Monthly Archive: July 2014

Tuesday

29

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

One Night In Victoria, British Columbia

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

We were sad to put Alaska behind us, but also excited to explore Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, on our last night of the cruise. This cruise was different from all the other cruises that I’ve been on for several reasons, one of the big ones being the time spent on the ship vs. time spent at our ports of call. We had much shorter stops at our ports of call then I’ve had on previous cruises and spent a lot more time on the ship – very relaxing, just different from past experiences.

Our day in Victoria was almost like a day at sea because we didn’t arrive until 6pm. This timing made it difficult for us to decide what to do. One of the main attractions in Victoria is Butchart Gardens, but they are about 1 hour away from the port and that would leave us no time to see the rest of Victoria. So, we decided to forgo Butchart Gardens and spend a night in Victoria instead.

Many people were trying to squeeze in dinner on the ship before leaving, but you guys know that isn’t my style. Food is my favorite way to meet a new city so I looked to TripAdvisor (as always) and found Ithaka Greek Restaurant, rated the #1 restaurant in Victoria at the time. Greek and #1?  Sold. We took a longer way to get there, walking along the water and a park or two to get there, so we got some great views of Victoria’s beauty while working up an appetite.

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

It took us about 45 minutes to an hour to walk to Ithaka Greek Restaurant at a slower pace and the smells of roast lamb and saganaki coming from the kitchen greeted us as soon as we arrived. The restaurant was almost completely full on a Friday night but luckily we were able to scoop up the last open table for 6. They have a great little outdoor seating area complete with heaters, the perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful night in Victoria.

We started our dinner with a couple orders of the Saganaki, because who doesn’t love flaming cheese and a good Opa! We followed it up with their appetizer platter with dolmades, kalamari, spanakopita, keftedes, tzatziki, pita bread, and Maria’s house salad. Everything was so delicious – fresh and full of all those fantastic Greek flavors that we love.

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant, Saganaki

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant, Saganaki

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant

Looking over the menu it was nearly impossible to choose our entrees because everything sounded so ridiculously good! Three of us ended up going with Giannoula’s roast lamb and the other three went with the Moussaka, Prawns Santorini, and Zorba’s dinner. I had bites of each and there was no way I could pick a favorite – my lamb was amazingly tender and flavorful but so was the moussaka, the shrimp, and the skewers – I would order all of these dishes again. “Mama” Maria surprised us with a few desserts from the kitchen to top off this fantastic meal at Ithaka.

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant, Roast Lamb

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant, Moussaka

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant, Shrimp Santorini

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant

Victoria, BC, Itaka Greek Restaurant

Ithaka is a family-owned restaurant and their love for what they do shows. Dimitri was a fantastic host and made sure we were taken care of throughout our meal. “Mama” Maria even took a break from the kitchen to come out and say hello! We were all more than happy with our choice to spend our time in Victoria here and if you’re in town I’m sure you would too!

After our meal it was time to head back to our ship and we took a different route through the busier part of town. It was dark and late and most of the shops were closed so we didn’t have a chance to do much, but it definitely looked like a place we would love to explore. Guess that means a trip back to Victoria is getting added to the bucket list! We were all sad that when we woke up the next morning our trip would be over, but there were so many awesome memories made on this Alaskan cruise

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Thursday

24

July 2014

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Crabbing In Ketchikan, Alaska

Written by , Posted in Travel

We went hiking on a glacier in Juneau and we caught a glimpse of some of Alaska’s amazing wildlife in Sitka. In Ketchikan – we went crabbing! Our excursion on our last day in Alaska was a Wilderness Exploration & Crab Feast. I’ll be honest, I was sold at Crab Feast. It was another early morning; around 8am we boarded our bus that took us to about 30 minutes away to George Inlet Lodge where we boarded a small boat and headed out to find some crabs.  **Insider’s tip: choose a seat towards the middle of the boat near the big table in the middle. That’s where the crab pot sits and you have the best views of the crabs on board!

George Inlet Lodge, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crabbing In Ketchikan, Alaska

The scenery was beautiful, as per usual, and our guide was the perfect combination of funny and informative. We passed by an old cannery, added a couple more bald eagle sightings to our list, and after about 20 minutes we made our stop at the crab pot. Our guide asked for a volunteer and like a know-it-all in grade school I shot my [somewhat wiggling] hand in the air the second I could tell what she was about to ask. The duty that I had volunteered for was pulling the crab pot out of the water, which was not as easy as it looked! Our guide pulled a couple crabs out of the pot and gave us a Crab Anatomy 101 crash course.

Next came the moment I was waiting for – photo ops with the crabs! I had several opportunities to hold a crab but everyone else on board had an opportunity to snap a quick pic holding a crab as well. It was an equal opportunity tour! This crab pot was for educational purposes only, so these weren’t the crabs we would be eating when we returned to the George Inlet Lodge. We set them back in water and headed back for our feast.

