For the record, I have never been overly concerned about germs.
Disgusting door knobs on public restrooms? No biggie. Sticky handrails on escalators? Couldn’t care less. And I almost never observe the “five-second” rule when an errant bite of food falls to the floor.
As I child, my Dad assured me germs were good. Germs, he told me, help build a healthy immune system.
But there I was last week, onboard a plane bound for the east coast, meticulously wiping down my tray table, seat belt buckle and overhead lighting button with anti-bacterial wipes before taking off.
You see, as much as I fear being labeled a crazy germ-phobe by my seat-mate, the prospect of picking up the flu bug in the 747’s crowded cabin really freaks me out!
Dire warnings from health experts nationwide have gotten my undivided attention! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn this year’s flu spread could reach epidemic levels. In January, flu-related hospitalizations were more than double that of January 2014.
For young children and those sixty-five and older or immune-compromised, the flu can cause serious complications that can even turn fatal. But even if you’re not at risk of dying from the flu, who wants to put up with the misery and lost weeks recovering from the nasty virus?
So, I got a flu shot and take reasonable precautions to avoid getting slammed with a case of the flu. I wash my hands often, try not to touch my eyes, nose and mouth and avoid close contact with someone who’s sick.
But with another flight to the East Coast in my near future, I’m going to do more. Did you know you can bump up your immune system by eating more flu-fighting foods?
In addition to eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies and drinking 10 glasses of water a day…check out how these “power” foods can help keep your immune system on guard:
The live cultures in yogurt are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. Oats and barley contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities.
Garlic, the potent onion relative, contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. I recently learned that shellfish - oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams - contain selenium. It helps white blood cells produce cytokines - proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body. (BTW - salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from respiratory infections.)
And don’t forget chicken soup! You know it makes you feel good, but your favorite soup also blocks the migration of inflammatory white cells that gather in the bronchial tubes when you’re sick.
An amino acid called L-theanine is an immune-booster found in both black and green tea. (Plus it feels so good going down!) And if you’re low in zinc, you could be at increased risk of infection. So now and then, have a bit of beef to shore up your zinc stores.
Keep your skin (first line of defense against bacteria!) strong with the Vitamin A found in sweet potatoes give your immune system another boost by increasing the activity of white blood cells with mushrooms. Add a handful pasta sauce, sauté with a little oil and add to eggs or just pile a bunch of ‘rooms atop a frozen pizza.
Oh, I’ll keep using Purell like crazy while sneezing into my elbow. But with these superfoods on my side, I’m not giving in to the flu without a fight!
How ‘bout you?!
On the trip of a lifetime three years ago, Tom and I joined several friends on a 10-day, unforgettable visit to the Holy Land.
Our tour of Israel was a thrill! Among the highlights, a time of prayer at the Wailing Wall, a challenging hike up the desert fortress, Masada and, like the early followers of Jesus, an emotional baptism in the Jordan River.
From the river, we traveled to the sea…the Dead Sea…for a nice swim. Actually you can’t really swim in the hyper-salinated sea. The water is so super-salty, all you can do is float. So you just lie back and enjoy bobbing around…relaxing in a warm, soothing, natural mineral bath. The sensation was so lovely, I didn’t want to leave!
Guess what? The other day, I got to re-live that marvelous experience…not in Israel, but in San Marcos! In a cozy, little nook behind Grand Avenue I entered “A Quiet Place” (AQuietPlaceFloatationSpa.com) and a time of relaxation and peace in its state-of-the-art floatation spa.
Spa owner Richard Fraccalvieri greeted me with a warm cup of Tranquility Tea, seated me in the comfy waiting area and prepared me for what to expect. Floatation therapy, he said, is a “luxurious escape from the constant stress of life’s daily pressures and a natural way to heal the body and mind.” He said the concept is, indeed, similar to the mineral salt bath I experienced at the Dead Sea.
Nearly 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt is dissolved into the spa tub of skin temperature water to create this effect. After showering off lotions and hair products, I stepped into the large, egg-shaped pod and lowered myself into the warm bath. (I wore a Speedo, but you can float in the buff, if you prefer!)
My mind drifted back to my Dead Sea experience…as I floated effortlessly on my back. While you may want the pod opened slightly, I chose to close it completely, so my “float” would be lightproof and soundproof. The gentle roll of the water freed me of gravity, noise and other distractions.
