timistravels

My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Petersburg, Alaska’s “Little Norway”

Jan. 28-29, 2015

This will be the first of 3 visits to Petersburg, Alaska for the year 2015.  I am assisting them as they hire a new superintendent of schools.  This is a short blog which highlights the community of Petersburg in the words outlined in job description for the superintendency!  map

Petersburg is an island home to approximately 3,000 residents, where small town life influences the social and work environments. The town, located on the north end of Mitkof Island, is nestled among the forested islands and mountains of Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage.  Nearby Frederick Sound is a summer feeding grounds for hundreds of humpback whales. The Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area, with its beautiful LeConte Glacier calving off tons of bright blue icebergs, is a short boat ride away.

Mitkof Island was once home to Tlingit fish camps. Present-day Petersburg was settled in the 1890’s by Norwegian fishermen and families. To this day, Petersburg reflects the cultural and artistic influences of its early roots.

Petersburg is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rainforest. In 2014 Petersburg had record rainfall receiving over 115”, though this rain helps the lush environment. Its maritime climate means that summers are cool and winters are mild. Average precipitation is approximately 110 inches, which mostly arrives in the form of rain. Recreational opportunities abound in this area of natural beauty including boating, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, sea kayaking and whale-watching.

Homeport to one of the most productive commercial fishing fleets in the state, Petersburg has three busy fish processing plants operating in the summer. Both the Forest Service and Coast Guard have a presence in Petersburg helping add to the diversity of the community.

There is twice-daily Alaska Airlines jet service to either Juneau/Anchorage or Seattle, and the Alaska’s Marine Highway System ferries dock in Petersburg. Excellent medical services include a hospital with a clinic and long-term care unit, four doctors, two dentists and a full-service pharmacy. Attractive senior citizen housing is also available. Many families are second and third generation residents who have grown up in Petersburg and graduated from the schools their own children and grandchildren now attend. The stability of the community and educational environment contributes to a longstanding reputation for high student expectations and achievement.photo (14)

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Unalakleet, Alaska~ Jan. 15-16, 2015 and NO SNOW!

Jan. 15/16

Last year I was unable to fly into Unalakleet because they had so much snow, this year, NONE.  Unalakleet is on the NW coast of the Bering Sea, just under the community of Nome.  It was a beautiful day as I flew in and the sun was setting over the community.  It was in the high 20’s low 30’s while I was there and I enjoyed a quick walk to the beach and the ability to beach comb a bit!    The Elders are worried about the continued warming of the region.  There were locals that had just gone out on a seal hunt, not normal for this time of year.

If you want to know more about Unalakleet, check out my blogs from Jan. 2012 and 2013!  Here are some pics!  The photo of me is with Donald Masters, Donald originally from Unalakleet is a former student of mine (at UAS).  He’d gone south for college but has moved back home~ and I got to see him, what a treat!

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landing in Unalakleet! Sun starting to set about 4:30!

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swinging around to the airport

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Sunset on the day I left, this is a beautiful community.

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drift wood on the beach, locals use it for fire wood

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another view looking down the beach

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long lost friends… last saw each other over 15 years ago! JOY

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Little Diomede, you CAN see Russia from this Alaska town!

Jan. 15-16, 2015

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Opik and her scoop to help grab the crabs with! (photo courtsey of Opik Ahkinga)

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this photo was taken on Little Diomede but you can see how close Big Diomede is. Big is part of Russia! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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Little Diomede sits in the Bering Sea just off the coast of AK near Nome.

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This is Little Diomede (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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There is one helicopter flight in/out of Little Diomede each week, there are no planes as there is no place for a runway. This is a remote community.(photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Okay, NO I did not get to go to Little Diomede, but there was a woman at my training ( which was held at the regional office in Unalakleet https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/flying-wild-alaska-unalakleet-adventure-jan-16-18-2012/?preview=true&preview_id=34&preview_nonce=6a772c9321 ) that grew up there.  I felt like a reporter asking her questions about her home town!  Her name is Opik Ahkinga, Opik is her Eskimo name and the name she has always gone by.  Opik translates to “snow owl”!

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Happy Crabber Opik Ahkinga! So blessed to meet this woman! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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the hole made in the ice to get crab! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Opik spends much of her time helping her village become aware of humans environmental impact.  She shared many stories of growing up there and how for years there were ‘disposable’ items such as water bottles.  They had never seen such a thing, but once ‘western ways’ moved to Little Diomede there was a need to educate on how to remove unwanted material.

