Finishing up our Alaskan cruise

Finishing a series of posts, especially when returning from vacation, can be a challenge and this one is no different. So, in the interest of getting this done, I’m going to combine our last three days into one blog post. 

Thursday, May 18

Sitka, AK

Sitka, Alaska, Greek Orthodox Church

There isn’t much to Sitka. We took a school bus (free) from the dock to “downtown” Sitka. Downtown consisted of two streets, about three blocks long with tourist shops lining them. There is a Russian Orthodox church in Sitka. It had a traditional “onion” dome and another, elongated dome. That was the most interesting thing about downtown. I heard someone say it had 23 miles of streets but I’m not sure where they are or where they go. Sitka hugs a mountain with the water lapping at its shores. It was overcast and cold but didn’t rain.

In 1799, the Russian territorial governor, Alexander Baranof, had a wooden fort and trading post in Sitka. Then he moved Russian and Aleut fur hunters there from Kodiak Island. The natives objected to these people infringing on their hunting grounds and burned many of the buildings and murdering the settlers. Baranof returned in 1804 with a large group of people and fought the natives, driving them to the other side of the island.

In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the US for $7,200,000. The deal was brokered by William Seward, the headSitka Alaskas island of the Department of the Interior. The price of the land was $7 million, the $200,000 purchased an ice factory. At the time, Americans were not pleased with the expenditure and Alaska was referred to as “Seward’s Folly.” 

We walked around awhile and then got back on the ship. One of the problems on this ship is maintaining an even temperature. Even though very, very few people have gone out on the deck – which always lets cold air inside the ship, some of the lounges are warmish and a lot of them are downright cold, so cold we can’t sit there. Our cabin is much the same. When we come in, it’s very cold. We turn up the thermostat and it gets a little warmer, but it’s never hot.

 

Friday, May 19

Ketchikan, AK

ketchikan, AlaskaKetchikan is known as the rainiest city in all of Alaska. They get over 200 inches of rain a year. The city was built around a salmon cannery located at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek. Ketchikan was also known for its red light district that, at one point, had 30 “sporting houses.”

We were pleasantly surprised to find blue skies and warm temperatures when we disembarked. Ketchikan is similar to all the other cruise ports we have sailed into. It consists of a few streets with what I refer to as “Cruise Shops.” Diamonds International can be found in all of the ports we’ve visited in Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and all the stops we made on our Panama cruise which was two weeks long. We stopped in Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama City and more.

We spent an hour or so walking around and then went back to the ship. We’ve found a favorite lounge by a large window so we can see the ocean, clouds, and fog.

 

Saturday, May 20

Victoria, British Columbia

We had to turn our clocks forward an hour so now we are on Seattle time again. It means an hour less sleep

victoria, british columbia, Canada

but I haven’t felt it. We arrived in Victoria, British Columbia at 6:30 pm and planned to get off the ship for awhile. It stays light until a There is a law governing cruise ships with a United States itinerary. If you are on a cruise like this one where you leave and return to an American city – in our case Seattle, the ship has to make a stop in a foreign port before returning to the US. That’s why we are stopping in Victoria, British Columbia. If you take a cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii, the ship stops in a city in Mexico, often Puerto Vallarta, before returning to Los Angeles.

So we got off the ship and were standing in a long line to get a taxi. There was a young woman in her twenties standing behind us with her parents. She spoke English just fine but her parents were from China and had a very limited English vocabulary. I think they understood more than they could speak. Either way, the three of them were very funny, exceptionally nice and a lot of fun. We agreed to share a taxi since we all wanted to visit the same place. When we got to the taxi stand, we ended up with a very funny, nice man. We talked it over and the place we wanted to see was already closed. He offered to take us around the island and show us the sights. And he did an exceptional job! I can’t remember laughing that much. It was the most fun I had on the entire cruise.

victoria, British Columbia, peacockWe agreed to share a taxi since we all wanted to visit the same place. When we got to the taxi stand, we ended up with a very funny, nice man. We talked it over and found out the place we wanted to see was already closed. He offered to take us around the island and show us the sights. The price was reasonable and we all climbed in. One of the places we stopped was a large park where we found this peacock. It must have been mating season because he was really strutting his stuff. Our driver did an exceptional job! I can’t remember laughing that much. It was the most fun I had on the entire cruise.

