Canada and Alaska Cruise

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April 30th 2018
Published: June 7th 2020
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30 April 2018 - Get set to travel! Holiday time. This year’s destination is Canada.
I must say , it wasn’t in my bucket list specially after doing New Zealand last year , but the photographs of friends on FB visiting there , Travel X on TV, and the gorgeous locales of Alaska beckoned and one thought that before joints and bones start creaking might as well do these long flight destinations!
As I researched the country, the vastness of it became daunting and there weren’t many typical sight seeing destinations but the beauty of nature was so ethereal that I chose the train as a mode of transport. Looking forward to the 4 day train journey where you can traverse Canada and see it in its natural splendour from the comfort of your glass domed train. This puts the saying ‘ No pain No gain’ in the back burner!
Alaska Cruise was always something I thought was unattainable- too far, too cold, too expensive, too exerting - all myths were broken when I set my heart on it! Let’s hope it meets the high expectations!
So we start our month long journey today. The first destination is Toronto. Though they say, it’s a city like any other, but there is always something waiting to be discovered.
Travel light is the mantra!

Flights are no more exciting. I remember our first international trip to the US. I didn’t feel like blinking on that 22 he flight. So excited about the scenery, the meals, the feeling of being above the earth! How excitement wanes with time. Now each minute is a pain, meals tasteless and the floating on clouds immaterial. But tried my best to make the 8 hour journey to Zurich as pleasant as possible. The flying over the alps was nostalgic! Layover at Zurich is giving the much needed stretch to the legs and my feet are getting some circulation back as I pace around the airport enjoying the misty morning of the first day.

01 May -I’m Only writing today so that later on I don’t find a gap in the travelogue and wonder what we did ! After 30 hrs of travel, Toronto was a disappointment at first sight. The airport was nothing much, the view as we landed was neither enticing nor promising. The wait for immigration was long and the walk at the airport tedious. We took the airport train to the union station , which was also one of the 10 places to be visited. It was good but nothing compared to the Grand station at New York or the recently awe inspiring Tokyo station. From there we took a cab to the apartment , which turned out to be walking distance! The apartment was the first exciting part of the trip. On the 40th floor of a lake facing condo , it seems like the condos of the life style of the rich and famous! There was no jet lag surprisingly because the journey was spent dozing off albeit very uncomfortably !
Since the weather was amazing - warmly pleasant , we dumped our luggage and set out for a familiarisation walk to down town.
On the map it seemed so daunting, but places were so close that half the places I had planned for tomorrow we saw today itself. Each place I had made notes on to see , fell short of my mental image.
Toronto is unclean, full of graffiti , slow paced and dull. The brick houses lend it some character but overall disappointing as the most populated city of Canada. Then we walked to the lack lustre harbour front a bit before returning to the glittering view from the apartment - for it was finally dusk at 7.30 pm. The bed seems welcoming after the cramped aircraft seats - tomorrow we shall explore some more of the city - hope it redeems itself !

02 MayAfter the downtown walk yesterday I cancelled the walking tour that was scheduled for today. We generally take a walking tour in all cities because they are conducted by students who are training to be guides and their vibrant narration gives you quite an insight into the history of the city spots , but yesterday we realised we had done quite a bit of their tour by default on foot. So today we set off to Toronto islands. However, today I realised that my expectations of Canada were the problem and not the city ! Toronto island was again a sweet sort of trip, would have been much better as a day picnic with a lot of friends , but as sight seeing- nothing much there either. Also we have come in the wrong season - the trees are dry, no leaves no flowers but the promise of the blossoms in the tint of pink and yellow on their dry twigs, makes me believe that the islands would be a visual delight a month later.
The ferry ride to the islands was pleasant and the view of the skyline of Toronto from there was delightful. For those planning a trip here , the local ferry is great and cheap. I don’t know what they can show more on the expensive island tours than we saw? The harbour front is very upmarket.
In the afternoon , Took a five km walk through the city to the university and then to the Bata shoe museum. Since Raju is a Bata fan, I thought it would be nice for him to see such a different kind of museum. I was pooped out with the island walk and this one so I sat around in the gift shop admiring knick knacks and massaging my feet while Raju took the one hour tour. Interesting and different.
The part I liked most about the walk was the Toronto University. Loved the academic atmosphere of the colleges, the buildings, the gardens, the hostels , students in animated discussions -wish I could go back to those days and study in places like these!
Rejuvenated after the rest at the museum, decided to do the Art walk on Ishington Village. The murals on the brick buildings of the peaceful township were exquisite and worth driving my rebellious legs to slavery.

