Friday, November 4, 2016

An Evening in Victoria, BC

The last port of call on our Alaska cruise was a stop at beautiful Victoria, BC Canada on the final evening before our return to Seattle.  We disembarked from the Westerdam as soon as possible after it docked at about 6pm.

Customs Facility at the Ogden Point Cruise Terminal in Victoria, BC

After a quick and easy trip through Canadian customs, we headed to the Victoria inner harbor and city center.

The Ogden Point Cruise Ship Terminal is in Victoria's "Outer Harbor" about a 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the "Inner Harbor" area of Victoria.  We could have opted to take tour, bus or taxi, but since it was a fairly pleasant evening we decided to walk and take in the sights.  The path initially took us away from the edge of the waterfront, but within a few minutes we arrived at the other side of the point at Fisherman's Wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf - Victoria, BC
Although the wharf includes a marina, it is less a working fish dock and more like a houseboat community including numerous colorfully painted restaurants with many different ethnic cuisine choices.  We didn't try anything to eat because we had just dined before leaving the ship, but the aromas wafting on the summer breeze were fantastic.

"You are here" maps along the Victoria waterfront
Along the waterfront walk to Victoria's inner harbor from the Ogden Point Cruise Ship Terminal were signs with "you are here" maps which were helpful to keep from getting lost along the way.

Photo Credit: Water Taxis Victoria Canada by Gary Bembridge on Flickr -  Creative Commons License 2.0
When we arrived at Fisherman's Wharf, we considered taking one of the cute little water taxis the rest of the way into the inner harbor, but decided against that idea due to the weather conditions.  Although it was sunny, it was a windy evening and after watching the tiny boats rolling and bobbing around it appeared to be a pretty rough ride.
Houseboats in Victoria, BC

As we continued along the walkway toward Victoria's inner harbor, I glanced back and took this photo with a view of the colorful houseboat community.

Victoria Clipper dock in Victoria

As we continued to get closer to the city, we encountered docks that offer some of the other transportation options to Victoria for those who are not on a cruise ship to or from Alaska.  The Victoria Clipper is a fast and comfortable passenger-only ferry that offers service between Seattle and Victoria.

Blackball Ferry Dock Victoria, BC
A short distance later we passed the Blackball Ferry dock which provides service for both passengers and motor vehicles on the MV Coho between Port Angles, WA and Victoria.

Horsedrawn Carriage in Victoria, BC

As we neared the inner harbor area, we started to see some of the horse drawn carriages that provide a classic romantic way to tour the sights of the city.
Inner Harbour Victoria, BC

Since Victoria is on Vancouver Island without any connecting bridges to the mainland, most visitors arrive by sea including many smaller vessels that tie up at the docks in the inner harbor.  So it is fitting that the Welcome to Victoria sign created with plantings of colorful flowers faces the harbor.
Parliament Building Victoria, BC
Directly across the street from the inner harbor are the beautiful British Columbia provincial legislative buildings.  The buildings were designed by Francis Rattenbury and completed in 1897.  

Piper in Victoria, BC
Music from bagpipes is always part of the mix of sounds you can expect to hear in Victoria.  Pipers are scattered around at various street corners in the central part of the city.  They are always happy to pose for a photo and appreciate either a Canadian loonie or a US dollar as a tip.

Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria BC
Victoria's most famous hotel, The Empress, was opened in 1908.  It was built for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and is another building designed by Francis Rattenbury.  It was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places in 1980.   During the summer months over 800 people per day come to enjoy the classic Victorian Tea served in the Tea Room.  Tea at the Empress is memorable, but not inexpensive and reservations usually need to be made several months in advance.  Those stopping at Victoria as part of a cruise to Alaska can make reservations as a shore excursion through their cruise line.

Lobby of the Empress Hotel Victoria, BC Canada

We opted to skip tea at the Empress on this visit, but did step inside to take a peek at the lobby area.  Although the hotel has been refurbished several times, the grandeur of the past has been retained.

Elevator and mailbox inside the Empress Hotel Victoria, BC

Small details like this gorgeous antique mailbox are a delight.

