The ‘itch’ to visit Glacier National Park in Montana came about after watching a Discovery Channel show about the best places to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Did I see the northern lights – you’ll have to keep reading to find out!
The trip, taken over the Fourth of July weekend, was a spur of the moment decision and some compromises were made on sleeping arrangements. Glacier National Park campgrounds were booked solid, so we settled on St Mary/ East Glacier Kampgrounds of America.
The most exciting moment of going to Glacier National Park was getting there. The 50 mile drive from via Going-to-the-Sun-Road is spectacular. If the sun is shining and the snow has melted, taking in the beauty of the park can take up to three hours to drive from the West entrance to the East entrance. This isn’t because traffic is terribly slow-moving – It’s as slow-moving as any two lane road weaving through mountains. It takes three hours because the snow-capped mountain tops, free-roaming wildlife and natural waterfalls are breathtaking – resulting in a stop every 5-10 minutes.
The bighorn sheep gathered near Logan Pass. Logan Pass is the highest point reachable by car in the park. At this juncture, peaks and valleys are visible for miles.
While spending a weekend in the great outdoors, it’s important to go out for a hike and see the wildflowers, like the ever present Bear Grass, and the hidden streams along any given path.
We hiked the 10 mile round trip Iceberg Lake Trail. Along the way we saw mule deer, and we also made sure to wear our bear bells and carry our bear spray as earlier in the day A momma bear and cub were spotted out and about.
The tours conducted by Glacier Park Boat Company explored St. Mary’s Lake in all of its glory. The water was a beautiful shade of blue and the reflection of the mountains in the water was a definite sight for ‘city’ eyes.
Oh, and about the Northern Lights – It didn’t happen this time. Maybe it’s time to vacation to Iceland and guarantee myself a glimpse of illusive wonder.
Cross country road trips are something that every person should partake in a lifetime. I often use to think that all the beauty in the world could only be seen by hoping on a plane and flying to the other side of the world. I have learned in recent years that some of the most beautiful wonders and interesting achievements can be viewed right here in the good ol’ US of A!
During the drive from Washington State to Rhode Island we drove through Colorado. Colorado provided us with a fantastic view of naturally occurring wonder called Hanging Lake. Off of I-70, Glenwood Springs, Colorado has a trail that is a little over a mile long and primarily all up hill.
After making the short, but steep trek to the top…
You are met with ‘Ferngully’ like views of Hanging Lake. I would highly recommend the hike if you are ever passing through this part of Colorado.
ALASKA: The Last Frontier
Oh man, what can I say about this travel experience? First, my husband came to me a few months ago with this crazy idea of taking an Alaskan cruise in May. I say it was crazy because the weather is historically rainy, cold and cloudy until around June. Hesitantly, I gave in and resigned myself to a terrible cruise experience. We had cruised before, but never to Alaska, never in the month of May and never with Celebrity Cruises. Little did I know we were in for a treat!
The first afternoon was cloudy, but by the end of the second day, the sunset was definitely a precursor to the rest of the trip.
The Celebrity Century is the oldest ship in the fleet. As a guest on the Alaska Hubbard Glacier seven day cruise, I couldn’t tell! The boat had very comfortable accommodations and the staff were joy to be around. Our waiter and assistant waiter – Ketut and Elena filled our evenings with exceptional service and served the tastiest food.
Our first port call on the seven day cruise was Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska. After disembarking from the cruise ship, we were welcomed by the local Tlingit tribe in their native tongue with song and dance.
Welcome to Icy Strait
We were excited for the World’s Longest Zip line we booked at Icy Strait Point. The oldest person to have taken a trip down the 5330 ft zip line was 92 years-old. To get to the top of the mountain takes 45 minutes. The ride to the top had many lookout points for breathtaking views. There are two options to get down the mountain. You can chicken out and take the ride back down the mountain in a bus, Or you can opt for the 1350 ft drop and the 90 seconds it takes to arrive on the beach.
We made it to the beach in one piece. I can say I’ve ‘Been There, Done that and Got the T-shirt!’
After coming down the mountain – a snack was in order. I am not usually a fan of seafood, but not partaking in the freshly caught cuisine before heading back to the ship would have been a crime.
The Crab Station
Flowers – What woman doesn’t love a nice bouquet of flowers. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is one of the most visited events in Washington State and offers the opportunity to explore different types of tulips during the prime growing season.
There were tulips for every preference. One hundred and fifty different varieties covered the 15 acre farm. Growers of the Tulips are family run. The Roozen family has been growing Tulips in Holland and US since the 1700s and they know their stuff. I wish I had more to add about food or different sights to see, but this event is all about the tulips – enjoy the photos!
Flaming Kiss Tulips
Big Smile Tulips
The Hubbard Glacier part of the cruise was a beautiful day out at sea. The ship began sailing toward the glacier on a surprisingly warm and clear Wednesday morning in May.
The sheer vastness of the Hubbard Glacier was astounding. To know this glacier is the result of mountain runoff freezing and thawing before the next winter is just mind-boggling!
I know what you’re thinking, “How close can you actually get?” The answer – very close. After traversing through chunks of ice like in the picture below, we finally made it up close to Hubbard Glacier.
After a few hours we finally arrived at the glacier. We were close enough to see natural changes occur called ice calving. Ice calving happens when chunks of ice breaks off at the edge of glacier and crashes into the water. The rest of the day involved a polar bear plunge into the cold, saltwater of Yakutat Bay on board the Celebrity Century . Enjoy the Calving pictures below!
