I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve seen sights that would leave you speechless and have gotten to do things that some people only dream of. I’ve also learned that it’s not where you go but who you are traveling with that matters the most sometimes.
In December 2016, I went on a cruise with my best friend, Robin, and the cast from one of our favorite tv shows, My Big Fat Fabulous Life. The first night on the cruise, I slipped in the bathroom and hurt my foot. I spent a week on the cruise not knowing how badly I was injured (while still making the most of my trip). But two days after getting home from the cruise, the doctor confirmed that I ruptured my Achilles Tendon and days later I had to have surgery. The recovery was not an easy one. For someone who lives alone and is very independent, staying in bed for weeks and then learning to walk and use my foot again wasn’t easy. Physical therapy was brutal. It took a lot of faith and determination to push myself most days. But my Mom was there for me every step of the way. She would work all day as a para-educator for 4 year olds, come to my house and make sure I was ok and take care of whatever I needed and then she would go home to take care of the rest of the family. This went on for months. I promised my Mom that if we made it through the recovery process, I would take her ANYWHERE she wanted to go. I had some complications from surgery that causes me to be in pain every day but I wasn’t gonna let that stop me from fulfilling my promise. She always told me that Alaska was on her Bucket List. So in October 2018, my Mom opened her birthday gift to find 2 luggage tags, an Alaska shirt, a pair of gloves and a card telling her how much I appreciated everything she’s done for me and that I was going to make her Bucket List dream come true. I was taking her on a cruise to Alaska!
In September 2019, we flew to Seattle, Washington and spent the day checking out all of the amazing sights. We went to the Space Needle and saw the most incredible views, Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, the famous Pike Place Market and the most disgusting but fascinating place of all, The Market Theater Gum Wall (my chewed up bubble gum is now a part of that display).
The Space Needle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and is a treasured Seattle icon. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair—the Century 21 Exposition whose theme was “The Age of Space”—the tower’s futuristic design was inspired by the idea that the fair needed a structure to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations. Since its grand opening on April 21, 1962, the landmark continues to symbolize the innovative and forward-thinking spirit of Seattle. Located at Seattle Center, the Space Needle stands at 605 feet tall and is one of the most photographed structures in the world. The tower’s 520 foot saucer-shaped “top house” offers visitors Seattle’s only 360-degree indoor and outdoor panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is a monument to glass as art and features a large portion of artist Dale Chihuly's work. The long-term exhibition, open since 2012, features a Glasshouse, an Exhibition Hall containing eight galleries and three drawing walls, and a lush garden that serves as the backdrop for glass sculptures made up of impossible shapes and unbelievably brilliant colors.
Pike Place Market is a public market in Seattle. It opened on August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States. Overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront on Puget Sound, it serves as a place of business for many small farmers, craftspeople and merchants. Named after the central street, Pike Place runs northwest from Pike Street to Virginia Street. Pike Place Market is Seattle's most popular tourist destination and the 33rd most visited tourist attraction in the world, with more than 10 million annual visitors.
The Market Theater Gum Wall is a brick wall covered in used chewing gum located in an alleyway in Post Alley under Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle. Much like Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California, the Market Theater Gum Wall is a local landmark. Parts of the wall are covered several inches thick, 15 feet high along a 50-foot-long section. The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater. The tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Theatresports at Unexpected Productions, Seattle's popular weekly, high-stakes, competitive improv comedy show, stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction around 1999. Some people created small works of art out of gum. It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009, second to the Blarney Stone, a block of carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser the gift of gab. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens.The Market Theater Gum Wall is the location of the start of a ghost tour and also a popular site with wedding photographers. The state governor, Jay Inslee, said it is his "favorite thing about Seattle you can't find anywhere else". A scene in the 2009 Jennifer Aniston film Love Happens was shot at the wall. On November 3, 2015, it was announced by the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority that for the first time in 20 years the great attraction gum wall would be receiving a total scrub down for maintenance and steam cleaning, to prevent further erosion of the bricks on the walls from the sugar in the gum. Work began on November 10 and took 130 hours to complete, with over 2,350 pounds of gum removed and disposed of. After the cleaning was finished on November 13, gum began to be re-added to the wall; among the first additions were memorials to the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Video (Paris tribute at Gum Wall) https://www.seattletimes.com/video/4613596627001/gum-wall-flash-mob-makes-tribute-to-paris-after-deadly-attacks/
The next morning, we boarded the cruise ship for a Mother/Daughter Bucket List Trip. Since this was my Mom’s dream trip, I let her chose all of the excursions that she wanted to do. Luckily, she picked the ones that she knew I would enjoy, too. As long as I have something to take pictures of, some nature and wildlife or sea life, I’m good. The picture opportunities were incredible. I was able to take pictures of mountains, glaciers, the majestic Emerald Lake, a rainbow, bald eagles, mountain goats, whales, sea lions and even a bear throughout the week so I was very happy!