It was the perfect ending for the cruise. Overall, when I go on vacation, I want to be somewhere warm. I want to be able to get off the ship and sit on a beach. So, if you love wildlife, beautiful scenery (it is a very beautiful state) and don’t mind wearing long pants, warm shoes and hoodies or parkas, Alaska is the cruise destination for you. My one word of caution is to make sure you read reviews of the cruise line and the specific cruise ship before booking. 

I’m looking forward to the next cruise already!

Sailing Hubbard Glacier on the Oosterdam

Wednesday, May 17, 

Getting close to the glacier

The Oosterdam entered the strait that leads to Hubbard Glacier about 1:30 this afternoon. It’s impossible to gauge how large it is from the ship but Heather reported it as 35 stories high above the water and 25 stories beneath the water.

Parts of the glacier, especially the parts in the front edge and in the water are this marvelous shade of blue. It’s unique and hard to describe. The water in the bay was a beautiful milky, gray-turquoise because the water is made up, in large part, of melting ice that has broken off of the main glacier. The temperature of the water is 43 degrees and the ice is 32 degrees. This water is this odd color because so much of it is made of the ice crystals that have broken off of the glacier. The water further away from the glacier is the bright blue that you would expect.

They did not allow anyone to get off the ship; it would have been very dangerous, so we stood outside

Hubbard Glacier, a beautiful and impressive sight

while I took a lot of photos and Tom looked for wildlife with his binoculars. He didn’t see any.

Even though we didn’t do anything in particular, we’re both tired. I sleep really well on a cruise ship. Maybe it’s the gentle rocking back and forth. The beds are so comfortable.

The weather on the cruise has been mixed. Our day in Juneau was perfect! But our two days at sea have been rocky and has made it difficult to walk on the ship. Last evening we were returning from dinner and a young man was vomiting in the corner of a turn in the hallway. Thankfully, our room steward, Ollie, was right there. He brought a wheelchair out of a storage room and took him to his cabin. Tom and I went back to the restaurant to try to find his parents. The man handling reservations found them quickly and I was able to speak to his mother to tell her what had happened. I don’t know where they were from, but the women at the table were wearing head scarves and speaking a language I knew nothing about. We were able to communicate anyway.

Tomorrow we get off at Sitka. We arrive at 8:00 am and leave at 3:30 p.m., so it’s a quick port of call.

Juneau & the Mendenhall Glacier

Tuesday, May 16 

Juneau Mountain

Juneau is the only US state capitol city that cannot be reached by land. It’s an island and you have to take a boat/ferry or seaplane to get there. The buildings and houses are right up against towering mountains.

Our ship arrived in port in Juneau at 1:00 pm and we got off about 2:00. Getting in later gave us an opportunity to sleep and have breakfast. When I’m on a cruise, I sometimes don’t want to get off the ship. It almost feels like we’ve paid for the cruise including the room, food, and entertainment, and I want to get as much out of it as possible.

It was a beautiful, warm day with a few clouds and little wind. 

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau AK

The temperature was nearly 70 degrees and we didn’t need to wear jackets. I was concerned about the weather since it is so early in the season. We were told that the first cruise ships of the season left the week before we did. But, except for Sitka, we had nice weather the whole way.

We hadn’t made plans to participate in an excursion in Juneau. We were just going to go ashore and look around. I don’t recommend this strategy when you’re on a cruise. You end up walking around a bunch of tourist’s shops looking at junk, and never getting to experience the place you’re visiting.

Mendenhall Glacier

When we walked to the end of the pier we ran into Heather, the Alaska specialist onboard the cruise ship. She’s really nice and was there to help passengers decide what to do. She gives talks once or twice a day on the various towns we are visiting and the local wildlife. She was born and raised

Sea Plane landing in Juneau

in Juneau. She asked us what we wanted to do during our time in Juneau and we told her we wanted to see the Mendenhall Glacier. So she directed us to one of the tour companies on the dock and we signed up.

We took a school bus up to the glacier. It is beautiful! The leading edge – that runs to the water – is a beautiful shade of blue. The color comes from the complex crystal formations in the new ice. As the ice ages, the crystals change and the ice turns white like we expect to see it. The water along the glacier was also beautiful. The blue shade comes from the new ice with those complex crystals breaking off and falling into the bay.

Tomorrow we are at sea as we pass through the Hubbard glacier. Then we stop in Sitka.

Cruises are a fun vacation!

Sunday, May 14 & Monday, May 15

Cruise begins: Leave Seattle and a day at sea

Entrance to Hubbard Glacier – compare the large fishing boat vs the size of the mountains!