Irish Lace Linen 
A display of Irish lace linen tea towels and napkins is another touch of finery from a bygone era.

Statue of  Emily Carr Victoria British Columbia

The gardens on the grounds of the Empress are beautiful for an evening stroll.  Just outside the garden is a statue honoring  Emily Carr (1871-1945), one of  Canada's most famous artists, who was born and died in Victoria.  As a person who loved and surrounded herself with animals her statue includes her pet monkey and one of her dogs.  For those who would like more information, there are several books available about Emily Carr.  As the sun dropped to the edge of the horizon we decided to start our walk back to the ship.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Hours in Ketchikan, AK

On Day 6 of our Alaska Cruise, the Westerdam docked in Ketchikan early in the morning for a brief 5 hour stop.  With so many possible things to see and do it was difficult to decide how to spend the short amount of time we had available.  Some of the attractions like a Tour of  the city and Totem Bight Park and the Ketchikan Duck Tour sounded interesting, but in our previous ports of call we had filled our days with tours, so we decided to spend our time in Ketchikan relaxed, flexible and at our own pace.

The "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign near the intersection of Mission Street and Front Street
The ship was docked on Front Street near the intersection of Mission Street in a very convenient location for walking around town. The first thing we saw was the the iconic "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign right across the street from the pier.  We wandered along the waterfront a short distance and stopped at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau for a map.  We then proceeded south on Front Street and which became Main Street and decided to stop and watch the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

We had a great time at the show and afterwards we headed east to Stedman Street.  As we walked along we enjoyed the sunny weather and watched the fishing boats coming and going out of the marina.

Fishing boats at the docks in Ketchikan

We turned right onto Stedman Street where we watched several people fishing from the bridge and the rocks below.

Stedman Bridge, Ketchikan AK

Looking down into the water as we crossed the Stedman Bridge, we could see numerous fish milling around in the clear water at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek.  No wonder so many people were fishing and some were successfully catching fish, too!

Salmon below the Stedman Bridge in Ketchikan, AK

After crossing the bridge we arrived at the entrance to Creek Street.

Creek Street Ketchikan Alaska

 This plaque at the street entrance says it all:  "Where Fish and Fishermen Go Up the Creek to Spawn".  Of course, it wasn't only fishermen who spent time on Creek Street.  There were lumberjacks, miners, sailors and men with other occupations, too.

Sign at Creek Street in Ketchikan, AK
Like most ports and frontier towns, Ketchikan had a large number of men coming into town seeking a drink, some fun and female companionship.  The city was incorporated in 1900 and in 1903 the city passed an ordinance prohibiting prostitution within the city center, so all of the "working girls" in Ketchikan relocated to Creek Street creating a red light district just outside the city's "no prostitution" boundary.   Probably the most famous madam of Creek Street was Dolly Arthur.  Her home is just a short distance past the street entrance.

Dolly's House Ketchikan, AK
Dolly was actually named Thelma Copeland when she was born in Idaho in 1888.  She left home when she was 13 and eventually made her way to Ketchikan.  She opened her business as a "sporting woman" in her home at 24 Creek Street in 1919.  Prostitution was legal on Creek Street until 1954 so that was the year that Dolly retired.  She died in 1975 and her home has been turned into a museum. I must confess that although I would have liked to, we did not go in for a look.  There was a large crowd waiting in line and that wasn't how we wanted to spend our limited time.  We also had our 12 year old granddaughter along and I wasn't sure how G-rated this attraction would be.

Creek Street in Ketchikan
Creek Street is not so much a street as a narrow winding boardwalk around buildings perched on pilings over the creek.  Alcohol prohibition laws went into effect in the Alaska Territory in 1918, which only served to keep Creek Street the sinful entertainment hub of Ketchikan.  The location made it easy for bootleggers to sneak their boats from the harbor, up the creek and under the buildings to secretly deliver their cargo to the bordellos, speakeasies and gambling rooms above.  In case of a raid by local law enforcement, customers could escape up the hill into the forest via what was called "Married Man's Trail"

Creek Street boardwalk
What was once a seedy and disreputable neighborhood has been preserved and was designated as a National Historic District in 2014. 

