Monday, 15 July 2013

Alaska ........ part 4

Denali National Park

I spent a half day in Denali National Park and I have to say I don't think I have seen any other place in this world that is so beautiful. I've seen mountains and valleys and summer and winter in different parts of the world, but Denali in summer is like someone placing a road in the middle of a coffee table book. Every vista looked like it was straight out of a book or a movie ........

Anyway, my first port of call was to the information center to get the 'lay of the land' and figure out how to go hiking here on my own without being eaten by a bear or run at by a moose. You may be laughing, but I was traveling on my own and all the signs said do not hike alone. I ended up joining a ranger led hike to the oxbow lake, which was a large group and while a bit slower than my slowest hike speed, with lots of stops along the way, it got me out and on a hike and I felt comfortable enough to leave them and take an alternate route on the way back - on my own and humming all the way 😊

I have put in a page break so all these photos don't download at the same time and it makes it easier for you to read - just click on the link here to see photos and read the rest of the post.

Alaska ........ part 3

Fourth Of July - Anchorage style

On the morning of the fourth I found myself in Anchorage on a drizzly, rainy day. Despite this, the town parade went on and I headed down to the mile long park strip through town to check out their celebrations. The town organized a carnival to be held, with food stalls, market sellers and fun rides for the kids. While numbers were down because of the weather, there was still a number of people out to line the mile long parade route at 11am. I admire their Fourth of July parades - they honor not just veterans, police, fire and ambulance workers, but also groups in community. It was a real celebration of Anchorage's community and I felt great pride from everyone I passed.

Leading the parade was Star, Anchorage's unofficial mascot reindeer, all dressed up. Star lives in a pen on 10th and I street and is the sixth in a line of Star's that started in 1960. If you want to know more, see Star the Reindeer.

Here are some pictures of the parade to see how much Americans enjoy their Fourth of July:

Following the parade, I headed out to the airport to collect my hire car and leave Anchorage to discover what else Alaska had to offer.......

Driving across Alaska

I have put in a page break so all these photos don't download at the same time and it makes it easier for you to read - just click on the 'read more' link below to see photos and read the rest of the post.

Alaska ......... part 2

Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward

I took a cruise into the National Park in Seward on a six hour trip. It turned out to be a cloudy and cold day again but, despite this or perhaps because of this, the scenery was still spectacular and kind of moody. Clouds hung low over the land we passed and the water was gray, matching the colour of the sky. We saw our first animal within 20 minutes of leaving the dock - a sea otter playing in the water by itself, minding its own business, not phased by us in the slightest. In the course of the cruise we saw orca whales, sea lions, humpback whales, puffins and stayed a while in front of a glacier to catch some calving. It was a fantastic experience and I have, of course, included some pictures below to show you what I saw. I also took some video of the animals, but I will upload this separately once I can edit it down for time and size to upload on my main computer at home.

Enjoy the views!

My cruise boat for the day

Good morning Mr Sea Otter! Thanks for coming out!

Cloudy but still gorgeous.

I have put in a page break so all these photos don't download at the same time and it makes it easier for you to read - just click on the 'read more' link below to see photos and see the rest of the post.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alaska ........ part 1

Alaska - truly 'America the Beautiful'

Alaska is one of those places that has been on my travel list for years. It has been a place that I have wanted to visit but never thought I would get to before I retired (mainly due to cost). However, I went on this exchange year and had the opportunity to travel internally in the US during the summer holidays. Suddenly, I had time during the 'nice' northern hemisphere summer to travel and I was already in the country, which meant I wasn't needing $2500 to fly here from Australia. All of a sudden my dream looked to be a reality. And it was. In April I booked myself 12 days of Alaska adventure - including some rail travel and self driving. Below is my Alaskan adventure........

Note: As much as I tried to capture the truly majestic views of this amazing land, my photos show only a 2D version of this magic. The vistas were awe inspiring and truly looked like they were a technicolour painting someone had placed in front of me or behind the road in the distance. If you find these photos gorgeous, multiply it by 100 😍 My photos cannot do Alaska the justice it deserves, even though they are awesome and I'm enlarging a lot of them for my walls when I get home! Enjoy 😊


I arrived in Anchorage late Sunday night, around 11pm. What amazed me right off was not the cool weather that required me to put on my one jumper I had bought with me (I knew it was cooler but I had just left averages of 90 - 100 Fahrenheit (32 - 37 Celsius) which was a drop coming into 60 Fahrenheit (15 Celsius)). What gave me pause was that it was still light - a great welcome to the land of the midnight sun! In the following days, this midnight sun would mess up my sleeping patterns but for the moment I found to fascinating to see like it was light twilight at 11pm (the sun set that night at around 12:54am).