Cruises are a lot of fun and one of my favorite vacations. We’ve cruised the Caribbean on Celebrity and Norwegian and the Panama canal on Princess. This is our first time on a Holland America Line cruise. The Oosterdam is the smallest ship we have ever been on and the size seems to make a difference. The sea is choppy with an occasional whitecap and the boat is rocking significantly.

According to the information I found on Holland America’s website, The Oosterdam was refurbished in 2016, but if it was, it sure doesn’t look like it. The wall in our stateroom at the end of the bed is dented in like someone kicked it. Then last night, when we went to dinner, I noticed a seam in the wall under our table was held together with white tape. Overall, the Oosterdam looks old, a little abused, dirty, and out of date. It’s not “flashy” pretty.

The crew has been wonderful, though, and that more than makes up for the state of the ship. Everyone has a smile on their face and is friendly. They are always looking for ways to help. I’d say this is the friendliest crew we have ever encountered.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t feeling very well and just wanted to sit and rest. I took a nap so we missed our appointed dinner time of 5:15 pm. We arrived for dinner at about 6 pm and were asked if we would like to share a table for four or eight. We chose a table for four. Shortly after, two ladies in their late 60s, early 70s sat down across from us. We tend to avoid communal tables on cruises. Yes, it is possible to meet interesting people, but it is just as likely to have to spend two hours with an obnoxious, completely inappropriate person as well. This time it worked out. The ladies were a lot of fun. One of them, Hope, is a retired rheumatologist. The other lady, Suzanne, has a very strong personality, and was Hope’s office manager. They retired at the same time. It was fun and interesting to talk with new people.


 

Seattle, a great place to start!

Saturday, May 13 

Leaving for Seattle

View from our balcony in Seattle

Our flight to Seattle last night was very late. On one hand, it was good because we didn’t think we could have been ready to leave any earlier. On the other hand, it was very difficult; we didn’t get in until after 9:30 pm and we were exhausted. We stayed at the Hilton, a nice hotel, but nothing special. It was moderately priced and included breakfast on Sunday morning.

We didn’t need to be at the dock until 1:00 p.m. so after breakfast, we decided to walk to Pike Place Market to look around for awhile. However, we had no idea the walk was

Seattle, old and new

straight downhill to the bay. We got to Third and Pike and decided not to walk the last three blocks. It was chilly and would just add three blocks of walking back up the hill on our way back to the hotel. So we took a left onto Third and crossed the street. There was an IGA grocery store on the corner and we went in to buy two bottles of wine. We’re allowed to bring one bottle per adult on board in our luggage to be consumed in our cabin.

When we came out of the IGA, we took a right and walked the two blocks to University. Along the way, we heard emergency vehicles approaching. They were loud and obviously headed our way. About a half block later we came upon four or five EMTs working on a man on the ground. It appeared that he was homeless. He was naked from the waist up and it was shocking to see this large, overweight man lying on the cold concrete while an EMT began CPR. It was cold outside and the man was already turning gray-blue – I believe from a lack of oxygen more than the cold. We didn’t stop to gawk at the poor unfortunate.

I think that obsessive need to watch the results of an accident or riot is natural but should be avoided if at all possible. I try not to fill my mind with negative images and attitudes. I get depressed easily and focusing on negativity makes everything worse. So we just walked by. The ambulance went screaming past us a minute or two later.

We got to the ship in plenty of time. Some cruise lines seem to go out of their way to make the embarkation and disembarkation process as miserable as possible. I have to say this was the easiest, most hassle-free embarkation we have ever encountered. It’s been two years since we’ve had a vacation and eight years since we’ve taken a cruise. We are looking forward to getting away!

Susan

Alaska in May on a cruise ship

One of the beautiful mountain peaks we saw on our cruise

I’m not sure about cruising to Alaska in May, but we haven’t taken a vacation since we went to Italy in 2015 so I’m willing to risk it. That’s because 2016 was quite a year! Our daughter had our first grandchild – a boy – in April and in October we moved from our large home we lived in for 22 years and downsized to live just a five-minute walk from said grandchild. Yes, I am one of those photo-carrying crazy grandmothers who thinks her grandson is the cutest one, ever. But then, that’s only because he is!

So, by the end of last year, I was starting to get stir crazy and obsessing about taking a vacation. Now, my husband is the greatest and I love him dearly, but he does not enjoy traveling as much as I do. Maybe that’s because he carries more of the responsibility, and luggage, than I do. I knew I needed to come up with a vacation he could get behind.

