Monday, 19 July 2010

Juneau and Skagway

Yesterday we docked at Juneau, Alaska's capital city, although city may be rather an exaggeration. It is a pretty little town with a whole line of tourist shops, places where you can buy the same T-shirt, but also some very nice shops displaying and selling the work of local artists. The most surprising thing however, is the incredible number of jewellers. They offer free trinkets to the cruise ship passengers. Bait and switch, they get you in there with the promise of a pendant, actually give you a lump of amethyst because they're 'run out' and then try to sell you stuff. Dawn is my secret weapon, she's a canny shopper, well that and the fact that jewellery doesn't interest me.
We saw around the government building. Tours were on offer, but in fact they just gave you a leaflet and pointed you at the lift. If you like dark, carved wood, this is the place for you, to me it was interesting, yet dismal, in need of an Ikea makeover. It seems that Alaska has been more represented by women than most other places, and as is usually the case, the women were also the activists for social justice.

Today we docked in Skagway, another small town, reliant on the tourist industry. As with Juneau, it sells history, diamonds and T-shirts with plasticised jokes on the word 'bear' or 'moose'. Really, there is no end to them.
The history is based on the railway and the gold rush. Alaska seems to be largely kept alive by tourism and toruism is also killing it.
Dawn and I ignored the shops, didn't pay another $100 to sit on a train, or another 100 again to spend ten minutes on a zipline, and we hiked instead up a mountain, which we enjoyed. There's plenty to do on the cruise ship, but none of it is very physical, so we were more than happy to get the cardio-vascular system going again.

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