Cannery, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crabbing, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crabbing, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crab Feast, Ketchikan, Alaska

By the time we made it back to the lodge it was probably around 10am and our stomachs were rumbling. With such an early start we skipped breakfast so that we’d have plenty of room for all the crab we could eat. They’ve done this crab feast a time or two at the George Inlet Lodge and the servers had it down. We were quickly seated and offered beverages (you can have a beer at 10am on vacation, right?), given a quick tutorial on Dungeness crab eating techniques, then out came the giant bowls of freshly steamed Dungeness crab and warm butter.

As soon as we had almost cleared our first round of crab from our plates they came around with more. and more. and more. Who needs carbs when you have amazing, ridiculously fresh crab?! It was so delicious and I didn’t want it to end but finally we threw in the towel, saving a tiny bit of room for blueberry cheesecake.

Crab Feast, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crab Feast, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crab Feast, Ketchikan, Alaska

Crab Feast, Ketchikan, Alaska With full, happy bellies we got back on our bus and headed back to the docks. Our ship was set to leave port at 1pm so we didn’t have a ton of time in town after the excursion, but we were still able to stop into a couple shops before leaving. Another great day in Alaska was in the books, and another excursion that I’d highly recommend to anyone visiting Ketchikan!

Tuesday

22

July 2014

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COMMENTS

Wildlife Watching in Sitka, Alaska

Written by , Posted in Travel

I can’t believe it has already been a month since we returned from our Alaskan cruise! This summer is flying by and there is so much going on in the upcoming months that I know those are going to fly by as well. Between now and November 1, I’ll be visiting Cleveland, Kansas City, Germany and Prague, Louisville, the Finger Lakes in New York, and Las Vegas. Two of those trips are for weddings, but they’re trips nonetheless. I am super excited and love the planning part, but it does consume a whole lot of my free time. I’m hoping to wrap up these Alaska posts just it time for the next exciting trip to roll in!

Our second port of call in Alaska was Sitka where we booked an excursion through Holland America with Allen Marine Tours for their Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest. A quick note on cruise excursions – I highly recommend booking most, if not all, of your cruise excursions prior to sailing. I booked all of our excursions a few months in advance to make sure we were able to do exactly what we wanted and also get a bit of a discount through Holland America’s website. All of our tickets were waiting for us when we boarded the ship in Seattle and we didn’t have to worry about a thing!

Ok, so back to the Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest. Our glacier trek in Juneau was a hard act to follow, but our day in Sitka proved that Alaska is a whole lot more than helicopters and glaciers – but you knew that already, didn’t you? The photos I have from our day in Sitka are probably my favorite of the trip; I rented a great Canon telephoto lens from Dodd Camera and while it was big and heavy and not the easiest thing to carry around, the shots I was able to get with it well worth the trouble!

We had an early start in Sitka at 7am. Before we left the ship I had my first bald eagle sighting – three of them hanging out on a rock right in front of our balcony! Our excursion boat picked us up right from the ship and we were off!

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska, Boat Tour

The crew with Allen Marine Tours was excellent and you could tell they had done this a time or two. The captain and the naturalists on board that were able to give us information on the area and all the wildlife we were seeing. Just 10 to 15 minutes in we saw our first bald eagle (on top of the tree on the far left of the first photo below) and then saw several more as we cruised along.

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

Sitka, Alaska, Bald Eagle

As we continued on we had our next exciting sighting – a large group of mama and baby otters! These guys were just the cutest and I probably have at least 50 pictures of them! Our captain was able to get us as close as he possible could without scaring them off and thanks to my lens, we got an even closer look at their cute little mugs!

Sitka, Alaska, Otters

Sitka, Alaska, Otters

Sitka, Alaska, Otters

Next up was our most exciting sighting of the day – a mother and baby humpback whale. We followed these two for quite some time and got a few good back and tail views before all of a sudden the baby decided it was showtime. Baby H fully breached multiple times, the first time right next to our boat. It was so amazing to see and it was the cherry on top of an already impressive day.

Sitka, Alaska, Humpback Whale

Sitka, Alaska, Humpback Whale

Sitka, Alaska, Humpback Whale

Sitka, Alaska, Humpback Whale

Sitka, Alaska, Humpback Whale

Eventually the show was over and we cruised on to see a glimpse of another whale and some seals from afar before heading back in after about 4 hours. We had bouts of wind and rain on the top deck and the waxed cotton of my new Barbour jacket proved it’s worth! We didn’t have much time before our cruise ship departed but we managed to find a little time to grab some amazing fish & chips from Van Winkle’s  and do some quick shopping in town. As the ms Westerdam sailed towards Ketchikan that night we caught a beautiful sunset to end another amazing day in Alaska!

Sitka, Alaska

 

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska, Sunset

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