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

Hanoi, Vietnam first stop of our trip

The noise and the hustle bustle will be what I remember. The streets are packed with scooters and I mean packed. Everyone drives and rides them.

Day 12/11

We landed at 11 pm and took the advise from the person we rented our apartment from; arrange for a pick up, $20 for the two of us! Was so worth it, Dong our driver was there with a sign and got us straight to our apartment! It was a crazy night in Hanoi as they’d just won a huge Soccer championship and the streets were full on celebration.

We rented an apartment in Old Town and it’s perfect. We are right beside Hoan Kiem Lake and blocks from the Dong Xuan Market.

We started morning by getting cash, $2,000,000 or about $85. Crazy high bills! Then we stopped and got a SIM card. 15 G data and 15 minutes of calling for $14! We’re set.IMG_2874.jpg

We started out along Lake Hoan Kiem enjoying the nice park walkway along the edge. From one end we walked a few more blocks to visit the Opera House. Sadly no tours just open for operas in the evenings. Then headed over to Metrepole Hotel which was built in 1909 and survived the bombings during the war.DSCN6288.JPGIMG_2850.jpg

We continued back to the lake and around to the end where the Rising Sung Bridge takes you to the Ngoc Son Temple on Turtle Island. Entry fee $3 for the two of us.IMG_2861.JPG

Onward to the Dong Xuan Market and as warned in the guidebooks it’s basically a market where Vietnamese shop for clothes and accessories. Lots of knock off, nothing too appealing for us.

However outside of the market were lots of food for sale, fruit, corn, beans, vegetables, etc. we bought some apple bananas as we love them.IMG_2878.jpg

We then got a brilliant idea to walk across the bridge over Red River. The Long Bien Bridge was the longest in Asia when it was built. It’s a historic bridge for pedestrians and scooters only, no cars. It was longer than we thought; over 1 mile but was a fun walk.  It was a great relic of the past.   If you look close, you can still see the marks and pillsleft from American bombs.IMG_2884.jpg

DSCN6760.JPG.JPGDSCN6360.JPGWe did bring a cab back over the bridge for < $1. Everything is so reasonable.

Lastly we had dinner with a former student and walked around the lake in the evening with an almost full moon!IMG_2902.jpgIMG_2899.jpg

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Florence, Italy; All You’ve Ever Dreamed it to Be!

img_0923Jan. 19/20, 2017

Florence has about 400,000 people and is the ‘richest’ city in Italy.  It has no true industry other than tourism, banking and handicrafts.  It can not do any more spreading outward because the city has limited where homes and businesses can be built.  One interesting story was the one about the Nov. 4, 1966 flood.  The Arno bridge overflowed and water ran into the town centers, climbing buildings up to 17′ high. It killed 101 people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books.   Much effort has gone into restoration of these works of art, but there are still some that need restored.

We took the fast train to Florence from Venice  and it took about 1.5 hours.  Once in town we hopped on the bus to our hotel which cost 1.25 E per person.  Once settled in we hustled off to town (by foot) so we could visit the Uffizi Museum.    The most wonderful thing of traveling ‘off season’ is the fact that there are NO lines!  We walked right in!  (The cost is 8 E per person).

Before entering the museum we first walked through the courtyards that is lined with sculptures.  This U shaped courtyard was purposely built that shape and went from Arno river to the Plaza de Signoria.   It was built this way to be theatrical!

Uffizi actually means the ‘offices’ and indeed this is a building that is over 200 years full of different offices.  the Top floor was the area for art, but now many floors hold pieces of work.  If you follow the suggested path you basically follow the history and evolution of art.   It is full of so many pieces of art that you need to just stop and take it all in at different moments of the tour.dscn4665dscn4673

We then left and went to the Duomo Cathedral.  After some investigations we found out there was a ticket you purchased for 15 E per person that allowed you into 5 places.  1) the basement museum of the Duomo (the least exciting of the sites), 2) the Baptismal 3) the climb to the top of the tower, 4) the climb top of the Duomo and lastly 5)the museum for the Duomo ( a bit down the street).    It is good for 48 hours, BUT you can only enter/exit each site ONE time!

dscn4780The Duomo is the 3rd largest church in Europe and Duomo means the “home or house of God”.  It was started in the 13th Century and finished early in the 1400’s.dscn4713

One other tip; YOU MUST pick a time for each of these sites, SO go across from the entry to the Baptismal and look for DOOR #7.  There are machines in there that allow you to pick your times.  DON’T lose the slips of paper they give you for entry to the sites FOR SPECIFIC TIMES! 

