Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Qatar Congestion Eases (FAIL)

This totally cracked me up; the Qatar Gulf Times publishes an article about how smoothly traffic flowed on the day the Indian schools opened, noting that Arab and Independent schools will open on succeeding days. They published this photo with the article:

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Morning rush hour traffic on a Doha street yesterday. PICTURE: Najeer Feroke.

LLLOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

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September 12, 2013 Posted by | Doha, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, News, Qatar | Leave a comment

Revisiting Old Haunts and The Island Pub on Douglas Island

First, some random shots from our afternoon in various parts of Juneau, Alaska:

I didn’t take this photo, but I might be in it. I found it in the historical annals available from the Juneau-Douglas Museum. This is the old Evergreen Bowl pool, fed by glacier streams, where I learned to swim. This pool doesn’t exist any more; they have a new, indoor year-round pool:

EvergreenBowlPoolJuneauAK

Out at Mendenhall glacier; no bears this trip, only their crossing sign and a lot of stripped salmon 🙂 Sleep well, salmon-fed bears!

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Kayakers at Mendenhall Lake; this is across the lake from the glacier observation point

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The old Skater’s Cabin, where we used to go ice skating when the lake would freeze. Volunteers from civic organizations would get up early and take home-made snow-pushers, and make paths through the snow on the ice, and clear a large patch where people could skate. The ice was rough, not like an ice rink at all. If you could skate here, you could skate anywhere 🙂

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AdventureMan insisted I stop at this quilt shop while he read brochures in the car, LOL! No, I am not kidding, I am only laughing because he pretended he loves to wait in the car while I visit another quilt shop.
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Dinner was at the Island Pub in Douglas, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. We used to go to this very same restaurant when I was a kid, then called Mike’s Place, only I never got to sit upstairs; I think that the bar was upstairs. Families went downstairs. They told us that they are thinking of renovating and opening the downstairs, too.

00TheIslandPubDouglas

They were packed. We were lucky to get there when we did. I think we were the only people who don’t live on Douglas Island, there were couples and families and friends meeting up after work, and a birthday group – all people who live on the island.

00InteriorIslandPub

The place has a spectacular view, especially around sunset when Juneau, across the channel, just lights up.

Our friend had said this is her favorite place to eat, and she was right! We had the smoked salmon spread, which was really good and really rich:

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When our pizza came, it was also delicious, but the salmon spread on the pizza strips filled us up. We each ate one piece of the huge pizza and packed up the rest to warm up for breakfast the next day. It was still delicious!

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This was one of the best meals we had on our trip. Great beer, great wine, great food, great atmosphere, great view.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Wildlife | , , | 4 Comments

Juneau and Tracey’s Crab Shack

Getting close to Juneau, we spot these very strange cloud formations:

00WeirdCloudsEnRouteToJuneau

As we dock, we call the hotel shuttle from Country Lane and they are there within minutes. They drop us off at the hotel so we can unload our bags, then take us over to the airport so we can pick up our car.

You know me and public art. I love these sculptures in the Juneau airport, and especially that they have the traditional Haida forms as part of their form:

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It is a gorgeous day in Juneau, 70°, hey, the sun is shining, it is very warm, this is a great day. We head immediately in to town for lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack.

This is for my Mom; she likes to see the prices 🙂

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Tracy’s Crab Shack is one smart operation. First – location location location. They are right on the cruise ship docks. First thing you step off one of those giant ships, you see Traceys. Second, they don’t rely on location. They have a first quality product. They don’t compromise. They cook the crab legs right out in the open, fresh, while you wait. They have crowds standing in line to get these crab legs, and you eat outside at butcher paper covered tables; the crab meals are served in paper containers and you SHARE tables. It works.

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We share a table with two rough young men and have a fascinating conversation. They drove up, have had fabulous adventures and we shared information. I said that the thing that surprised me was that I expected Alaska to be more wired than it is; one of them said that his big surprise was to find Alaska as wired as it is, and that wifi is available at a large number of cafes and restaurants. That was fascinating to me, to opposite perspectives. Part of it, I think, was being on the ferry system – all the ferries in Seattle are wired, so it was a shock to me that the Alaska ferries were not.

One of our tablemates had now visited all 50 states, and the other had visited
49 states.

We saw people from all over the world lined up and eating King Crab at Tracy’s. AdventureMan had the crab bisque over rice and I had the crab cakes. Eating King Crab legs is messy, and I didn’t want to smell like crab for the rest of the day.

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Tracey’s is the number one rated restaurant in Juneau on TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. I think it must be the combination of the crowd they attract and the product. Juneau people eat there, too.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 2 Comments

The Alaska Gulf: Chenega Bay to Yakutat All Mountains and Glaciers

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The sky is full of sunshine as we awake, and we are surrounded by snowy
mountains, gleaming in the sunshine. It is unspeakably beautiful. We eat our breakfast cereal and head outside, after listening to the complaints of a group of Texans at the next table.

