A stormy day…Power outages…Credit card frustration…

Across the Bay in Vancouver, we could see the Olympic Mountains. At first, we thought this was a view of clouds, not mountains.

Yesterday morning, after our usual complimentary breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites country kitchen, we sat in the comfy lounge/living room to work on the day’s post.

With the storm raging outside, we were content to be indoors while the rain pelted against the windows. It took a little longer than usual to upload the post due to our distraction over the weather. We were both curious to see what was transpiring on the news.

By 1:00 pm, I was out the door amid a few sprinkles with heavily overcast clouds for my first visit to a Target store for the first time in many years. Tom desperately needed a new pair of black jeans and always preferred Wrangler’s essential brand, which Target sells.

His old pair of black jeans had developed white lines where they were folded, most likely due to overwashing and years of use. I asked him to come along with me to try them on, and he agreed. But I knew how much he dislikes shopping and offered to go on my own.

When I arrived at the Ridgehaven Mall Target Store in Minnetonka, I could tell something was amiss. Upon nearing the entrance, I could tell the lights were out, undoubtedly caused by the storm. 

A tall totem pole in Victoria.

Entering the store, an employee greeted me, offered a cart, and explained the power outage would prevent the sale of any refrigerated foods. The current generator wasn’t sufficiently powerful to allow for ample lighting, especially toward the store’s back.

Well, the men’s jeans were located in the back of the store. Bound and determined to find Tom the black jeans, I headed toward the department; my little LED flashlight in hand. From a lack of recent use, the battery was dying, providing very little light.

Luckily, a helpful employee offered to assist me in finding the correct size in near-total darkness. Alas, we were in luck and found Tom’s oddball size, 36/30 (short for a guy at 6′ feet tall). I was thrilled. I had little interest in returning to the store on another day.

After rolling the cart around the dimly lit store, I managed to find a few toiletry items, two large handled insulated mugs (our two such mugs desperately needed to be replaced), and a big glass Ball jar to hold our iced tea. (I wasn’t about to drink one more glass made in that toxic plastic bottle Tom had been using in our hotel room).

When I went to check out, my Visa credit card was declined.  There was no reason why this should happen. I used a different card but felt frustrated. Immediately upon returning to the red rental SUV, I called the number on the back of the card only to be told my shopping in the USA was suspect. 

“Was the card stolen?” they asked. Ha! That’s ironic. Here I’m using a US credit card in the US, and its use is suspect. Then, they asked for a phone number to verify my identity when their “caller ID” showed my new SIM card number, which they didn’t recognize according to my record. 

Pond view from the moving vehicle.

The only number they had in their system was my old cell phone number from years ago. I guess I never bothered to update it using our Skype phone number in Nevada. 

When I tried to give the rep that number, oh, she didn’t like that.  When I reminded her to look up my account and our world travel with charges from many countries, in addition to many years of flawless payments paying it off each month, she reconsidered, especially when I asked to speak to a supervisor.

In moments, I answered her identity-verifying-questions correctly, she apologized and released the card for use. I supposed I understand they’re trying to prevent theft of the card, but it wasn’t very pleasant nonetheless.

A wild deer was grazing in a park.

Leaving the Target parking lot, I headed to the Payless Shoe Store in the same outdoor mall only to discover a handwritten sign on the door that read, “Closed due to the power outage.” I returned to the SUV and was back on the road again, this time to return to Macy’s for their huge sale.

As we take every possible moment of free time to shop to replace our old and worn clothing, a trip back to Macy’s was on the agenda for me. I’d already purchased enough for Tom and a few items for me, but now it was my turn to finish it up.

Within an hour, including time in the fitting room, I was done.  I’d purchased six items, valued at $397 for a paltry $94 considering all the discounts the store was offering. One item was $79, for which I paid $20. Wow! With a sale like that, I was actually enjoying the shopping and loved every item I’d selected.

Historic house in Victoria.

Now, minus a few other items, we’re almost done shopping. What a relief!  Starting fresh with new items feels rewarding and elicits more enthusiasm than one might experience by “adding” to a wardrobe instead of “replacing” a worn wardrobe.

Back at the hotel, I raved to Tom about my deals. He smiled, happy that I’d enjoyed the bargains but in his usual manner had little interest in seeing what I’d purchased. I suppose for some; it’s a “guy thing.” For others, gender is of little significance in determining who’s interested and who’s not, concerning their beloved partner’s wardrobe.

A short time after I returned to the hotel, it was time to meet TJ, Sarah, Jayden, and Nik for dinner next door at Grizzly’s. We had a great dinner together amid idle chatter among the six of us. We lingered at the table for quite a while, and then, they were on their way after goodbye hugs all around. Another good family get- together!

Hilltop view of Victoria, British Columbia.

Last night, I began preparing today’s post to bring our laptops down to the hotel’s living room while watching the Tony Awards on the big screen TV (larger than the TV in our suite). 

As tired as I was, it made no sense to wait to prepare a post in the morning when I’d have grandson Miles with me for most of the day, picking him up at 8:00 am this morning in time to return to the hotel for the breakfast which ends at 9:30 am.

I haven’t decided what he and I will do tomorrow, but I’m sure once we chat in the car, we’ll come up with a good plan. Whatever we do, Miles and I will have a good time. Tom will be gone part of the day to attend a railroad association meeting, returning later in the day.

That’s it for today, folks. Finally, I’m close to wrapping up the photos from Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia and, I apologize for not taking many photos so far here in Minnesota.  Soon, I’ll be out of photos and have to get the “show on the road” sharing new and interesting photos of Minnesota.  Hmm…maybe that’s what Miles and I can do tomorrow, weather permitting.

Have a good day! 

Photo from one year ago today, June 12, 2016:

Ants carrying off a dead gecko in Bali. For more photos, please click here.

Time spent with Tom’s Sister Beth from Milwaukee and more family members…

Walking along the path at Butchart Gardens, we noticed this opening in the trees to this beautiful view.

It was 8:40 pm Tuesday. We had just returned from Tom’s sister Patty’s home, a good 40-minute drive back to our hotel. Today at 7:45 am, we’re driving in rush hour traffic to pick up Maisie for the day, and yesterday I’d yet to spend five minutes preparing today’s post as I’d hoped to do to free me up to spend time with her.

