Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez

On July 9, we set out on our last trip/activity for our Alaskan tour. And it was the third and final cruise. The night before it rained non stop. It was real nippy out, and I really didn’t know whether anyone would want to go on the cruise. I told them all that they could stay in the hotel if they didn’t want to take this last cruise. I was afraid they were sick of cruises, long cruises. I have to say, we saved the best for last. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all three and they were all special in their own ways. But this was really different.

First of all, this cruise was operated by Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises. All crew members were actually living in Alaska unlike the other cruises we had been on. The boat wasn’t full so we had a more intimate experience as the captain, Alan, invited passengers to come talk to him and ask questions or just to get a better view.

Second, we didn’t see as much wildlife as the first cruise. We did see the ever-elusive porpoises, stellar sea lions, birds and seals. I guess we DID see a lot.

One of the most amazing things about this cruise was watching how the scenery changed from, “I can’t believe this is Alaska” to “Oh, I’m really in Alaska.”

I can’t believe this is Alaska.

 

Now THIS is Alaska!

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On this cruise, we got to see more ice. Sure we had seen glaciers and seemingly small icebergs, but this time we got to see much more floating ice. Larger icebergs and the ever impressive Columbia Glacier. Once we got closer to the face of the glacier, I felt like that was the Alaska I had been dreaming about. We were freezing and it was spectacular. I stayed outside a lot because I just couldn’t resist the scenery around me. Seeing that towering mountain of glorious ice was an experience I won’t soon forget.

And now more of Columbia Glacier…

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Phillips 26 Glaciers Cruise

After spending the night in Anchorage, we headed to Whittier for another cruise through Prince William Sound with Phillips Cruises & Tours. This cruise was also supposed to be 6 hours. I was almost afraid to say anything about the 6 hours for fear my mom would complain. But then she asked, so I had no choice but to tell the truth.

This cruise was different. The weather wasn’t much different though. Of course I’ve mentioned before that for such cruises/trips, you really shouldn’t worry about things like rain as long as it’s not a deadly storm. We didn’t see whales on this trip, but we did see sea otters and steller sea lions along with tufted puffins and other sea birds. We also saw porpoises, but I gave up on trying to get a shot of one. They’re just too quick. I also managed to get a shot of a bald eagle, shown in the featured image, though he’s far away. At least it’s proof that I was there and saw it with my own eyes.

And on this cruise we also saw more ice dotting the waters closer to the glacier. And speaking of glaciers, we were able to see different types of glaciers and little waterfalls making their way down the mountains. What I learned on this trip is that I have become fascinated with glaciers and icebergs.

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We visited a glacier that calves a lot. Guess what? It calved, and I missed it. So close! What could I possibly do? I have an idea though. I need to make more trips like this one.

 

Heading to the land of the midnight sun

We left Banff for Anchorage on June 30. It was bitter sweet as I really wanted to stay. But it was time for part 2 of our vacation.

We arrived to Anchorage around 11:30 at night. I really liked the airport. I liked that there was a simple way to call hotels for shuttles. There was a digital board with names of hotels and a two digit number you could call to reach the hotel. This was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen in an airport. It saved me the headache of having to make an international call while roaming from my cell phone. It’s a convenience that should be found in all airports.

The photo was taken around 12:30am. Though it’s something I’ve always known about, experiencing it in real life is something different. 

The days and nights caused us lots of confusion. We live in Saudi Arabia and Alaska is 11 hours behind. It meant that we’d have some difficulty adjusting which I will mention in another post.

It was great to be in Alaska and our first stop was in Seward. 

Before traveling, I had read so much about the Icefields Parkway. I got advice and remember being told, “It can take the whole day.” My husband wasn’t feeling well, so it didn’t take that time. But I could definitely see spending an entire day on this magnificent drive. I had also seen many lists of places of interest along the way, so I was prepared with that. And yet, I didn’t think I would be interested in making all of those stops. I was wrong!

So, as soon as we got started, we were stopping. The interesting thing is that this lake wasn’t on all the lists I had seen though I do believe I had heard of it before.

Herbert Lake


Yeah. No words are necessary. I was driving and simply said, “Oh my God!” And of course we stopped. The lake was so still, so serene. So unbelievably beautiful. I remember asking my husband, “Why didn’t anyone mention this?” As if he had the answer. It is simply stunning, and I’d love to see it again.