03 May - Toronto islands - Accessible by ferry, the island itself feels like a haven from frenzied downtown. But it’s the view of Toronto that’s a main attraction; the island’s unobstructed skyline vistas, framed by Lake Ontario, make the city look like a 21st-century Oz.

The Toronto Islands were not always islands but actually a series of continuously moving sand-bars originating from Scarborough Bluffs and carried westward by Lake Ontario currents. Eroded stone of the Scarborough Bluffs was carried westward by Lake Ontario currents to create the islands. By the early 1800’s the longest of these bars extended nearly 9 kilometres south-west from Woodbine Avenue, through Ashbridge’s Bay and the marshes of the lower Don River, forming a natural harbour between the lake and the mainland.

The sand bars were first surveyed in 1792 by the British Navy, but they were well known by native people, who considered them a place of leisure and relaxation. The main peninsula became known to European settlers as the “Island of Hiawatha”. A carriage path from York which led to Gibraltar Point was very popular during the 1800’s. It later became known as Lake Shore Avenue. Part of the boardwalk on Centre Island traces this same route. A number of severe storms and their strong wave action worked to erode the peninsula, requiring frequent repair to small gaps until finally, in 1858, an island was created when a storm completely separated the peninsula from the mainland and the gap was not repaired.

Centre Island is between Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island. A carriage route along the peninsula connecting the mainland to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse later evolved into Lake Shore Avenue, the main east-west axis along Centre Island. By the late 1800’s, many of Toronto’s wealthiest families built beautiful Victorian summer homes along Lake Shore Avenue, east from Manitou Road to Ward’s Island.

In 1884, construction of an Anglican church, St. Andrew-by-the-Lake, was directed by Archbishop Sweatman. Four years later Island Park was established on land previously occupied by the Mead Hotel, and has continued to offer an impressive panoramic view of downtown Toronto ever since.

Two distinctive bridges, still in use today, were built to accommodate the increase in traffic along the central north-south axis as the Centre Island Ferry, operated by the Toronto Ferry Company, became more popular. The Manitou Road bridge (1912) replaced an old wooden bridge and the Olympic Island bridge (1914) was built to link Olympic Island with Island Park.

Ward’s Island, actually the east section of the old peninsula, was named after the Ward family who first settled here about 1830. David Ward, a local fisherman, raised seven children. His son, William, built the landmark Ward’s Hotel in 1882, just south of the ferry docks at Channel Avenue. Originally the building had two floors and a central, third story tower, but in 1922 the tower and upper floor were removed after the structure deteriorated. The remaining building operated as a grocery supply and ice-cream parlour until its demolition in 1966. The hotel, in addition to Wiman’s Baths, built in 1881, created a pleasant resort that attracted many visitors.

The Hanlan family was among the first year-round inhabitants on Toronto Islands, settling at Gibraltar Point in 1862. After the islands were transferred from the federal government to the City of Toronto in 1867, Plan D-141 divided the land into lots and allowed cottages, amusement areas and resort hotels to be built. The west side of the island, commonly known as West Point, rapidly became a resort destination for the citizens of Toronto; the first summer cottage community was found here. In 1878, a hotel was built by John Hanlan at the north-west tip of the island and soon after the area became known as Hanlan’s Point. An amusement park and a baseball stadium for 10,000 spectators were built in the 1890s-1910. Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run here.

High lake levels continually damaged island properties and, on January 1, 1956, the City of Toronto transferred responsibility for the Toronto Islands to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto to be developed as a regional park.

Centre Island is between Hanlan's Point and Ward's Island. A carriage route along the peninsula connecting the mainland to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse later evolved into Lake Shore Avenue, the main east-west axis along Centre Island. By the late 1800's, many of Toronto's wealthiest families built beautiful Victorian summer homes along Lake Shore Avenue, east from Manitou Road to Ward's Island. In 1884, construction of an Anglican church, St. Andrew-by-the-Lake, was directed by Archbishop Sweatman. Four years later Island Park was established on land previously occupied by the Mead Hotel, and has continued to offer an impressive panoramic view of downtown Toronto ever since

The Hanlan family was among the first year-round inhabitants on Toronto Islands, settling at Gibraltar Point in 1862. After the islands were transferred from the federal government to the City of Toronto in 1867, Plan D-141 divided the land into lots and allowed cottages, amusement areas and resort hotels to be built. The west side of the island, commonly known as West Point, rapidly became a resort destination for the citizens of Toronto. The first summer cottage community was founded here. In 1878, a hotel was built by John Hanlan at the north-west tip of the island and soon after the area became known as Hanlan's Point.