We love to cruise and it’s been many years since we’ve taken that kind of vacation, and he has always wanted to see Alaska. So I put the two together and we are off to Alaska in about two weeks. To be perfectly honest, I’m not that thrilled with the idea of cruising to Alaska in the middle of May. My definition of “vacation” definitely includes shorts and sunscreen and May doesn’t fit into that definition. And, we’re going on a cruise line, Holland America, we have never tried before. That makes me nervous, too.

Here’s one of the things you need to know if you are cruising for the first time. Every cruise line: Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian (our favorite), Carnival, etc. caters to a specific demographics. For example, Carnival’s activities, décor, food and suggested dress code is focused on twenty-somethings. Our first cruise was on Carnival, the Love Boat, and we left the main pool area for good the afternoon they were having a wet t-shirt contest and then something where they put a log-like thing across the pool and two people straddled it facing each other and tried to knock each other off with a big stick with a foam rubber end. Even though we were in our early thirties it was a too much for us.

The Disney Cruise Line is all about families as you would expect. It’s not an age group as much as activities mothers and fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers, can have with the kids. I love Disney, but I would never take a Disney cruise. Nothing spoils my meal more in a restaurant than out-of-control children whose parents have decided the only way they can enjoy their evening is to ignore their children and their disruptive behavior. If you get on a Disney ship, you have been forewarned.

Now that we are in our “senior years,” Norwegian Cruise Line works well for us. The average cruiser is in their mid-50s to mid-70s and up. It’s playing bridge and Solitaire in the afternoons, leisurely meals in elegant surroundings and one formal night where the men wear suits or black tie and the women wear cocktail dresses or ball gowns. Love it!

From what we can tell, Holland America caters to the same demographic so we’ll see. Also the Oosterdam, the ship we will be on, is small comparatively speaking. It holds about 2,000 passengers as opposed to a Royal Carribean big ship that carries 3,500 – 4,000 people.

I’m bringing my laptop and will be blogging and posting photos along the way so you will know how it’s going. Hope you enjoy it and, well . . . I hope we enjoy it too!

Susan

Italy, here we come, at last!

Traveling is one of my husband, Tom, and my favorite things to do. We have been trying to take a trip to Italy for more than six years but it never seemed to

Venice alley at sunset

Venice alley at sunset

work out. Finally, we have our airplane tickets, places to stay reserved and we’re ready to go.

I have been a painter and a writer for more than 25 years, and I can’t think of a better place for an artist/writer to visit. Unfortunately, I have had severe fibromyalgia (fibro) for more than 25 years, too. In case you’re not familiar with this disease, here’s the Mayo Clinic’s definition:

“Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.”

In my experience, people with fibromyalgia seem to have the same group of symptoms and medical issues, it’s just a matter of degree. My FM is very bad and severely affects what I can do and how long I can function each day. By 3 p.m., I’m just about done for the day. By then my “fibro fog” has set in and I am having trouble carrying on a conversation, understanding what people are saying, and staying awake. For others, FM is more of an annoyance that doesn’t keep them from doing what they want to do.

In the past, I was able to keep my fibro symptoms under control with medication and a bunch of therapies like massage, walking, avoiding caffeine, getting plenty of sleep, etc. But I’ve notice an increase in my symptoms over the past two years and I’ve developed bursitis in both hips. I just didn’t know if, or how much, the disease was going to affect me, but we decided to just go for it.

 

Finding a place to stay

Several times when we’ve traveled, instead of looking for a hotel, we’ve rented apartments and homes and have always felt like we got more for our money than if we stayed in a hotel. There are several websites that match travelers with people who would like to rent their home or apartment. We have used vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals By Owners) many times and I can recommend them. We found a very nice house to rent from vrbo.com for the four months we lived in Mexico.

For some reason, we had a very difficult time finding a place to stay in Florence. We knew where we wanted to be – close to the Duomo, but most of the places were outside our budget. Then we found a place, wire transferred the deposit and agreed to the terms and thought we were all set. A week later, I received an email from them saying they had new tenants for that apartment but they had another apartment we could rent. I wrote back and said something like, “I don’t understand. You’ve received our deposit. I thought everything was fine.” Her response was, “I explained the situation and you didn’t accept our other arrangement so we will be refunding your deposit.” Huh? None of it made any sense, especially when you throw in the fact that we wanted to rent the apartment for more days than the other people.