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a days catch! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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one by one! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Another interesting discussion I had with Opik was her talking about subsistence living.   She is a crabber.  She crabs by digging a hole through the ice of the Bering Sea and dropping a line with bait.  She prefers smelt, but any fish is acceptable.  She drops down about 60-80 feet but can go down as deep as 100 feet.  Opik talked about 2 main kinds of crab that she gets; Blue King which is very tasty, Blue King is fished where there is a rocky bottom.  The other is Red King, not as good as good as Blue but still yummy.  Red King is caught in more mucky bottom areas.  In the winter these crab come ‘in’ to spawn where in the fall and summer they are further off shore.

And though Blue King is so sweet and tasty, the Spiny King is the best!  Historically  these Spiny Kings were found Japan and eastern Russia.  The first time they were found in AK were off of Little Diomede in 2003.  However, by 2010 they were really showing up in the waters around St. Lawrence Island and other communities in the Bering Sea.

Opik shared other interesting stories with me including the fact that she remembers going with her Grandpa to the international date line to trade with the Russians. Big Diomede is part of Russia, though it is just miles from Little Diomede and can been seen across the Bering Sea.  The international date line separated them and they are less than 2 miles apart.  Big Diomede is actually only a Russian military base.  Both Big and Little Diomded ‘communities’ are on the west side of the islands.  She shared that her father used to go to school on Big Diomede.  Another story was that  in 1952 her uncle (mom’s brother) went out to hunt and  was found and taken by the Russians.  He was kept captive for 50 days before he was released and sent home.

There is so much history in this part of our great state and so few know anything about it.  I feel blessed to have met Opik and look forward to more conversations in the years ahead.

side note that made me smile; the mascot for Little Diomede; the “dateliners”  isn’t that cute?

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Visited 5 countries in 27 days; the numbers! (Mostly Spain and Paris)

DAYS
20 days in Spain
4 days in Paris
A day each in Andorra, Portugal, and Gibraltar

TOURED
Toured 5 palaces
Drove 4178 k’s or 2611 miles
According to the Fitbit we walked 137 miles
Toured 12 Cathedrals (and saw 1000’s of churches)
Explored 17 cities
Rode countless metro’s, busses, trains, and even 1 taxi ride
Toured 3 art museums
Took a boat ride on the Mediterranean
Toured a park (yes we paid to enter a city park)
Climbed to the top of 2 towers
Went to 1 flamenco show
Attended the ballet
11 hotels ( + stays with friends a few nights)
2 gigs of data: one in iphone one in iPad mini.
9 flights (Juneau, Seattle, San Francisco, Paris, Madrid, Paris, Houston, Seattle, Juneau)
Countless liters of sangria
3 pairs of Spanish shoes purchased

MONEY
These numbers are pretty accurate
Hotels $700 (the nights in Paris Hilton were free with points)
Tours $400
Driving $1250 (car, tolls, gas, parking AND public transportation, Paris was $150 of this because we stayed out by airport)
Phone/data $30
Flight Paris to/from Madrid $500 (increased because we checked luggage)
Air mileage ticket from Juneau to Paris (free)


Other things we noticed!

It’s hot once you are in the subways!
Spanish language is VERY different from the language spoken in the Catalonia region,
There was NO country check in at Andorra or Portugal border but we had to show passports to enter Gibraltar,
Harry called intermission of the ballet “1/2 time” ,
Saw storks everywhere in southern Spain, also saw hawks, blue herons and several other unidentified birds,
Spaniards LOVE taking their children everywhere, there were 1000’s of baby strollers in all public areas regardless of how crowded it was; all children are also dressed to perfection! ,
There is no such thing as a Kleenex (tissue) or wash clothes in Spain,
Towels in most of our hotels were embroidered with the hotel names,
We enjoyed listening to Podcasts during the road trips,
and, we CAN spend 27 days together AND walk away smiling!

We are SOOOOOO VERY BLESSED!

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Stop into Consuegra to see the Windmills and castle

Our last car trip in Spain was driving from Granada to Madrid. Along this route is the town of Consuegra, about 40 miles from Toledo. It’s a small town that specifically grows saffron, we saw a tractor rolling down Main Street! Small town USA-like!