Living in Washington state makes a trip to California, or anywhere with a ton of sun, a necessity during the winter months. A short, reasonably priced plane ride from Seattle, Washington to Palm Springs, California was just what we needed to make it through a rainy winter.
The U2 Album, ” Joshua Tree”, always made me want to visit Joshua Tree National Park in California. On our second day in Palm Springs, my husband, sister-and-law and I decided to hop in the car and explore one of California’s coolest national parks!
Joshua Tree National Park
The Joshua Tree wasn’t in bloom, but they were unlike any tree I had ever seen before and they were beautiful all the same.
We found Marilyn Monroe in Downtown Palm Springs! During the early Hollywood days, the stars were required to be within a two hour drive of the sets where they were working. Palm Springs, California became a favorite destination of Hollywood actors who were looking to get away from the hustle of the city.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tramcar, takes you 8,517 feet to Mount San Jacinto State Park.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
As it was three days before Christmas when we landed in California, we were interested in seeing how the town celebrated the holiday season. We were told about an oddly entertaining art exhibit called Robolights . I would strongly encourage visiting Robolights – you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy the photos.
Our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, gave me a feeling. It wasn’t a feeling unbeknownst to me. I’ve had the feeling before when hearing the national anthem, watching the Olympic Games and seeing the men and women who serve our country return home. The feeling I am speaking of is patriotism.
Washington National Monument
I’ve always thought I needed to leave the US in order to have unique experiences in travel. I couldn’t have been more wrong. America is exceptionally beautiful! Washington, D.C. is a city that holds so many interesting treasures.
My husband’s work trip, the reason for this visit to Washington, D.C., was on the same day as the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The area was very busy with the media documenting the events of the day. Below is a photo of the Freedom Wall at the World War II Memorial.
The Price of Freedom
We took the time to visit The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial
And the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial
The memorial I enjoyed the most was The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The sight encompassed so many great quotes from a man who was known for his dedication to equality and innovative ideas. The ideas expressed by him acted as a catalyst for our young nation. The memorial was long overdue and I was happy to have the chance to see it in person.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
London, England. So much to see . So much to do. And definitely not enough time to enjoy it all.
Our morning began with a delicious English breakfast, before boarding the Gloucester Road tube station to Tower Hill. Tower Hill is home to England’s most prized possessions. I couldn’t help but sing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll.” Get it? If not, brush up on your history!
The Tower of London
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend! THE most valuable items at the Tower of London are kept under close watch by the ‘beefeaters’ – The Crown Jewels. I could have spent an eternity eyeballing the nicest jewelry in London. I wish I could show photos, but flash photography wasn’t allowed – bummer!
The Crown Jewels
Enjoy the images Henry VIII’s armor and a view from outside The Tower of London. It is so amazing to see hundreds of years of history sitting right in the middle of modern London – I love that about Europe!
Henry VIII Armor and The Tower of London
Other sights from the area: The Tower Bridge and the second tallest building in Europe – The Shard.
Tower Bridge and The Shard
After sightseeing for most of the afternoon, we hopped on the tube and headed over to Bea’s of Bloomsbury for proper afternoon tea. The tea and cakes were SPECTACULAR! If you are ever in London, be sure to stop by and sip and chomp on a bit of heaven!
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
England is a beautiful country with many historic things to see from coast to coast. As our time was limited in England, we wanted to make the best of our time and indulge in a day of sightseeing around the countryside. Our first stop was at Her Majesty The Queens residences at Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle – EnglandTickets
The grounds of the palace were beautifully kept, and we even had the opportunity to see Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. The doll house was the most elaborate child’s toy I have ever seen. The doll house is even rumored to have running water! I don’t have any pictures to show as photography wasn’t allowed. Below is a photo of the area where Her Majesty The Queen stays when she is at Windsor Castle.
The Upper Ward
The most notable activity to do in England when at a palace is to see the changing of the guard. Once we toured St. George’s Chapel, we walked out into the courtyard just in time to see the Changing of the Guard.
Changing of the Guard
After seeing Windsor Castle and eating a tasty English fish and chips lunch, we headed to Bath, England. Bath is rich with culture. On our way to the Roman Baths, we passed the residence of Jane Austen. I was walking around the town reciting lines from the Pride and Prejudice and my husband was looking at me like I was crazy!
I was most excited about tasting the waters from the Pump Room. To my dismay, the waters were not flowing that day – one of a few days in 2012 the water system would be under construction. Bummer!
Roman Baths at Bath
I am a big fan of beer, so whenever I see craft beers in a city, I take the opportunity to sit and sample the local ales. As time was limited, I decided to grab a half pint of Bath Ales. The ale was a pleasant treat as we waited for the bus to pick us up and carry us to the our next location – Stonehenge.
Before leaving the morning of our English countryside tour, the morning news called for blustery showers – they weren’t kidding. The rain was coming down hard, and we were unable to hold on to our umbrellas for most of the tour. It was remarkable to see a piece of history up close and personal. This last stop was a fantastic cap to such a beautiful day.
Finally! London – we meet again! It has been 11 years since I walked the streets of one of my favorite cities in the world. I was very happy to be back.
Once in the city, we walked around The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. There were so many beautiful parks and trails along our way to Kensington Palace.
We were unable to check into our hotel as it was too early, so we spent the afternoon sightseeing. Westminster was our next stop. The most iconic sights in London can be seen from the Westminster Bridge.
From the bridge you can see The Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament
and The London Eye.
The London Eye
When I was planning my escape to London earlier in the year, I did some research for the best Indian food in town. I came across a restaurant called Roti Chai, in the City of Westminster. It was the absolute tastiest meal we ate while in London!