Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Alaskan weekend - Part III

Today I am finally getting around to recapping the rest of my weekend visiting Vanitha in Alaska last month! I am continuing from here and here.

To kick things off on a somewhat random note, Vanitha observed that Alaska has a lot of hilarious license plates. I got a nice laugh from seeing this one in downtown Anchorage:
Were Forrest Gump and/or Bubba hanging out in Anchorage, too?
Alaska Native Villages lecture
My first night in Anchorage, Vanitha and I went to the University of Alaska Anchorage to attend a lecture. The speaker, Barrett Ristroph, spoke on how Alaska native villages are adapting to climate change and how the law helps or hinders.
Incidentally, this subject is exactly what Vanitha is working on during her time in Alaska. During audience questions, Vanitha was even asked to share some of her own expertise a few times - and she nailed everything. I loved seeing how stunningly professional and knowledgeable she is! It made me very proud to be her friend.

In general, the subject matter was very eye-opening and informative to me, as I had no prior awareness of the ongoing challenges. It made me realize what a different completely life we live in the Lower 48.

Following the lecture, Vanitha and I went to dinner at Orso. This is a local "farm-to-table" restaurant in downtown Anchorage that features Alaskan ingredients and dishes. I loved the warm, rustic interior:
The food was terrific, too:
Upper L: King crab corn dogs
Upper R: Rockfish with red quinoa salad
Lower L: Alaskan sockeye salmon ni├žoise
Lower R: Guittard chocolate, espresso, and vanilla cream custard
The first thing I did was head out for my long run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Anchorage Museum
After my long run, I went to visit the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. My favorite exhibit was the Alaska Native Cultures, which features hundreds of indigenous artifacts from various tribes. I was surprised to learn there are over 200 federally recognized Alaskan tribes.

Saying "welcome" in various tribal languages and dialects
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from some of the other Anchorage Museum exhibits:
Alaskan street art
Original newspaper announcing Alaska being voted in as the 49th of the United States in 1959.
It's a little scary to realize my parents are older than Alaska's statehood.
Alaskan king crab
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood for our first of two weekend visits. Since I already covered it in detail separately, I won't rehash it here other than to share this adorable pajama set from the gift shop:
and to share another of my favorite wildlife close-ups:
Scenic Drives
Here are some of the stunning landscapes we saw during our drives in between Anchorage and Girdwood (NOTE: these sights weren't limited to Day 2, we saw them all throughout). The pictures so do not do the majestic scenery justice.
Girdwood Hotel
On our way back from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, we stopped by the beautiful Girdwood Hotel. In my opinion, it is the type of winter lodge that ski resort dreams are made of. Look at the views from the lobby:
Moose's Tooth
For dinner that night, Vanitha and I went to a local Anchorage favorite called Moose's Tooth.
Moose's Tooth is extremely popular for its pizza - and it was easy to see why! They have the most creative, delicious selections of pizzas I've ever seen. There were a zillion ways to mix-and-match and customize your own pizza. The food was outstanding.
Upper L: Mexican squash soup
Upper R: Half Solstice, half Veggie Delight pizza
Lower L: Half Amazing Apricot (I think), half Spicy Thai pizza
Lower R: Lemon Love cake
They even had themed plates:
When/if I ever go back to Anchorage, Moose's Tooth will be a must-visit for me again!!!

This was my last day in Alaska. Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for the second of our two visits. Afterwards, we did some more exploration on the way back, including browsing at a few local shops, plus stopping at the...

Girdwood Picnic Club
This is a super cute little restaurant nestled in downtown Girdwood with a cozy, artistic flair.
As was the case with every restaurant we visited in Alaska, the food was delicious:
Seafood chowder
Tamale platter
Indian Valley Meats
I wanted to try to find some smoked Alaskan salmon to take home. Vanitha had heard of this place as a great destination for local products, so we stopped by.
Wow - talk about getting the local experience. This place was a completely full-service shop for hunters and fishers. Here's a picture of the shop area (as opposed to the window where folks could make drop-offs to be processed).
I bought some salmon jerky, which I'd never seen in stores before.

Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was closed for the season. However, since it was near Halloween, the center was hosting a special fall festival with entertainment, shopping, and food; with trick-or-treating and story-telling options for kids.

It was cool to see the replicas of Alaskan abodes:
Vanitha and I got a picture amidst some whale bones (?!?!?!?):
We enjoyed some local performances:
and perused the center's cultural exhibits:
That concluded my visit to Vanitha in Alaska! I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and I left with a much deeper appreciation for Alaska's pristine beauty, culture, history, and people.

It goes without saying that I am tremendously grateful to Vanitha for being the most wonderful hostess for the weekend, and for being the best friend anyone could ever ask for. I can't even begin to express my gratitude for the incredibly valuable time we had to catch up, laugh, share stories, and talk in full detail about everything that life was throwing our ways. I am already looking forward to the next time Vanitha and I can get together, whenever and wherever it may be.

Cheers to lifelong friends sharing travel adventures!

I will be linking up with LaurenVanIsabel and Marcella for Wanderful Wednesday; with Chris and HeatherLaurenAshleyAmanda and Brian, and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust; and with Arnie and JoSally-AnnAnda, and Anisa and Katherine for The Weekly Postcard.  


  1. Wow, what a trip! I bet the smoked salmon there is amazing! My dogs eat salmon jerky, but come to think of it, I've never seen it for humans before as well. I like that you did a "deep dive" into Alaskan culture (and food!) rather than just doing the regular tourist stuff. Must get to Alaska someday!

