-appointed suite. Very negligent of me. So just click the hotel link above.
I found the hotel a bit strange: some of its aspects and amenities were in line with a high-standard hotel, whereas some others were blatantly missing. But I got the impression this was due to its Alaskan nature. Though -- unlike other places in Alaska, it operates all year round, it caters mostly to a specific type of traveler. To quote its website, "... we provide... suites to help you unwind in-between activities."

Next morning we went down to breakfast at the non-dining-hall. The breakfast buffet was laid out along a sort of narrow passage in the lobby, next to which there were some small tables. Everything you needed was there, but on a small, somewhat haphazard-looking scale that you wouldn't expect from a decent-sized Marriott. However, the buffet did offer six types of coffee and six types of milk, so who am I to complain. I took the "dark coffee", which was the strongest, most coffee-like choice, and treated myself to half & half.

Now we were ready to face our first Alaskan adventure!
Next installment: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline; the Alaskan gold rush, complete with gold-dredging; and an educational riverboat trip. Oh, and some shopping of cute local souvenirs, of course ;-)
* With thanks to Lior Bar-On for identifying the aircraft for me!

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