04 May- Today Was a wandering day in Toronto. We keep one day in every place without an agenda, this was it! A relaxed breakfast later, we set out to experience the essence of Toronto. The Dundas Yonge street is compared to Times Square of New York , - quite comparable though less happening but we just sat with a coffee and watched the world go by. The misty drizzling day added to the charm and gave us the excuse to dive into huge malls To window shop. Walked through the streets craning our necks to see the skyscrapers admiring the reflections of one building on another. Fascinating to see the concrete glass jungle and appreciate Man’s creation Vs nature! There is a Street car 501 that traverses Toronto’s must see places, we boarded it at downtown and from the comfort of the tram glided past nice neighbourhoods till it’s last stop. Neville boulevard turned out to be a surprise find. Pretty cottages on the banks of the Ontario lake with old timers reminiscing the glory of the past. A coffee later we took the tram back to downtown to welcome our friends who will be on this trip with us from now on. Shifted to a two bedroom apartment to be together - so the evening was full of conversation and catching up and a rustled up meal to retire early for the Niagra trip tomorrow.

05 May Today was a nice change. No bus or train to catch , we had the luxury of a car and Rohan to take us on a luxury trip to Niagra falls.
We had seen the falls in 2006 from the US side and I remember the excitement of the Maid of Mist, it was an exhilarating experience -today after 12 years it was the same. The falls were mesmerising and the view much better from this side. The horse shoe effect was dramatic and the best part was the walk behind the falls! The sheer volume of water is amazing!

We were cold and hungry by then , the strong wind dried us up in no time and to appease our hunger we drove to a small town - Niagra by the lake. Wow! What a picture perfect place! A variety of architectural styles in houses and other buildings, the British influence in the township, a delightful place- a must do !
A picnic lunch by the lakeside completed the visit! The area has extensive vineyards and wine tasting happened only because Rohan felt it was a spiritual experience ! We have never done wine tasting on any of our travels by ourselves , but I must say that one must try out everything once in a lifetime. The wines were good but the narration of the process was fascinating, the place ambient and chocolate served with the wine scrumptious!
Orange peku tea, rhubarb tart and some enriching conversation later we started back from the Peller estates winery to Toronto.
A very fulfilling , pleasant day with friends made the Toronto part of the trip memorable. Niagara On The Lake, a quaint nearby town filled with old-fashioned stores, historical architecture, a beach, and beautiful trees and gardens.

The Falls are situated on the International border of the Canadian province Ontario and the American state of the New York. These Falls are the wonder of nature. It is collectively called as the ‘Niagara’, for the three other Falls situated nearby. he Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, these three waterfalls that make Niagara. If one wants to have an amazing view of the Niagara Falls, Maid of Mist is a must place to visit then. The views from the Mist are amazing, taking a non-waterproof camera is definitely not recommended. Capturing with your eyes will also give you a great pleasure.

06 May Last night there was sudden upheaval in our program. A message came from viarail, the Canadian rail network, that our 4 day tour train to Vancouver was postponed by 12 hrs or more. This meant that the natural beauty that we were so looking forward to experience from the comfort of the glass domed train was in jeopardy ! It would not keep its schedule and we would miss out on a lot because of night travel at wrong stretches. Well, life never follows predicted patterns, so plan B is very essential in life! Last minute we cancelled the whole train trip and found opportunity in this adversity. We booked flight tickets to Calgary and looked at accommodation for the 4 days that we were care of - the train.
Intensive planning went on till late at night and today early morning and , here we are in the flight to Edmount which is the start point of the famous Rockies ! From there we go to Calgary and hire a car to take a road journey through the Rockies. After the tedious procedure of last minute cancellations and bookings, our schedule looks much better than before and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise ! A last look at Toronto and a visit to China Town and Keningston later I write this peacefully in the flight to Calgary - looking forward to the pristine beauty of Lake Louis, Banff and Kamloops.
My belief gets stronger that
What you plan in life is great but what He plans for you is always much better.
Places that we would have just driven past, we will now relish them and drive through some of the most picturesque landscapes of Canada. Life is Good!
Some of The lakes are still frozen- as we land at Calgary. It is voted as the cleanest place in the world. It’s dusk at 9 pm and we look forward to a restful sleep to explore the Alberta region