    1. Love that your dogs eat salmon jerky! You clearly treat them very well. =) Thanks so much, Pete!!! The nice thing about going to Alaska during off-peak season is that local opportunities abound everywhere!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  2. I'm so curious about salmon jerky now! What an amazing trip.

    1. In my experience, salmon jerky is chewier than regular beef-type jerky. Thanks Natalie!!!

  3. This makes me wanna go back to Alaska so badly! Looks like you really got to spend quality time there and learn about the culture. We had a Naturalist on our tour (Brett Nixon) who kayaked all the way up to Alaska from Mexico. He was amazingly knowledgeable and it was fascinating to hear his stories.

    1. Thanks Marcia!!! WOW - how cool you got to hang out with Brett Nixon during your travels in Alaska. I can only imagine what it would be like to kayak from Alaska to Mexico - the idea blows my mind! I would have loved to hear his stories, too!

  4. Wow! I wouldn't mind visiting Alaska--your posts made me want to go there all the more! Altho I would have done some kind of yoga pose in those whale bones...you know me...

    1. Thanks Wendy!!! OMG - what a great idea to do a yoga pose in those whale bones!!! I wish I would have thought to do one at the time (although it would have been a little messy with all the snow on the ground, LOL). You would have a FIELD DAY with all the scenery with which to do your amazing poses in Alaska!!!

  5. What an amazing trip!! and the food looks so good!!

    Lectures, museums, you did a little bit of everything! how awesome!

    1. Thank you so much, Ana!!! I always like to try to keep things as diverse as possible. =)

  6. LOL - I was going through all of my photos when I came across that moose one, and it made me think of you right away!!! =) This is the good thing about pictures, it gives you the opportunity to reflect later about what may have gotten overlooked during the excitement of the action. =)

    Oh my goodness - what an amazing experience that must have been to bike from Anchorage to Girdwood!!! Even in the wintertime the scenery was stunning, I can only imagine how jawdropping it must have been in July!!! Maybe you can write up a blog sometime about your Alaskan travels, too? I'd love to hear more!

  7. Man, this just seems like the coolest trip ever. It looks like you covered so many things while you were there! If you liked the salmon jerky, you can get some here at Trader Joe's, though I'm sure it won't be at all the same.

    1. Thank you so much, Bethany! Kudos to Vanitha for being the best hostess anyone could ever ask for!!! Ahhh, I didn't know Trader Joe's had salmon jerky, I'll definitely look for it the next time I'm there. It'll be interesting to see how the products compare!

  8. Replies
    1. I can only imagine it must be pricey to stay there, too!!!

  9. Wow Alaska is on my travel wish list big time!
    The pics are amazing :)

    1. Thank you so much!!! I hope you get to visit Alaska soon - the pictures really don't do it justice, not even close!

  10. Aloha to you! I have a soft spot for Hawaii & I guess you are from Hawaii :)
    Hope to know u better xo

    1. Aloha! Sadly, I only wish I was from Hawaii. =) I'm a Chicago girl, born and raised. But anytime I've been to Hawaii people think I'm local, which I take as a huge compliment! I hope to get to know you better, too!!! xoxo

  11. This looks like an awesome trip! You packed so much in. So cool that you got to see your friend give a lecture (while also learning from it) and Orso looks amazing! I love farm-to-table type restaurants :D

    1. Thank you so much, Lauren! Yes, the lecture was a great learning experience, and to have Vanitha be able to contribute made it even more special. Farm-to-table restaurants are the best - I think the quality of the food really stands out when you've got such terrific base ingredients to work with!!!

  12. I really want to go to Alaska. I love doing scenic drives and you pictures look amazing - would love to experience it in person. I bet the salmon was amazing too! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Ahhhh, Anisa - I've really enjoyed reading about all of your travel escapades and I imagine you would LOVE Alaska. Yes on the salmon - it was so abundantly available, for good reason! Thank you so much for co-hosting the linkup, as always!!!

  13. What an awesome adventure. I would love to go to Alaska, there's something that seems really magical about it. I'd be happy just to drive around and observe the spectacular scenery! The museum & wildlife centre look like great educational places. What a great trip! #weekendwanderlust

    1. Magical is definitely a perfect word to describe Alaska! I would have been more than happy to just drive around and look at the scenery, too. =) I can only imagine what it would be like in the summertime!!! I hope you can visit Alaska soon!!! Thank you so much, Juliette!

  14. The Moose's Tooth! I miss their gyro pizza. Have you gone to Bear's Tooth yet? I like that Orso is a farm-to-table now. It used to be an Italian restaurant. Another great restaurant in Girdwood is Jack Sprat. Enjoying reading your posts and remembering my days in Anchorage. :) #WeekendWanderlust

    1. OMG Lara - I am LOVING hearing about your thoughts from your time as an Anchorage local!!! Didn't get to go to Bear's Tooth but hope to do so next time. =) Very interesting to hear that Orso used to be Italian!!! Note to self on Jack Sprat, too. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Thank you so much, Karen!!! Yes on Moose's Tooth, I think you would love the menu, too!!! And YES on how it would be tough to be vegetarian in Alaska. The eskimo artifacts on display at the museums are almost entirely made of animal products. =(

  16. Alaska was such an interesting destination and even though I was there 5 years ago, I still am randomly reminded of cool things I saw there (I guess all the Alaska shows on tv help with that) I didn't make it to Anchorage but that's on my list for next time along with the Kenai Peninsula. Thanks for sharing!