For some, the experience is like deep meditation as body and mind achieve calmness…entering into a theta brain wave state and a profound state of relaxation. I found myself praying and thinking about things peaceful and lovely.
While some doctors and athletes use floatation therapy for neurological, circulatory, respiratory and digestive issues, others claim a decrease in chronic pain, depression and anxiety. But all who use the therapy regularly agree it feels great!
If, like me, you enjoy being surrounded by water…you will love the hour-long float. But even if you’re not a water person, give it a try. You don’t even have to get your face wet…and you can’t sink if you try!
Besides, Grandma always said a warm Epsom salt bath would do me good. Right again, Gram!
Have I told you about my amazing nephews? I’ve been blessed to be “Aunt Carol” to three of the finest young men you’ll ever meet.
A gifted massage therapist, Colin is the oldest at 27. Handsome and bright, Colin also has a heart as big as all outdoors!
Nineteen year-old Devin, a sophomore at (his auntie’s alma mater!) the University of Northern Iowa is tall, blonde, adorably mischievous and can run like the wind.
Sadly, I don’t get to see them as often as I like because, along with their Dad (my little bro, Carter) and Mom, Dana, Iowa is home.
So imagine my delight when my middle nephew, Ian, announced he was moving to California’s Central Coast. Now that he’s just a five-hour road trip away, Aunt Carol and Uncle Tom get to connect with him a lot more often.
Good-looking, athletic and creative, Ian is also brilliant…with a great job at a large, computer software company in San Luis Obispo (SLO). What I didn’t know about the multi-talented “E-Man,” (as he’s affectionately known by friends and family) is he’s apparently also skilled in the kitchen.
With a little help from his Mom’s recipe (and a couple of “secret weapons,” Ian recently won a chili cook-off in SLO…hands down! Now that I’ve tried E’s chili, I’ve got to hand it to him. It’s absolutely delicious (and hot as a witch’s broom handle!!)
Ian agreed to let me share it with you…as long as his Mom gets proper credit. (I told you my nephews are amazing!)
Note the “secret weapons…”Mr. and Mrs. T’s Original Bloody Mary Mix and Baker’s chocolate.
LeBeau's Chili aka "Mom's Chili"
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion diced
3 celery stalks w/ leaves
1 t. salt & pepper (or to taste)
3-4 T. chili powder
3 T. Cajun seasoning
1/4 C. brown sugar
16 oz. pork n' beans
16 oz. dark kidney beans
16 oz. navy beans
16 oz. black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beef consume
2 squares of semi-sweet bakers chocolate
1 bottle Bloody Mary Mix (Mr. & Mrs. T's Original)
Brown the hamburger/sausage and use the grease to sauté your celery and onion. Add everything else! Simmer for one hour.
Make it the day before! And enjoy!
Thanks “E” and Dana!!
She’s San Diego’s favorite weathercaster – for good reason. Pat Brown delivers the weather on 10News with accuracy, clarity and a positive spirit that’s hard to resist. With a twinkle in her eye, a lilt in her voice and her signature sunny smile, you have to wonder can cold fronts, high-pressure systems and Doppler radar images make someone that happy?
The short answer is yes! As a friend and media colleague, I’ve known Pat Brown for 25 years and believe me, she’s the same Pat on and off the air. Since I tend to be one of those moody, melancholic, glass-half-empty people, I’ve long admired and envied Pat’s perpetual positivity.
What makes her so chronically cheerful?
“I love what I do,” exclaims the winsome weathercaster. “When you’re talking about the weather, it’s a beautiful thing. God’s the artist and I get to tell the story!” (See what I mean?!)
Pat admits she was definitely born with “happy genes,” but believes her upbringing stirred those genes to expression. “I was blessed to grow up in a loving family.”
But Pat adds she also chooses to be happy, no matter her circumstances.
“I’ve had huge down events in my life – losing my Mom, getting divorced and being laid off. It hasn’t always been easy.” But each time her world spins out of control, she stays anchored with encouragement from her friends and hope from her faith. “Maybe,” Pat muses, “I’m not always happy, but I’m usually content.”
Pat is also intentional about finding joy in life. She keeps her life simple … not a lot of “stuff” and free from debt. “I love to read, travel and learn. I’m happy when my mind is stimulated.” She also revels in life’s simple pleasures – a good night’s sleep, being outdoors, volunteering and her cool cats, “Romeow” and “Buddy!”
