Posts Tagged ‘food’

NCLRC

15th March 2011 by Helen

mexxi's logoIt’s been a lovely couple of nights staying at the KOA campsite in Costanoa.  It’s been a bit primitive in the camping area but it’s been very peaceful and I’ve absolutely loved the racket made by what sounds like a whole army of frogs living in the field right behind the tent.

nclrclub logoAfter a gentle start to the day we were on the move again.  Not far though.  We were delighted to accept an invite to dinner with the Northern California Land Rover Club at Mexxi’s in San Ramon a little north again from the campsite.  We had a great evening talking Land Rovers and Expeditions – and some really great food.

Campsite – Being rather late back on the road we opted for a Walmart ‘camp’ as we head south again.

Anchorage

4th November 2010 by Helen

We’re still here in Anchorage so I thought it was about time we did an update. Almost everything is in place ready for us to head off to Florida. We’ve collected the Jeep (shhhh, don’t tell Landy) out of storage, had the oils changed and the windscreen fixed (as arranged by the owner) but there’s a problem with the car heater – like, it’s not working – which is not bright when it’s already below freezing most of the time outside and it’s been snowing today.  One way or another a solution of some kind will have to happen tomorrow.  We’ve got on really well with the guys at the hostel but we are still really gutted by the delay. It makes it all the tighter on our schedule for actually getting to Florida in time for our flights back up to Seattle.

But, for now, I have a little time to think a bit more about our time here in Anchorage. It’s much as I described in ‘Cities’ but a couple of things I didn’t mention. Just down the road from the hostel is a house with a large caged pen outside. In the pen is a reindeer named Star. Star has her own facebook page. In fact she is really Star number 6 and is apparently a bit of a mascot here in Anchorage. Read more about Star’s history here.  Seeing Star and reading the article has made us ponder somewhat on the subject of what type of animal makes an appropriate pet and how they are kept!!

Another thing here is the cost of food!!  It’s astronomical.  Not that we should be surprised as most of it has to be shipped in from the “Lower 48” as they call the southern states.  Other than that most stuff seems cheaper at least than the UK – houses, apartments, electrical goods, etc.

We had a bit of a drama last night.  Paul was outside in the dark and snow detailing (valeting in English English) the Jeep while I was indoors cooking (not daft).  All of a sudden Paul heard a creeeeaaaaaak and then a craaaaassssshhhhh as the telegraph pole three doors up the road bent off at the bottom and lay down across the road.  The wires above his head tightened and then the next telegraph pole up the road repeated the cry and lay down too!!  Lights went off up the road between the two poles causing people to come rushing out into the road.

Much to our surprise the fire service turned up within the half hour.  Vehicles were parked and ground flares lit to block the road.  Fork lifts soon followed with a small army of workmen.  The various wires were disconnected from the still standing telegraph poles – causing our own electricity to go off.  Then they carried on working in the dark, wind and snow, replacing the poles and reconnecting the wires.  Amazingly the job was done and electricity restored by about 1.30 am.  The whole drama had taken no more than about four hours.

Mind you, there was nearly a much bigger disaster in the middle of this.  Despite the flashing red and blue lights, ground flares, fork lifts, fire engines and loads of men in hi-visibility jackes, one local resident reversed at speed out of his drive, straight over a coil brand new wire, catching the wire on the underside of his car, before speeding off.  Men in hi-visibility coats were waving and gesticulating at him to stop, to no avail until one of the men bravely stepped out right in front of the speeding car.  If he hadn’t there was a real risk that the car would have pulled the wire tight, pulling on the pole to which it was already attached and potentially causing a serious accident to the workman up that pole as well as damage to the madman’s car.   Glad to say that disaster was averted.

PS: check out our Gallery for our Rare Overlander video!!

23 into 4 will go

26th October 2010 by Helen

Well fed and set up for the day with both an English breakfast of porridge and a Russian breakfast of blini (pancakes) we set off for the airport at 9.30 am, allowing for the lengthy journey to the airport.  Our plane lifted off from Vladivostok airport on time at 1.00 pm and we landed on time in Anchorage at 5.00 pm.  In the intervening four hours we had spent 2 hours on our first flight to Incheon airport in South Korea, 5 hours at Incheon, 9 hours on the next flight to Seattle, 3½ hours at Seattle airport, and finally another 3½ hours on our third flight of the day, landing at Alaska airport.  23 into 4 will go.

Today’s travels have been a study in contrasts.  Believing we needed to be there two hours before our flight, and knowing the bus would take longer than we had available to cover the distance, we opted for a taxi.  The driver asked us which part of the airport we wanted: with the two buildings standing ten yards apart it probably wouldn’t have made much difference if we had got it wrong!  We entered the small building where a dozen or so people were milling about, noticed the souvenir shop and a coffee shop and stopped beside the sign advertising wrapping of luggage for 230 roubles per item.  At around £5.00 this seemed good value to secure our rucksacks, making sure the straps and suchlike couldn’t catch on other people’s luggage, and a better option than the roll of gaffer tape we had brought for that purpose.  We’d tried to buy cling film in the last few days but realised we had not seen any on sale since leaving Europe.