Somewhere online I found a website called ItalyPerfect.com. They are based in California. I sent an email to the woman and explained our situation. She had three options in the area we wanted. We looked through all of them, including the photos, chose one and gave her our deposit. In a way, working with ItalyPerfect was a better experience that VacationRentalByOwner. They have a smaller inventory, but the customer service we received was amazing. They emailed us many, many pages of helpful information on Florence and on Italy in general. They have several other sites, for example LondonPerfect and ParisPerfect. I highly recommend them.

More on Italy next time!

9 Mile Canyon, UT

Fall color along the Colorado River

Fall color along the Colorado River

In addition to being a traveler and writer, I’m a fine artist working mostly in acrylics. My art website is www.SusanLStewartArt.com. I’m working on a new series of paintings featuring petroglyphs and fossils. I read somewhere that Nine Mile Canyon in Wellington, Utah has the largest concentration of petroglyphs of any area in the world so I wanted to check it out.

October in Colorado and Utah is a beautiful time of year. I have a fabulous Olympus camera that takes crystal clear photos while Tom drives 75mph down the I-70 corridor. I put it in auto focus and set it up to snap three photos a

Beautiful pink and orange rock inside the canyon

Beautiful pink and orange rock inside the canyon

second. When I see something I like, I stick the camera out the window and just hold the button down while trying to maintain a horizontal skyline.

It’s a six-and-a-half hour drive directly west from Denver to Wellington. Wellington is such a small town — my guess is less than a thousand people — that we stayed in Price, about eight miles farther down the road. We got in late, about 6:30 pm but I’d made reservations at the Legacy Inn so we didn’t have a problem finding a room.

The Legacy Inn is a typical 1960s motel where you park in front of your room. It’s been remodeled and is in excellent condition. We got a Queen Deluxe room, which I would recommend. It was larger and had a comfortable couch. The room was immaculately clean and very quiet. There’s are train tracks about a hundred yards away but we slept with the fan from the heater/air conditioner unit on and didn’t hear a thing. A continental breakfast with fresh homemade waffles is included in the price of the room, which was about $70 a night. The only real complaint we had about Price was the food. We ate two breakfasts and two dinners while we were there, and none of it was anything I would recommend. Both of my dinners were inedible and I didn’t eat them.

Green cliffs spread wide

Green cliffs spread wide

The weather was beautiful. Even though it was October, the sun was out making it warm, but not too warm, to roam around. I didn’t see many — or maybe no — aspens, but the cottonwood trees were in their full autumn beauty. The bright yellows and oranges against the red cliffs made them look like they were on fire.

Our second day of the trip was devoted to Nine Mile Canyon. The cliffs and meadows were unbelievable. It occurred to me that if you’re not familiar with this part of the west—the Front Range (Denver/Metro), Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the eastern border of Utah, and northern New Mexico—you haven’t seen the rock formations that are so familiar to us. No matter how many times I see them, their beauty is always overwhelming. The rock formations that are flat on the top are called “mesas,” the Spanish word for “table.”

I took over 300 photos the day we visited the canyon. We had a printout of the various mile markers and what to look for at each

Cliff formations in 9 Mile Canyon

Cliff formations in 9 Mile Canyon

one, but we must have been in the wrong place for the first two areas. It seemed like our trip odometer, the mile markers along the road and the mile markers noted on our printout were all a little bit off and it was hard to tell which one to rely on.

After those two lost opportunities, we saw dozens of petroglyphs. Even though it’s called Nine Mile Canyon, it’s more like 25–30 miles. The last two panels in the canyon are the famous Big Buffalo and Great Hunter. I was in awe to actually be standing in front of two petroglyph panels I’ve seen in books.

The petroglyphs were created between AD 950–1250. The “painter”—I’m guessing a man from the topics of the petroglyphs—had to use a sharp, pointy rocks to slowly chip away at the cliff face. Many of the petroglyphs were created on dark, almost black, flat panels of the mountain. This made them easy to see, but I’m also wondering if that type of rock was easier to chip away.

Speeding along on I-70 going west

Speeding along on I-70 going west

We were disgusted to see example after example of people vandalizing the petroglyphs. These idiots thought it was a great idea to carve their name and/or initials into the petroglyphs themselves. Despite the vandalism, the Park Service has not kept people from walking right up to a panel to study the work closely. Only the Great Hunter panel had a log “fence” in front of it, but if someone was determined to touch the panel, they could squeeze through the fence.

The six-and-a-half hour drive from Price back to Denver seemed shorter than the one from Denver to Price. Have you ever experienced that? Even short trips within Denver always seem faster returning home.

