Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yukon/Skagway - Staff trip by Bolanle

Executive First class seats on the way out- definitely worth the extra money -the service, comfort, quality etc is just great

10mins max drive into downtown Whitehorse- stayed at the High Country Executive Inn- rooms are lovely, large- as the name already gives it away- all rooms have Jacuzzi's, wireless internet connection, fitness facility and a business centre which is all complimentary.

Drove up to Carcross (world’s smallest desert)- took about an hour and a half, then another hour from there to Fraser still on the Hwy 2 to board the White Pass & Yukon train to Skagway- this train takes about an hour and a half and you'll experience views of the mountains, glaciers, historical sites, tunnels and many more which are of course very well narrated so that you can follow the map.
Arrive in Skagway and you need your passport for US immigration and $6 US- they will NOT accept Canadian dollars although it states so on literally all their magazines etc.
Skagway- small but busy, alot of restaurants and expensive souvenir shops and that’s all you've got there
Drove down to the Inn on the Lake (Whitehorse) from Skagway stopping off at the Suspension Bridge on the way down on the South Klondike Hwy which is only about a 30minute drive from Skaway- guides are there to give you some history about the place and the best place to see some bears.
Continuing through the Southern Lake circuit (Tagish Road and Jakes Corner) to the Inn on the Lake- 2hrs drive from the Suspension bridge but only 35minutes away from Whitehors. Inn on the Lake- absolutely lovely. Rooms in their main lodge are all ensuite but the cabins which can fit up to 5people (2rooms and a loft) only has one shower to share. Another cabin which sleeps up to 9 has ensuite but is one of their newer buildings. All rooms/cabins come fully equipped with access to BBQ, balcony etc. Rooms can get cold as there are no heaters in the cabin except for the log wood fire in the living room. Room rates include breakfast and pretty much all the water activities. They have 2 lovely dogs who meet you with the Owner Carson- you can take one of the dogs out for walks if wanted as it can fight off bears and people feel safer with that although they do give you pepper spray too. Dinner price is additional and there is only 1 sitting- 7pm- this place is definitely worth it

Depart on the Alaska Hwy to Haines Junction Airport (Kluane National Park)- 2hrs drive from the Inn on the Lake. Took a 45minute Glacier Flightseeing trip and although the views were great- advice you not to sit at the back- unfortunately being the smallest, I had to & I felt sick! Whilst at Haines, 20minutes away, we took the St Elias Mountain Trail- where we hoped to see bears- (no such luck I’m afraid and definitely too many mosquitoes)

From Haines, an hours journey to Uncommon Journeys in Whitehorse- Uncommon Journey are a company that offer premier guided dog sledding, canoeing and hiking adventures and just like a lot of places in Whitehorse, also offer packages to include the Northern lights. This is a lovely place and the family are great- so are the dogs!
Another 45minutes drive back to Whitehorse

Sunday- Air North flight Whitehorse to Dawson City- takes about an hour but the plane is grubby & old. We were met at the Airport by a tour group taking us on tour of the Dempster Highway- 1.5hours from Dawson City- we drove just beyond Tombstone Mountain- the drive was awesome- traveling across Northern Yukon to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories and is the only public road in Canada that crosses the Arctic Circle (I’m sure you all knew that)
Back to Dawson City - Klondike Gold Rush- stepping back into the 1890’s at the height of the Goldrush, when Dawson City was the largest city north of San Francisco and was known as the “Paris of the North”. It only has a population of about 2,000 people. The streets are still unpaved and lined with wooden boardwalks and historic buildings – most preserved and restored to their original state. I loved this place- was the highlight of the trip for a lot of us- place was so old, colourful and so historic! Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino definitely worth a visit (OH and you have to try the sourtoe drink- SORRY)
We stayed at the Aurora Inn- lovely place- you must take off your shoes before entering but they do provide slippers, rooms are spacious and offer free internet and breakfast. They do lock the doors after 11 so you have to ensure you take your keys with you!
Dawson City- we were given an historic walking tour of the Goldrush times etc- it was a fun tour and again worth going on.
Transfer back to Dawson City Airport- 15mins drive. When we arrived at Whitehorse, we were met by Tom’s Touring service for a transfer to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve- about 30mins- nothing special at this reserve I’m afraid, but if you’re into birds, then this is for you! Continued for another 30minutes to Takhini Hot Springs where there’s also a Campground and a new place being built for people to see the northern lights. Took about 40minutes to get back to Whitehorse after the tour around Takhini. Stayed at the Gold Rush Inn- although this Hotel was very central- it was basic, small and definitely had a lot of characteristics going back to the Goldrush days as the name would imply- but still- not for me!