Duly wrapped, we lugged our bags through the small opening in the wall next to the baggage wrapping service, took three paces and passed through customs, then a further half dozen paces and queued briefly at one of the two check-in desks, where we were delayed while someone interpreted our English language e-ticket and concern over the fact that our baggage is only ‘checked’ to Seattle.  Another half dozen paces and we had piled our coats, hand luggage and boots on the electronic security checker, with our feet clad in little slipper shaped plastic bags, before being given the all clear to get re-booted and up the steps immediately behind security.  With plenty of seats, a small and barely stocked duty free selling nothing more than the basic cigarettes, perfume and alcohol, and a even smaller booth selling bottled drinks and sweets, the wait was comfortable and short, before we all piled back down the same set of stairs, through the rear of the security checking area and straight out the back door of the terminal to see a two small Vladivostok Air planes and a long single decker bus in front of us.

Everyone else was piling on the bus and we dutifully followed.  Shame we weren’t getting on one of the planes nearest the terminal.  The bus was designed as standing room only and was crowded with barely room to move.  Once everyone was on board, the driver closed the doors and the bus pulled forward 40 feet, stopped and the doors opened.  A titter of laughter rippled through the bus.  We had just crossed in front of the nose of the plane nearest the terminal.  It’s probably the ‘Procedure’!  In the biting wind we crowded round the bottom of the steps rising into the plane and had our tickets checked.

Throughout our two hours on Vladivostok Air the staff were courteous and polite and the service was efficient and friendly.  We were given sweets to suck as we took off and landed to help with the adjustment in air pressure.  On such a short flight we were quickly served our meal, catering to both Russian and Korean tastes.  I ate Paul’s raw fish.

Alighting at Incheon airport in Seoul was an experience in contrasts.  Miles of corridors and moving pavements.  In this land of leading electronic technology it was hardly surprising to see their skills used to decorate the walls.  However the electronic information point failed, not in its efficiency but in our ability to correctly decipher what it was trying to tell us.  However in this country that also prides itself on its service we soon found a friendly human who pointed us in the right direction.  Once we had located our tickets for the next two stages of our journey we had time to take in the rows and aisles and aisles of expensive looking shops selling expensive looking designer names.  No Primark here.  It reminded us of Heathrow, but cleaner, brighter, more efficient and friendlier.  And then we took a coffee and a rest in one of the many lounges spread around the terminal.

Our flight with South Korean Air was the longest of the day.  We were given dinner soon after being seated, each time being given a choice between a Western dish and a Korean dish.  To complete my brief Korean experience I chose the latter each time but the breakfast of rice porridge was not a good one.  All the time we were able to watch a film or documentaries on the screens embedded in the back of the seat in front before the lights were turned low and we were encouraged to sleep.  Sitting virtually upright we privately joked it was just like another cab sleep.

They say it always rains in Seattle and so it was we landed in Seattle in the rain.  Our first steps into and sight of America, Seattle airport provided another study in contrasts.  This had to be the full visitor works as our next flight is an internal American flight.  There were signs everywhere indicating that our ordeal was for the protection of America.  Worrying that our stopover time was comparatively short made no difference to the long queue at passport control. Each person in the queue was being seen individually.  When we were near the front I heard one worried looking woman being asked how long she was staying, who she was visiting, who she was travelling with, and then, for some reason, if she was married.  It sounded as if she was being grilled and the tone sounded demanding and accusatory.  A guard periodically came along the front of the row and checked our passports and immigration cards, asking how long we were staying. 

When we finally got to the front of the queue Paul went first to the next available counter.  I was called to another counter a matter of seconds later.  I handed the woman officer my immigration card, given out during the previous flight, and she asked for my customs declaration.  I said it was with my husband.  She barely concealed her irritation as she yelled across to her colleague and said “Andrews, I’m sending another one down to you”, and indicated with a movement of her head that I should go to the other counter.  Paul had already had his irises scanned and his fingerprints taken.  He stood while mine were taken too.  Andrews quizzed us on how long we planned to stay, he looked at the visas in our passports and asked how long we had been travelling, where we had been and where we had got the money from.   His apparent interest in us thinly disguised information gathering followed by the stereotypical “have a nice day” that he managed to underlay with a complete lack of sincerity.  We looked at the card he had stapled into our passports.  We have until April 26th to leave the country.  Right now that feels like six months too long.

And so we went on to claim our baggage and find our next flight.  Seattle airport has neither the homeliness of Vladivostok nor the clean efficiency of Incheon.   It lacks the clean lines and design of Incheon.  The lady in the baggage handling area observed us approach and made sure we found the right carousel.  Apart from that service was efficient enough but was somehow more dutiful and missed the point.  We had to work out for ourselves that our South Korean Air tickets had been transferred to Alaskan Air. When we asked for confirmation that our tickets were for Alaskan Air we were just told which gate to go to.  We were chastised at security for not taking our laptops out of their bag and putting each one in a separate tray, despite there having been no obvious signs telling us this is what we had to do.  Paul failed to resist quipping that every airport does it different and we’d not had to do that before.  No-one responded.  Unlike at Vladivostok, there were no neat little plastic slippers for our shoeless feet here.  We were left to assume what to do next and I walked through the electronic gate and stopped.  The ‘guard’ gave a flick of his head to indicate I’d passed and to reclaim my coats and shoes.  No-one smiled.  Heaven help the first time traveller.

Our first experience of America has not been impressive and if it wasn’t for our belief that the experience of meeting the real people in any country is nothing like the experience of passing through customs I think I’d have turned right back round there and then.

With friendly stewards and stewardesses Alaskan Air began to repair our first impressions.  Alaska airport was clean, spacious and customer friendly, with interesting traditional exhibits, art and stuffed animals, and plenty of easy to find information of relevance to tourists, and so it was we stopped to take a breath, drink a coffee and munch on a sandwich before finding a room for the night.