07 May We left Calgary in the morning after hiring an SUV , filled with excitement of taking the road trip through the Rockies of Canada. An hour down the road - and - the scenery started unfolding - And how ! The rugged jagged rock mountains capped with snow did not let Raju’s camera take a breather! Pictures can never do justice to a landscape like this , they can only tingle memories when we see them years later. Slowly we got used to the GPS, the right hand drive and navigation , and reached Banff two hrs later. The town was a gem ! Surrounded by snow covered mountains, Banff is a charming valley town which became the first area to be declared a national park in the 19th century. Just wandering around the town was soaking in the amalgamation of the beauty of nature with the artistic ability of Man. A gondola took us a km up to treat us to unparalleled views of the forest covered sulphur Rock mountains still covered with snow. A board walk took us even higher to a 360 degree panorama of the Banff National park. Surprisingly it wasn’t that cold in spite of the snow - the sun shine on the snow gave the simile - as white as snow- authenticity. The stirring scene of the mountains shall remain with me for years to come.08 May We spent the night at a sweet little apartment in a place near Banff- Canmore and left with the regret that I didn’t get to use the elaborately furnished kitchen there
I wanted to make roast chicken and garlic bread in the oven but the store nearby had everything ready made and I wasn’t encouraged to show off my culinary skills ! But we packed roast chicken sandwiches early morning and set off at 6.30 am for an exciting long day. Highway 93 is the most scenic drive in the world and I can’t help posting these umpteen photographs and videos. It will entice many to make this trip

This part of Canada is nature at its best! And traveling educates you in diverse subjects. Today when we went on the snow bus to the glacier, the guide was telling us about the flora and fauna in the Rockies. They are covered with thick pine trees and the animals in the region include the mountain sheep, goat , wolf , grizzly bear and a bird called the Nut cracker. Something struck a chord in me and I wondered if nature had its own love stories !
I will tell you my interpretation of one and you decide if it’s just a scientific fact or my Romaric imagination of nature’s love story !

The pine and the nut cracker bird

The pine tree can not reproduce on its own because the pine cones are too hard for the seeds to fall out of it. The nut cracker loves the pine nut and comes to these trees and cracks the pine cones. It takes the nuts and buries them one inch deep in the crevices of the rocks to eat them in winter when food is scarce. When winter comes , it forgets some hiding places or can not consume as much as it had stored , so the pine nuts germinate to become trees. I feel that They are like two lovers who would die if the other dies ! One can’t live without the other, isn’t that what love stories are about!

09 May Today was ecstasy! Like I said the drive from Banff to Icefields Columbia is one of the most spectacular drives we’ve done.
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) passes through Lake Louis , Icefields and on to Jasper
We drove to Jasper first fighting temptation to stop in between . An idyllic small town, at the northern end of the National park, Jasper was quite cute but we spent only a couple of hours there because the jaw dropping scenery of the Icefields beckoned. When we reached there on our return journey, we took the Athabasca glacier adventure tour by a snow bus which took us right up the glacier to walk in the snow. After that we did the skywalk on the glass platform jutting our in the canyon which was not scary but thrilling. Along the way there is no dearth of ‘Wow’ moments with frozen rivers and lakes, pine forests and snow capped mountains. The mountains seem like iced brownie cakes and are most fascinating because they are so close. And if all that spectacular scenery was not enough- we spotted a grizzly bear crossing the road as we neared Lake Louise for our final stop for the night!
Today was a blessed day and my gratitude to God for making it possible for me to witness this glory of nature !

Last evening after the awesome drive to the ice fields and Jasper, we reached our resort in Lake Louise late evening. The picturesque ski resort we were staying in had remenants of snow and looked inviting but the day had been long so we crashed out for the night.
Today we set out to see Lake Louise early morning. As we neared Fairmont hotel which is the only hotel facing the lake, the spectacular Lake came into view and our cameras started rolling
The lake was all frozen , i was tempted to just run over it ! It has that magnetic pull - but I have enough people to rein me in!
Words are unnecessary when pictures describe the raw beauty that lay in front. Went for a long walk on the snow trail that connects three lakes. experienced the thrill of a snow trek when feet sunk in deep in the treacheous parts of the walk. Some hilarious moments when Raju slipped and landed on his bum while giving me instructions on how to manuver my steps to remain safe, some moments of childlike glee when I filled up my coffee cup to bring the glacier ice home and some simply joyous moments to make these memories etched in the mind forever! Lake Louise with its soaring mountain backdrop is a glacier which is splendid in any season but in its frozen form it is absolutely stunning !
After spending half a day there our drive started towards Vancouver through forests , mountains and rolling fields. The landscape was changing by the hour and we drove along lakes, rivers and canyons for five hours , stopping at Revelstoke for a picnic lunch. Most of the drive was on the edge of lakes as we left the snow capped mountains behind. Almost six hours of drive probably left an ache on BALLI’s shoulders but our hearts and souls were full of joy! The apartment at Kelowna is such a delight that the we have soon forgotten the stiffness of having sat so long on a journey. Now , my favourite part - we cook biryani in this beautiful kitchen. Happy stomachs get happy dreams!