Loved this area - sad to go home

Alaska - Staff Trip by Bolanle

BA World Traveller Plus is quite comfortable and in my opinion, is worth upgrading although I preferred economy but I guess that’s because I’m a shorty! Arriving in Seattle was simple and clearly signposted. After collecting your baggage- you think that's it but it has to go through further security again whilst you catch a train to the main terminal whether you’re connecting or ending your travel in Seattle- advantage- you don't need to worry about carrying your baggage around. Finding the taxi depot is however confusing and when you do find it, there’s apparently always a huge queue which I also experienced- took me 25mins to finally get a taxi
Hotel- Comfort Inn & Suites is not based in downtown Seattle although the description says it is- instead it’s about 35miles away from the airport and costs about $80 for the taxi. Hotel itself was nice with laundry, pool and business centre available free of charge, close to some shopping and restaurant. The only disadvantage is the distance.
I have been advised that Bellview area is the place to be and is closer to downtown Seattle and the airport.
Alaska Airline to Ketchikan- easy to check in, online check in and drop off your baggage in an allocated space and continue to your gate. 2hrs flight, same flight goes on to Wrangell, Juneau and ends in Anchorage although on their system, it states that it is a direct flight, but please note that it always stops at the destinations mentioned. For Juneau, there is 1 direct flight and that’s a late flight

Day 1
Ketchikan airport is small but serves its purpose, very quick and no immigration to go through. From the airport, you have to take a water taxi or ferry into town- leaves every 30mins but only takes 2mins to cross over- costs $11 if you have a car and $5 for foot passenger’s roundtrip. Takes about 10mins to get to your downtown hotel including your transfer
The Best Western Hotel is definitely one to be recommended- it has recently gone through refurbishment, has 2buildings, one that is solely accommodation and the other has the restaurant, business centre, fitness centre, gift shop and a pub. They have wifi connection in all rooms which is free, complimentary shuttle bus into town and Airport courtesy shuttle also available
Activities available in Ketchikan; Humpback whales and seals- May to September but have killer and grey whales all year round. Snorkelling and Scuba Diving. No grizzly but a lot of black bears which you can see from your backyard sometimes (so I was told). Hiking and Ziplining ($169per person) also available 15mins away from your downtown hotel by car both guided and unguided.
Deer mountain hiking- independent- would take the whole day.
Recommended day trip to Prince of Wales Island by flight and board the ferry in search of the Minerals- you can only fly to Prince of Wales Island from Ketchikan. Bar Harbour restaurant is a nice place to have dinner. Although people mainly only cruise through Ketchikan, it is very easy to fill 3days of activities here.

Day 2
Black bear Inn- is about 10mins from downtown (4miles) and is a lovely place to stay especially in Summer when its so busy- this place is quite secluded with outdoor hot-tub and BBQ. Clients can make their own food and feel like they are back at home. I would suggest clients hire a car although there is a bus service from downtown during the week but nothing over the weekend and I would suggest staying at least 2nights. Mainly for ‘fishers’ but there is a guy across the road from the lodge that offers kayaking trips which is highly recommended-

Salmon Falls Resort- open mid May to Mid Sept and is 17miles out of Ketchikan. Mainly for Halibut and fly fishing, they are high-end, will collect you from the Airport and take you back, very secluded, No spa facilities but the best fishing resort in Ketchikan. Although secluded and solely for fishing, if you want to go out to see the bears/ Misty Fjords, they will arrange that for you

Alaska Undersea- 90mins underwater in a boat- chances to see otters, whales (orcas and killer whales), Octopus. Also offer a 2hr bear watching, eagles, salmon and seals- has to be pre-booked. Based in downtown and have to make their own way to the depot. This company did look good only disadvantage is that they don’t provide a pick-up from your Hotel. It’s ok if staying in a downtown Hotel.
Gilmore Hotel for the night- right in downtown Ketchikan across from the dock- old hotel, rooms are small although all rooms are 1bed suites- it does make rooms very claustrophobic- bathroom is VERY small and all that is in there is a shower-no bath. I personally didn't like this place, topped with the fact that my room was freezing and the Hotel couldn't do anything to help.