The next day was cold and windy and cloudy - and of course I had left my wind jacket in Palisade. A handy reason to go shopping! Throughout this free day in Anchorage, I bought a rain jacket, a hoody and a t-shirt, as well as took a city tour and spent time at the cultural centre. It is a very quiet city, despite being the largest city in the state with more than 40% of the state's population. What made my day was that on the way out to the cultural centre, my first hour out and about, we passed a moose on the side of the road! Wildlife viewing off to a great start! Check out my day in Anchorage below:

First moose seen in Alaska by me 😊

This is how close to the road he was!

At the cultural centre they had examples of different traditional cultural group homes

This entryway is traditional - it leads down on an angle and you
crawl out (see below). All this was to protect the home from polar bears - providing
either a safe entry or escape route.

Moose sighting number two - this female had her calf with her!
The fence gates off feeding land so the moose don't get hit by cars, particularly
in the winter - this land is permafrost tundra and Alaskans wont build on it anyway.

Alaskans fly....... different statistics around but they have huge numbers of pilots
as a lot of Alaska cannot be reached by road or water.

This is a house built underground! You can see the skylights (the domes
in the grass) - there is 30 feet of dirt on top of the roof!

I have put in a page break so all these photos don't download at the same time and it makes it easier for you to read - just click on the 'read more' link below to see photos and read the rest of the post.

San Antonio, Texas - work and play!

San Antonio - June 23 to 27

I went to San Antonio for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. I first heard about this conference from reading some tweets on twitter from some amazing Aussie educators I follow. They had been before and as the registrations began opening, there was some mentions of this conference and as I knew I would be in the US for my exchange, I began to look into it all. What I discovered was that this conference was HUGE! The previous year it had drawn some Amazing keynote speakers and I began to wonder how I coild get involved in this conference. Being that the focus was so clearly on integrating technology into the curriculum which is what I have been playing with and working on the last five years or so, I began to become very interested in attending the conference. What added to the draw was that it was being held in San Antonio, Texas, which was meant to be the most beautiful city in that state and an area I had not yet visited in my travels. Why not attend a professional development conference in a city that would be new!

So after organizing all my summer holidays tripping around the States around this one week (not really – ISTE was booked in November last year so I just blocked that week out!) I arrived in Texas ready and looking forward to being inspired by educators and what they are doing in their schools. I was. I was inspired and motivated and energized by the group of 20,000 educators who were exploring how technology can enhance and improve student learning in this century and beyond. I also received further confirmation of my belief that Victoria and Australia are at the head of the game with regards to tech support and innovation of integration. It made me passionate to return to using technology with students and I look forward to exploring new (and old) paths of learning with them.

ISTE Opening Session in the main Ballroom - 20 000 people interested
in education through technology........ awesome vibe!
Conference Centre walkway over part of the River Walk.
You can also see a boat on the water - I took this tour around the river.
It was very informative about the history of the walk.

I took in a few sessions and heard many people talk in rooms and as I was walking around this massive conference over four days. A few statements stuck with me and when I find them again, I'll share with you all! 😉 

This was a wonderful week for invigorating my belief in using ICT to facilitate student learning, both independent and facilitator-directed. I completely enjoyed myself – and it was pretty easy to do so when I was in such a gorgeous city! While it was Hot with a capital H (easily 30 Celsius and above) the humidity was what really made you feel the heat. I walked every day to the conference centre and back to the hotel, which was about a 25-35 minute walk depending on the time of day. Basically it was like walking through wet air all day. Despite this, there was some relief found by walking along the River Walk, which has been constructed around the downtown area. It was partially shaded most of the way due to the trees and buildings from the sun, which made the heat and humidity much more bearable!

I have included some photos below so you can see the prettiness of the River Walk and a few of the historic sites in San Antonio. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did seeing it all in real life!

The Cathedral of San Fernando - the oldest cathedral sanctuary
in the US. It was built between 1738 & 1750.
One of the many walkways over and around the River Walk.
All restaurants had these bright umbrellas for shade. Very bright and colourful.
This hotel was built modular style - it was made in boxes off site and then
the modules were just laid on top of each other! Finished in record time too!
This tree was forced through the wall of this restaurant during the floods in
about 1921. The owners have just left it like that! 
This tree is wanting some sun!
A tile mosaic mural on the conference centre wall. Beautiful!
On the River Walk.
A little waterfall to be enjoyed.
The River Walk.
This is a historic part of the walk - the five bells are on the back wall
of a stage, with the searing being behind me taking the photo.
Five bells to represent the five missions in town, such as The Alamo.