10 MAYThe drive from Kelowna to Vancouver is about 5 hours but it took us over 7 hours because the places enroute were so pretty and then entry into Vancouver was so mind boggling ! A brief stop at Merritte and then a lunch break at Hope and the Bridal veil falls in Popkam broke the journey enough for us to enjoy the changing landscape of lush fields, forests, snow covered Rockies and waterfalls. Reached Vancouver at 6 pm to a lovely two bed room apartment.
After the sandwich lunch, hot pulao with matar paneer was a welcome treat!
Mundane tasks like laundry and planning the next day also have to be done , so nice apartments are necessary to make them exciting over relaxed beers and vodka!

11 May Today there was a lot on our agenda so started early towards whistler to beat the Vancouver traffic and squeeze in maximum in the day. In misty drizzly weather, the drive was ethereal! The first stop at the famous towering Shanon falls , cascading down cliffs was a fantastic photo op before we stopped at a sweet little township called Squamish. On the sea side, with fancy boats docked in the coves , tulips blooming, surrounded by majestic mountains , it was a relaxing afternoon as we walked around aimlessly absorbing the ambience of the arty town. On our way back to Vancouver , the breathtaking views of mountains and sea enticed is to stop at Horseshoe bay for a fish and chips lunch
The views from the bay were exotic and to get closer the the visual treats we took a ferry to Bowen islands. This was a slice of heaven! I plan to come and spend a week here sometime. The serene waters at the sheltered bays of the island , the mooring boats at the marina, the lush green hiking trails- it is an idyllic destination in the middle of Howe Sound!
If there is God, He must live here!
Loved every minute of it. We tore ourselves away from the pristine beauty of Bowen to fight the rush hour as we rushed to our home ! Lovely day spent.

12 May After we returned our car today, BALLI was relieved to be out of the driver’s seat but the rest of us missed the comfort of the plush Dodge SUV ! Anyway, I love to explore cities by public transport. It gives you the local feel and flavour and the challenge of figuring out routes somehow excite me ! So we bought a day transport pass each and took all modes of public transport to wander randomly in the city. First the metro to reach the Water front, then the sea bus to sail through the water to reach Londsdale island and then the bus to Granville island. All were so clean, efficient and comfortable. The Waterfront has the high rise buildings, upmarket shopping areas and the beautiful sea, Londsdale is a bustling island with views of the Vancouver skyline and ports, Granville is an artistic green island where for the first time I saw a broom boutique!
Gastown ,named after "Gassy" Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman who arrived in 1867 to open the area's first saloon is a picture-perfect collection of old buildings, and cobblestoned streets. It has become a high end shopping street and has the iconic working steam clock, one of only a few in the world. Fascinating to see it whistle and steam coming out of it.
Stanley park though lovely with its blooming tulips and a variety of exquisite flowers, was a disappointment because it’s too huge to walk around and the park bus was too expensive to take for the hour we had allocated for it. So another time !
In the evening we went back to Londsdale to participate in the festive environment on Friday evenings. It was worth the time because the weekend spirit of Canadians is infectious and we came back rejuvenated !
It was a lovely day exploring the essence of Vancouver!

13 May It’s a long journey from Vancouver to Victoria - first one and a half hour by bus and train then one and a half hour by ferry and waiting times in between makes it a four hour trip one way. But the journey is a part of the alluring day we spent. The bus shows you parts of metro Vancouver you wouldn’t see as a tourist , so it’s nice to get a feel of the city. The ferry ride is pleasant for its views of the harbour on either side and the snow capped mountains on the edge of the sea.
As the ferry touched Victoria , we stood on the deck and soaked in the beauty of nature all around ! Victoria is a city of gardens, the capital of British Columbia and a beautiful Island city with the jewel in its crown- The Butchart Gardens. Another hour from the port, bus 75 takes an hour to get there. Driving past wealthy neighbourhoods , their manicured lawns, immaculately trimmed hedges and yachts moored in coves, the journey is a pleasure!
Pictures don’t do justice to
Butchart gardens. The gardens are a feast to the eyes ! The variety of flowers, ferns and trees, The graceful dancing fountains , the murals draped in moss , the baskets of pansies and the pathways laden with tulips make it an enchanting park.
Downtown Victoria has imposing buildings seeped in history , though we didn’t have time to explore much of it. Our last day in Vancouver was a memory we will cherish for times to come

14 MayToday was D day. Our Alaska cruise starts today The highlight of the trip ! This has been on my bucket list for years and finally the day has come! We had done a recce yesterday so so it was easy to find the terminal for boarding. Huge place but very well organised to have 12000 people checkin for 4 different cruises with immigration and baggage. It took 2 hrs to finally reach Westerdam of the Holland America liner. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it ! Straight away we dived into the huge dining area towards a lavish spread. If this is what we are going to be tempted with on the next seven days , I’ll have to overhaul my wardrobe to the next size soon!