Day 3
25min flight to Wrangell- small place- reminds one of Dawson city but a bit more recent. In Wrangell, you can go out on Jetboat to see the wildlife- 4hrs trip with Summit charters- - $149per person or Annan Creek where you’re most definitely guaranteed to see the bears. Trip range from 4 to 7hrs depending on which trip is of preference to the clients. July- August- best time to see the black and brown bears
There is also a hike that can be done with Rainwalker expeditions, along with kayaking and biking tours (

Day 4
A city tour of Wrangell with - To see the museums and cultural sites- this is actually a recommended tour and would advise people to take this tour first so that they get a feel for Wrangell and a bit about its history.

Flight from Wrangell to Juneau- 1hr including a stop in Petersbourg
Some of the few things one can do in Juneau- hiking (100 trails), the Glacier Gardens, the brewery, steamboat rides, glacier flights, fishing, kayaking are just a few and of course the Mendenhall Glacier
Goldbelt Hotel- nice hotel in downtown Juneau with spacious rooms, gym, business centre and wifi facility

Day 5
45mins flight with Alaska Airlines to Sitka where we were taken round the city with Sitka Tribal Enterprises-
Tour included Sitka National Historical Park, the Alaska Raptor Centre, St. Michael's Cathedral church, Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Dancers and the Archangeldancers show (definitely recommended).

A visit to the Westmark Inn- lovely place and seems to be the best property in town with views overlooking the harbour and to finish off the tour in Sitka, take a semi-submersible with sea life discovery tour to see the underwater ecosystem.
Back to Juneau and a sight inspection of the Best Western Country Lane Inn and Grandma's Feather Bed. Best Western Country Lane Inn is 10mins walk from the airport but whilst you’re there, you don’t feel so close to the airport, all rooms are like Motel rooms, very spacious, clean and actually a nice basic alternative for people who may not want to be in downtown. Grandma’s Feather Bed- this place reminds me of Abigail’s B&B in Victoria , Canada, when you get in, so as you can imagine, very nice, all rooms are different which makes it all unique. Grandma’s Feather bed also has a restaurant and the food there is awesome, it is 2mins walk from the Best Western and owned by the same person.

Day 6
Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Haines- 'the Fairweather’- takes just over 2hrs and is a very comfortable and smooth ride with a place available to buy food and children’s play area.

Arrived in Haines and have to say, I felt that this place really was the 'real Alaska'. It had so much history and culture to offer. Activities available- rafting with which can be incorporated with a cook-out lunch- same place- about 30mins out of Haines town- on the way to Kroshels. This place also offers canoeing from/to the mouth of the glacier in Skagway. There's also Kroshels Wildlife Centre, which was the highlight of the trip- very inspiring and educational. Kroshel is a film producer who works with Mario ..... who can both be seen on the wildlife channel- together they own the wildlife centre, training all kinds of animals from wolves to moose and minx. The animals are not held in captive, they are animals who either have no 'mother' and cannot survive in the wild or injured. Kroshel takes an hour and half tour telling you how they live, eat, how or if they use them for any filming. This place is about 45mins out of Haines town.

Stayed at Hotel Halsingland- old army cadet hall. This place has character, however basic but they do ensure that your stay with them is VERY comfortable. Haines also has the world's smallest brewery.