Day 2

We cranked it today…9-11 walking tour, 11:30-12:15 hiked to the top of the tower, 12:30-1:30 Academia Museum~ The David, 2:30-3:00 Baptismal, 3:00-4:00 wine and snack, 4:30-6:00 climb to top of Duomo and watched the sunset, 6:30-7:15 dinner, 7:30 Ponte Vecchio Bridge.

The Tower was only 414 steps but the stairs are VERY narrow and when you meet someone coming there in no way to avoid physical contact.  Thankfully it wasn’t hot in January!  It was beautiful at the top and allowed for great views of the city.

There was NO line at the Academia Museum  and so we walked right in!  The cost was 12.5 E per person.  It is worth every penny to see Michoangelo’s “David”.  You hear about it your entire life, you see pictures of it, but the minute you see it in person it takes your breath away.  It is stunning.  It’s so big and detailed, he veins, those feet, those hands…. wow it is amazing.dscn4741

dscn4738Stopped through the Baptismal and sat for a while letting the paintings on the ceiling sink in, again it was beautiful.  The outer doors of the Baptismal are bronze and well over 1000 years old.  Each section tells a story from the Bible.dscn4778

Upon leaving we went immediately to the Museum of the Duomo.  This seems to be a brand new museum and contains the remnants of the original face of the church, before it’s update to the renascence era.  It’s worth going through!

We selected 4:3o as a great time to climb to the top of the Duomo as we wanted to be at the top for sunset.  This was a climb of 463 steps, some very steep, but again WELL worth the climb.  The sunset was beautiful and the views of the city were stunning.

Our last stop of Florence was to walk the Ponte Vechio bridge, the ONLY bridge that the Natzi’s did NOT destroy during WWII.  In the days of long ago this bridge was lined with butchers, but over the years the butchers were kicked out and it has become full of jewelry stores and other gift stores.


Florence is amazing and it is fun just to walk the streets and stop in to have a pizza and glass of wine OR some gelato!



A stop through Venice, Italy

Jan. 17/18, 2017

On our whirl wind trip to Venice, Florence and Rome we began in Venice. Staying in Venice proper can be a bit costly not to mention a challenge in finding the place you booked because there are not clear ‘roads’ in Venice! Hence we stayed in Mestre, right across the harbor from Venice and opted to take the train into Venice which ran 1.25 E / per person / per way!

Venice is made up of 118 small islands, most separated by canals. Some of these canals are only 5 feet deep! These islands are connected by 404 different bridges. There are NO motorized vehicles in Venice so boats are the mode of transportation. There are boat taxi’s, (7.5 E per ride or 20 E for unlimited all day), gondola rides (80 E for ride up to 6 ppl for that cost) and a lot of people walking!dscn4538

There are only 50,000 people currently living in Venice and about 2000 leave per year because of the very high cost of living. Most workers live in Mestre and commute over. Mestre has 350,000 people living there!

