Sometimes when I go away filming I'm not entirely sure what to expect, some have been fabulous and some very disappointing. Experience has taught me that some of the most exiting or exotic destinations can be a bit of a letdown for a variety or reasons. It all starts at home when various people, including mates and family members, ask what I'm up to. When you say 'Oh I'm off to America or to Sri Lanka', you can imagine the reaction, 'Oh alright for some' blah blah blah. It's weird they all assume that's its jolly and a laugh, and whilst I agree its not the same as being stuck in an office, its definitely not jolly.
My latest trip took me to a place I have never been to before and also didn't really know much about apart from 2 statistics. One is that it is 576,000 square miles big, and the other is that it was bought from the Russian's for $1 an acre many years ago. Yes, it's Alaska. Apparently, Montana, Texas, and North Carolina fit into it easily! That is rather hard to visualise, until you think that the whole of the UK fits into Texas 4 times. Wow, that's big and with a population of only a mere 3 million.
As I have mentioned already, you are never quite sure what to find or see, but every so often a place really stops you in your tracks. And this place did just that. Some of the things I have encountered and seen on my trip really are so memorable I will remember for the rest of my life.
The plan was to make 2 films on the back of my sustainable fishing series I made for ITV's 'This Morning' (see other pages here on the site). Alaska is the perfect place as all the fishing is very carefully and strictly regulated. One of the films was to concentrate on the wild salmon industry; the other was to look at more species that are fully sustainable, such as halibut and crab. 'Alaska Seafood' were to be our guides and be with us to show us the industry, people, and wonderful fish.
The trip started with a 9½ hour flight to Vancouver with a quick 1 hour wait, then a 45 minute twin prop trip to Seattle. Here I was to meet up with the crew, Matt (the cameraman), Russel (the soundman), and JD my director. As I landed, my phone went off, it was JD. They had missed their flight connection from Washington to Seattle by 3 minutes...meaning that they would not make the last stage of the journey from Seattle to Juneau, so would arrive tomorrow. Oh dear, that meant we were almost a day behind to start with on a very tight schedule. I had 5 hours to kill, so checked in, and went through the ridiculously long American safety checks, including a full body x-ray scan.
Next, a very thorough rub down and many questions from bemused officials as to why I wanted to go to Alaska in the first place.
I was a bit tired now but hey ho the sun was shining. I thought I'd better stay awake as long as I could, trying to forget that in the UK it was 9 in the evening. This coupled with the fact that I would have to endure the normal, pretty awful run of the mill airport food was a bit wearing. However on closer inspection, it seems here in Seattle airport they have many food offerings indeed. Some good, some not so, but I was quite impressed. I settled for a large seafood restaurant with a stunning window view out to the runway. My waiter was charming, full of life and very funny. I'm not too sure why I remember this, oh yes I do; because its America, everyone is trying to please you so you leave a bigger tip. I know I may be a cynic, but in a strange way its a refreshing change to be served by people who seem genuinely happy to do so, without grunting, sighing, or being downright rude. The menu was a nice surprise, it that read really well and was full of fish and shellfish. Wild Alaskan salmon and Halibut featured heavily, but as I was going to be eating huge amounts of the stuff over the next few days so I plumped for fried oysters, with rice and broccoli.
A good choice my waiter commented 'Its my favourite dish on the menu buddy', and off he went. I was warming to him even more, especially after my second beer, until I saw him say the same about a calamari dish to two Japanese tourists. Oh well, perhaps I was expecting too much.
The meal arrived quickly, nicely cooked, lovely plump oysters which were lightly fried. It was served with rather undercooked broccoli, and Basmati rice with golden sultanas and slivered almonds mixed through. Not the norm but certainly very good. I sat there wondering how many of the airports in Britain could A: cope with this sort of menu and B: could deliver this quality so quickly, mmmmmm.
After polishing off the whole plate, I then had a quick crème brulee and sat back with a full stomach to admire the view and think about the next step of the journey. No sooner had I sat back in my chair, Mr Waiter returned. Catching me unawares from behind trying to flog me a coffee or another drink and telling me in no uncertain terms that his shift was about to end. I took this as a euphemism for 'please settle the check so I can have my big fat tip'. I paid up, and left a tip. We shook hands and made my way out.