Day 7
Chilcat cruises to skagway- 35mins from Haines. Again, very comfortable cruises with the possibilities of seeing some wildlife on the way- such as mountain goats, otters and whales. Took the White Pass & Yukon Railroad train for 3hrs roundtrip to the Summit. From Skagway, we were scheduled to go dog mushing on the glacier but weather didn't permit so we took a city tour and ended up in Dyea- 15mins away from Skagway on a dirt road. In Dyea, we visited Chilkoot trail outpost which is a brilliant place and somewhere I think we should feature if people are taking a self drive option through Alaska. They have different cabins and include breakfast with all their packages but require a 2night minimum stay, which again I feel is right. They offer wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities. Skagway is only 15mins away and also the White Pass & Yukon train. Here is where we got the chance to see 3 black bears walking across the road.

Skagway air to Gustavus- 1hr- baggage and weight restrictions but is a nice and inexpensive way of flying over the Glaciers. Gustavus- population of 3300-very small and secluded
Each lodge on this Island offers transfers from & to the airport. Bear Track Inn- totally beautiful. Probably the best lodge on the Island with only 14rooms, no TV or phone in the rooms. Rates include all meals and will help to arrange activities such as kayaking with the orcas, glacier trip, bear/whale-watching. This place is only 15mins away from the airport.
We actually stayed at the Glacier Bay lodge- biggest lodge on the island. Not as nice as the Bear Track, but the next best thing available. Motel type cabins but spacious, again, no TV's, but there are phones in the rooms and include breakfast in their package.

Day 8
Walked down to the harbour- 2mins and boarded the Catamaran for a 7hr cruise to Glacier Bay. On the way, we saw whales, sea otters, puffins, mountain goats, black bears, moose, eagles and of course the Glacier. This trip is definitely worth taking, costs $160 and includes lunch and snacks. Departs at 0730 and returns back to the lodge around 1530. Back at the lodge, took a transfer back to Gustavus airport (25mins). Note that it takes so long because of the speed restrictions put in place & they are very strict on it too. There is only one car hire Company on the island- Bud car rental- he will meet you at the airport with the car including a tank of petrol

Wings of Alaska scheduled flight to Juneau - 9 Seater - 30mins flight to Juneau and transferred to 'sheepscreek' for dogmushing which again was awesome- you get to learn about the dogs, history and way of living for both dogs and trainer. Trip costs $160 for 2hr tour and includes pickup & drop-off from your hotel or airport.
Recommended place to eat is at the top of Mount Roberts Tramway.
Final night at the Westmark Baranof Hotel, looks like the best Hotel in town, spacious, right in downtown, 2 restaurants and very high-end. Suites and standard room available here

Halifax & Nova Scotia - Staff trip by Bolanle

Day 1:
The flights with Air Canada were very comfortable.
Arrived at Halifax Airport and collected our car, drove to downtown Halifax (Delta Barrington Hotel) via the Toll Bridge and took us about 25mins to get into town due to some roadworks. Costs 0.75cents to cross the toll.
Delta barrington Hotel- right in the centre of town- loads of restaurants and the shopping centre right opposite. The hotel is quite old but lovely, rooms are spacious. Free internet access in all the rooms and a business centre available, the gym and pool is very small but does the job and as its open from 6am-11pm

Day 2:
Delta Barrington Hotel is very central as we were walking distance from city hall, World Trade & Convention Centre, Clock Tower, Citadel- natural historic site where you can see the changing of the guards every hour.
Had a quick glance at the Public Gardens- a bit like the Botanical gardens in Montreal from what we could see on the bus and of course the ever so famous Titanic Cemetery where 328 people from the Titanic disaster were buried.
Springarden road for the main shopping district
Brewery Institute- educating customers on how to taste beer, how to choose beer with what they are eating etc- it is quite exciting and would recommend for beer drinkers.