According to Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D.,Pat exemplifies a lifestyle conducive to joy and contentment. “Pat is clearly comfortable in her own skin,” says Dr. Hidy. “Her happiness is not tied to material possessions, wealth or achievement. She finds time for herself and has a good sense of who she is in the world.”
Pat says she’s also grateful and doesn’t take life for granted. “I get up every morning and thank God for another day.” Then she enjoys her favorite breakfast, (granola and yogurt with pomegranate seeds!) with her kitties sprawled on her lap.
But Pat Brown is not only happy. She’s healthy. And it begs the question; can a sunny outlook mean fewer colds and less heart disease? Do hope and curiosity somehow protect against hypertension and diabetes?
Dr. Hidy says research on this new avenue of public health is presently inconclusive, but, he says, evidence shows stress and depression can harm the body. (See Q&A, below)
Full of excitement at the prospect of a weather system that might bring rain, Pat Brown continues to delight her viewers with her trusted forecasts and unbridled joy.
Q&A With Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D.
Forget dieting and exercise! Why not make 2015 a happier New Year with a little attitude adjustment? According to Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D., change is possible. I asked him if turning that frown upside down could contribute to better health.
Carol: Are happy people healthier?
Dr. Hidy: While research is inconclusive, we do know people who manage stress successfully can improve their overall health, both mentally and physically.
Carol: Why is that?
Dr. Hidy: People who are content – at peace – tend to feel more confident in stressful situations and don’t become quite as overwhelmed.
Carol: Conversely, how does unhappiness affect health?
Dr. Hidy: Depression, as a clinical diagnosis, can lead to hypertension, obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Carol: Are we hard-wired to be either one or the other?
Dr. Hidy: It’s not as simple as genetics or environment. A lot of factors from upbringing to whether the barista got your coffee order right influence how we view the world.
Carol: Can we change our wiring?
Dr. Hidy: You can choose to change habits, recognize thinking patterns and reactions to situations. It’s hard work but it's worth it.
Carol: How do you start?
Dr. Hidy: I recommend working with a professional. Often medication and/or psychotherapy can help begin the process.
Carol: Do you believe happiness is tied to circumstances?
Dr. Hidy: Actually, people who are happiest have a good sense of who they are. They’re not tied down by expectations, debt and “stuff.” The sense of freedom is liberating.
Carol: Sounds wonderful. How do I get started?
Dr. Hidy: First, find time each day for yourself. Engage in activities and surround yourself with people who make you feel present, competent and valued.
Carol: And if you suspect your unhappiness may be depression?
Dr. Hidy: Please, see your doctor! Depression is an illness that needs medical treatment.
The shorter the days, the happier I am. Call me crazy, but I actually look forward to rolling back the clock to end daylight-saving time. And I’m not alone!
While many people get the blues as winter sets in, some of us prefer colder temperatures and shorter days…experiencing a sense of peace and well-being during the cold, dark winter.
It’s good to know my “condition” has a name. Recent research has discovered people with “summer seasonal affective disorder” suffer symptoms of depression or “blues” from May to September, but report happier feelings as the temperature drops.
It appears I’m not crazy after all!
A small, quiet minority of people actually cheer up and draw energy from the long, dark days of winter. For me, it’s the “cozy” feeling that comes from being home reading a good book with a fleece throw and my kitty, “Bing” warming my lap. It’s like going into hibernation for a few months! (Maybe the colder, darker days just give me “permission” to dial it back a bit?!)
One study found so-called “summer-haters” are miserable and restless from late spring to early fall, while everyone else is overjoyed to be getting outside. Fortunately, recent research is shedding light on the reasons some folks prefer winter. Nine out of 10 people notice seasonal changes of mood and behavior to some degree. In a study of 416 Maryland residents, a tiny minority have seasonal disruptive swings that go beyond feeling uncomfortable on hot, summer days.
Psychiatrists and psychologists can diagnose seasonal mood syndrome based on whether someone becomes depressed, experiences changes in mood, energy, sleep patterns, appetite and socializing during the same months each year.
Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of Winter Blues says about five percent of us suffer the winter version of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Summer SAD affects a mere 0.7 percent of the population.
If you’re among those who rejoice in winter, (I think Christmas has a lot to do with it!) enjoy—this is your time!
