Monday, June 9, 2008

Cruise To Alaska: Juneau, Skagway, Mendenhall Glacier, Sawyer Glacier (Part IV)

We passed lots of small fishing boats fishing for salmon and we were constantly seeing large salmon leaping out of the water. Later on six dolphins came alongside right where we were sitting in the lounge and for 10 minutes or so they kept alongside leaping in and out of the water obviously enjoying themselves and our company. It was super to see them so close to the boat.

It has been a great cruise, Alaska has been wonderful. The weather has been much warmer than I thought it would be, all my heavy jumpers are unused. We have had quite a lot of rain but mostly this has been at night and hasn't spoilt any of our trips. In fact the only time we got wet was at Haines.

We disembarked from Windward and checked into the Coast Plaza Hotel at Stanley Park.

We walked to Stanley Park. Everyone in Vancouver is so helpful, if they see you looking at a map, which we were doing frequently, they stop and help.

We went into the aquarium. Just before we went into the aquarium we saw four raccoons being fed bread by a family. I have never seen raccoons in the wild before. They came quite close to us and didn't seem at all frightened.

Beluga whales

The aquarium,which is in the middle of Stanley Park, was really good and very well laid out. There were lots of hands-on things for children to do. We had some good views of Beluga whales which are all while and live up in the cold waters of Alaska. We were told there are more Beluga whales in Canada than anywhere else.

We took a horse bus ride round the park. The cart was pulled by a couple of grey shire horses that had been born in England and had been flown out by Air Canada three years ago. We had an interesting commentary as we clip clopped around the park. We saw a group of totem poles that looked splendid in the sunshine. As we drove round we saw a bronze statue on a rock just in the bar, called 'Girl In a Wet Suit'. The people of Vancouver had wanted to put a little mermaid there but the Danish people said no, quite rightly, so there is a little statue of a lady diver with flippers and goggles. It is about the same size as the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen but not as beautiful.

We had a great sunset across the Pacific Ocean tonight and after the sun went down the Rockies were like cardboard cutouts against the afterglow which gradually turned from bright orange to red then purple.

The following day we drove through China town which was just waking up, and then into Gas Town. The city was originally known as Gastown after saloonkeeper "Gassy Jack" who looked after the needs of lumberjacks and sailors in the 1860's. The statue of Gassy Jack, so called because he used to tell tall stories in the bars, looks like a drunk standing on top of a barrel which is probably what he was.

In 1886 it took on the more dignified name of Vancouver after the navigator George Vancouver.

We stood watching the Gas Clock. This clock is the world's first and probably only steam-powered clock. It signals the hours with a resounding whistle and with much blowing out of steam. It makes a wonderful sound. Although this clock has only been around since 1977 it has very quickly become an attraction in Vancouver, and certainly of the Gastown neighbourhood. Claimed to be the world's first gas powered clock, the steam comes from underground pipes that supply heat to many of the buildings in downtown Vancouver. The clock whistles every 15 minutes and the whistle is a replica of that from a famous B.C. lake steamer the "Naramata". While waiting for the whistle the interior workings of the clock can be observed through glass panels in the sides.

We passed the 9pm gun, so called because daily at 9pm it was fired so sea captains could check their instruments.

We crossed Lions Gate Bridge. This bridge was built with money donated by the Guinness family who had a lot of property over the bridge, now one of the most expensive places to live in Vancouver.

We went on to the Capilano suspension bridge. This suspension bridge is 230ft above the fast flowing waters of Capilano Canyon. I ventured about a quarter of the way over and then turned back, it was swaying too much for me

We went on to Prospect Point. There is a great view of the City from here. Lastly our tour of Vancouver ended up at Granville Island, a triangular peninsula of markets, cafes, galleries, boutiques and theatres. The whole complex is huge and we only managed to see a small part of it. We walked down to the waterfront and watched the water taxis doing a good trade. There is a wonderful indoor market and the food looked very inviting

We have loved this holiday. Alaska has lived up to and surpassed all my expectations.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and we will come back here again. We fell in love with Canada and the Canadians.

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