Day 3:
45 minutes drive to Prospects for some kayaking with Eastcoast Outfitters - quite a nice place to go to on the way to Peggys Cove. From here, another 20mins to Peggy’s Cove taking the lighthouse route. Continued our journey through to Oak Island Resort & Spa. If this was a straight journey from Halifax to Oak Island, then the journey would have probably taken about an hour and 15mins or so.
Oak Island Resort & Spa- lovely place, spacious but they could do a lot better with it- the décor are quite dated and unfortunately, everything that goes on, you can more or less hear it in the room- I could hear the people upstairs walking in their room. The Spa facilities looked great- wanted to stay for a treatment but didn’t have time unfortunately, other than that though- the Resort was great, good food, views, activities are available on resort- tennis, mini golf, outdoor/indoor pool, boat/sailing activities and children’s playground. Free parking and internet

Day 4:
Continued on the coast through Mahone bay for a city tour of Lunenburg with Eric Croft- this is actually quite an interesting tour to take- its very informative, saw the bluenose ship- you can take a day trip on that whilst you’re there before continuing on to Digby on Highway 8. Stopped off at Maitland Bridge where we branched off to Kejimkujik National Park for an afternoon of canoeing- again a recommended trip to go on and all this can be done leisurely in a day before finishing off at Digby- the drive from Kejimkujik to Digby is a lovely one with a great view of the Bay of Fundy. Great place to stop over for lunch is M&W Restaurant at Maitland Bridge just a minute from Kejimkujik National Park.
Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa- beautiful from the outside and also inside, but the rooms are quite small, headboards not attached to the beds so it keeps banging on the wall when you move whilst on the bed- was quite annoying. Restaurant was lovely and the views are great.

Day 5:
Half an hour drive from digby Pines to Petit passage Whale Watch ( which takes you along the Bay of Fundy which I was told was lovely but no sign of whales.
On to Annapolis Royal- scenic town which overlooks Annapolis River with over 150 heritage buildings- known for its ‘weird’ (they call it unique) shops, galleries and artist studios. On to Highway 1 to wolfville- took us about an hour and a half from Annapolis Royal. Wolfville is actually quite a busy place and those who don’t know that it is a university town will be surprised at how busy the place is compared to other places they may have visited before Wolfville. Stayed at the Blomidon Inn- beautiful place- only has 28rooms and is a family business. All the rooms are very different and unique in its own way- although the place and décor are dated, they have refurbished the place with new fitted bathrooms, 4poster beds etc- would definitely recommend it as a stopping destination.

Day 6:
Blomidon Provicial park- 30minutes drive from Wolfville and is a great place for hiking, after that, went on to Grand Pré National Historic Site- where a stone church has been built as a memorial to the Acadians who were forcefully exiled from their homes and farms by the British and this I would DEFINITELY recommend to anyone travelling through that way just to stop over for an hour and its only $8 to enter and its definitely worth it for any age group- it really is very educational but at the same time interesting.
5minutes away from here is Grand Pré Wines- Wine Tasting- for those wine lovers- a nice place to go and have lunch and take the wine tour.
6hours from Grand Pré to Pictou- took the coastal routes and it was long- too windy and not much of a view so it was a long tiresome drive, I would advise anyone taking this route to take the Motorway there so you can enjoy what Pictou has to offer- because of the long journey- we didn’t get to really explore the lodge and the area.

Pictou lodge- beautiful place surrounded by the lake- very colourful too. The check in is somewhere in between the gift shop and the restaurant and is kind of lost in between that but makes it quite exciting. All rooms (or motels as they call it) are cabin style and very spacious. All rates include bike and canoe rentals- unguided.

Day 7:
2hours drive to Urbania for the Tidal Bore Rafting- it is very easy to get lost for the Tidal Bore as it is called the Shubenacadie Tidal Bore Park and there is a place called Shubenacadie- it is very easy to mis-judge how long this place takes to get to, but it is about an hours drive from Halifax and 2hours from Pictou travelling on the highway.
Tidal Bore Rafting- they have 2 time slots for the tides 10am and 1600hrs- if you miss that, then you’ll be watching from the viewing bridge- they have 2hour and 4hour rafting and the 4hours includes the mud slide- no experience is necessary and a change of clothes is DEFINITELY required. They can also arrange for a BBQ lunch to be included in the package if you have a group and don’t want to travel anywhere else for lunch as it is difficult to find somewhere else to stop off for lunch in that area.

Inn on the Lake off Highway 102 or Highway 118- not far from the airport- nice cozy place to stay if you don’t want to stay downtown and you have an early flight in the morning or you got in late- its only about 10minute from the airport but not too close to be disturbed by the noise from the aircraft.