It was great to finally get away and spend some time together traveling. Road trips are one of our favorites because we can stop when we want to, especially when something interesting pops up. When and where was your last trip? Add a comment; I always love reading them.

Until then, wishing you the best, safest, travels,

Susan L Stewart

 

Petroglyphs of 9 Mile Canyon

Petroglyph panel with Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Petroglyph panel with Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep with their curved horns

As I wrote earlier, we drove to 9 Mile Canyon in Utah in October to see the petroglyphs. The scenery was beautiful and all of fall’s finest colors were blazing. For this blog post, I want to focus on the petroglyphs we saw.

The very famous Great Hunt panel

The very famous Great Hunt panel

This is a photo I took in 9 Mile Canyon. I put the red circles around three of the objects I wanted to point out. Starting on the left, we have an animal that doesn’t resemble the sheep or antelope in the panel. I can’t think of an animal (like an anteater) that stands that tall and has such a long nose. The second figure is even more mysterious. The antlers suggest a goat or antelope, but what’s up the even longer nose? It reminds me of an elephant with the “antlers” being his big ears, but were there ever elephants in the region that would become Utah? And on the right side we have the Great Hunter. We know he’s the best hunter because he’s so much bigger than the other ones. And, yes, that thing hanging down between his legs is a penis — just in case the viewer might think the Great Hunter was a woman.

Petroglyphs are made by taking a small, pointy stone and hitting it with a larger stone to chip away at the rock face to create stories about the things that were going on in the tribe’s daily life. It seems like the majority of the petroglyphs we saw illustrated hunting trips and the various animals living in the area. In many cases they showed the relationship between ancient man and their native wildlife.

The other method used to create these fascinating murals is by pictographs. Instead of chipping away at the rock, the artist paints the objects of the story. Even though I did quite a lot of research, I couldn’t find a description of the materials pictograph artists used. Whatever it was, it has withstood the weather and other destructive forces for more than 2,000 years.

Could those be reindeer or just elk with really big racks?

Could those be reindeer or just elk with really big racks?

As I’ve done my research for a series of petroglyph paintings I’m planning to create, I’ve seen other, very strange, beings. These petroglyphs and pictographs are found more in the western part of the country, often in Utah.

In addition to the people, we saw animals I couldn’t identify.

These are two of the paintings I’ve finished for the Petroglyph Series I’m doing based on the petroglyphs I’ve seen in Utah and ones I’ve seen in books and on the Internet.

Thoughts on Hawaii

I may be the only tourist who ever went to Hawaii and was not head over heels in love with it. It was fun and I enjoyed it, but it is outrageously expensive. We never ate a lunch that was less than $50. I spoke with a woman one day and she said she and her husband went out to lunch: two cocktails, two appetizers and they split an entrée = $160 without tip. Even food in the grocery store was expensive as was gas at $4.53 a gallon.

  • One of the best things was the koi on both resorts. If you look at my artwork, http://SusanLStewartArt.com, you will find many koi paintings. I can’t wait to get home and back to the studio!
  • The people are extraordinarily friendly, even ones outside of the resort.
  • The Hawaiian language is impossible to read or speak. Normally when I blog, I like to include a pronunciation guide when I use foreign words but I just couldn’t get a handle on Hawaiian.
  • Pot is called Pakalolo or “crazy cigarette.”
  • There are no swear words in the Hawaiian language.
  • All of the pineapple and sugarcane is gone from Kauai. Our guide said it was cheaper to import it from other countries. At one time, the C&H Sugar Company farmed sugarcane on Kauai and shipped the product to California for processing. C&H stands for California and Hawaii.
  • We saw thousands of acres of sugarcane on Maui and along the roadside on our tour of the Hana coast; we saw a few very small pineapple trees. The pineapples are a pinkish red when they’re very young.

Overall, we had a great time. We enjoyed the activities and tours we did and the warm weather. Denver had a big snowstorm while we were lying around the pool or the beach. You can’t get better than that!

I’ll write the next time we travel. Until then, Aloha!

Susan L Stewart

The Hana Coast Tour is Exceptional

If you’re visiting Maui, I highly recommend taking the Hana Coast tour.

We had a great experience with Mahalo Tours and their Mercedes Benz vans seating a maximum of eight. Even though the tour was 11-1/2 hours long, our tour guide,

Rainbow Painted Eucalyptus

Rainbow Painted Eucalyptus

Cody, was knowledgeable and entertaining. By the time we got back, though, I was completely drained. I spent the next day resting.