Our day included a boat ride to Murano Island to view traditional glass blowing, using traditional methods. While touring the store we were shocked that some items were over 100,000 Euro! Beautiful but costly!  Originally the glass was colored by  a variety of items; green= copper/ blue= cobalt and red=gold hence red was the most costly.

dscn4519Once back to Venice we toured around learning about the many campos that are the big squares around the city. Historically these were the gardens or fields of the area. Virtually everyone has a church, a well, and a palace. There are more than 150 churches in Venice and most are Roman Catholic.

dscn4569Ultimately we made it to St. Marco Square, the largest in Venice. It was named after St. Marco the patron saint of Venice. Most simply call it ‘the plaza’ of Venice. We toured St. Marks, (St Mark’s Basilica) the largest church in Venice. All of the gold on the outside is indeed 24 K leaf paint. It took over 700 years to decorate this church. The columns came from Turkey.

dscn4583The Horses of Saint Mark is a set of Roman bronze statues of four horses were first placed on the porch of St. Marks’s in 1204. However, Napoleon took them in 1797, and were ultimately returned in 1815. The horses stayed place on the porch of St. Mark’s until the early 1980s. At that point due to air pollution, and weather issues the originals were moved inside to the museum and the ones on the porch now are exact replicas. To view the inside of the church is free, but it is worth it to spend the 5 E to go upstairs and see the original horses and to see the view from the porch.dscn4592

After St. Mark’s we found the Church of Frari which did cost 3 E to go through but again was worth the money. We used the Rick Steve’s app to listen to his tour of this church.dscn4639

Lastly we walked over to the Rialto Bridge which spans the Grand Canal and it is the oldest bridge in Venice. There were bridges in this location as early as 1181 but this version was built in 1591.dscn4624dscn4542dscn4496

All in all our day was full and we enjoyed the experiences in Venice. Wish we had 1 more day but onward to Florence.


When pigs can fly…

this is from my friend Rachel who spends a lot of time in Antarctica!

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Chevak, Alaska; pull out a map!

March 22-25, 2016

When doing superintendent searches I get to go to a lot of great places, and this adventure lead me to Chevak. I flew from Juneau to Anchorage and Anchorage to Bethel on an Alaska Air jet then took a smaller airline (Grant Air) to Chevak. Chevak is located on the north bank of the Niglikfak River, 17 miles east of Hooper Bay in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Chevak is a Cup’ik Alaska Native village. The original tribe is the Qissunamiut Tribe. Commercial fishing and subsistence activities are an important part of the local culture. The community is not on the road system. The landscape consists of flat tundra and there are no trees, hence when it snows there are a lot of drifts and whipping wind! However, the river and rolling hills create a beautiful village and there are mountains with trees in the distance.

Alaska Native Cup’ik’s have inhabited the region for thousands of years. Chevak is also known as New Chevak because residents inhabited another village called Chevak before 1950. “Old” Chevak, on the north bank of the Kiuqllivik River, 9 miles east of Hooper Bay, was abandoned because of flooding from high storm tides. The name Chevak refers to “a connecting slough,” on which “Old” Chevak was situated. Chevak is one of two remaining Cup’ik communities.

Fish, seal, beluga, walrus, clams, waterfowl, editable plants and berries are harvested in this maritime climate. Temperatures range from -20º (with windchill) to 79ºF, while we were there it was 23 with windchill down in the single digits.  Snowfall averages 20 inches per year. Freeze-up occurs at the end of October; breakup occurs in May or June.

I have to say the Cup’ik people are very friendly and proud of their local traditions and culture, and Chevak is said to be the friendlies village in Alaska. There are a lot of snowmobiles/snow machines AND 4 runners in town, but very few full sized vehicles.  It is a dry village and the sale, importation or distribution of alcohol is banned in the village.


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taking advantage of the strong winds that blow through Chevak.


School District Logo



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kids are so happy and loving!


The Pledge of Allegiance in Cup’ik


When you enter the school there are cabinets full of traditional art!  Aren’t these beautiful?

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Dutch Harbor / Unalaska the port was as busy, ever in February!

Feb. 19/20 (21)

When you land and get off the plane in Unalaska you are happy to stretch your legs and be on solid ground.  It took over 3 hours to get here with a stop along the way in Cold Bay for fuel. The planes are smaller and the bathroom on them give a new meaning to ‘feeling like a sardine in a tin can”.

My friend was there greet me and the first person I met with long time Mayor Shirley Marquardt.  That’s how the day continued.  Meeting a lot of folks and exploring the beauty of the island.