We followed the signs to the castle as the windmills are right beside it.
These windmills were made famous in the adventures of Don Quixote. We easily drove up the hill to the top an had breathtaking views of the farmland surrounding the town.

The only slow up was the farmer and his sheet crossing the road!

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just above the town of Consuegra

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farmer walking his sheep on the hillside, slowed our drive down a bit!

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The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Jan. 6, 2015

The beauty of Alhambra in part is its gardens and fountains, of which we did not see on a sunny, but cool January day. This was the fifth palace we had explored during this month long vacation in Spain. We had heard so much about it and know that it’s one of Spain’s major attractions yet it left us a little in awe of this ranking.

Don’t get me wrong, the entire facility is interesting AND we loved the Morrish influence, the tiles and the plaster designs are breathtaking. The palace is filled with decorative walls, doorways and ceilings! They destiny are worth seeing it’s just that other palaces on this trip have been breathtaking too, including the Alcázar in both Segovia and Sevilla. The gardens were also beautiful (or we knew it would be with flowers etc ).

Originally built in 889 it was abandoned until around 1059 when the Morrish rebuilt it and made it a royal palace in 1333. During his time of power Napoleon tried to destroy the palace and succeeded in blowing up two towers. This began another round of abandonment. Finally in 1870 it was declared a national monument. There is constant renovation occurring and we witness many aspects of that on our tour. It took about 4 hours to visit everything.

We had not seen so much Moorish influence elsewhere in Spain, there was much more here. Gift shops and street vendors had items for sale we’d seen in Istanbul rather than in Spain. It brought back good memories from former trips.

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there was ice in this fountain

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the gardens are beautiful. The groundskeepers are doing a lot of work on them to try to bring them back to their original style.

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Ronda, a must see while in Spain.

Jan 5, 2015

During the months of planning for this trip one photo kept standing on my mind and that was was one I’d seen of the bridges and cliffs of Ronda. I was very happy that we were able to add a stop in Ronda to our itinerary. We arrived in town midafternoon and got settled into our little cottage housing.

We were advised from Carmen our host at the hotel where to park as we went into town. Being that it was three Kings Day many of the Spaniards were into celebrating and having parades and such, contesting downtown. After parking we headed out to see the sights.

I read that this is one of the most photographed sites in the world. I have nothing to prove that but…the “New Bridge” connects the old city the newer art of town and the outlying communities. It took 42 years to build this bridge which was started in 1751. It hovers above the stunning El Tajo canyon.

We viewed it from above then hiked down the trail to view it from afar. From the top I could also see a “road” that allowed an even better view from further back. We went in circles trying to find that road and as we were just about to give up, we saw it! It was about 2 miles along a cobble stoned road but we did it!

We also saw the “old bridge” to the east of the “new bridge”. Cars drive and people walk across the new bridge daily. What an architectural masterpiece. All and all a great day and worth the trip!

PS. Ronda is know for its bull fighting too, though we didn’t see anything other than the building.

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Gibraltar quick stop to see “the Rock”

Jan. 5, 2014

Unfortunately we were not able to take the ferry ride over to Morocco. This gave us an opportunity to visit Gibraltar and explore the upper rock a bit more. During the visit several times I commented that Gibraltar reminded me of Juneau. A tourist town surrounded by water and cliffs.

We had to show our passports as we enter Gibraltar as it is part of Britain. There are 8000 to 9000 Spaniards that enter Gibraltar on a daily basis to work. The gentleman at the information center indicated that they mostly did jobs that the British did not want to do. A tad bit condescending but I suppose if it’s good for the Spaniards then I’m happy for them.

We got directions on how to go to the upper rock. Once we arrived we parked the car and took off on a hike to the very tip top of the rock. Along the way we saw several monkeys and surprisingly they were not aggressive at all. There’s a huge fine if you are caught feeding them. In many ways I felt as if we were hiking to the top of Mount Juneau at home. It was steep, however here they were sidewalks to hike on.

It ended up being a beautiful day and we can see for miles and all directions including down to Morocco. The gentleman at the information center also indicated that we were on the most southern tip of Europe however we disagree with him and think that Tarifa, Spain is the most southern tip of Europe. Typical Gibraltar to think that they are better than Spain!