Too pooped to complete the post in its entirety last night, I decided to get a head start on it before bed and finish it this morning. By the time I am ready to head out the door to drive to St. Louis Park, this post was done and posted early today.

Apparently, as a part of the landscape, this opening provided an interesting view for visitors.

Now, I can spend the day with Maisie giving her my undivided attention. We have a busy day planned; buffet breakfast here at the hotel (the kids love this), shopping at the Albertville Outlet Mall, and if time allows, a movie she chooses, of course befitting her mature 10 years of age.

Yesterday was a flurry of activity. We were up, showered, and dressed by 7:00 am making our way downstairs for an early breakfast. By 8:30, we were seated in the hotel’s lounge while fast and furiously I banged away at the keyboard to ensure we’d be out the door no later than 11:40 am to pick up Betty (Sister Beth) at the airport for her 12:05 pm arriving flight.

A pond on the grounds.

Unfortunately, Tom didn’t have his phone on him (it was in the backseat of the SUV in the computer bag) and didn’t hear the ring when Betty called to let him know she’d arrived a little earlier than expected. We were waiting for her in the wrong spot on the baggage level, finally spotting her a while later.

Once the three of us were on our way, we decided to visit their brother (my brother-in-law) Jerome, who’d been taken to the hospital the previous night with acute back pain. Worried it was something serious, he was rushed to hospital by ambulance leaving us all concerned over his condition.

A stone temple statue at the side of a pond in the Japanese Garden.

Jerome is 88 years old, totally blind, and extremely hard of hearing but generally in good health. Lately, he hadn’t been feeling well and perhaps, this bout in the hospital might be just what he needed to determine what’s causing him pain. 

To date, a specific cause of Jerry’s pain is unknown other than the usual often painful conditions commensurate with aging.  He’s being treated with meds in hopes of making him more comfortable. After a short stint at a local nursing home where he’ll have physical therapy,  he’ll be able to return to his home.

We were surprised there weren’t a lot of birds in the ponds and man-made lakes.

We were sad to see him suffering but felt relieved there was no seeming underlying cause of major concern.  We’ll continue to visit him over our remaining month in Minnesota.

By 3:00 pm, we arrived at Patty’s home, dropped Betty off, and made our way to a local grocery store to purchase food for dinner at Patty’s. We purchased three roasted chickens, scalloped potatoes, sweet corn, veggie platter, and fixings for coleslaw which I made once we returned. We were all hungry, and by 4:15, the five of us, including Tom’s nephew Jim, were gathered around Patty’s kitchen table.

Early Spring is a perfect time to visit Butchart Gardens with flowers in full bloom.

A short time later, more family arrived and joined us in the meal and idle chatter, including Tom’s niece Kari (a big fan of our site and travels, bless her heart), sister Mary Ellen and husband Eugene, and sister Colleen and husband, Gene. 

Thank goodness we’d purchased enough to feed others. Everyone dug in and pulled up more chairs around the table. It was a typical Lyman gathering; food, drinks, and lively conversation. It couldn’t have been more fun!

This gorgeous flower quickly caught our attention.

I’d hoped to work on today’s post while at Patty’s, but she doesn’t have Internet access in her home. She wasn’t even interested in learning to use a computer or smartphone, not unusual for those in their 80’s or older.

By 8:00 pm, while a few others began to say their goodbyes, I gave Tom “the look” that perhaps it was our time to head back to the hotel and get today’s post going. He fully understood, and we headed back to the hotel arriving at 8:40 pm. 

Statue of wild pig that many visitors consider good luck when rubbing its nose. 

By 9:30 pm, I couldn’t type one more word and closed the laptop for the night with a plan to finish the first thing in the morning. Awakening at 5:00 am, I finally dragged myself out of bed by 6:00 am knowing I had better “get the show on the road.” No doubt, today will be another fine day with lovely granddaughter Maisie.

We’ll be back at you tomorrow with more. Have a lovely day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 7, 2016:

In Bali, we spotted this friendly neighbor (no English) making bowls, as shown in her hands, used for offerings at the Hindu temples. For more photos, please click here.

Coffee, tea and me, please…The action continues…Busy day with Miles…Out late last night…

Daphne Islet is breathtaking.

Two mornings ago, I had the first cup of coffee I’ve been able to consume since last December when I experienced the worsening of Helicobacter pylori symptoms that had been populating my system for 16 months.

Now that the infection is gone, residual effects are often left behind after the infection heals for up to a year or longer. However, the symptoms of the aftereffects have waned considerably since I began taking mega-dose probiotics, VSL #3 with 450 billion bacteria based on a recommendation by Dr. Peter Dingle, whom I met aboard the 24-night cruise from Sydney to Seattle.

It wasn’t easy finding this high-potency non-prescription product in the US since it’s rarely prescribed by doctors who prefer to prescribe pharmaceuticals. However, I’ve since seen it online after purchasing the first batch in Vancouver on May 16th. So it may be found here.

A second pricey box of 30 sachets (one of which is dissolved in ice-cold water, stirred vigorously, and chugged down) arrive at our hotel in Minnesota, which arrived in cold packs. Luckily, we have a small refrigerator in our hotel room where I’ve been able to keep the product cold which is vital for the bacteria to survive.

Please see your doctor if you’re suffering from a gastrointestinal illness that may be helped with this product by improving the microbiome (gut) bacteria. For me, it’s worked wonders. I can actually go an entire day without the pain and uncomfortable feeling after eating and drinking reasonable amounts of food and liquids.

Stunning views on a sunny day.

After purchasing a pint of heavy cream last weekend, I could hardly wait to try it with a cup of decaf. Since I haven’t had any caffeine for six months, I decided to start with a ratio of 3/4 decaf and 1/4 caffeinated. So far, so good. No negative aftereffects.

One may ask, “If you’ve gone six months without coffee and caffeine, why start it up again?” For me, based on my restrictive diet, there are few “guilty pleasures.” A good cup of coffee can satisfy me as much as a raspberry jelly-filled donut (which I never consume) did in my old life. 

As I continue to increase the decaf to caffeine ratios, by the time we leave Minnesota, I expect to be able to savor a mug full of the “real deal,” caffeinated coffee. Also, in the past week, I’ve been able to drink a few cups of herbal tea each day as well, another good treat.  After drinking only water (not a fan), this is a massive milestone for me.

Speaking of “milestone,” I’m anxious to share the details of an enjoyable day we had yesterday with my son Greg’s middle child, grandson Miles, who is nine years old.

From Daphne Islet, a boat can access Brentwood Bay to the Straits of Georgia to the Salish Sea.

We started this “one child a day” concept now that school is out for the summer. One-on-one interactions with each of our grandchildren give us a much better opportunity to build closer relationships.

Yesterday was our first day alone with Miles. This week, we’ll have had Miles with us on Monday, Maisie on Wednesday, Madighan on Thursday, and Vincent on Friday. We’re busy deciding which activities best suits each child.

Yesterday at 8:00 am, we picked up Miles (a 30-minute drive in traffic) to get back in time for the “free breakfast” at our hotel, Country Inn & Suites, Carlson Parkway, Plymouth, MN.

As mentioned in an earlier post, when we acquired the long-term corporate rate, we included three children occupying the room. This way, at any given time, we could have five for breakfast and a swim in the pool at no additional charges. 

This has worked out well so far, even though there have been one or two additional family members for breakfast on a few occasions. I discussed this with the hotel’s general manager. Based on the fact that there’s never more than three of us (Tom and I and one grandchild) during weekdays, a few more on Saturday or Sunday certainly doesn’t increase our overall allotment.

As we walked along the less developed area of the gardens, we approached the sea via Daphne Islet.

This hotel couldn’t have been a better place to stay. When we returned to the hotel with Miles by 8:45 am, he was excited to have the self-serve breakfast in the hotel’s dining area, including an entire waffle, tater tots, bacon, and a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal with milk.

Miles is a slim little guy, and we were surprised by how well he ate. After breakfast, he and I went out for a few quick errands at Ridgedale Mall, a visit to an ATM, and of course, a stop at a Target store for a toy. How can a good grandparent resist purchasing a toy for their sweet grandchild? 

After our shopping expedition, we returned to the hotel, where I taught him to play Blackjack on my phone. He surprised us how quickly he figured out when and when not to take a “hit.” He’s his “father’s son.’

In a matter of minutes, he beat my record of $150,000 with $990,000 in earnings. I teased him that now I’ll never be able to break my prior record. We laughed heartily together. Kids are amazing with digital stuff these days!

After a while, it was time to head out to the movie theater for a movie he’s was anxious to see, Captain Underpants. After buying him a blue Icee, we found great seats and watched the movie.  I dozed a few times, but unlike Tom, he didn’t nudge me for dozing off. He was having a great time.

Small, neatly trimmed logs create a pleasing border.

It was 4:00 pm when the movie ended, and we headed back to his home, where I hung out with Camille for a bit, then Greg and Maisie, and Madighan. At 6:00 pm, Maisie and I went to her final Girl Scout meeting for the season. 

I waited patiently for 90 minutes during the meeting, carefully listening to their joyful and playful interactions at the home of the troop leader while the group of giggling 10-year-old girls had fun with crafts and making plans for next year. It brought back memories of when my sons were in Cub Scouts many moons ago when I was a den mother.

By 7:45 pm, we were back at Greg and Camille’s home. Then, back on the road, a few minutes later, I was headed to the northern suburbs to pick up Tom at son TJ’s home after they’d gone to his Monday night horseshoe games. 

When I arrived around 8:15 pm, they’d yet to return from the games, so I waited on a nearby side street. Unfortunately, the road to TJ’s house was closed due to road construction, and Tom suggested I stay at the nearest intersection until they returned. So TJ dropped Tom off, where I waited around 8:50 pm.

I didn’t mind waiting. It gave me time to reflect on these many busy and fun days, those that have passed so far, and the many busy days and nights yet to come. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

A creek at Butchart Gardens in Victoria.

By 9:00 pm, we were on our way back toward the hotel with a plan to stop for a bite to eat. I suggested the “Big Bowl” at Ridgedale Centre, hoping Tom could find something he’d like. Instead, he ordered “sesame chicken” with white rice while I had a dressing-free Asian Chicken salad (minus noodles or crispy things).

By the time we returned to the hotel, it was close to 11:00 pm. Neither of us had trouble falling asleep when we turned off the lights close to midnight.  It was a good day.

Today, at 12:05 pm, Tom’s sister, Betty, known as Sister Beth (a nun), arrives at the airport. We’ll be picking her up and taking her to his sister Patty’s home, where she’ll stay for the upcoming week. We’ll stop and pick up dinner to bring to Patty’s and spend the afternoon and early evening with both of them.

Busy days, busy nights, happy times. Life is good.

May life be good for you as well!

Photo from one year ago today, June 6, 2016:
One year ago today, the Wi-Fi signal was inferior, and we could not upload any photos.  For the post comparing living expenses for Bali instead of other countries (without photos), please click here.

The social events continue with friends and family…Nature abounds, including in last year’s photo…

This pretty flower attracts flying insects, as shown in the upper left.

A week has already passed since we arrived in Minnesota last Friday. Each day and most evenings have been filled with a flurry of activities with family and friends. Today is no exception with grandson’s Vincent 5th grade graduation at 1:30 pm followed by a dinner at his favorite teppanyaki restaurant, Benihana, scheduled at 4:00 pm.

We don’t ever recall graduation ceremonies being observed between grade school and middle school, but times have changed, and we’re happy to partake in the celebrations. We’re content to be with our family members, and schedules permitting, we’ve yet to turn down a suggestion for an activity.

Tall evergreen.

With the use of the free Cozi shared online calendar and family planner, found at this link that we’re all sharing, it’s easy to keep track of our action-packed schedule. Without it, this visit could be very confusing. 

Bronze dragon statue in a garden pond.

Any of our three adult children and their significant others can easily access the calendar on their phones, tablets, or computers to see what time slots we have available and freely enter an activity with us. 

When a new activity is entered into the calendar, I immediately receive an email with the particulars; date, time, event, and location.  Providing the activities don’t include participating in bungee jumping, scuba diving, or skydiving; we’re accepting all entries. Time spent with our kids and grandchildren is our top priority.

Moss representation of an owl in a tree.

Of course, our favorite activity is spent chatting and interacting with everyone in a casual arena where we can provide our undivided attention. Often, this is around mealtimes, watching the kids participate in activities and hanging out at their home, or spending time at our temporary home at the Country Inn & Suites in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Rabbit in the bushes.

With the two swimming pools, jacuzzi, complimentary breakfast, fire pit, and accessible atmosphere, it is a fun place for the grandchildren to visit and fun for us to share with them. 

Although our hotel room is of ample size for our daily needs, it isn’t quite large enough for the kids to stay overnight. We’re happy to drive them back and forth from their homes when they come to visit on their own. 

Massive redwood tree.

Now that the school season is ending today, we’ve scheduled dates to have grandchildren spend specific days with us, one child per day, for more of our undivided attention. We’re planning fun activities suitable for each of their ages. 

Yesterday at lunch, Tom dropped me off in Maple Grove at Biaggi Restaurant in Arbor Lakes Mall to meet two of my girlfriends I hadn’t seen since we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012. 

Blue flowers line a walkway.

Theresa, my former real estate business partner, and Cathy, our mutual dear friend, were seated when I entered the restaurant’s outdoor dining area to greet them. The warmest of hugs and greetings made me realize how much I’ve missed my girlfriends all of these years.

The two hours we spent talking filled my heart with warm memories of times past and how these relationships with friends had been such a vital part of my old life. Now, I can only glean snippets of such pleasant emotions knowing how fleeting these interactions are now in this short period. 

Orchids are blooming.

We’ve decided to meet one more time amid our busy calendar and theirs. Each of our lives is full, although in many different ways. How amazing it was to share the time, and I’m hoping for one more time together before we go.

Later in the day, we bucked the unbelievable traffic to drive to Coon Rapids for a 5:00 pm barbecue at Tom’s sister Mary’s (and husband Eugene) home, a weekly come-when-you-can Thursday evening event.

This type of orchid is such a deep purple it almost appears black.

Fearing my diet would be hard to accommodate, we stopped at Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant and purchased each of us a low carb, bread-less sandwich to-go, called the “un-wich.”  From this same restaurant, we copied their idea and often made our un-wiches wherever we may be living at any given time.

I ordered the un-wich with chicken, bacon, vegetables, mayo, and guacamole, and Tom ordered the un-wich club sandwich. It was funny how they tasted like our homemade versions, although we tend to make ours considerably larger.

Information about the lands on which the Butchart Gardens was planted.

By bringing our food to Mary and Eugene’s, there was no need for our hosts to worry about what I’d eat. Instead, we all focused on the fabulous time we had with the many family members who’d arrived for the weekly event.

It couldn’t have been more fun when we hugged and later chatted with three of Tom’s sisters, two brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and even two grandnieces and two grandnephews and their partners. Indeed, we’ll be together with all of them and more of the family in more weeks to come.

Back at the hotel shortly after 10:00 pm, we both were pooped but pleased for another great day with family and friends. This period is flying by much more quickly than we anticipated, but we’re planning to make the best of every moment.

May your days be filled with memorable moments and love.

Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2016:

This praying mantis looked at Tom while he took this photo in Bali on the edge of the infinity pool.  He was as big as the palm of my hand.  For more details, please click here.

Victoria, British Columbia…Butchart Gardens…A memorable tour and exquisite place to visit…At Sea-Tac Airport awaiting flight….

The popular Butchart Gardens sign where visitors often take their photos.

It’s 11:00 am Seattle time. We’re seated in a food court at Sea-Tac Airport while waiting to board our flight to Minneapolis in two hours. Rather than wait on the ship, we decided it made more sense to get to the airport after a $60 taxi fare, $20 in tips for a porter, and a skycap.

Darwin, our tour guide with Surfside Adventure Tours friendly and ultra knowledgeable about the amazing Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Our luggage was overweight, by 10 pounds each. The cost for overweight checked bags is $100 per bag. The skycap had a box where we loaded the extra 20 pounds (6 kg) to avoid paying the excess weight fees. Instead, we paid an extra $35 for the box, which we checked, saving $165. 

Based on time constraints, we won’t be able to identify flowers from the Butchart Gardens tour.

We were stopped at security for the computer backpack, taken aside for inspection. The agent took everything out of the bag to inspect each pocket, the laptops, and other electronics for suspicious chemicals. 

A water wheel near the entrance to the Butchart Gardens.

Of course, we passed inspection and didn’t complain about the time lost, not to the agent nor one another.  We’d rather they were diligent than careless. Lines were long. From the time we arrived at the airport until seated here now, 90 minutes had passed. At least now our wait isn’t too long.

Tom standing by the king on the giant hand-carved chess set.
Of course, I then stood by the queen.
Based on the delays in getting to the airport (35 minutes in traffic), baggage, and security check-in, the idea of leaving the ship early served us well. Now, we can relax and wait for our flight.
It was a good time of year to see the gardens, but we were a little late to see all of the tulips blooming, which occurred a few weeks ago.

The last full day on the ship proved to be absolutely fabulous. The tour we participated in with the other 10 Cruise Critic members was over-the-top. The tour company, Surfside Adventure Tours, with Darwin as our tour guide, couldn’t have been a better experience at the US $57.22 per person, plus the US $48.45 entrance fee (for two) into Butchart Gardens. 

Many tourists wandered through the huge grounds, bumping into one another in the process. We did our best to scurry along after taking photos.

Without the Canadian dollar exchange rate handy, Tom gave the driver a US $100 bill, which in his mind, he was thinking US $77, not Canadian $57.22. Subsequently, that resulted in his paying the driver Canadian $134.50 when he handed him the US $100 bill telling him to keep the change. This resulted in a tip of $43.78, more than we’d usually tip. 

Many unfamiliar flower species enhanced the gardens, but many we’d seen in other botanical gardens worldwide.

Here’s the info for Surfside Adventure Tours:  250-891-7792, and please ask for Darwin. Their website is:  www.surfsidetours.com

It was easy to wander about following the clearly marked paths.

When all was said and done, the tour cost less than half as much as such a tour through the ship, and we had little room to fuss over the cost. An entire afternoon was well spent (literally and figuratively) touring the stunning Vancouver Island city of Victoria, one of the most beautiful cities we’re seen in our world travels.

Sun filtering through the tall trees.

As a matter of fact, we feel determined that at some point down the road, we’ll return for a summer stay in Victoria, perhaps around the time of our next visit to family in the US, whenever that may be in the future.

Interesting shapes and designs are the highlights of many specific areas.

There’s much more to share about Victoria, and we’ll do so during these next six weeks in Minneapolis when we have occasional quiet days with less content-rich information and photos to share.

These tulips remained later in the season, allow they were beginning to wither away.

Enjoy today’s photos as we realize we need to wrap this up. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of our new home for the next six weeks, our response to being back in Minnesota after being gone for the past 4.5 years, and any updates that may occur over the next 24 hours. 

There are numerous shops and restaurants on the grounds of Butchart Gardens.
Entrance into Canada after disembarking the ship to head out on our tour to Victoria.

For our US readers…have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day Weekend. For our friends outside the US, have a fabulous weekend as well!

Photo from one year ago today, May 26, 2016:

We visited a turtle hatchery in Bali on our way to Lovina to renew our vises. There were over 100 baby turtles maturing for future release attracting tourists to the site. For more details, please click here.

Last day of Alaskan cruise…Final expenses for cruise and extras…Minnesota, here we come in the morning…

Snow on mountain peaks. Ships at the Port.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:

220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!

The scenery in Alaska hasn’t disappointed.

Here we are, the final full day aboard a ship since April 22nd when we left Sydney, with the exception of the two nights we spent in Vancouver at the hotel. 

We’ve cruised a total of 33 nights since leaving Sydney and look forward to getting settled in Minneapolis after our flight from Seattle with an early evening arrival. It will feel good to unpack, get organized and prepare for a whirlwind next six weeks.

The tender boats were delivering passengers to the shore. So we have packing to tackle this morning. I folded all my clothing from the closet, drawers, and cabinets, placing them in piles ready to be neatly stacked into my one large suitcase. Tom will pack later.

We’re out to sea at the moment heading to Victoria, British Columbia, our final port of call on this nine-night Alaskan cruise, arriving around noon. We’re booked with a private tour at 12:00 pm to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island, a world-renowned garden.

Busy port in Skagway.

Tom booked us for this tour some time ago through an offering posted in CruiseCritic. We seldom attend ship sponsored tours due to the crowds and long lines. However, this smaller private group tour will suit our needs.

Besides, I’ve wanted to visit this world famous garden for years, and Tom surprised me with this booking a while back. That’s not to say that he loves visiting botanical gardens but he’s always been more than willing to see the many we’ve toured throughout our travels. In addition, his keen eye makes him the first to point out an ideal photo op.

Church near the shore in Skagway.

Usually, we post stories and photos while we’re still on location whether living in a specific country or on a cruise. In this case, with Butchart Gardens, we’ll be adding the many photos we’ll have taken today over the course of the next several weeks while we’re in Minnesota.

What stories will we tell while in Minnesota when most of our time will be spent with family and friends? We’re not inclined to post lots of family related information here in our posts. 

Boats and ocean front property in Juneau.

Let’s face it, most people quickly tire of hearing about other’s grandchildren and family members other than a few shots and quips here and there. Unfortunately, such will be the case for us. 

We’ll post of few photos of family members and friends with their permission but will not focus on turning our site into a family album. Most readers have their own family albums and don’t care to spend weeks looking at ours. 

Cruise ships in the port of Ketchikan.

Instead, we plan to share photos of places we’ll visit, magical and interesting moments we experience and the beauty of Minnesota. Of course, with so much to do and people to see in Minneapolis, its unlikely we’ll be traveling far from town. But, if we do, we’ll certainly incorporate those photos into the daily posts.

We have no doubt, we’ll have plenty of photos to share and stories to tell during these upcoming six weeks including dining in restaurants, visiting parks and lakes and sharing morsels about the hotel where we’ll be staying which is located in a lovely area.

A tiny portion of Tongass National Park/Forest which is the largest national forest in the United States with 17 million acres.

We’ve decided to share the final expenses for the cruise today rather than tomorrow which will be a very busy travel day in getting off the cruise, taking a taxi to the airport, flying to Minnesota, picking up the rental car and driving to our hotel.  

Here are the total expenses for the nine-night Alaskan cruise on Celebrity Solstice:

Expense US Dollar
Cruise Fare  $                  4,416.38
Airfare  $                                 
Taxi   $                          8.41
Cabin Credit  $                   (500.00)
Gratuities  $                     243.00
Tours  $                        77.00
Additional Gratuities  $                        80.00
Cruise Bill for Purchaes  $                     496.00
Total  $                  4,820.79
Avg Daily Cost – 9 days  $                     535.64
Hand carved the statue of the popular and commonly seen bald eagle in Alaska. For more details on Alaska bald eagles, please click here.

This morning, I attempted to get a copy of our bill in order to itemize how we spent the $500 cabin credit. Unfortunately, the line at guest services would have required an hour wait or more. 

Instead, here’s an overview from memory of roughly how we spent the non-refundable cabin credit; gifts for family, hats, gloves and a scarf for cold days in Alaska, a few cosmetic and toiletry items and one zip sweatshirt. No beverages were charged to our account. 

Ketchikan Duck Tours, a popular open air bus for tourists.

We received all the bottled water we wanted from the Captain’s Club free happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm each evening. Tom only consumed alcoholic beverages during the two-hour event each evening while I drank complimentary hot tea and water. Neither of us ever drank a soda.

Stunning views in Sitka.

The tour expense listed at $77 is for today’s Butchart Gardens tour. The additional gratuities are for our cabin steward and the restaurant hostess. We didn’t include a tip for the dining room assistant for my meals when my meals were often not prepared correctly or served on time. There was no airfare associated with this cruise since we arrived by cruise ship.

Tomorrow, we’ll prepare and upload a post while waiting to get off the ship, while waiting for our 1:15 pm flight at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. Most likely, it will be available at the usual time.

 Read here for an interesting story about the building of this tunnel in downtown Ketchikan.

We’ll be thinking of all of you and the photos you may enjoy while we tour the fabulous Butchart Gardens which appears to be taking place on a sunny day on beautiful Vancouver Island!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 25, 2016:

In Bali on the prior day’s pst post, we shared a photo of two buffalos wandering by during dinner and here were four buffalos on a hike from the river seen that evening. For more details, please click here.

Tomorrow’s cruise to Hawaii…Total expenses for Vancouver…Worrying?…

Sunset in the Vancouver bay.

The departure checklist begins once again:

  • Do laundry – We found a laundry near the computer store that will do it for us for US $1.83, CAD $2 per pound in two hours.  Today, we’ll drop it off, picking it up later in the day.
  • Fill pill cases for the next two weeks
  • Do manicure and pedicure
  • Pack everything except Tuesday’s clothes and toiletries
  • Notify family that we’re leaving Vancouver – We do this each time we’re on the move
Sunny day skyline.

Gosh, this list is much shorter than in the past. We’ve already printed out cruise tickets. The hotel checkout is electronic with a copy coming to my email which I’ll save in a folder. It gets easier every time we move.

Colorful sky at sunset.

Our total expenses for Vancouver are estimated at US $2050.86, CAD $2247.35 including the hotel bill, airfare from Boston (one way), taxis, meals, laundry, and tips. At this total, our daily cost was approximately US $341.81, CAD $374.56. We’re actually pleased it wasn’t more costly than this. 

Lonely looking boxer waiting for his family who was inside the restaurant where we had lunch.

We’ve made every effort to keep our costs to a minimum during this six-day stay and the three days in Boston to offset the WiFi and beverage fees on the upcoming cruise which are typically close to US $900, CAD $986.  We’re actually, $600 under budgets expenses for Vancouver

The South Tower on the Sheraton Wall Centre where we’ve stayed since last Wednesday, with a blackbird in the photo.

There’s never a day that passes that we aren’t in tune with our expenses. It is this diligence that allows us to continue on our journey without financial stress. For homeowners and renters worldwide this type of diligence may serve them well in keeping living costs within one’s means.

Dining outdoors on an upper floor in the Sheraton Wall Centre South Tower.

Of course, there’s also the painful reality for those who’ve lost their jobs in this precarious economy or are unable to work due to illness. It’s difficult to commit to budgeting when there’s little to no income. 

On a walk, we passed by this Cannabis shop.

At some point in our lives, for some of us, we recall the angst and worry associated with not generating sufficient income to cover one’s living expenses, a dreadful state of being. For those of our readers in this precarious position we hope and pray that you find a resolution.

Distant small marina.

We always hear that good health is the most important aspect of our lives. And, unquestionably, it is. In our minds, freedom from worry is next in line. Worrying is disastrous for one’s health and sense of well being. Worrying is a roadblock to happiness.

Community garden.

That’s not to say that we don’t worry at times. Either of us can awaken during the night wrought with worry that is often exacerbated at night in the dark. Tom worries about the little things. I tend to worry about the big things. Together, we’re an “efficient worrying machine.” That’s teamwork!

Photo from one year ago today, September 22, 2013:

The table was set on the well-manicured lawn. With the balmy breeze and the fire roaring, the mosquitoes stayed away, although we were well-armed wearing our BugsAway clothing. For more photos, please click here.

Finally, sunshine!…Vancouver is a beautiful city!…

Overlooking the South Tower of the Sheraton Wall Centre with the bay in the background.

Yesterday, we were thrilled to get out on a sunny day. The first stop on the agenda was a trip to a computer repair store to have Tom’s files transferred to his new laptop. His old touchscreen was severely cracked from dropping it months ago, made worse by another fall at the cruise terminal. When touchscreens go bad there is no way to manipulate the cursor, even using the keyboard, making it impossible for us to do the transfer.

We were in awe of the sunset views over the bay.

The cost for the transfer and loading Outlook (which he prefers to use) was a total of US $120.92, CAD $132.50, a bargain considering that included purchasing Office and Outlook. Tom’s relieved, to say the least, especially when all of his contacts in Outlook are all intact.  

The job only took a few hours. While we waited, we found a local restaurant, Joe’s Grill, where we had a decent lunch for under US $30, CAD $33.00, a bargain in Vancouver.

Sunset has been amazing now that the clouds have cleared.

As our time in Vancouver, winds down and as much as we “should” go out sightseeing, we just don’t feel like it.  Lately, we’ve done so much sightseeing, a reprieve is in order. 

Tom, deep in thought in the Member’s Lounge, listening to his favorite Minnesota radio podcast, Garage Logic

For us, this lovely city is a stopping point to prepare for our upcoming cruise to Hawaii to sail across the Pacific Ocean (in part) to our upcoming home for almost seven months on four of the Hawaiian islands. I suppose it’s comparable to one going “home” to repack to prepare for another “vacation.” For us, it’s just our lives, not a vacation.

What a rose!

We have no home to return to for repacking more weather-friendly clothes. We’ll wash and dry what we have, neatly folding it and placing it right back in the same, now well-worn luggage to be prepared for the next adventure. As difficult as this may sound, it is not. 

Tom purchased two bottles of Brandy from a local government-owned liquor store in Vancouver for our arrival in Hawaii where the cost will be considerably higher. The cost was US $56.71. Usually, he drinks Courvoisier(cognac), but one small bottle was US $63.88, CAD $70.

Although the past almost two months have required an enormous amount of moving about, we giggle over how often we’ve moved in such a short time which includes:

  • Madeira to Paris – flight, two weeks in Paris
  • Paris to London – Eurostar train, two weeks in London
  • London to Harwich to a transatlantic cruise – shuttle to Harwich, two-week cruise with several excursions
  • Cruise ending in Boston – three days in a hotel in Boston
  • Boston to Vancouver – flight, six days in a condo in Vancouver
  • Vancouver to Hawaii (upcoming in three days) – 12 days at sea, ending in Honolulu, Oahu where we’ll stay for 11 days, then on to Maui for six weeks, Big Island for six weeks, Kauai for four months
The green cast was generated from taking photos through the tinted windows.

This is a lot of packing and unpacking over a period of only 10 months. Surprisingly, so far, we haven’t minded. Both of us can now pack or unpack in less than 30 minutes, making the comings and goings relatively low stress.

More fountains in the hotel gardens.

We’ve developed a routine that when it’s time to leave, each of us easily slides into our unspoken part with ease and coordination. Once in a while, Tom gets grumpy on packing and moving day. I ignore him and go about my share of the tasks. Invariably, once on our way, he settles down, smiley and happy. It goes with the territory. I doubt he’ll ever change.

Neatly trimmed pavers in the hotel courtyard.

A long time ago, I learned that “we are who we are” and unless something profoundly inspires us to change, we don’t. We’re both found that in this relationship, we accept each other’s peculiarities and eccentricities. People never change as a result of nagging, complaining, or whining which neither of us is inclined to do.

As the clouds began to clear we were able to see the houses on the hills.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m easy to live with. Although I’m cheerful and calm most of the time, I have particular ways of doing things. Tom is extremely tolerant of me, never complaining about my eccentricities. Mostly, his frustrations are as a result of “things” not happening as planned or expected.   

Flowers blooming everywhere in Vancouver.

Once again, we’re in the Member’s Lounge, overlooking the city of Vancouver on a perfectly sunny day. The views around us are all the more unreal on a clear day.

Life is good.

                                              Photo from one year ago, September 21, 2013:

One year ago on this date, we dined at a local restaurant in Kenya, the Blue Marlin, located on the beach of the Indian Ocean. We were the only diners in the entire restaurant from the time we arrived until we departed a few hours later. We had a fabulous time. For details, please click here.

Another cloudy, rainy day in Vancouver…About Vancouver…Tasks of daily life continue wherever we may be…

The Vancouver Island Ranges are in the far background of this photo I took through the windows in our condo late in the day. 

We’ve had our fill of sightseeing in pouring rain. Drizzle, we can handle. Over the past few months while on the move, most days have been rainy, windy, cold and cloudy. Right now, we have no desire to get soaked through our jackets as we’ve done on several recent tours. We’re hoping for a sunny day when daylight soon breaks.

The fountain in the Sheraton Wall Centre courtyard.

The fact that we happen to find ourselves in some amazing places, certainly triggers the urge to see what each location has to offer. However, sometimes life gets in the way via rainy days and other items on the agenda, as one has when they have a fixed home and responsibilities.

Today, if it’s even partially clear, we have one thought on our minds: Tom’s computer data transfer. The screen on the old laptop is severely damaged, preventing us from manipulating the transfer of his files to our external hard drive, a zip drive, and then on to the new laptop. We need another screen from which we can operate in order to do so. We don’t have a proper cable on hand to use the TV as a monitor in our condo or to use my laptop as a monitor for the transfer. 

Club Intrawest, a members-only condo hotel is located on the upper floors of the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre. We’re on the top floor, the penthouse level, on the 30th floor.

We’ve decided to take a walk to a nearby computer repair store which is 500 meters from our hotel to have them do the transfer for US $54 rather than spend valuable time trying to find our own solutions. Plus, we’ll have them wipe out the old hard drive and dispose of the laptop.

A flower we spotted on our rainy walk to the grocery store.

With that behind us in the next few days, perhaps we’ll be able to focus on seeing some sights in Vancouver until we board the cruise on Tuesday morning. There just hasn’t been enough time with pouring rain impeding the prospect of going out and enjoying ourselves. 

Last night, we dined in, after a trip to a local grocery store. It was surprising to go on an escalator for the second half of the store’s products. I suppose the locals are used to using the hand baskets, starting upstairs before they load the regular wheeling carts.

Escalator in the grocery store in downtown Vancouver. 

We purchased roasted chicken and salad ingredients. With nuts for dessert, it felt good to stay in to watch a few shows on a rainy night, which we haven’t done in almost two months since leaving Madeira on July 31st. 

Vancouver is a beautiful destination, especially in the warmer summer months with many activities befitting tourists of any age and families with children. Our combined (for two) one-way airfare from Boston was only US $346, much less than we’ve paid for many other flights, making it affordable for travel.

As we’ve seen thus far, it is expensive in Vancouver, especially in the downtown area, where we’re staying.  We’ve heard on CruiseCritic.com that staying in hotels outside the city is much less expensive. 

Beautiful flowers lined the boulevard in Vancouver.

However, we’re definitely enjoying the views from downtown and have no regrets that we’re staying here.  Besides, we can see the cruise terminal from our condo which is a short cab ride away. Many cruisers at CruiseCritic.com have mentioned taking a bus to the cruise terminal on Tuesday. With our heavy luggage, we prefer to take a taxi. 

On departure day at the cruise terminal, our checked baggage is immediately whisked away from our taxi to our cabin, leaving us with only a few carry on items to handle until the cabin is prepared for us to move in, usually by 1:00 or 1:30 pm.

Here is an excellent link to information about Vancouver. Most likely, we’ll return here someday when we take a spring cruise to Alaska, hopefully staying for a few months. Alaska is on our “must-do” list but, doing so is far down the line. We have more countries and continents to visit after leaving Hawaii before we travel the US. 

Here are some Vancouver facts from the above website:

Based on 2006 Canadian Census reports, the population of the City of Vancouver in 2010 is estimated at 601,203.
Greater Vancouver’s estimated total population for 2010 is 2.4 million, 52.3% of BC’s population of 4.6 million.

Federal government departments provide service in English and French, but most of the population speaks English as either a first or second language.

The City of Vancouver is quite cosmopolitan and is a mix of many multicultural groups. Because the city is multicultural, it’s also multilingual on an unofficial level. Its people speak many different languages and many follow the traditions of their native lands, sometimes moderating them with Canadian culture.
After English and Chinese, the most common mother tongue languages spoken are Punjabi, German, Italian, French, Tagalog (Filipino), and Spanish. More than half of Vancouver’s school-age children have been raised speaking a language other than English.

We recommend all visitors use Canadian currency when traveling within Canada. Visitors can exchange currency at Canadian chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions, or at offices of foreign exchange brokers, but it is advised to have local currency on hand prior to arriving. Some hotels, merchants, restaurants, and suppliers accept US or other foreign currency at a pre-determined rate, which may differ from the daily rate posted by financial institutions.

    • Canadian one dollar coin (“loonie”) ($) = 100 cents
    • Canadian two dollar coin (“toonie”) ($) = 200 cents
    • Notes are in denominations of $1000, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5
    • Coins are in denominations of $2, $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, $0.05, $0.01 

Effective April 1, 2013, most purchases in British Columbia will be subject to a 7% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and a 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST), with the exception of liquor (10% GST). For more information, visit Changes to the Sales Tax in British Columbia.

Time Zone
Vancouver is in the Pacific Time Zone. Daylight savings time is in effect from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November. You can see Vancouver’s time in relation to most cities on the globe by visiting www.TimeAndDate.com, which also can provide a Canadian calendar.
Greater Vancouver, like all major cities, runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The main workdays are Monday to Friday, from roughly 8:00 am to 6:00 pm – but hours vary for each organization or business. Retailers are usually open seven days a week, and most stores are open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm each
day-except Thursday and Friday, when they are open until 9:00 pm. A number of large retail stores, nearly every hotel and motel, and several restaurants remain open around the clock.”

As we sit in the Member’s Lounge each day, preparing the next post which we’ve now scheduled to arrive for our readers by 5:00 am mountain time, we feel comfortable and at ease with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything, other than get the computer repaired, do laundry on Monday and pack once again.

Hopefully soon, we’ll pack up Tom’s two laptops into the waterproof duffel bag, grab an umbrella from the front desk and make our way to the computer repair store, hoping to achieve his objectives. Tomorrow’s forecast is for a sunny day. We’ll see if that works out.

Back tomorrow with more photos of Vancouver! Stay tuned!

                                          Photo from one year ago today, September 19, 2013:

Tom drank two bottles of this local Tusker beer. You’d have to carry me out if I drank two of these. I’m often tempted to have a drink but having anything with alcohol, as seldom as I do, results in outrageous hangovers from two of anything. Plus, one is no fun! Click here for more photos.

Vancouver is amazing!…Who knew?…Love the city and our accommodations…

View from the comfy chairs in the Member’s Lounge at our hotel.
Another view from the private Member’s Lounge where we’re spending time online.  What a view!

We never expected Vancouver, British Columbia to be such a beautiful city. Nor did we expect the vacation rental we selected for the six nights to be on the penthouse level with such awesome views. 

Comfortable bedding, bed, and pillows invite good night’s sleep, only to find us awake long before sunrise.

The condo unit is much more lovely than we’d anticipated. It’s actually pristine with the finest of amenities, décor, and comfort. The sheets are at least 1000 pt. Egyptian cotton, the bed a heavenly cloud, the towels, soft and fluffy, and the view, amazing!

Another view of the condo.

These past two nights, we lay in bed with the drapes open to the sparkling lights of the city, relishing in every moment. We only closed them when we knew we’d regret leaving them open when sleep is needed in the early morning as we make an effort to combat a bit of jet lag.

The living area in our penthouse condo.

Yesterday morning, we dined in the beautiful dining room of the Sheraton complex which includes, at the top is the unique Club Intrawest, a membership facility with any perks we’re thoroughly enjoying. We’re so happy we chose this property. 

Although there’s no stove, the microwave can be used. We won’t eat in while here since we rarely eat anything that requires reheating other than our homemade leftovers. We’ve either dined on the past cruise or eaten in a restaurant over the past 50 days. In 27 days we’ll be able to cook our meals again.

At US $211 per night including free WiFi, (maid service only every three days) we were pleasantly surprised when we’ve heard that Vancouver has a reputation for being expensive in the tourist areas. We can’t dispute that. It is expensive.

The living area in our condo.

The buffet was pricey at US $32 each. Tom wasn’t thrilled with the selection of cold cereals and muffins but, did enjoy the fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and pancakes. 

The shower is actually twice as large as shown.

I absolutely loved my perfect breakfast of a suitable frittata made with organic free-range eggs and organic veggies. I thought I was in heaven with a huge portion and a pile of smoky bacon, a few veggies, and cheese on the side.

Dining area in the hotel.  We’ll be dining outside the hotel in most instances.

We hardly ate anything on a travel day when no food was served on the two flights (unlike flights in other countries) and our appetites were begging to be fulfilled. 

My breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.

We devoured the tiny packs of peanuts the flight attendants served plus almonds and cheese Phyllis had packed for us. Nothing on the flight’s menu of to-be-purchased items worked for me or appealed to Tom. No big deal.  Missing a few meals didn’t hurt either of us.

Décor in the hotel lobby.

As we’ve relaxed in the private Member’s Lounge, we had an opportunity to speak to two very helpful concierges who provided us with maps, directions, and lists of “to-do” items within walking distance. 

Hotel lobby.
Thirty floors to our condo.  Twenty-nine floors to the Member’s Lounge.

Soon, we’ll take off on foot borrowing an umbrella from the hotel to find a grocery store for a few items and to check out the local restaurants. There’s a laundromat within four blocks that we’ll visit in a few days as we contemplate packing for the upcoming cruise on Tuesday. 

Upon entering the Member’s Lounge where we’re provided with fast free WiFi access which we also have in our condo.

As we’re sitting in the fat stuffed comfy leather chairs in this beautifully appointed Member’s Lounge overlooking downtown Vancouver and the ocean, we’re living in the moment, loving “the one you’re with,” not thinking much further than the nose in front of our faces.

Wood carving in the Member’s Lounge.

Years ago, if I had a six-day trip to Vancouver been my “vacation” for the year, I’d have been content. Pinch me! I must be dreaming…or as they say, “living a dream.” Whatever it is, we are humbled. We are grateful.

Keep it coming.

                                             Photo from one year ago, September 19, 2013:

Instead of steel construction support posts for support in Kenya they use stripped tree branches. We were amazed by how they improvised with what they had on hand. For details of this post, please click here.