Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm in the middle of reading one of the sharpest and funniest books I've read in a long time. It's called THE DEVIL IN THE JUNIOR LEAGUE by Linda Francis Lee and it's an advance reader's copy. When I finish I'll be reviewing it for Romance Divas. I'm about a quarter of the way through it and it is hilarious. Freaking brilliant. I think my husband thought I was nuts when I was sitting by the pool yesterday laughing out loud, but I read him the following passage and he agreed:

"Texas men came in many forms. One of the most successful types was the man who sounded like an illiterate lunatic. Think George W. Bush or H. Ross Perot spouting things like, "Ya can't put a boot in the oven and expect to get brisket." However, as long as they had money and a socially prominent name, the crazier the better...with the tiny little caveat that they come from fine old families or, at the very least, have created fine "old" families. My daddy was one of the finest, spewing out lunacy with the best of them..."

Anyway, it's a really funny look at the ultra-rich old-money families of Texas high society. I highly recommend it...and I'm only a quarter of the way through it! I normally reserve judgement until I've finished reading. It will be released in September from St. Martin's Press.

OK, back to my cruise review.

I've already talked about Juneau. We also went to Ketchikan, Skagway, and Prince Rupert.

Ketchikan is the totem pole capital of the world and the salmon capital of the world. It is also the rainiest community in North America. It's a quaint little fishing village on stilts in the southernmost tip of Alaska. If you go, expect rain at some point during the day. It was raining when we first got there but it cleared up later in the morning and was actually quite nice by the time we left. Of course, the later in the day it got, the more and more crowded the town got with tourists. We actually preferred it at 7 am when we were the only ones around! We took a bus tour to Saxman Native Village to see totem poles and carvers. We also hiked around on the trails surrounding the town and explored the town a bit, including the salmon hatchery and the Southeastern Alaska Discovery Center.

Skagway is a stop on pretty much every cruise to Alaska. It was the gateway to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush from 1897-1899. Stampeders arrived by steamboat in Skagway from Seattle and then made the trek over the mountain through the White Pass with the ton of equipment and food that the Canadian government required for entry into the Yukon Territory. It took most would-be prospectors 20-30 trips through the 40-mile White Pass to haul all their gear and by the time they finished bringing all their gear to the border it was too cold to continue until the next spring.

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad opened in 1899. It was designed to run along the route of the White Pass Trail to make the trek easier but by the time it was completed the gold rush was over. Today the railroad is a popular shore excursion for cruise ship passengers. Eric and I took the railroad only to the first whistle stop at the Denver trailhead. We got off to hike the Denver trail. We decided to make it a half day event, but that meant we couldn't get out to the glacier. We were told we'd get to the boulder field and from there we'd be able to see the glacier but we didn't make it that far before we decided to turn around. I don't think we were hiking slow or anything but we did stop to take pictures. For all I know, the boulder field might have been only a few minutes away from where we turned around but we got nervous because we never saw or heard the big tour group that was behind us (a group from our ship who paid $119/person for what we did for just a $30 train ticket) and I thought perhaps we had gotten onto the wrong trail somehow. Well, it turned out that they were just super slow. We turned around and after we'd been hiking back for about half an hour we saw them--still continuing forward. So we weren't on the wrong trail afterward--we were just half an hour ahead of them. So I freaked out for nothing and as a result possibly missed out on seeing the glacier (it would have been from a far distance, of course, though). Oh well.

After our hike, the train picked us back up at the Denver trailhead and we rode back into town. The tour guides for that other group gave us some of the beer they had to give their group. We thought that was really nice. It was good beer, too. I'm not a beer drinker but I enjoyed it. After we arrived back in town we went for lunch at a really good seafood restaurant (delicious salmon and halibut sandwiches) and then explored the town a little bit. Later that afternoon we went to the Days of '98 show, the longest continuously running theatrical event in the U.S. (since 1925). It was a musical retelling of the early days of Skagway. Kinda cheesy but fun.

Our final port was Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The founders of Prince Rupert had grand plans for it to be a port to rival Vancouver. This dream died when the president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad (and founder of the town) died on the Titanic. We went on a bike tour of Prince Rupert, which was really fun. The town is quite hilly, so it was some good exercise and there was good wildlife viewing. We saw a ton of eagles, some deer, and a bear (not very close, though). We were only in Prince Rupert for 5 hours, but that was plenty, I think. It's quite small and not as well-developed for tourism as the other places. I kind of wish we'd gone kayaking, like I wanted, but Eric doesn't like kayaking, so biking won out. Still, it was fun.

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its Chocoholics Midnight Buffet and this one didn't disappoint. We made sure not to eat too much that night for dinner so we'd have room for every imaginable chocolate dessert and even some you'd never imagine. It was incredible. Yum.

Posted by Amanda Brice :: 9:02 AM :: 4 comments

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