Skip to comments.(Vanity) My Trip to Alaska, Part II : The City of Anchorage
Posted on 07/17/2006 9:38:09 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
My Summer in Alaska, Part II : The City of Anchorage
The continuing saga of a ragtag group consisting of myself; my wife; "the Cubs" (teen-age progeny); "Auntie Em", and the well-traveled and fearless cat, "grey_whiskers," and our travels in the furthest North.
(For part I, click here.)
After getting to the hotel at nearly two in the morning it was still twilight outside our first order of business was to sleep in: but between the late flight and everything, we all woke up around 8:00. After getting dressed, we piled into the rental (A Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4), and drove off.
Our destination was one of the fine, fine establishments recommended to us by a fellow Freeper. Gwennies Old Alaskan Restaurant, on Spenard Road. (How convenient to the hotel and the Airport! we said. More on that later.) Like much that we experienced in Alaska well, OK, like most of what was man-made in Alaska, it was unassuming in appaearance. A square two-story building, a dark-paneled entryway. (From all I have seen of Alaska, The Big Guy Upstairs is a *much* better architect.) After a short wait (Hint: arrive early, like we did), we were ushered to our table.
The décor was similar to the look that say TGIFridays and others clamor forfound items, photos, wood. But Gwennies was genuine: there were grainy photos of miners in the Klondike from the 1800s, photos of small settlements; and animals. I could have sworn I saw a stuffed brown bear, a fox, and in the corner a waterfall? Yes, going down a series of steps from the upstairs, where we were seated: the steps, the Cubs, and Auntie Ems knees a cacophany of protest. Fearless wilderness adventurers that we were, we settled down to our repast.
The food was excellent: if you havent tried reindeer sausage, dont let the name fool youit was a mixture of regular sausage and reindeer meat, and tastes like metworst. Accompanied by omelettes, home fries, and hominy, and all the tea and coffee one could ask for. Our only regret was that it was not winter, so we would have to feel guilty about all the calories.
We went downtown, and after a couple of wrong turns, found a parking space a block and a half from the Cathedral of the Holy Family. Wandering in for a late morning service, the homily was about the mental toughness needed to endure winters in cold places like Minnesota and Alaska, and about welcoming strangers. Well, there has always been a good measure of pragmatism in the Catholic Church, and combining a traditional message with a red carpet for tourists isnt a bad thing.
After church, we walked around downtown at a number of the touristy storesthere are some which offered windbreakers for $9.99; innumerable mugs and shot glasses, and clever T-shirts. My favorite shirt was the bear with a paper in one hand and a roll of TP in the other, heading for the woods, with the caption, "Yes, they do." But the best was the carved wooden moose, hollowed out, with room for jelly beans or chocolate covered coffee beans. The candies are dispensed by jiggling the tailyou figure the rest out. (Ill admit it, I bought one).
Aside from the tourist shops, I cannot recommend highly enough the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts : they had a 45-minute show on the Northern Lights which truly did justice to the anticipation. Instead of films of people just searching for the Northern Lights, it was several 10-15 minute musical interludes while the large screen showed movies of them.
Also coming in for high praise,. and very unexpected, was the Federal Building. No, we didnt go to watch indictments, but there was a large room with a mini-museum of the wildlife of Alaska, and an introduction to the different geographical regions. In the center was an indoor dais where a US Park Service Ranger gave a 45-minute historical presentation on the Klondike Gold Rush and some of Alaskas history. The accompanying bookstore had higher end books as well as a number of cookbookswe picked up a copy of The Best of the Best of Alaska which contained a number of home-grown recipes such asI kid you not--Mayonnaise Cake. I guess this far North, counting calories means the exact opposite of what it does outside. Oh, and by the way, prepare for a security search (like at the airport) when entering the Federal Building. I only have high praise for the guards here, who were courteous, polite, and cheerful. One of them had recently returned from a tour with the Army in Iraq. When I found that out, I asked if I could buy him a beer, but he politely explained that that wasnt allowed. However, he did allow himself a broad smile at the thought.
Dinner was at Orso. It was far more sophisticated and elegant than anything Id come to expect in Alaskaa genuine high-end dining experience. Candles, dark paneling, and a vaulted ceiling. Auntie Em and I each had halibut (very nicely done), the Cubs had Seafood Pasta, my wife (ever the traditionalist) a New York Strip. Well, OK, honey, but couldnt you do that just as well in Scottsdale?
One last note for other intrepid wayfarers. All of the attractions above were within easy walking distance of each othermaking all of my Yahoo and Mapquest directions obsoleteAnchorage is about the size of Des Moines, and there are only a couple of major roads to and from the Airport. I neednt have worried about finding Gwennies except if I had gone out of town, in which case I might have ended up in Nome or Prudhoe Bay. Speaking of that, stay tuned for tomorrows exciting installment :
The Road to Denali
Thanks for posting this.
Anchorage is one of the neatest cities to visit.
Denali, of course, is even more fun.
Looking forward to your report.
Enjoyed your post. Looking forward to tomorrow's.
Finally went a couple years ago--your post made me get out the pictures.
Keep those cards and letter coming.
As a ten year resident of Anchorage this stuff is fun to read.
Just remember: tell everyone that even remotely leans left that Alaska sucks. Sucks royally. Tell 'em we feed progressives/liberals to bears.
Enjoying your trip reports. Hope to make the trip someday as have a few friends up there.
I wish I'd been following this. We're headed to Fairbanks tomorrow.