Westerdam is another world! The sea at your feet and the blue sky above- not connected to the world- the spirit is free!
I’m enjoying this total break from life. There is no internet here so no post for a few days ! Take a breather!

15/5/18. The boat docked at Ketchikan , the first city of Alaska. This was where 14 men came to settle in the early 18th century and soon after a red light area came up pioneered by Dolly who ran away from home in America and set up her business here. She is an important part of history of the town now with her house being a tourist spot on the famous Creek Street! What attracted people to this place was the potential of Gold and Salmon. It is still the Salmon capital of the world and gold nuggets are sold in the souvenir shops. History is on the posters through the town and every corner has impressive Totem Poles - depicting the native culture. We took a walking map from the visitor centre and left our footprints on every inch of Ketchikan before we boarded the ship for our next destination. As we sailed up north, the wind got a chill and the snow covered mountain peaks started giving the feel of Alaska !
Westerdam is sheer luxury! Sample cuisines from world over, get spoilt by the hospitality of the crew and view changing landscapes in the lap of luxury !
It’s 10 days away from real life!

16/5/18. Juneau was our next stop today. It is more north in Alaska , so colder, but a similar small town and as many jewellery shops as were there in Ketchikan. It seems some ladies come on the cruise only to buy expensive jewellery. The tanzanite, Alaskan gold, Ivory, northern light stones and topaz and other precious stones are exquisite and so well set that you drool over every piece.
No I didn’t buy any ! But feasted my eyes over lots. But no that was not the highlight of today.
Today was THE BEST day of my travels!
We went by helicopter to the Herbert Glacier and then went Dog sledding in Alaska! A dream come true! The glacier was - what’s the superlative word for the most beautiful place on earth? The dogs were adorable and the experience was truly once in a life time kind!
The dog camp on the glacier which is the third largest on earth , had over 150 dogs. Their excitement to see tourists get down from the helicopter is infectious, and they go mad with excitement at their chance to run the sleds. 16 doge took us for a good round of the glacier on the sledge after which the helicopter got us back , flying over glaciers, forests , lakes and mountains. What a day! After this we did not want to do anything else lest we dilute this ecstatic moments we spent.

17/5/18. Today we docked at Segaway in North Alaska. We took the white pass tour into Canadian Alaska through 3 time zones interesting journey and nature at its best !

19 May We are at glacier bay today. This is what Alaska cruise is about because there is no other way to reach here. It is a lesson in resilience of life , Aqua blue , aqua green , opal white, smoky grey , gold water changing colours , sublime , shimmering, divine space, glaciers in various forms - this was not always a bay- it was a wall of ice 200 years ago, today its a biosphere reserve untouched. It is a wonder of nature. Truly blessed to be here!

19/5. The highlight of today’s journey was the Glacier Bay. Westerdam took a detour and sailed around the bay which was a huge wall of ice about 200 years ago. Today the glaciers having receded , it is a bay with magnificent glaciers and majestic wilderness areas surround it. The Margerie glacier is a tide water glacier extending 23 miles and large chunks of ice fall from it making a thunderous sound every 10-15 min. It is an incredible sight! I could not help going live on it since I wanted to share this experience with all my friends and family. The next best thing to experiencing it is to at least see it live on video. I give 10/10 to the cruise operators to have given us one full hour to soak in the views and the wonders of nature. As the ship circled the bay the colours of the water turned from opal to gold to aqua green to blue, the ice chunks floating on blue water made the earth look like the sky with clouds and the serenity of the place took you beyond the earth to another world! The magnificence of nature makes an atheist believe in blessings of God!
Glacier bay is a slice of heaven. Just for this the Alaska cruise is worth it!
Day before I thought nothing could surpass the dog sled experience on the Herbert glacier but now after glacier bay, I don’t know which one to rate higher !
Alaska is amazingly beautiful!
Some more pics as we travelled along! Having an ice cream in Alaskan snow is unbeatable!

20 May -The weather Gods have been very kind to us throughout the trip with exceptionally sunny days for us to enjoy Alaska in its full glory. Today it’s grey and drizzly but it’s ok because today is just a sailing day on the sea. Enjoyed the ship facilities today. Attended an art auction ( very educative) cooking class, stage shows and talks. It’s a 11 storey structure about 1 km long - every evening there are world class shows , best brand shopping , health clubs and gyms and perfectly synchronised days!

