Hit Me – A Night at the Blackjack Table

Angel of the Winds, blackjack

"Hit me." As I tapped my finger on the table, I wasn't sure if I was making the right call. Then the dealer flipped my card. Twenty one! I was safe and ready to play another round. On this Saturday evening I was gambling with my own hard-earned money. But converted into chips it didn’t feel like real cash — just toy markers for keeping score in a game, like Monopoly money. That made the chips all too easy to wager. Gambling isn't my usual thing. I’d tried my hand once at roulette in Vegas, won enough to pay for my trip within an hour and cashed out while I was ahead. But after being invited down to Angel of the Winds Casino & Hotel in Arlington, WA, I decided to give gaming another shot. The night before, we had learned the basics during a practice game. When we decided to go all in, we were given more chips anytime we asked the dealer. We got a feeling for when we should hit or stay, picked up tips and learned the signals so we wouldn't look like complete beginners. By the Continue Reading

Skagit Valley – Tiptoeing thru the Tulips

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Spring - The city feels fresh, the weather is warming up, the winter rains are easing off, and the days are getting longer. You can see summer on the horizon as the flowers and trees stir to life. Every year, Skagit Valley welcomes spring with fields full of tulips blooming. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1 to the 30th. The time window is wide because tulips bloom according to their own schedule. This year they were early, already in bloom during my Easter weekend visit on April 3-5th. Other years the blooming doesn't start until the second week of April. This year's bloom may only last another couple of weeks, so if you can't make it in time, put it on your calendar now for next year; you shouldn't miss the chance to stroll along the beds, admiring the incredible variety of colours and hues. We visited Tulip Town (15002 Bradshaw Rd) and RoozenGaard (15867 Beaver Marsh Rd). It's a $5 admission for each place and both are worth Continue Reading

Witnessing the reindeer crossing near Inuvik, NWT

Reindeer Crossing Inuvik

Reindeer Crossing in Inuvik Witnessing over 3,000 reindeer cross the ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T is an experience that is hard to put into words. So it's a good thing I caught some of my adventure on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcNfMCInKQk On Sunday, March 29th, roughly 3,000 reindeer crossed the ice road, on the 80th anniversary of their annual journey to the calving grounds on Richards Island near Tuktoyaktuk. The day was cold (-17°C without the wind) and snowy. After we'd layered up against the chill, our friendly guide, Gerry from Up North Tours, picked us up and we headed down the ice road to witness this crossing. The ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk is 194 km long and the crossing is approximately 75 minutes away from Inuvik (at km 105). The landscape changes from hills and trees to open tundra as you continue down the MacKenzie. At the outset, the road conditions were good but as the day went on, things got more slippery and we had Continue Reading

Visiting a Tobacco Farm in Viñales, Cuba

Vinales Tobacco Farm

Cuba was a destination I had been wanting to visit for years, but the idea of spending a week at an all inclusive wasn’t appealing.  When I was booking my trip there, Viñales was one of the towns I knew I wanted to explore. Viñales is a World Heritage Site, but the main reason why I wanted to visit was to explore the tobacco fields and see how cigars are prepared. My trip was with Cuban Adventures, on the New Years Rumba tour. In Viñales, they did a wonderful job, arranging a guide for us who lived in the area and knew it as only a local could. He had a wealth of knowledge on tobacco, vegetation and the people who live there. Even for those not big on tobacco, Viñales has lots to offer: its surrounding farmland is lush and plentiful, with organic farms, caves, horseback riding, beach excursions,  swimming and lots of day hikes. Valeri, our main guide for the tour, gave us plenty of tips about what we could do, joined us for lunch and made sure we were taken care of in our homestays. Continue Reading

Celebrating Christmas Eve in Cuba – Las Parrandas de Remedios

Las Parrandas de Remedios 2014

I'm home from Cuba and it has been a hard transition back to my everyday life in Vancouver. I miss my travel companions from the Cuban Adventures tour, the delicious and cheap mojitos, the hot weather, smoking Cuban cigars, walking around exploring new cities and towns and the people that I met. The photographic opportunities ranged from crumbling old buildings in Havana to white sand beaches at sunset in Varadero and lush, tropical fields of tobacco in Vinales. I can't wait to share my stories and photos of my Cuban trip. One of my adventures was heading to Remedios to celebrate Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), a night that I won't forget anytime soon. Las Parrandas de Remedios is a night of partying in the streets and celebrating Christmas Eve on a rooftop. We enjoyed fireworks, dancing, partying, wandering the streets, exploring the stalls and squeezing past locals drinking rum and Cristal, all while the final touches were being made to parade floats. Las Parrandas de Remedios Continue Reading

Jumping in at Lake of the Woods

Lake in the woods

Have you ever had the desire to pull your car over and jump into a cold but refreshing body of water? Well, go for it! I was on my way home from a road trip to Lytton, BC, driving along Hwy #1 when I pulled over on the shoulder of the road. I was hot, sweaty and a bit tired, I needed something refreshing and drinking water wasn't doing it. I did a Google search and found out that there was a lake only six minutes away just before Hope, BC.  I decided that Lake of the Woods (Schkam Lake) would be my next stop. As I pulled closer to the lake, cars were parked along the side of the road and the parking lot was full. It was British Columbia Day and the place was packed. As the view of the lake came into view, the colours drew me in, crystal clear blue waters with a hint of green. I climbed down a small, dirt hill to enjoy a spot away from the families enjoying the lake. I threw my sandals to the side and walked in, the cold water was exhilarating. No bathing suit was available so Continue Reading

Road Trip to Lytton, British Columbia

Lytton White Water

One Incredible Road Trip to Lytton, British Columbia I needed an escape from the hot weather for a weekend and wanted some time to myself. I decided a road trip would solve this dilemma. In August, I picked up a Modo car and headed east towards the Fraser Canyon, along Hwy #1 to Lytton, British Columbia. The Fraser Canyon was on my left as I drove through tunnels in the mountains and stopped off at a view points along the way. After stopping for breakfast, I pulled into the small town of Lytton, BC. Lytton was my destination for the weekend full of white water rafting and exploring. Lytton is a small town of approximately 228 people, most people would drive right past the small town, but I encourage you to stop and get out on the river. You don’t know what you are missing until you experience it. If you aren’t up for paddling, jump in one of the motor boats and get a unique view of the Thompson River and the Fraser Canyon. My highlights of the weekend are included in the video Continue Reading