Bow Lake


At first I thought we’d skip Bow Lake. Obviously, that was simply not possible. How could I pass it up? It only required us to stop. There was no hiking involved. It took no effort at all other than walking down to get closer to the water. The funny thing was that my husband wanted to stay in the car initially. I took too long I guess and soon he was right there with me though we were kind of on opposite sides of a rock in the water. When I was happy with the shots I got, we plotted the climb back up. He said, “Give me your hand.” But I knew I couldn’t make that little jump without falling, probably flat on my face into the water. And finally he said, “Just step in it. Aren’t your boots waterproof?” He was right, 😜, but I had forgotten about that fact. And then we were off until…

Peyto Lake


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​Peyto Lake was more of a challenge for us. I had seen pictures and read that it was a short hike. My first thoughts were, “Please define ‘short’.” Well, it would have been short had we been in better shape. I’m not proud of that, but hey, it is what it is. As we climbed, and I do mean climbed, I wondered if we should bother. It was pretty much all uphill and I was tired. So, we asked a couple ladies how close we were and were told 5-10 minutes. That could have easily meant 15-20 for us, but we pushed on as everyone said it would be worth it. And as you saw above, it was so worth it. And what was even better, the  walk back to the car would be downhill. Woohoo!

As mentioned, my husband wasn’t feeling well, so we decided to head back to Lake Louise after stopping briefly at Saskatchewan River Crossing. Also, our bank cards weren’t working when we stopped at the gas station nearby.

We didn’t even scratch the surface with that short drive, but it was still worth it. Driving through the mountains with out of this world scenery was enough to say it was a great drive. I feel blessed that I was able to experience it.

Bright and early on June 29th we left Lake Louise for Johnston Canyon. We wanted to beat the crowds, and we did 😉. When we got there there was only one other car there. And it was c-h-i-l-l-y. I had on several layers to prepare for the cool, brisk air. And then we were off. As I mentioned before, we were there early. And my husband actually found it slightly creepy. I don’t know what he would have thought of my non-hike in Thailand then. That was actually beyond creepy, especially since I’m a chicken and there were monkeys swinging everywhere. But, back to Johnston Canyon.

I had big plans for us when we started. I wanted to make it to the upper falls since I’d read that the extra trek would be worth it. Well, I guess I have to take everyone’s word for it because we did not make it. Perhaps you may have read about us being out of shape and know the deal. We just didn’t have it in us to continue though I wished it had been otherwise.

If anyone is in Banff, I highly recommend a hike through Johnston Canyon. It is an amazing place to see. But I must say, you do need to be in shape. We were tired before we even made it to the lower falls which was only a half-mile hike. That said, a lot is also uphill. Fortunately, there are points to stop and rest as well as take in all that the creator has created.

Look at what you see before even reaching the lower falls.

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Honestly, I would have been happy to stop at that point. Listening to the water rushing through the canyon was relaxing. The palette of pale blues and white dancing around each and every crevass and embracing the rocks is something we should all be so lucky to experience. And when I see the never ending beauty in Banff and other parts of Canada, I often wish Canada was home for me.

And finally we reached the upper falls. ​​


​​As you can tell from the clip, we soon headed back. We tried, with zero success, to continue on but another mile just wasn’t happening.

I am glad that I got to see at least some of Johnston Canyon. And who knows, maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to visit again.

Moraine Lake, Banff: Just wow!


It just gets better and better in Banff NP. It was great that we were right next to Lake Louise because it made it easy to go see Moraine Lake. The only disappointment was that we didn’t get a chance to go again before we left.

In any case, we took the advice of others I got on TripAdvisor which was to get Moraine Lake out of the way early. So, we did. On June 27, we went early to avoid larger crowds and also to find a place to park. The road there is a beauty in of itself, but really all I could say was, “Wow!” 

As beautiful as Lake Louise was, I have to say that Moraine is even more beautiful. So much so, I told my husband that if we are fortunate enough to visit Banff again, I’d like to stay there rather than in Lake Louise.

So, let me say a little about the drive there. It’s very close to the Fairmont. Before we got to the turn for Moraine, we saw a moose. Yay! I had been hoping to see a moose since last year when we were in Quebec. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture because there was no safe place to stop. I simply hoped that we’d see another one later on. We didn’t, but I got over it.

The view on the road to Moraine.


If you’re like me, what’s more beautiful than snowcapped mountains? And of course, this shot my husband got doesn’t do it justice.

And the real gem of course is Moraine. As lazy and out of shape as we are, we decided to climb the rock pile to get a better view of the lake. When I say out of shape, I’m not joking. And being able to make it up to the top for the view we got has motivated me to get back into shape.