Antiques and collectibles for sale on Creek Street
We wandered into many of the old buildings that are now art galleries and shops filled with local art, crafts, antiques and unique souvenirs like Alaska gold nuggets.

Annie's Place
Scattered between the shop entrances. several signs are displayed with information about some of the buildings and the women who once lived there.  We enjoy looking at antiques so we ended up spending quite a bit of time exploring the shops on Creek Street. We checked the time and noticed that we had less than 2 hours of time left before the ship's scheduled departure time, so we opted to start making our way back toward the ship.  If we had more time I would have liked to hike up Married Man's Trail to check out the views along the way and Cape Fox Lodge at the top.  As we made our way through the town, there were many more temptations awaiting us.

Ketchi Candies
The aroma of chocolate was too much for my husband to resist so we stopped to buy some fudge at Ketchi Candies.  Delicious!

Salmon for sale in Kethikan, AK

And since we were in the "Salmon Capital of the World" how could we not stop to purchase some Alaskan salmon to take home?

Mission Street, Ketchikan Alaska
Since the ship was in sight and only a couple of blocks away, we did a little more window shopping on our way back to the dock.

The Rock, by Dave Rubin
 Before boarding the Westerdam, we stopped to admire a bronze sculpture on the dock. "The Rock", created by Dave Rubin, honors Ketchikan's past with seven statues, each representing significant people in the city's history.  The figures include local Tlingit leader, Chief Johnson, a fisherman, a logger, a pilot, a native Alaskan woman, a miner and a woman carrying a suitcase dressed in the style of the 1890s (perhaps some of the madams?).

A view from Ketchikan, AK
After boarding, it wasn't long before the Westerdam departed the dock heading south to our next destination on our Alaska Cruise, Victoria, BC.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show Ketchikan, AK

The third port-of-call on our Alaska Cruise was Ketchikan.  For the first 5 days of our cruise we had chosen activities that focused on educational topics like Alaskan wildlife, glaciers, Russian and Native Alaskan culture.  For our stop in Ketchikan we decided it was time to have some light-hearted entertainment so we signed up to go see the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

The Westerdam was docked near the intersection of Front Street and Mission Street, a short distance from the show, so we enjoyed the sunny morning as we walked a few blocks to the entrance.

After purchasing our ticket, we entered the venue that has been built to look like a logging camp.

As we entered we were greeted by two of the friendly cast of the show including the MC and one of the lumberjack competitors.

We found great seats near the center of the stage. Seating for the audience is heated and under a roof so even on a cold rainy day it would be comfortable and dry.

The show began with our MC, "Shortstack", introducing the teams and explaining the rules of the competition.   Two rival logging camps, one from the US and the other from nearby Canada would be competing against each other in a variety of lumberjack skills.  The audience was divided in half by seating area and each was assigned as the cheering section for one of the teams.  Everyone was urged to be vocal in both supporting their team and jeering their opponent.

Members of the two teams hurled insults at each other while performing traditional logging skills with axes, saws and chainsaws as quickly as possible to win the event.

The athletes were also good actors as they occasionally dramatized their rivalry with fisticuffs to the amusement of the crowd.

The speed climb up the pole was one of the most impressive events.  The log rolling was another favorite, with plenty of opportunity for pranks by both teams which caused roars of cheers, boos and laughter from the audience when one of the competitors fell into the water.

My still photos don't do the show justice, so I found this short video clip that gives a little better idea of what we experienced.

All too quickly the 6o minute show was over.  In addition to being great kid-friendly entertainment, it turned out to be educational as well by illustrating the strength and skills that were required by lumberjacks.   In my next entry, I'll be sharing more of our adventures in Ketchikan including famous Creek Street.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The USS Arizona Memorial

As  December 7th rolls around each year, I am reminded of my visits to the USS Arizona Memorial. Although I was not yet born in 1941 and have no personal acquaintance with anyone who was there that day, it is still a very moving experience.