This is the #1 fishing port in the United States for seafood landings and the docks are almost non stop with over 700 million pounds of fish and crab go through there per year.  Because of all this fish/crab work there are eagles EVERYWHERE and they are the biggest eagles I have ever seen.

The community here is so diverse, options for meals out offer great options and king crab is on every menu!  I don’t know if you can ever get sick of those big rich bites of king crab!

I ended up spending an extra day/night because the pilot of my plane called in sick and there was no room on any other flight.  It wasn’t the worst place I have ever been stuck!  That allowed me to explore a bit more.

I enjoyed the visit and hope to be invited back again!


the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of Christ; the oldest cruciform style Orthodox church in N. America!


taken from my hotel window, he stayed out there for a few hours and would stare at me when I came to the window!


the view as I was landing!

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Unalakleet, Alaska with no snow in January

Jan 20-21, 2016

As I flew into Unalakleet my heart sank and I was so saddened to see that there was almost NO ice in the Bering Sea and there was no snow on the ground.  Over the last 7 years that I have been coming here in Jan. this is the least snow or ice I’d ever seen.  I realized that I wished those that think ‘climate change’ isn’t real could come here to see this.

I could only imagine what the locals must be experiencing and someone directed me to this article.  http://www.adn.com/article/20141116/facing-climate-change-unalakleet-will-endure.  It really talks about how the locals are affected by the climate change that is occurring in the region.

My training went wonderfully, I sang an Aleut song with the group.  We had a great time learning, dancing, singing and sharing stories.  I got to visit my friends there and spend time with their children, and you all know how I love being ‘auntie timi’ for an evening.  I love that 3 of the people who came for training brought their small children because we are there for ALL the children of Bering St. School District.  AND I LOVE that I got to see a former student of mine, Donald.  He picked me up at the airport and we got to have lunch together.  He is from here and though he went away for college, he’s back home. These are the reasons I love to visit here and why I can’t wait to return.




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Nome, Alaska’s and a visit to NACTEC

Jan. 13-15, 2016

January in Nome is a lot different than June J https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/council-alaska-and-the-last-train-to-nowhere/ but one thing that is similar is that it is bright and sunny regardless of how long the sun is in the sky. When I was in Nome in June the sunrise was at 4:40 a.m. and the sunset was at 1:20 a.m. for 20 hours of sunlight. In January the sun rose at 11:40 a.m. and set at 4:40 p.m. for 5 hours of sunlight.   The sunrises were absolutely beautiful as were the sunsets!IMG_2854IMG_7402IMG_2898IMG_2843IMG_2845IMG_2851IMG_2852

I like to take a few pictures of grocery store items just to give readers an idea how much items are in the places I visit.  Remember Nome is a ‘hub’ community so their prices are lower than the villages outside of here.

While in Nome this time I was privileged to tour the Northwest Alaska Career and Technical Center or NACTEC as it is known in the region. NACTEC is a joint venture between Bering Strait School District and Nome Public Schools. The focus of the center is vocational and life skill training for students of both districts. A major focus of the school is not only technical skills, but employability skills.

Students attend for 1, 2 or 4 week sessions. Students must apply to attend and travel to Nome for these programs. The students live on campus while they are in town and in there lies the life skills; meal prep, cleaning of common areas and rooms, laundry, time management and living with others. Many of these youth have not been out of their remote villages ever and most will be away from family for the first time.

Classes taught include:

  • Introduction to the Health Field
  • Emergency Trauma Technician
  • Health aid pre classes
  • Profession in the workplace
  • Native Arts and Business and Marketing
  • Business Entrepreneurship
  • Small Business Grant Writing
  • Facility Maintenance Introduction
  • Heavy equipment
  • Renewable energy
  • Welding
  • Arctic survival
  • Outdoor leadership/Guiding
  • Culinary Arts

Studies are indicating an increase in graduation rates that coincide with with the start of NACTEC being offered to village students.    It is a wonderful program.