So that was San Antonio, in the last week of June. From here, I flew back to Grand Junction for three days where I did all my laundry, caught up with some friends and repacked my bags for the next part of my summer adventure – Alaska!

More to come, stay smiling for now!
Candice 😊

Monday, 8 July 2013

A week in The Big Apple.......

New York City

I love this city. I have visited here twice before and each time fell in love with something new - the views from the Empire State building, the sport and concert history within Madison Square Garden, the blocks of green in Central Park, the lavishness of 5th Avenue, the decorations in Rockefeller Centre, the energy and madness of Times Square, the magic of Broadway, the solemn stature of the Statue of Liberty, ferry rides around the island, walking Brooklyn Bridge..... I have visited all these tourist spots (sometimes on both my visits) and loved every one!

There was one difference with my visit this time. On both previous visits, I made my trip in wintertime ~ firstly around February and then in December (the week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day). This time however, I would be visiting this fast paced city in summer ~ and boy, what a difference! The first noticeable one was that I didn't need three layers, a scarf and gloves to walk down the street! In fact, when we arrived it was quite humid! It stayed warm into the evenings as well, which made it feel like a truly different visit to my last visits! :)

Ashlee had come with me on my last visit to this wonderful city and as a result we weren't rushed to see every single 'tourist' attraction on the island this time. In fact, we kept it fairly low key and saw what we wanted to while still finding time to just relax. It felt like we kind of lived in the city actually ~ we'd go and see something and then head back to our apartment one block from Times Square, rest up and then head back out. Because we were staying so close to the Square, it was easy to get around either by walking or catching the metro.

In fact, on our first afternoon after arriving from Boston by train and walking three blocks to the apartment, we headed out to Times Square to get our first look at the city........ only to stumble onto the World War Z Red Carpet event right in the heart of Times Square! We hung around for two and a half hours, pretty much in the same spot, until the actors, producers and director began to arrive. I gave up at about 6pm (no food since breakfast began to affect me - I headed to Maccas for sustenance) but Ash stuck it out and was rewarded 20 mins later when Brad Pitt arrived. Even better was that according to Ash, he ran off the red carpet and went around the outside of the rails. As he went past where Ash was still standing (second row back) the crowd surged forward and she stuck out her hand - which Brad Pitt then shook as he went past! Needless to say, that made Ash's NYC week right there - nothing else this week would top that moment! :-)

The red carpet set up

Ash snapped a picture of Mr Pitt when he arrived

Our list of places to see this week included Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park and the statue, a Broadway show...... a very small but achievable list to which we added a few other things. Much easier to explain with photos, so below find a small sampling of pictures documenting our 5 days in NYC and some further details of our days ...........

Central Park - the pond by the castle

View of West NYC over the Park

Enjoying the heat and sunshine!
Ash and I on the red steps in the middle of Times Square

Standing in front of the apartment of Will Smith from the movie
'I Am Legend' - blocks from NYU and across from Washington Square Park

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge - midtown is behind me
(Empire State and Chrysler Building)

Twin Tower 9/11 Memorial - they have done a magnificent job with
this site. Two pools symbolizing the two towers with names of those lost
listed in the area / with the people they would have been with on that day.
A museum is being opened this fall.

5th Avenue - shopping mecca of the expensive kind!
(Nothing purchased here for me though!)

Grand Central Station

Battery Park, overlooking the Statue of Liberty

Ashlee's picture of the Naked Cowboy :)

We stopped by the Kardashin store 'Dash' - $4 for a pencil!

To see more photos, click onto the New York City Sights page to the right to see an even larger plethora of picture memories. Remember, you have been warned about the amount! :)

This wrapped up our traveling sisters adventure - it was so much fun traveling around and hanging out with my sister for four weeks after not seeing her for five months (to the day!) since I left Oz. Ash headed home to Oz from New York and I headed to Texas for an ICT conference. Ash's flight home was not smooth sailing though - she arrived in Melbourne 24 hours late after a delayed NYC flight, a redirected flight and missed connection in LA 😓 She was very glad to be home in the end!

More to come - still heaps of traveling to share with you all!

Stay safe and keep smiling 😊