Our first day in Alaska we went to the capital of Alaska, Juneau. It was cold and rainy but we learned that is typical weather in Alaska. However, we weren’t gonna let the rain stop us. So we boarded a boat and headed out on a whale watching expedition. I spent most of the time on the back deck taking pictures of the whales and just being in awe of these beautiful creatures. We saw humpback whales and sea lions. It was unbelievable! After several hours of whale watching, we headed to an outdoor salmon bake and my favorite part of the meal, s’mores!
The next stop was in Skagway. I was excited about this port because we were going on the Yukon Territory Scenic Drive. The Yukon, a territory in northwest Canada, is wild, mountainous and sparsely populated. This meant that not only would we have amazing photo opportunities, we would also get to use our passport in Canada! Living in the city all of my life, I’m not used to seeing mountains. So mountains, ice covered mountains, changing leaves....that was exciting to see. But I think the moment that took my breath away was when we got to Emerald Lake. The lake was turquoise and looked like something from a fairy tale. The color derives from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, at the bottom of the shallow waters. The high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water here comes from limestone gravels eroded from the nearby mountains and deposited here 14,000 years ago by the glaciers of the last ice age. Glacial erosion was likewise responsible for scooping out the shallow lakebed. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything so breathtaking. On the way back from Emerald Lake we spotted a big black bear walking on the side of the road like he was a stray dog. I guess that’s common in that area. I tried to convince the bus driver to let me off the bus so I could get a close up picture of the bear but he wouldn’t because obviously I can’t outrun a bear. Bears can run an average of 30 miles per hour! But he did stop so we could take pictures from the bus. It was pretty exciting to be that close to a bear!
I think one of the coolest parts of the trip is when we went to Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a national park located in Southeast Alaska west of Juneau. Dominated by cascading tidewater glaciers, ice-sculpted fjords, soaring pinnacles and marine wildlife, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a sprawling 3.3 million acres of icy wilderness. We were so close to the glaciers. The colors were absolutely gorgeous. This was definitely the coldest part of the trip. But it was worth it to be able to see this incredible sight.
Then we headed to Ketchikan. We decided to go on a Lighthouse, Totems and Eagles tour. We boarded a boat and cruised around looking at the majestic bald eagles soaring high and perched in the trees, colorful, hand carved totem polls and lighthouses. It was a very informative tour, too. After the tour, we spent some time shopping. We got some really incredible deals.
Our final stop was a late night trip to Victoria, British Columbia. We got off the ship at 9pm so everything was closed except one gift shop. But just walking around the town square looking at how lit up everything was made the stop worthwhile. The Parliament Buildings were lit up like it was decorated for Christmas. It was a very brief trip but it was nice to say that I visited Canada. Bucket List ✔️
When we weren’t out exploring Alaska (or getting lost on our way back to the ship and having to be rescued by some cruise ship hosts or almost getting left in Canada), we were enjoying our time together onboard the ship. We enjoyed the dancing and music at the sail away party, watched the sunset, went to comedy shows (and met comedians, Vince Acevedo and Frank Townsend, who also appeared in the movie, "Barbershop") and musicals, shopped (my Mom LOVES cruise ship shopping), enjoyed lots of meals together (they had the best chicken Caesar salad and grilled cheese and the deserts are always amazing) and just enjoyed being together. We made unforgettable memories.
It was definitely a trip of a lifetime! I strongly encourage everyone to visit Alaska if you get the opportunity. It was not how I pictured Alaska at all. The views look like they came straight off of a postcard. In all my years of travel, I would say this ranks #1 for most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any snow (except the snow covered mountains) or the Northern Lights (which is on the top of my bucket list) but I’m still grateful for this trip. And I know I still have some other places that I could see the Northern Lights. Anyone want to join me at the Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa in Sweden? They have six overwater cabins that float on the Lule River or are frozen into it. There are also six cabins on land. All of the rooms have luxuries like wood-burning stoves and skylights for optimal viewing. Take Northern Lights photography lessons with an expert, explore the surrounding untouched wilderness or just relax in the spa,
which is built around a plunge pool that is open to the Aurora Borealis-streaked skies. It has now been added to my Bucket List!
This trip will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve been on smaller trips in the past with just my Mom and I but this time we got to spend 9 days together making memories that I will cherish forever. And knowing that I was making her dream come true made it even better. Everyone should take the opportunity to travel somewhere that leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller. I will be telling this story for the rest of my life. I know my Mom will, too.
Special thanks to Rhonda Pitts at Cruise One for making sure this trip was perfect. She made sure that we had the best service from flights to transportation, a hotel room with an amazing view and nothing but the best on the cruise. She made sure this was the most unforgettable Mother/Daughter Bucket List Trip.
Thank you, Rhonda! I can't wait until we plan my next cruise.
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Dare to Dream,