Cuba; Some final thoughts!


Overall; Dec. 18-29, 2015

In retrospect this was a very memorable trip for a lot of different reasons. Cuba was fascinating, fun and (really) frustrating at times. Up front I know it would have been a lot less frustrating if we spoke Spanish fluently. Our most said words were; “hablo un poco español”, but by the end of the visit it had improved a lot, but those that speak Spanish will do much better. If our first night had started off better it may have eased some of the continued stress of the trip. Sadly our Cubana air flight was 5.5 hours late getting into Havana, THEN our luggage took another 2 hours to be delivered. Finally, as we cleared customs my husband’s Passport was stamped. We had been told “they never stamp Passports, only the travel visa”, well ‘they’ were wrong.  We worried a lot about this, and in the end just had to stop thinking about it.

Thankfully we had 25 Euro to pay for the cab ride to our casa because the Exchange booths at the airport had run out of money. BUT since we were so late NO ONE was at our rented apartment and at 1:30 in the morning we were not surprised but we were so tired.  Eventually a neighbor across the hall heard us knocking and came out to see what was going on. He called a woman upstairs and about 20 minutes later she came down with the key. Finally to bed by 2 a.m. It was a long day. We knew of the US embargo against Cuba (who doesn’t) but President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to restore relations with the Cuba gave us hope about our visit.   In the end it was NOT a problem to have a stamped passport, OR that we got in late, but all those things added stress when we didn’t need any!   We had a lot of highs and a I had a lot of lows, here are a few of our thoughts on the overall trip:

  • Our first 4 days in Havana it rained each day, mostly on and off and actually it cooled down the city and offered great views of waves breaking over onto the streets of Havana.
  • The food is very, very bland and there is not a lot of variety. We heard that there is a food ‘revolution’ happening, but for the most part it is chicken, pork, beef, lamb, with rice and boiled veggies. If we were lucky we got some tomatoes, cucumbers and greens on a plate before dinner. We brought some Chipotle sauce and carried it with us to use on virtually any meal!
  • There is limited wifi and you can purchase a card with a code to use it. When we saw 100’s of people with cell phones OR computers sitting in a park we realized that must be where the wifi exists. Each town had one main park/square with it available. It was 2 CUC’s for 1 hour of usage.  We were happy to find any at all as we had not expected any opportunity for communications.  It was nice to let Mom know we were safe.
  • There are 2 forms of money, the peso’s the locals use and the CUC’s that most tourists use. However, IF you can get some peso’s it costs less for you to purchase street food, pizza’s, churro’s etc. They are MUCH cheaper with peso’s. For Example: a pizza on the street might say “10 peso’s (local money) or 2 CUC’s (tourist money)”. The rate is actually 1 peso= .27 CUC meaning that it costs that the pizza for 10 peso’s would actually only be about .40 CUC’s  a lot less than 2 CUC’s. We traded some of our money for peso’s and were glad we did for a few of these opportunities. Cabs were another place we wish we had more peso’s.
  • We did eat several street side pizza’s. Usually a great breaded crust and a little bit of cheese with some sauce on the top.  They were good.
  • For the most part you will only use CUC’s but most people also accept Euro’s.
  • We met some local’s at our first rental and they helped us secure lodging for our last night in Havana. They also showed us some of the ‘ropes’ of cab rides etc. We will certainly keep in touch with them as they were very helpful and we will suggest to our friends to go through them to rent places in the future etc.
  • The locals are very nice and are very happy to see engage in conversations or at least attempt to engage in conversation with you. The locals are very helpful allowing you to use phones or call their friends to ensure you get to do what your plans dictate.  They do NOT want to talk anything about politics though our last hosts were the most vocal about it. Lionel was an engineer who spoke English, Russian and Spanish. He’d lived in Russia for a year back in the 80’s. He is a very PROUD Cuban and spoke highly of free education, free medical etc.
  • Cubana Air is known to be late, if you fly them be sure to build in an extra day between connections!
  • There are a lot of means of transportation, typical yellow cabs (we never used one), the old 1950’s taxi’s, bicycle taxi’s, pod taxi’s and horse or cow pulled carts.  Nothing is off limits.
  • Casa Particular’s are the way to go for lodging. You typically meet local people and it helps with the transitions. Everyone was more than willing to let us use their phones to call ahead to the next place to stay.
  • All men stare inappropriately at all women.  it is a tad disconcerting, and it is very cultural.  I didn’t appreciate it.
  • Most hosts will offer to make you breakfast and dinner for an additional cost. Breakfast is a great deal and starts your day off on the right foot. We never had dinner as we didn’t want to be tied to a time frame.
  • Yes there are old cars, EVERYWHERE. Most don’t have their original motors, but the car bodies are original! Some are in better shape than others.
  • We met a lot of tourists from Europe and enjoyed the company of other world travelers.  Germans, Polish, French topped the list, but there were so many languages being spoken around us it was hard to discern them.
  • I/we need to improve on my Spanish… my limited words helped a little, but most Cuban’s speak none to very little English. The younger kids are now being taught in school, but up until 10-15 years ago they learned Russian! It was fun to talk with the youth that are learning it as they really want to practice!