But there’s really no need to let any season get you down. Whether shorter days and colder temps or long, hot summer days…if they cause anxiety, insomnia, weight loss and depression, there is help. A mental health professional can recommend a variety of treatments, including talk therapy, light therapy or antidepressants.
There is a way to turn that seasonal frown upside down!
30 years ago, Tom and I were married in a traditional church service followed by a rather raucous reception. (I was the one in the long, white dress dancing wildly to The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited) in the courtyard of the Hotel Del Coronado.
The next day we boarded a plane for West Virginia where Tom’s mom hosted a reception for us in my new husband’s hometown of Charleston. From there, we headed for a little town called White Sulfur Springs to spend our honeymoon. (I know! My feelings exactly-- at the time!) It was Tom’s idea and he assured me I would fall in love with a world-famous resort nestled behind the tiny town.
He was right.
30 years later, we made the trek back to West Virginia and the gorgeous Greenbrier Resort where Tom and I began our lives together…and fell in love all over again.
Young and not very worldly back in 1984, I had no idea the Greenbrier is not only a luxurious, award-winning resort; it’s also a National Historic landmark! The building alone is magnificent… classic architecture, old world interior design, exquisite chandeliers, perfectly sculpted landscape (a maze of mums celebrating fall!) and service so superb and friendly, it puts Disneyland to shame!
Surrounded by the majesty of the Allegheny Mountains, the Greenbrier Resort covers ten thousand acres, has 710 rooms, suites and estate houses, ten lobbies, designer boutiques, a world-renowned mineral spa, fine dining, championship golf (on three perfectly manicured courses!). And oh, did I mention more than 55 activities??!!
More than 200 years old, the Greenbrier manages to combine the graciousness and class of the past with all the creature comforts of today. What a treat to enjoy breakfast in our elegant room with big, brightly-colored, turn-of-the century floral patterns and a cute, little bathroom with throwback fixtures…while wrapped in fluffy, white spa robes.
In the late 1700s, guests came to White Sulfur Springs to “take the waters” to restore their health. Today, the Greenbrier is still a place to relax, refresh and recharge.
We spent two nights at our anniversary getaway…just enough time to reflect and reminisce about our last 30 years together…at the place where it all began.
The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. Sometimes magic happens where you least expect it!
For more information and history on the Greenbrier, please visit greenbrier.com.
On our recent tour of western Canada and the majestic Canadian Rockies, my husband Tom and I learned many “fun facts” about our neighbor to the north. I can actually sing the lyrics to the Canadian National Anthem, “Oh, Canada!”
While Canada may not have an official national bird…because of the loon pictured on one side, Canucks refer to their one-dollar coins as “loonies.” (BTW…the two-dollar coin is called a “twonie!”)
There’s also an unofficial sweet treat unique (almost!) to Canada known as the Nanaimo (nuh-NYE-mo) Bar. If you’re into sugar highs, you simply must try this melt-in-your-mouth confection. And I’ve got the recipe!
But first, a little history.
According to local legend, about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo (city on Vancouver Island) housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry “Nanaimo Bars.” Her entry won a prize…promoting the town, as much as her baking.
Some American tourists may claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as “New York Slice,” which is sold in other places in the world. But Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe became available as a handout, as well as on tea towel and apron souvenirs.
In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, nearly 100 different variations of the famous treat were submitted. The winner? Joyce Hardcastle.
Here’s her recipe:
½ cup unsalted butter (European-style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners)
Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Trust me; you don’t even want to know the calorie count. It is decidedly decadent. But this no-bake bar with an international flair may just wow your friends and family this holiday season.
I’m a big fan of innovation and technology. How did we ever get along before the TV remote?! That said, I’m really pretty “old school.” I still get the newspaper and read books (the bound, paper kind!). I prefer phone calls to email and texting and would much rather shop in a store than on line. Believe it or not, I actually don’t mind watching a TV show live…with the commercials!
But then again, I’m no spring chicken and sometimes change is a challenge as I age. So it was with great joy I recently read a fun article in Real Simple magazine on the many health and beauty products that have transcended time…including stuff I use today…and have been using for decades!
Why? Because they’re wonderful…and they work!