21 May

We woke up to a mystical sight of the snow clad mountains covered with mist and hundreds of boats on the sea lake. We relished Our last morning on Westerdam with a coffee on the deck and a king’s breakfast to reach Our final destination - Seward. we disembarked from Westerdam and started our land part of the tour. A coach took us through a picturesque drive to Anchorage-the largest city in Alaska , though not its capital. The drive reminds you of Santa Claus stories !
Driving along was the Turnagain river where Captain cook came sailing and turned back because the wall of snow would not let him proceed, we came to the airport to take a flight to Fairbanks - on the border of the Arctic circle! Truly On Top Of The World!

Fairbanks is a small historical town that was devastated in 1964 by a tsunami and became a tourist destination. Walkable on 20 min it’s not glamorous but there is something quite adorable about it !

22 May Beautiful morning ! Nip in the air, fresh breeze, after a good night’s rest in Fairbanks , I’m good to go! Today we drive to Denali national park which is 6 million acres of Alaska’s interior wilderness. Its the tundra region we read about in our geography lessons. The McKinley mountain is the high point and we expect to see some wild life there.

No, no wild life spotted but a pretty drive and a very charming resort with our room overlooking a glacier fed river half frozen. McKinley is Alaska’s highest mountain, and Denali is a national park on the foothills. Pretty picture postcard kind of place !

By the way , the sun sets at 11.30 pm and rises at 4.30 am so it just doesn’t get dark because dusk is after midnight and dawn at 1 am! It’s 10.30 pm now and the sky is like it is 5 pm back home. How to sleep?

23 May Today I’m convinced that God loves me! This area has not had such great weather for so many days during this part of the year but all through the trip the weather has been tailor made for us ! The train journey from Denali to Anchorage is an experience by itself! The sighting of mount Denali is marred by the clouds almost 70 %!o(MISSING)f the time. Then what explains the perfect weather as we passed snow fields , bridges and then it turned cloudy and drizzly when we passed the forests, making them an ideal setting , but dampening our chances of seeing mount Denali- their equivalent of our Mt Everest.BUT..... as we approached the mountain, the curtain of clouds lifted and bright sunlight shone on the snow covered majestic mountain towering amongst the Alaskan mountain Range to proudly display its magnificence to our yearning eyes! That’s the moment I felt the ‘ I Love You’ from God!
The glass domed train is a luxury by itself with a glamorous bar and dining car making a slow paced 7 hour journey to Anchorage to end the 10 day extravaganza !
Anchorage is a pretty city- the most populated one in Alaska with 300,000 in about 2000 so miles!
It’s modern, well laid out, and lively in the picturesque setting of mountains on three sides and sea on the fourth. Tomorrow we shall explore more!

24 May Today is our last day in Alaska and the last day of our holiday together. After that we leave for Chicago in the evening. A wandering day in Anchorage relishing the great three weeks we spent together. Souvenirs shops, an Alaskan heritage museum , sea side walk and some street food made the day.
Starting at Toronto, driving to Niagara falls, flying to Calgary, driving from there to Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise , kelowna, Hope, and then Vancouver, a day trip to Victoria and the Butchart gardens, then the cruise through Ketchikan, , Juneau, ( dog sled tour on the Herbert glacier Segaway , Glacier Bay to Seward- Fairbanks followed by a land tour of Denali, the gorgeous train trip back to Anchorage - it has been a journey to remember ! We have had some great trips together and this one has added to the list. Now both of us continue it for another week before we head home.

25 MAYWe took a shopping break in Chicago before going into Canada again. Chicago is too big to sightsee in a day, so we just drove around as much as possible but shopped to our heart’s content! America is great for shopping. I remember the suitcase full of clothes I got on my first visit here! Nostalgia made me do it again! So can’t say much about the place but it was an interval from all the natural beauty we have seen in the past three we fly to Montreal. Waiting at the airport for a delayed flight.

26/5. Last night we reached Montréal at midnight. The streets were busy and the city was alive. Didn’t have much trouble reaching the apartment but utterly exhausted with the full day running around in Chicago greedily shopping and then rushing to the airport to a delayed flight.
So today was a lazy morning, thanks to the morning rain- got some time to slow down, but we were on the streets by mid day and just got back to our apartment after 12 hours. Happily exhausted!
Montreal has a different flavour altogether. Seems more like France than Canada. Specially the old town is very charming. Stone cobbled, no traffic streets, cafes on road sides and happy people idling away ! Beautiful architecture , the river running by, the bay bustling with activity , the French Nakhra. We had the day pass , so solved the metro and bus transport puzzle- got lost a couple of times and on one of these wrong turns , came across a treasure market. French antiques! I wish I had luggage space to carry the exquisite curios, furniture books , music and paintings! unfortunately, by the time I get conversant with the whole system , it’s time to move. No matter how many times you’ve ascended cobblestoned Place D’Armes to see this Gothic Revival masterpiece come into view, its massive arches, splendid bell towers, and striking stonework still astound
Tomorrow is oTTAWA

27/5 Today was Ottawa. About 2 hrs away, it’s too small to be Canada’s Capital but makes sense when you hear the story behind it. The Queen had a lot of sense and chose well. Montreal and Quebec fought for being the Capital, so she took a mid point and killed the issue ! Smart woman!
The city has beautiful architecture and is being developed well. A boat cruise shows you most of what is there to see, and the rest we walked. A pleasant day out !

