The desire to do something different with some recent visitors from England prompted us to take a trip up the Hudson valley. It’s a beautiful way to spend a day out of the city, and an easy train ride from Grand Central station. Initially we thought we might go hiking, but when the weather forecast started predicting frigid temperatures we decided that an indoor activity would probably be more comfortable, so a museum visit was planned instead.
Do you know how the tuxedo got its name? Apparently a casino owner from Tuxedo NY was so enamoured of the outfit when he encountered it on a trip to England that he brought the concept home. (I have no idea whether this story is apocryphal or not, but it made for some excellent trail-trivia!)
I could write posts and posts about our Alaska cruise, but I’m trying not to! In the interests of not boring everyone senseless, I’ve condensed the entire week into this single account, itself a lightly-edited version of the brief notes I took each day. We sailed with Princess cruises from Anchorage (Whittier) south through the inside passage to Vancouver, past the glaciers of Yakutat bay and Glacier Bay national park, stopping at Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan, and then caught the decidedly unglamorous but perfectly convenient Greyhound bus down to Seattle for a cheaper flight home to Newark.
Along the way we saw harbour seals and Steller sea lions, Pacific white-sided dolphins, humpback whales and a lone orca, and, magically, the Northern Lights. We shared a dinner table with some extremely nice people, and met all kinds of fellow travellers around the ship. We ate lots of food, drank plenty of cocktails, and generally had a lovely time – looking through my notes and photos is making me wish I was back there right now!
Denali National Park is particularly concerned with preserving as much land as possible in a pristine wilderness condition. Consequently, there are only a handful of areas within the park boundaries that visitors are permitted to access, and across its 6 million acres there is just a single 92 mile-long road, only the first 15 miles of which are paved. Visitors can travel the road by means of the park bus service, there are a handful of campsites along the way, and a few lucky individuals can take a backcountry hike with a ranger each day.
Pretty much as soon as we got home from our 2015 trip to Hawaii, we started joking that Alaska was next on the bucket list. However, the distance involved, and the fact that everyone we know who has visited encouraged us to take a cruise, meant that it was very much on the “one day” end of the spectrum. Fast forward to a quiet weekend in autumn 2016 – we were idly wondering just how much a cruise might cost, decided to look it up, discovered an affordable option in early September 2017, and booked it on the spot.
Since the cruise was a week-long voyage from Anchorage (well, Whittier) south to Vancouver, we decided to arrive early and spend some time in Alaska before boarding the ship, which quickly turned into a fairly epic trip – we flew into Anchorage and spent a day there, rented a car and drove up to Denali national park for a couple of days hiking and enjoying the wilderness, headed to Palmer for the Alaska state fair, and then ended up back in Anchorage to return the car before setting sail.
If I were to attempt to characterize Yogyakarta into a short expression, lively organized chaos would probably be the words I’d choose. It didn’t feature on my (lengthy) list of places I want to visit – in fact I don’t think I’d even heard of it until I was invited to speak at a conference there (about which I’ve written more on my other blog) – but that all just goes to show how much I know, because it really was fantastic.
Visiting the historic Buddhist temple of Borobudur was our first stop in Indonesia, which turned out to be a good thing for all kinds of reasons. Indonesia is, of course, quite different to Singapore, and it was very nice to be met at the airport by a driver booked through our hotel. Navigating the Yogyakarta traffic was a fairly eye-opening experience (although it’s actually quite tame compared with some other places), and retreating to a fancy resort hotel softened the culture shock still further.
I’m not really sure why I was so keen to visit Singapore. Family history, the allure of Asia, the Raffles Hotel’s famous Singapore Sling, these all had something to do with it, but even I think twice about travelling half way around the world just to try a cocktail.
In the spring our thoughts inevitably turn to Las Vegas. Not because we like Vegas, particularly, but because Tom’s annual conference visit means an opportunity to take a trip to the South West, and this year was no exception. Continue reading →