Remember Dippity-do? The popular pink gel was invented in 1965 for setting curls. As a teen, I couldn’t live without it. And it’s still around. With its unique, jellylike texture, Dippity-do later gained popularity among young men. As a result, the packaging went from a jar to a blue squeeze bottle. Despite all the other gels, sprays and mousses out there, when I want to make sure my hair won’t move, a little Dippity-do will do it!
Speaking of unmovable hair…there’s not a “firm hold” hair spray that can compete with good old AquaNet. Dubbed the “all-weather” hair spray, AquaNet is famous for providing a firm, lasting hold in any climate. I admit, I don’t use the spray every day, but I’ve got a travel size in my purse for times when my hair needs to be bullet proof!
Remember Biore’? The first-of-a-kind strips are still removing blackheads since its launch in 1997. How ‘bout the Clinique Facial Soap Bar? Around since 1968, this must-have cleansing bar was (and still is) part of the three-step skin care system Clinique is famous for.
But when it comes to cleansing, my personal favorite has been around since 1947 and still going strong. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is my dermatologist’s favorite…for good reason. Soap and fragrance-free the gentle formula is safe for all skin types. (I keep the handy cleansing cloths in my travel bag.)
Did you know Q-tips have been around since 1923? They’re still in every home in America…along with Vaseline and ChapStick…both around since the 1800’s!
For my dry skin, I buy Dove Beauty Bars in bulk at Costco! Soap dates back to at least 600 B.C., but until 1957, when the Dove Bar was introduced, it was always considered drying. The first soap-free cleanser on the market, the Dove Bar was innovative because it cleaned without stripping skin. (It’s still Dove’s best-selling product globally!)
My absolutely-can’t-do-without legendary product was introduced in 1945. Aquaphor was initially used as a base for preparing other emulsions…then revamped as a multi-purpose salve in 1998…when it became known as the “healing ointment.” I gotta have it for everything from chapped lips to chafing from my Speedo!
Oh, don’t forget Johnson’s “No More Tears” Baby Shampoo formula…and for us big kids, “Clairol’s Professional Shimmer Lights Shampoo….predating by 30 years the explosion of color-enhancing and preserving shampoos.
Who can forget Chanel No. 5, MAC’s Lip Pencil in Spice and Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara. Introduced back in 1971, Great Lash sold once every 1.3 seconds in the US and still (in my humble opinion) beats the pricey brands, hands-down.
These are but a few of the lotions, potions and fragrances that have claimed their spots in the pantheon of beauty greats. I challenge you to give them a try…for the first time, or for the first time in a while. You won’t be disappointed.
When it comes to technology, I may be a dinosaur. But when products stand the test of time, I think it’s OK to be a little “old school.”
I really need to update my wardrobe. Nothing much…just a pair of updated jeans, boots and a couple of shirts and sweaters. I’ve been putting it off for months because I hate to shop.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having nice things. It’s just that shopping is such a hassle and takes so much time. I get overwhelmed by the choices and often walk away with nothing because I can’t make a decision. I admire women who can scan a rack of clothes…zero in on exactly what they want…and make their purchase without second-guessing.
That said, I realize some women love to shop so much, it becomes an addiction. (Don’t worry, I have other problems!) And it’s no wonder…especially during the holidays. Temptation is all around us--daily door-buster deals, friends and family discounts and free shipping if you spend over $150!
Sadly, for an estimated 6% of Americans with compulsive buying tendencies, this is a tough time of year.
“The whole culture conspires against us during the holiday season,” says April Lane Benson, a New York psychologist who has treated compulsive shoppers for 15 years. Besides tempting sales, pressure to top last year’s gifts and the urge to shop for oneself, she says, “the holidays bring up a lot of unfulfilled longing for some people…and that’s one reason why they shop…as a salve for disappointment.”
While the stereotypical compulsive shopper is a woman in her 30’s, experts say the ease and speed of Internet shopping is luring more men and young people.
According to the director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford University School of Medicine, the Internet is dangerous for compulsive buyers in two ways.
“Transactions move so quickly, it’s hard to pause to reassess the buying urge,” says psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude. He says The Internet also lets people disassociate from reality and assume a grandiose alter ego fueled by virtual cash.
“Online, money is no longer anchored to reality, so what do we do? We spend more,” Dr. Aboujaoude says.
While buying a book on amazon.com recently, another title caught my eye. With one click, I impulsively bought the second book. Makes me wonder whether we’re all at risk. When does “retail therapy” cross the line into compulsive shopping?