In the end our Cubana Air flight was on time leaving and we made our connections. Nothing I worried about happened, and we are really, really, really happy we went to see Cuba now, before KFC, McDonalds and Subway line the city streets.

FYII: Our agenda was such:

  • 4 nights in Havana
  • 3 nights in Viñales
  • 3 nights in Trinidad
  • 1 last final night in Havana before flying out the next day







Trinidad, Cuba; History AND Beaches

Dec. 25-28, 2015; Trinidad Cuba

Trinidad was settled by the Spanish in the early 1500’s with a focus on gold and farming and later in the 1800’s it became a hub for tobacco and sugar. Though once sugar trade slowed, the town almost collapsed. Because of perseverance efforts it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in the late 1980’s. There are remnants of the early Spanish settlers in today’s Trinidad.  The first thing we noticed as we pulled into town (in our 1950’s something station wagon, packed with 9 passengers and our driver) were that the streets were narrow and most are cobblestone.IMG_2680IMG_3595IMG_2690

It is much smaller than Havana, but larger than Viñales.   Our Casa Particular was just blocks from Plaza Mayor. Surrounding the Plaza were many historic buildings, most hosting small art galleries and or stores with traditional Cuban items for sale.     We read that in 2011 there were 4 restaurants in the area and now there are 90. Most have very similar menus, but we managed to find some unique places to eat.


We tried to buy tickets for the bus back to Havana however they were sold out. We then found a guy selling taxi rides to Havana (common) so we gave him our address and asked him for a pick up on the 28th at 8:30. All set, right? (there will be more to this story). We walked around town quite a bit and saw more of the beer carts in the local neighborhoods.

On our last day here we took the on/off bus to the beach arriving about 11:30 and staying until the 5:00 bus home. There were very few people in the water and not sure why but suspect 2 things, 1) water was dirty 2) jelly fish, we saw many folks running out of the water with big red blotches and needing vinegar to pour on the bites, hence we did not venture into the water, but the breeze felt good.  IMG_7251

The sunset our last night was beautiful and we watched it from the Plaza Mayor which was a perfect location! The Cuban music steaming from 5-7 different locations around the plaza added to the experience. Trinidad is a beautiful community full of life and history. I will remember most the cobble stone streets, the horse ‘taxi’s’ and carts and the beautiful sunsets.IMG_2766IMG_7256IMG_2747IMG_7259IMG_2768

On our departure day we were ready and on the porch of our casa by 8:15 and our ‘arranged’ taxi never showed. By 9:00 we headed over to the bus station and got accosted by folks as we walked with our backpacks asking if we needed a ride to Havana. We ultimately ended up in a comfortable 1980’s van with 9 other riders. (25CUC’s/pp), and arrived at our Havana casa about 3 p.m.IMG_2716IMG_2737IMG_3599IMG_2749