Rainbow Painted Eucalyptus

Rainbow Painted Eucalyptus

We sat on the left side of the van – I looked at the map beforehand and figured out that that side of the van would be on the coast. I took over 300 photos. Beautiful coastlines.

The tour took us through 617 turns and 54 single lane roads. I lost track of the number of times we stopped. They involved climbing in and out of the van with a small, two-step, plastic stool. I’ve been having trouble with back pain that started before we left for Hawaii and I felt every turn, every bump, in the road.

Rainbow below us

Rainbow below us

Our first stop was Hookipa were I started the photo frenzy. Most of our stops were like that, an opportunity to take photos. Toward the end of the day, we encountered a little rain and there it was, a rainbow positioned below us. Most rainbows are so high in the sky and far away, that it’s impossible to see all seven of the colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These are the same colors and order that you see on a color wheel. This one was so close that I could see all of them.

Black Sand beach

Black Sand beach

We stopped at one of Hawaii’s black sand beaches. The beach is surrounded by black lava rock that, over centuries, has been eroded away by the waves to make fine black sand. Tom climbed down to the beach. He said the sand started out with fairly large pebbles away from the waves, and got smaller and finer as he walked to the water.

One of our first stops was in an area with giant Rainbow Painted Eucalyptus. I’ve never seen such an amazing tree! One of them must have been 10 feet in diameter.

One more beautiful waterfall

One more beautiful waterfall

 

We saw cascading waterfalls Hawaii is so known for, and pools at the foot of the falls that were just begging us to jump in. One of them had a cave in the pool for more adventurous people. I took more incredible photos but we only had ten minutes and then it was back

Waterfall pool with cave

Waterfall pool with cave

in the van. We did have a stop where we could have gotten into the water but the waves were too menacing and the water was cold.

Everything is so lush and so different from Denver. Most people don’t know that Denver is a semi-arid state so growing tropical plants of any kind is impossible. One of the more popular houseplants is the philodendron. Here, they grow wild in the forest and climb up the trunks of trees.

Lunch was included in the tour. At one of our stops, Cody took down everyone’s order and then called them in

Beautiful Hana coast

Beautiful Hana coast

to the restaurant. The selection was much more than burgers and fries. I ordered the fish tacos. After a few more stops, Cody pulled off the road into a large space of dirt and parked the van next to our  restaurant: a food truck!

Philodendron climbing a tree

Philodendron climbing a tree

There were old long wooden tables and chairs. The table felt grimy with old food and dirt so I took the roll of paper towels sitting on it and made myself a placemat. It wasn’t long before everyone else on the tour was doing the same thing.

Ask any of my family members and they would all agree that I’m a picky eater. For example, I won’t eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator more than 24 hours. All I can think of is bacteria growing in the food. Being picky doesn’t have to be rational; most fears aren’t. In any other circumstances, I would have told my husband to back up and keep going until we found something better. Of course I didn’t know there aren’t any more restaurants on the coast drive.

When someone set the plate of fish tacos in front of me, they looked more than just “edible.” They looked like a feast with lots of fresh slaw. I couldn’t find anything that said “Stop! Poisoning at risk!” so I took a bite. They were the best fish tacos I have ever had – including my own.

Small garden god

Small garden god

The last stop of the day was a winery with some unusual wines, like pineapple and papaya. I don’t drink

Maui sunset

Maui sunset

alcohol so I took a quiet walk by myself around the property. The setting was beautiful, flowers were blooming, and I found a little alter with a small stone god. The whole area brought a wonderful sense of peace to me. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Haleakala Crater Spectacular Experience

 

Today we drove to the Haleakala crater. It takes about two hours if you don’t stop, but believe me, you’re going to want to stop a lot. We got lost a couple of times but that just meant we saw some extra things.

The drive up to the crater is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. We started at the base. It looked like just about everything else we’ve seen but that quickly changed. One of the things I have always wanted to try with my art is to paint fog. The thing is, we don’t get fog in the southwest suburb of Denver where we live. All of a sudden, we reached a place on the mountain

A beautiful brick church we saw when we got lost in Wailuku

A beautiful brick church we saw when we got lost in Wailuku

that was covered in beautiful, floating, fog.

We continued up the mountain, from sea level to over 10,000 feet, through switchback after switchback. Each one seemed to reveal something else to behold. I would say to Tom, “Pull over, pull over!!” and then the poor guy would try to find a safe place to pull over so we wouldn’t roll over the cliff.