28/5 Today is the last day of the holiday - Quebec - three hours away from Montreal , it is the oldest city of Canada- so it has many historic buildings that lend it Character. Our first stop was at Montmorency falls - higher than Niagra falls, though not very wide. Water falls always have a mesmerising effect on me and this was more so because the water is black before it falls, turns opal, pale gold and then cream as it gushes down rocks! The trolley takes you up to get the cascade view, then there is a suspension bridge to get a view from top. There was a more picturesque option of descending- steep stairs coming down. At first I gave up and thought I would go back by the trolley, but then I thought - what the heck , I did more in China- let me give it a try!
So took the steps down. Made it albeit with aching knees !
As we strolled around the old town, it started raining, but can’t complain- we’ve had it so good with the weather throughout !
The town seemed more romantic in the drizzle - guarded by fort walls with canons on the edge of a wide river , narrow cobbled streets, art shops, boutiques and restaurants , heavy castle like stone buildings , sculptures and bronze statues at every square - the old town is very French! Tulips are blooming and cherry and plum blossom give Quebec a picture postcard look !
Someday I want to come and spend a lazy week here - one day doesn’t do it justice ! Quebec is the prettiest city of Canada. Niagara gets all the glory, but Montmorency Falls—about seven miles from Quebec City—is actually 99 feet higher, and it’s magnificent to behold.

29 May As the one month sojourn ends and I look back on the holiday, I will remember these special moments; My vote goes to....
The ecstatic moments of the trip: Glacier Bay on the Alaska cruise. The Herbert Glacier Dog sled from Jeneau
The ‘Wow’ moments of the trip: Butchart gardens of Vancouver and ice fields before Jasper
The serene times on the trip: Lake Louise and Banff
The exciting times on the trip: Niagra falls besides the shopping in Chicago
The picturesque journeys : the White Pass from Skagway and the Denali to Anchorage train journey
The most charming towns; Squamish, Hope and Quebec

Divine intervention during the trip: the rail journey getting delayed , so got the great opportunity to get out of the deal and drive up to Vacouver. The rail trip would not have given us the opportunity to stay at Banff, lake Louise , Kelowna on the way to Vancouver. We would have seen some of it through the glass domed train but not experienced this beauty of these small towns , the flavour of Hope, Merrit and Squamish.
The architectural diet of the trip: Montreal, Ottawa , Quebec and Chicago.
The highlight of the trip: The Alaska Cruise !
It was a month that has rejuvenated us to go back to work for the next 11 months.
Tomorrow we are leaving for home taking back memories of a part of the world God has bestowed with beauty beyond measure.
Thank Preeti and Balli for being great travel companions. BALLI for being the angel ( inspite of his ribbing and cribbing ) to drive us all the way. Preeti for calming the impatient one, Rohan for joining us for a short spell but bringing a lot of warmth with him.
I specially thank all of you for virtually traveling with us and being the inspiration for me to write everyday. It was like talking to friends and sharing the joy of our travels. After all traveling alone is no fun!
Wanderlust will take me to another part of the world in 2019. Let’s see where! So till then... spread love and joy around.

30 may Started from Montreal at 9 am yesterday and after 32 hours of all different modes of transport , still traveling home! The worst part of the holiday is the exhausting travel.
The Swiss airways seemed like a charter plane from Ahemdabad - noisy loud families , with super excited kids on their first air travel - didn’t let me sleep in peace and after being on the super smooth Canadian roads , the bumpy , truck infested Mumbai Pune highway is not agreeing with my pampered back! Waiting to get home to the comfort of my bed!
Tomorrow starts with the excitement of school! Lots to share and celebrate !

From coast to coast, Canada is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world with its soaring mountains, lush forests and stunning beaches. In the center of it all you will find a not so hidden gem just a couple hours north of Toronto that has captured the hearts of millions of people all around the world. Canada is a Gorgeous Country....imagine a country that stretches from jewel like cities on the sea to towering mountain ranges, few nations are as blessed with natural splendor or as dedicated to protecting it. 41 national parks boast millions of acres of unspoiled lands to explore, and spectacularly diverse cities provide thrilling culture, architectural beauty and European flavor from a heady mix of colonial British and French cultures dating back hundreds of years.


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