Photo Credit: USS Arizona Memorial (aerial view) by DoD photo by: PH3(AW/SW) JAYME PASTORIC, USN,  Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons
The Navy had some very specific requirements for the memorial.  It was not allowed to actually touch the Arizona, it was required to be able to handle 200 people at a time and look like a bridge.   Although that may sound like a daunting task, there were several designs submitted. The one chosen was the work of Honolulu architect, Alfred Preis.

USS Arizona Memorial

Preis explained the shape with the lower height in the middle as being symbolic of the attack on Pearl Harbor as a low point in US history with higher points at the ends before and after.  The design was not without critics. Some described it as looking like a "squashed milk carton".  I must confess, I find the exterior of the memorial rather ugly, but I have never really appreciated the architectural style of the 50s and 60s.  The construction of the memorial was completed in 1961 and it was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1962.

The USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center are components of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument which is managed by the National Park Service.  Tours are free.  Several thousand tickets are available each morning starting at 7:30 am at the visitor center on a first come, first served basis. Since there are up to 2 million visitors per year, tickets can go quickly. Tours start every 15 minutes and tickets are stamped with a specific tour time. There is also an online ticket reservation system in place for a limited number of tickets that can be purchased up to a day before the scheduled tour. The reservation system charges a small service fee (currently $1.50) for processing.   To enhance the experience, headsets with a recorded narration can be rented and reserved.

I am typically an early bird, so I have always just arrived early in the morning and have never had a problem getting a ticket but the reservation system is a nice option if you aren't an early riser or have a tight schedule and want to make sure you won't be disappointed.  An even easier option is to sign up for a tour that includes your ticket and round-trip transportation to the memorial from your Honolulu hotel.

 There are some interpretive displays in the visitor center, but it was crowded and our tour was scheduled to begin so I didn't take any photos.  The tour begins in the visitor center theater with a 20 minute film about the Pearl Harbor attack.

Navy boat ferrying visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial
After watching the film, we were directed to the dock where US Navy boats ferry visitors to and from the memorial.  The boat ride takes about 15 minutes which allows time for some contemplation that I think would be missed if the memorial were attached to the land by a bridge.

Entrance to the USS Arizona Memorial
The boat docks at the memorial and a walkway leads to the entrance with time allotted for a 20 minute visit.  The memorial is divided into three parts, the Entry Room, the Assembly Room and the Shrine Room.   Once inside, I appreciated the simplicity of the memorial design better. The entry room features the flags from US States.  Although technically only a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Arizona, it has become a symbol to honor all who lost their lives as a result of the attack that day.

USS Arizona Gun Turret #3
The Assembly room is an open air structure with openings where the remains of the ship can be viewed and the design also permits people to throw flowers into the water to honor the 1,177 crew members who died.  After almost 75 years, oil, sometimes referred to as "the Arizona's tears" can still be seen floating to the surface from the ship.

The last area is the Shrine Room that features a simple marble wall engraved with the names of every sailor and marine from the USS Arizona that died as the result of the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor.  Like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, the simple, unadorned design focuses the attention of visitors where it belongs, on the names of those who lost their lives. Contrary to a popular misconception, the Arizona is not still considered an active navy ship.  It was decommissioned on December 1, 1942, but it has been designated as a US Military Cemetery. The flag flying above the memorial is attached to the broken main mast of the ship.  All of the survivors who were stationed on the Arizona at the time the attack can request to have their ashes interred on the ship with their shipmates.  Several have elected to do so and US Navy divers have delivered their ashes to gun turret #4 and then their names are listed on a separate plaque.  Below is a short video about one of these internment ceremonies.

 As of today, only 7 survivors are still alive.  For anyone interested in World War II, there are several other related attractions at Pearl Harbor including the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Bowfin and Submarine Museum and the USS Missouri.  These other exhibits charge entrance fees because they are owned and or managed by non-profit organizations.  There are Pearl Harbor tour packages that offer transportation and entrance fees to all of the Pearl Harbor exhibits.

USS Missouri
I think it is appropriate that ships representing both the beginning and the end of the World War II in the Pacific are a short distance from each other. The USS Missouri, the ship where the peace treaty between the US and Japan was signed, can be seen from the Arizona Memorial as we boarded the boat back to the shore.

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