Gibraltar is only 2.3 sq miles and all 30,000 residents live in those 2.3 sq miles. One of the most interesting things is that as you enter Gibraltar you actually drive across the regional airport runway, planes often make car stop is there taking off or landing, kind of crazy.

Historically this rock plays a big part in the history of Europe. There has been much military presence there over thousands of years. Most everyone has heard the saying “solid as the Rock of Gibraltar”. This usually refers to a person that is unfathomed by a situation, as this rock remains in tact after centuries of war!

Certainly not the best stop on the trip, but can say we’ve been there. Locals were quick to say they’d accept Euros but gave a terrible exchange rate. The only thing we paid for was park entry so we used cc for better rate. The British Pound is high in value currently.

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Sun filled Sevilla Spain

Jan. 3 & 4, 2015

Sevilla is surrounded by farmlands and orchards, and full of history and Morrish Influence. As we drove towards the city it is a quick transition from these rural areas to the city. Ride bus #3 into the town center and back to our hotel. (1.4 Euro pp.)

First stop Torre Del Orso. This tower marks the spot where ships would return to Spain after their exploration of the new world. They would offload all the gold they had collected and give it to the Queen. The cost to go to the top was only 3 euro, and gives you a great view of the city.

Next stop the Alcázar of Seville or the royal palace in Seville, Spain. It too has Morrish roots as it was originally a Moorish fort. The palace is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and it was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site! The palace is much less elaborate than other palaces we’ve visited on this and other trips but has the most beautiful gardens we’ve seen. There is much Morrish influence that mostly shows in the tiles that adorn every corner of the palace.

Final major stop, the Sevilla Cathedral, is right across the street from the palace. This cathedral took our breath away. Originally it was built as a mosque though most of that was torn down by the Christians who desired to build an even more impressive place I worship. The only remaining part from the mosque is 2/3-3/4 of the bell tower, or the Giraldais, it was originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period, with a Renaissance style top added by Spaniards. It too became a World Heritage Site with UNESCO in 1987.

We enjoyed the climb to the top, 34 flights but no steps. It was purposely built without steps so historically during the Morrish period horses could take people to the top to call for prayer!

There’s a lot to see and do in Sevilla, we tried to hit the highlights in our short time there, getting a good sense of the city. Out big take away, they smoke a lot of cigarettes and there are 1000’s of babies/children in strollers everywhere.

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Two days= 2 rural Monasteries! Guadalupe and San Francisco Palma Del Rio

Jan. 1-2, 2015

After ringing in the new year with friend in Madrid we took off for our southern route visits. First stop, Guadalupe Sanctuary and Monastery. The drive from Madrid was beautiful and quickly we found ourselves in farm land, fruit, chestnuts and olive trees! We had booked a room in the monastery and signs were trying to direct us there, however they sadly were not helpful. We parked in a community lot and went on foot to find it, finally getting to our room!

We toured the Monastery (5 euro pp) and enjoyed all we saw, but understood very little of what the tour guide said as it was all in Spanish! A fellow tourist helped us a few times translating a few thoughts to us. They explained that they have made a conscious effort to NOT offer tours in other languages because they don’t want it to become a huge “tourist destination” rather a place people want to come because they feel a connection to the place.

The sanctuary was built sometime near the end of the 1200’s. But in 1330 Alfonso XI, King of Castille and Leon thought it was too small and ordered another be built which occurred from 1336-38. The monks of Jeronimo used this location for the next 4 centuries. It became a National monument in 1879 and in 1907 Our Lady Of Guadalupe became its patron saint.

Beautiful small town with a charming central plaza. We had a delightful dinner of regional food: beans with chorizo, garlic soup, goat stew and fish with spinach sauce! Though Guadalupe is “off the beaten path” some pass on visiting here. We sure are glad we didn’t miss it.

The next day we awoke and headed to our second monastery, San Francisco Palma Del Rio. However we decided to stop in Portugal before heading there. We had lunch in Elvas, Portugal the took back roads to Palma Del Rio. Enjoyed the country side we saw along the way including cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. as well as storks, hawks, and blue herons. But most of all we saw orange trees, this is the area they obviously come from.

Arrived to our room easily tough had some issues with booking. Finally figured it out but must thank Anna at the front desk for all her hard work. I’d say we could have skipped Palma Del Rio as there is nothing exceptionally interesting here but the drive through farmlands were nice.

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