At one point I looked to the right and realized we were above the clouds. I’ve seen that out of an airplane window but never out of a car window. We couldn’t find a place to pull over when the clouds were at their peak but I took many shortly after. Fluffy white clouds. And then I saw a cloud that looked like a space ship. That beautiful cloud stayed that way for a long time so I think it was created by the trade winds and held there.

Finally we reached the summit. From there we could see the back side of the crater. I didn’t know what to expect and I don’t think I could have guessed what it would look like. Basically, it looks like the craters on the moon to me. The darker blue in the background is not the ocean. We were high enough to see a change in the stratosphere. The little bit of white in the upper right side is a cloud. My camera caught the true color of the dirt. So barren but so beautiful.

It was a great excursion, especially because we could do it ourselves and stop whenever we wanted to. If you’re ever in Maui, I highly recommend it.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Click on images to enlarge

 

 

Arriving in Maui

Maui Sunset

Maui Sunset

The plane ride to Maui was great. The plane probably held 150 people but it was so quiet. The other remarkable thing for those of us who live at the foot of the Rocky Mountains was the lack of turbulence. Not one bobble.

One of my flower photos

One of my flower photos

I had to laugh inside, though, when the flight attendant walked down the aisle with a Sunkist cardboard box that had been cut down, handing out small juice cups. Someone else poured coffee. It only took 40 minutes to land on Maui.

I sat on a stone bench talking with a lady who was going to the same resort we were. Our husbands were inside the Hertz office trying to rent a car. Since the plane had just landed it was swamped in there. She asked me about my fibromyalgia – she and her husband had gotten the impression that it was a respiratory disease from the commercials. As I began explaining about the pain component, a woman behind me let go of her small  suitcase and the handle ran into my left kidney. The pain was terrible, shooting through my back. The worst thing was that the lady never even said she was sorry. She tried to make it sound like I had done something wrong, like I shouldn’t have been sitting on the bench. She just said, “It was an accident.” and then she said, “the bench took the brunt of it.” I didn’t turn around.

We finally got to the resort- the Marriott Maui Beach Club. The grounds are spectacular! They have an amazing pool that winds through the center of the resort with waterfalls and slides, including one big enough for adults. There are lots of lounge chairs with huge umbrellas.

The beach comes up all the way to the pool area. The odd thing is that we’ve never seen anyone in the water – no swimmers and no surfers. The condo is a dream. One bedroom, two bathrooms, minimal kitchen. It’s beautifully decorated and very comfortable. We got here Sunday afternoon and decided to rest on Monday and just hang out at the resort.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

More flower photos – click to enlarge

Helicopter ride was amazing

 

The helicopter ride was breathtaking. We swooped down through beautiful, lush, green canyons and valleys where they filmed Jurassic Park and Avatar.

I had my camera set so whenever I pressed the button, it took multiple shots. That way, at least one would be in focus even though we were moving. I took 487 photos. Once I deleted the ones that were blurry or that had a glare from the windshield, I had 183 left and 30 useable ones.

We’ve never been on a helicopter before and I was a little concerned about the movement but the pilot was obviously experienced and the ride was smooth. It held six people. We paid a little extra to be in the front with the pilot and I think it was worth being able to see through the front windshield, too. However, we were so crammed in that Tom fell to one knee when he got out. His right leg was completely numb and he couldn’t put weight on it.

It was incredibly noisy but we wore huge headsets and the pilot gave us a running commentary. All-in-all, though, it was a wonderful experience.

Even though it was incredibly expensive – almost $450 for 2 – it was worth it. For some reason, they gave us a discount because we went on Friday. If you only do one thing on Kauai, make it the helicopter tour.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

 

Click on images to enlarge

Marriott Kauai Beach Club

Beautiful red and green

Beautiful red and green

 

Marriott Kauai Beach Club grounds are beautiful. I wanted to share some of the photos I’ve taken of it. The staff, from bellboys to registration, housekeeping, and restaurants, were helpful and extremely nice. That’s about all of the good things I can say about the resort.

The Wahili tower, where our unit was located, was originally built in 1959. We’re not sure  if it’s ever been renovated since then. On the seventh floor, at least, the paint in the hallways is scratched, service doors are scratched and filthy and the walls next to them gouged by equipment going in and coming out of them. The unit is dark and without proper lighting. The mattress is lumpy … Actually, I can’t think of one good thing to say about it. They have two newer towers but those are run like a traditional hotel and I’m sure they are expensive and beautiful. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this resort.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Click on images to enlarge them.