“It’s like a bunch of hobos!” one man says of the aft viewing room, “I’ve never seen anything like it! They have their big rucksacks and sleeping bags and pillows all over the place!” The sign says you can only sleep from 8 at night to 8 in the morning, but they are still sleeping.”

Well, or still trying to sleep. Many of these people are living on a shoestring, and the ferry is the only way they can get to the doctor, or get their children to school, or get to their next job. They are frugal, bringing on their own food, trying to keep their kids dressed and entertained. The Alaska Maritime Highway has compassion on these travelers, provides a solarium area where campers can set up tents, rent sizable lockers. There are other areas, the aft lounges, where campers without tents can sleep, and this is where the Kodiak football team and cross country teams hung out. There is a children’s play area where families sleep right under the “no camping” signs, and the ferry personnel look the other way. It’s an Alaskan thing. It makes me proud to be born Alaskan. People take care of one another, and cut each other some slack.

Honestly, people, you are on the wrong ship! This is the Alaska Marine Highway, not the Diamond Princess!

We are drawn to the decks, compelled by the gorgeous scenery. Each snow covered mountain has its own beauty. We meet a Canadian couple; she has to excuse herself when the topic turns to food – she is seasick. A Kansan with whom we have a long conversation is also suffering a little from seasickness, and AdventureMan shares a Dramamine tablet with him.

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We have already made our reservations for the great Celebration in Juneau next year. It’s the reason we made the trip this year. As we started talking about the Celebration, which is only held every other year, we had so many ideas we knew we needed to take a reconnaissance trip so we would know how easy – or hard – travel is, and have a better idea what we want to see and do. This ferry trip has been a great introduction, and we have questioned many many Alaskans and travelers as to what they have seen and enjoyed.

Some things we know we don’t want to do. We don’t want to be on buses, going through Denali, following one bear. We don’t want to be on a cruise ship. We don’t want to travel in a group. I kind of think that RV rental might be a good way to go, but the truth is, I prefer sleeping in a bed, and I don’t like cooking in camping situations. As I see it – and I’ve done a lot of camping – camping is hard work. It’s all the things you have to do at home – shop for food, prepare food, cook food, and clean up – done under the most primitive conditions. I think we will look for an auto rental and good lodges and restaurants along our route, whatever that route is, after the Celebration in Juneau.

What is the Celebration? The Celebration is sponsored by Sealaska, and brings together all the tribes and clans of Alaskan native inhabitants to share knowledge. They wear their ceremonial clan robes and have a parade down the Main Street of Juneau. They gather to do the dances, transmitting their legends and language to their children. They share craftsmanship; the baskets, the robe making, wood carving, totems. If it is anything like the desert festivals we attended in Tunisia, it is also a time when the young men and women of different – but related – tribes can eye one another with marriage in mind, good for getting some healthy variation in the gene pool. I can hardly wait to see this.

I had planned to call the car rental again as soon as I hit Chenega Bay or Yakutat, so we will have a rental car when we hit Juneau again, but . . . I can only laugh now at my presumption . . . there is no service at either. My phone does not work. It is frustrating.

When I pack for trips, the worst of my obsessive-compulsiveness kicks in. I make lists, and check them – more than once. I order the right maps, and go over them. I check and double check reservations.

This trip, assuming I could just call and use my Google Maps and GoogleEarth, I didn’t worry. Information, in this wonderful day of technology, is literally at my fingertips. This has been a great lesson in just how dependent we all are on technology, and how devastating it is to learn that it cannot always be relied upon.

Dolphins frolic, so many and so hard to photograph as they move so quickly!

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When I saw this, I thought at first it was part of the tsunami trash drifted over from Japan, and then I saw it was a flat barge loaded with containers. So loaded with containers, you can hardly see the barge:

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A brief shift in the weather:

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We are out on the deck most of the day, just watching this grandeur pass by, huge mountains, gigantic glaciers, parading past, one after another:

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Someone said this is Mount Saint Elias, but I don’t think it is. None the less, it was a very high mountain, higher than anything near. This is the very tip. I spent hours trying to find a time when the whole mountain would come into view . . .

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This is about the best I could get, the most of the mountain exposed:

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This is what I was dealing with for hours as we passed – it truly is a huge mountain, but weather shifted often, and it was shrouded in these thin grey bands of clouds:

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We passed several glacier fields, and I think this one was the Behring:
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We are nearing Yakutat, the sun is setting:

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In Yakutat I have just enough coverage to make a car reservation before we hit the sack.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments