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City Views, North America, Travel Advice

Enjoying a Rainy Day in Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver

June 10, 2013 • By


The rain brought with it silence and solitude as we walked along the massive pathways that guided us past a menagerie of trees, shrubs and perennials.


It was the cusp of late winter dawning in to early spring and the gardens took on an interesting profile.

The deciduous trees had long been bare and there was some evidence that flowers were awakening from their deep slumber. The sky was overcast and provided a grey backdrop to the illustrious palette that lay before us.


VancouverREAD MORE

Travel Advice

Candid Photos I’ve Taken On Trips That Have Inspired, Surprised And Puzzled Me

March 13, 2013 • By


candid photos

Beautiful art figures from the First Nations People at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

I’ve noticed that one of the things that I tend to do while I travel is to snap photos for no good reason.  Usually, I am on a tour bus or casually walking along a city street that I decide to immortalize my surroundings by capturing random scenes through my camera lens.

It doesn’t have to be something massive or particularly significant; I’m usually moved to do so because of how I am feeling at the moment.  I’m usually overwhelmed by the people, a particular circumstance, an unusual building….something that captures my attention that compels me to document it.

Of course, those pictures usually turn out to be a blurry mess and sometimes in rarer moments, they become unforgettable treasures.  I decided to share a few with you dear reader in the hopes that you could appreciate the method to my madness: “Sometimes the best photos are the unplanned ones”.

candid photos

We were on a tour bus that departed Santiago, Chile, destined for Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It was early in the day and I thought I was seeing things but took the pic anyway. It looked like a cardboard house sitting on the hillside with a distinctive Mondrian palette. I have no explanation for this. This is not…..I repeat….this is not photoshopped and I am glad that I was able to capture it as the tour bus whizzed by.


City Views, North America, Travel Advice

Travel Photo Friday | The Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

February 18, 2011 • By


I’m a day late and probably a dollar short with this one.  But my favorite photo this week is one that was taken at the Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver in the winter.

I loved the way the pink heather climbed up to greet visitors who may be sitting in the gazebo.  While it was most certainly a cold, rainy day, we barely noticed it.

It was absolutely fascinating to see a garden so lovely despite the inclement weather.  It was as if hope, personified , tipped its hat to assure us that everything was going to be just fine.   I thought it was the perfect…picture perfect moment to capture.

North America, Reviews, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

The Foodie’s version of Heaven: The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

December 19, 2010 • By

I first heard about the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (1505 2nd Avenue West , Vancouver, BC V6H 3Y4) while watching Rachael Ray’s $40.00 a day show on The Food Network’s channel back in 2006.  Rachael was tasked to buy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for under $40.00.  This particular show had her searching the city of  Vancouver for those elusive restaurant deals and P.I.C.A. was one of her choices.  My daughter and I were planning a trip there because we had frequent flier miles to redeem and we were fortunate enough to get a crazy deal for a great hotel on Priceline.  So, we thought it might be a good idea to check it out.   Besides, P.I.C.A. is located right outside the entrance to Granville Island which was convenient since that was another stop on our itinerary.

Founded in 1996,  P.I.C.A.’s cooks are actually students who are training to become chefs of fancy restaurants that I will never be able to afford.  Seriously, Bistro 101 is a teaching restaurant that provides real world experience for up and coming culinary masters.  Students work in every position of the restaurant: from the cook to the host to the server to the bus boy…..they get to experience all aspects of running a restaurant.READ MORE

City Views, North America, Travel Advice

Travel Photo Thursday | Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

December 9, 2010 • By

My friend Nancie from Budget Traveler’s Sandbox, whose blog happens to be celebrating its first birthday, had a great idea.  She suggested that her travel blog buddies begin a new segment on their blogs: Travel Photo Thursday.  So…..beginning today, I will post pictures that move me, has affected me… that I simply LOVE.

Today’s pic is from my Vancouver, BC trip in March of 2006.  I was fortunate enough to visit Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in the heart of Vancouver.  This was a special treat for me since I love to garden myself, so I wanted to be inspired.  In fact, I have a gardening blog that admittedly needs to be updated, but you can see why such a place would be interesting to visit.

This picture was selected because it perfectly encapsulated what I was feeling that day: complete serenity.  I felt an overwhelming rush of peace and tranquility as I walked through the solitary gardens.  Times like these seem to bring you closer to God, who I believe is the only one who could create such beauty and serenity.  I hope that you enjoy it.

Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

Standing on the dock next to one of the lakes on the Van Dusen property

City Views, North America

Pictures of Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

November 1, 2009 • By

Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

We visited during their rainy season, but that didn’t drench our spirits. Vancouver is one of the friendliest cities in North America and you can practically eat off the ground it’s so clean. Their transportation system is very user friendly and great restaurants abound.

Take a trek to Granville Island to enjoy their top notch farmer’s market and be sure to grab a bite at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts right at the Island’s entrance and don’t forget to take the ferry to Lonsdale Quay where you can take the bus as soon as you dock to the Lynn Canyon Park where you can traverse their cool suspension bridge.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Budget Tips, Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

How to Bid on Priceline

December 29, 2008 • By

A Step by Step Primer On How to Bid on Priceline


Priceline logo

Priceline is tricky, but it can be a very rewarding experience for those who are looking for great deals on hotels.  I’m not fond of using them for airfare that much because you may find yourself on flights that have the most undesirable departure times.  While I am pretty flexible with flight times, they offer too much of a mixed bag for me.

But if you are looking to try your luck at securing a great price on a hotel room, by all means, try Priceline!  In December 2005, I was planning for my trip to Vancouver for March 2006 and decided to see if I could luck up on a room at a good price.I was aware that it was pretty early to be looking for a room because Priceline typically sells excess inventory for Hotels at almost the last minute.

So, booking it early didn’t exactly heighten my chances of getting a good deal.However, I’d noticed that a couple of people had already booked great deals for that location on Priceline according to their posts on  So, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it.

How Priceline works

Hotels would rather sell a hotel room at a discount rather than have a room sit empty.  The folks at priceline fill this niche by selling the hotels’ available inventory to travelers looking for a deal.  In order for this to work like it’s supposed to, the traveler must be very careful about the amount that they are willing to bid.  Because, after all, if you bid high why bother to go through Priceline?  You could just book directly to the hotel where you can find low fares (at times), but never as low as you can find if you book it through Priceline.

The goal is to get the room at the cheapest price regardless as to the number of days you plan to stay there.  Before you bid on a hotel room, make sure that you know what area you would like to stay in.  Priceline segments the hotels into geographical zones so you will have to select which area(s) you desire to stay in.

I can not stress enough that it is YOUR responsibility to figure out what area you need to stay in.You do not want to bid on a hotel that is too far out from the area that you desire to stay in.Take advantage of the website that I mentioned to learn what area to bid for in order to secure a hotel room in your desired area.

For my purposes, I can stay in Vancouver, Delta, Langley, or Surrey Pitt-Meadows.  See screen below:

Picture 1

Even though they suggest that you select two or more areas, I like to select just one, so Vancouver would be my first pick.  The fewer that you select in the beginning, the more chances you will have to keep bidding (rebidding) if your first try is rejected.  At the bottom of the page, you will be able to key in the amount that you are bidding per night for the hotel in your desired location.  If they are willing to accept that amount, you will win the reservation.If you are rejected, you may be able to try again.

Why would my bids be rejected?

Hotel inventory varies from one day to another. There may be only a certain number of rooms available at participating hotels during a given day.  By the time you decide to bid, they may have been taken by someone else who made the same bid as yours.  Or there may be a convention going on during the times that you would like to book and there simply are no rooms available and if there were, they wouldn’t make it available on Priceline due to the fact that they can make so much more by booking the conventioneers.

If am I rejected, how can I rebid?

The good news is that you can still try to bid again, providing that you have not run out of selections to choose from.  That means as long as you have not selected all geographic areas, you can bid again for a room using a hotel grade (1-5 stars) that has up to one grade lower than your original bid.  Just keep in mind that with each rebid, you must also up your bid price.

Let me explain how…….

Looking at the Vancouver example again, there are only three other areas that I truly desire to stay in.  Of course, I could get a room anywhere in Vancouver, but why not try to find a place in the middle of all of the attractions?  I started my bid for a four star hotel in the prime downtown Vancouver area at $45.00 per night.  It was rejected.If that happens, immediately you will be informed that you can try again.

Picture 2

After I was informed that I could rebid, I added another zone, Delta to my bid.Vancouver is still in the running because once you select a zone, it will be grayed out and Priceline will continue to search for hotels in that area because your rebid will be at a higher price than your original bid.  Delta works because it has no hotels higher than my original request of a four star, so I will automatically be allowed to rebid with the confidence that I will not get anything in the Delta area because it doesn’t match my original request of a 4* property.  I upped my price to 50.00 for my rebid and I was rejected again.

Picture 3

Before I started bidding, I decided to stop bidding at $60.00 since that was the median winning bid by other priceline customers on the bidding websites.  I knew that if I was unable to secure anything that day, I could come back in 24 hours (and they mean 24 hours!) and start all over.  I still had four months before I needed a room so why rush it or panic by bidding too much?

Next, I decided to try the Langley area at 55.00 and the rebid qualified because they only had up to 2* properties to bid on:

Picture 4

However, I was rejected…..

My final try (because I am now at my limit) was Surrey-Pitt Meadows at 60.00 and their properties only went as high as 3*:

Picture 5

And after submitting it, I got this!

Picture 6

I’m certain that I could have gotten my reservation with one bid if I had not been stubborn and bidded $60.00 to begin with.  But you never know…..they could have had inventory for a room at less than that.  As long as I could rebid, it would have been foolish not to have tried.

I think that I got a great hotel and the reviews are favorable on for the most part.

Picture 7

How and who do I pay for the room?

The people at Priceline require you to divulge your billing information before you can actually place a bid.  So, as soon as your bid is accepted you will be automatically billed for the room. And… is very difficult to get a refund… has happened but it’s a RARE occurence….just understand that going in.  Therefore, it is important that you do your homework and be absolutely certain that you select the areas where you want to be and you visit websites like or to learn more about bidding on priceline so that when you finally get around to bidding so that you will feel comfortable about doing so.

The aforementioned websites will give you a lot of guidance on how to bid and will actually give you assistance on how to bid beforehand.  You will need to follow their guidelines in giving them the required info so that they can help you with that.  They also have hotel reviews and a list of hotel grades.  I always bid on four star hotels, but keep in mind that these grades can change on a dime depending on the hotel’s upkeep.

Good Luck!!

Your friend in travel,


Canada, Reviews, Trip Reports

My Vancouver Trip Report

March 15, 2006 • By

Our Vancouver Trip

Our flight to Vancouver was scheduled to depart Atlanta at 8 am on March 3, 2006; the reasoning was that it would allow us to have a large part of the day remaining to see Vancouver when we arrived since they are three hours behind us. However, our flight was delayed and we were fortunate enough to be re-routed on another (United) flight (that one left at 7:00!!) that would have a stopover in SFO rather than Chicago. During our flight, we were treated to the film “The Family Stone”. I had carefully avoided it in the theaters, so I was none too pleased that it was my only choice for in-flight entertainment. Ironically, it turned out to be a pretty good movie…who knew? We brought snacks along with us since we’d left too early to stop anywhere and we were only offered beverages and pretzels during the flight…no real food unless you were in first class.

We arrived in SFO in five hours and had a one hour layover until we caught our flight to Vancouver. Our transfer gate happened to be in the same terminal only a few gates down. We took that opportunity to buy lunch at the Subway sandwich shop in the short time that we had…it’s amazing how the mind clears when hunger is satisfied. lol Our flight finally touched down in Vancouver two hours later. We had to get cleared through customs and proceeded to the baggage claim area. I stopped by the ATM to get some Canadian cash and my $300.00CAN withdrawal converted to $264.00US…not a fantastic exchange rate…but oh well.

Right outside the door to the ground transportation area we were able to get round trip tickets on the Airporter bus (departs from the International arrivals level curb every 20 minutes from 8 am to 7 pm every day) that would take us to our hotel. We paid $18.00CAN pp and were issued tickets that resembled cash register receipts. I guess our hotel was too far because we were let off at the Marriott to transfer to a smaller shuttle bus (we waited roughly 10 minutes) that took us to the entrance of the Westin Bayshore Resort and Marina Hotel (

We were quickly checked in and after nicely refusing assistance with our bags, we were on our way to check out our room. Now, we booked our room via Priceline….we were not expecting anything grand and suspected that our room would be sub-par given that we only paid $60.00US per night. Luckily, for the most part, we were wrong. The room was a standard consisting of two double “Heavenly” beds, night table, three lamps, armoire with television set, a desk and two cushioned chairs, phone, in-room safe, hairdryer, ironing board and iron, umbrella, two comfy bathrobes, toiletries, lots of thick thirsty towels, coffee maker with complimentary coffee, minibar and a full length mirror.READ MORE