Experts says purchasing turns pathological when people continue to do it, even though it causes financial problems, disrupts work, family or social life. If shopping involves deceit, such as hiding bills and packages…that’s another red flag.
Some facts about compulsive spending from the Wall Street Health Journal:
*Most compulsive shoppers earn less than $50,000 a year.
*Compulsive shopping typically starts in the late teens or early 20’s.
*People typically overspend for several decades before seeking help.
*Many compulsive shopper also suffer from depression, anxiety, substance-abuse or eating disorders
*About half of compulsive shoppers also hoard.
While there is no specific treatment for compulsive shopping, experts agree changes in behavior can have a huge impact on breaking shopping addiction:
1. Admit you are a compulsive spender. That’s half the battle.
2. Get rid of checkbooks and credit cards. They just fuel the problem.
3. Don’t shop by yourself. If you are with someone else, you are much less likely to spend.
4. Find other meaningful ways to spend time.
And keep in mind that while behavior change is crucial to recovery, so is reaching out for help. I recommend the Department of Behavioral Health at Palomar Health. Highly-trained professionals there can help you or a loved one shop ‘till you stop!
We were 23 when my best pal, Julie, and I boarded an airplane in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and flew to Seattle. We’d decided to visit a mutual college friend from our days at the University of Northern Iowa. Neither of us had ever flown on a commercial jet. It was the farthest had ever been away from home.
That trip was a big deal for two, young corn-fed, Iowa gals. And we had a ball. One of the highlights of our adventure was a ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria. We bought sweaters, sipped tea at the Empress Hotel and three hours later, hopped aboard the ferry and headed back to Washington. My one and only Canadian experience…until now!
Tom and I recently returned from a terrific 10-day tour of Western Canada with a wonderful travel company called Holiday Vacations. What a treat to have the time to really experience the people and the beauty of our neighbor to the north!
We started out just as Julie and I did with a trip to Seattle and ferry ride to Victoria. But this time, we got to spend two days touring the capitol of British Columbia and two glorious nights as guests of the elegant Empress Hotel. (We opted out of re-enacting the tea experience. High tea? $67 per person. Gulp!) However, we did enjoy a very reasonably priced cup of Canada’s own Tim Horton coffee!!
Then we explored the British-inspired city… viewing historic sites, including the Parliament Building on the lovely Inner Harbor. Beautiful flowerbeds and gardens reflected the area’s passion for gardening.
Speaking of gardens, the next day we visited the world famous Butchart Gardens. OMGosh! I’d been told it would be gorgeous, but what my travel mates and I experienced was simply stunning. As we walked from one eye-popping garden to the next, Tom had to keep reminding me to close my mouth. The vibrant colors and dazzling displays kept my mouth agape for hours!
Our tour of Vancouver the next day was fascinating. Surrounded by water and mild weather, Canada’s third largest city reminded us a lot of San Diego. And while Vancouver doesn’t have anything like our Balboa Park, we did take an afternoon to stroll spectacular Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre wilderness and recreation retreat. Truly, a local gem.
Our next adventure took us aboard the famous Rocky Mountaineer. We spent two peaceful days riding the rails, taking in breathtaking panoramas of the Canadian Rockies.
Next stop? Banff…and a lovely lunch overlooking famous Lake Louise. For decades, Lake Tahoe has been my favorite lake…but Lake Louise is now a close second! The glacial blue waters of the lake give it a surreal jewel tone look. Depending on the color of the sky and the angle of the sun, the lake among the mountains sparkled in brilliant hues from sapphire to emerald to aquamarine. Simply stunning.
Our coolest (and I mean that literally!) experience was a trip along the Ice Fields Parkway to the awesome Columbia Ice Field. There we boarded an enormous vehicle called the Glacial Explorer…a bus-like vehicle sitting atop huge balloon tires that literally drove us onto the Athabasca Glacier. Carefully, we stepped off slipping and sliding on the gigantic block of ice cascading down from the peaks of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
Back to Banff and lunch at the historic and (truly) grand Banff Springs Hotel…with a view of shimmering Lake Louise. So much beauty, it was hard to take it all in.
Finally, it was time to bid farewell to the beauty of Canada and its warm, welcoming people…back to the US as honorary Canucks, eh?! Can’t wait to go back!