Is there anything comparable to this?


I think not. The contrasts of the deep  aqua colored water, the green trees, the beige/tan colored rocks and snow on the peaks were out of this world. And again, a photo is nothing next to the real thing. And it was this view that made me hope and pray that this wouldn’t be our last trip to the area.

And yet, there are so many more awe inspiring places to see in Banff NP.

Lake Louise, Banff

So let me be honest. I went to Banff for two things, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. And if I had only seen those two, I would have been satisfied. Mostly 😜

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to stay at the Fairmont Chateau. Our room had a view of the lake which made sitting in the room when we were tired so much more pleasant.


Though the water was not yet at its bluest, it was perfect. I’ve read that by the end of July it will be a deeper blue. But for me, it looked like a tropical drink. It looked deliciously unreal. 

​​The first couple of days, it was windy and chilly. Well at least by our standards it was. And I worried about what it would be like on our last morning. Our plan was to go for a sunrise canoe. Coming from extremely hot weather I simply wasn’t sure if I’d be warm enough. I also worried that we wouldn’t be able to move very far in the canoe since I hadn’t been in one since the 5th grade. Fortunately, it was actually warmer on that day, even at 5:30am. And it turned out that I can in fact move more than two feet in a canoe.

So what was it like?


I truly believe the photo says it all. While so many are looking for the perfect selfie, I wonder if they truly take a moment to simply take it all in. The above photo was taken by my husband without my knowledge.

And what was it like maneuvering our way through the water?


Perhaps it could have been included in a movie like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Unreal!

And as beautiful as it was, there is so much more.

Banff: A little piece of heaven 

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when teachers are temporarily released and allowed to enjoy themselves. Holiday time! And what better place to spend part of your holiday than Banff National Park? 

We drove to Lake Louise, Banff NP from Calgary on June 27. It took us an hour and a half to reach the town of Banff and to see Vermilion Lakes. It was a nice drive in an area where beauty is all around you. Even the town was nice with mountains as the backdrop.


We hung out and snapped a few pictures before moving on. But, I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful what was to come would be. Would I be happy with our choice to visit Banff? Would it be worth the super long trip?

Up next, Lake Louise, Banff, AB.

Day 1 in Percé

July 15 was our first official day in this lovely city. We woke up to a fascinating view. And to think, this would be our view for the next few days. Not bad at all. We woke up and immediately checked the time. We wanted to have breakfast, and we also wanted to go to hotel reception as we were advised the previous night. So, we called my parents and left for the reception desk. Thankfully, we met a receptionist who spoke fluent English. This meant I wouldn’t have to fake my way through “speaking” French. And it turned out that the gentleman we spoke with the previous night only asked us to go in the morning to make sure we’d be able to communicate with someone. We asked about breakfast and made our way into the dining area.

We were given a table by a window with a view of Pèrce Rock. Our waitress came over with the menu and I went straight for what I knew.


French toast and scrambled eggs, yum 😋. It was the best French toast I had ever eaten. And because I know what I like, I ordered the same thing for the next two days. My husband and parents caught on and soon all of them were ordering the French toast. The teeny tiny dish of beans was just part of the meal I guess. I asked the waitress if there was any meat in the beans because they looked a lot like pork and beans. She kindly told me, “No, there’s no meat. If you find a little piece of pork, you can just take it out.” Um, that sounds a lot like meat in the dish. And of course, it would be pork since I don’t eat it. But I’m glad I asked.

We finished breakfast, went back to the room, and then sat out on the balcony while we waited for my parents to finish breakfast. Once they returned to their room, we all decided to head into town. It wasn’t really a long walk, but it was downhill which would mean a walk uphill to get back to the hotel. I wasn’t really looking forward to that, and secretly I hoped we’d be able to teleport back to the hotel later on.

The weather was lovely, as you can see in the photos below. But, it wouldn’t stay that way. My parents had returned to the hotel, and we decided to stay in town. We stopped at a little cafe and had fries. My husband had coffee because he’s all about the coffee.

We were sitting outside until it started raining. If it were just a light rain, we could’ve handled it. But it was really coming down. We were forced to go buy an umbrella from the gift shop owned by the cafe owners. But, it wasn’t enough for the walk we had. So, I called my dad and asked him to pick us up. Look at that, I managed to not climb that hill afterall. 😉

 

Note to self: When traveling outside of Saudi Arabia, it might actually rain. So, be prepared! Carry an umbrella or rainjacket or something.

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