Hola! Mexico City

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The Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City

By Karlie Marrazzo

The 737 began its final descent into Mexico City shortly after midnight; the jet-black sky preventing me from seeing my first glimpse of the largest city in North America sprawled out below. Mexico is one of the top destinations for Canadians year after year, yet it was my first time visiting the country. The majority of those tourists plop themselves down beside the resort pool and don’t move for a week, but our plans were different. My husband Dave chose the city as the place he wanted to spend his birthday this year. We are avid travelers and some of our vacation destinations in the past have garnered quizzical looks, and Mexico City was no exception. The city is a hub of Mexican culture, the home of brilliant examples of many architectural styles; it claims to have the most museums in the world, is a Mecca of Mexican cuisine, and is near to some of the most important ruins around. Despite all of this, it is often dismissed as a travel destination due to preconceived misconceptions about safety and culture. Continue reading Hola! Mexico City

Giveaway! Experience the Rocky Mountains with the Epic Summer Pass! CLOSED

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By Karlie Marrazzo

It’s giveaway time! You all know how much I adore my home province of Alberta, the land of soaring mountain peaks, golden prairies and wide open skies, so I’ve teamed up with the lovely folks at Brewster Travel Canada to give away a FAMILY PACK of their brand-new Epic Summer Pass! What is an Epic Summer Pass, you ask?

The pass gives unlimited access to five of the most spectacular attractions in the world-renowned Rocky Mountains: the Banff Gondola, Banff Lake Cruise, Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure, Glacier Skywalk and Maligne Lake Cruise. This limited edition pass, on sale until May 31, is $130 per adult and $70 per child, pays for itself after just three visits to any of the attractions. I’m giving away a family pack (two adults and two children) to one of my lucky readers! Continue reading Giveaway! Experience the Rocky Mountains with the Epic Summer Pass! CLOSED

Trekking Nicaragua’s Telica volcano

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Nicaragua, the Central American country that is sandwiched in an ideal spot between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is home to lush tropical forests, long golden beaches, and over a dozen volcanoes, many of them still active. I am drawn to volcanoes wherever I go in the world, and I had already hiked through the idyllic cloud forests of Mombacho at the beginning of my weeklong trip in Nicaragua. Now, it was time to climb one of the most active of them all – Telica.

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Beyond the bunny hill: Getting outdoorsy in Banff

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johnston-canyon-hike

By Karlie Marrazzo

Full of spectacular and abundant natural beauty, Banff is Canada’s outdoor playground, nestled in the Rocky Mountains and busy with visitors from around the globe all year round. In the winter, the town is full of people who love to hit the slopes at one of the three world-class hills in the area. Since I am not even close to proficient in skiing or snowboarding, I tend to save my trips for the summer, when the days are warm and the sun doesn’t go down until late at night. Expedia.ca encouraged me to see what I was missing, so I made the four-hour drive south at the beginning of March to experience what the area has to offer in the chillier months.
Continue reading Beyond the bunny hill: Getting outdoorsy in Banff

Granada and León: A tale of Nicaragua’s two cities

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orange-volkswagen-beetle

By Karlie Marrazzo

The colourful colonial town of Granada is one of Nicaragua’s main tourist draws. Low buildings splashed with paint in every shade of the rainbow line cobblestone streets, people on bikes and on foot lazily ambling in the heat while active volcanoes loom in the not-so-distant background. After hiking through Mombacho volcano’s cloud forest, my husband Dave and I were deposited in the historic centre of town.

things-to-do-granada-nicaragua

The throngs of tourists the travel literature promised were nowhere to be seen. We settled into our casa, cozy rooms dotted around a courtyard with a shallow pool, reminiscent of the riads we loved so much in Morocco. We walked the sun-drenched streets without aim, settling in to the slow pace of life. On occasion we passed small squares with pretty trees and fountains at their centres. Our meanderings took us to Iglesia de Merced, a church was originally built in the 16th century, destroyed by pirates, and rebuilt in the late 1700s. It was damaged and repaired yet again in the mid-1800s. For the price of a mere dollar, we climbed the narrow stairwell to the top of the bell tower for the famous postcard views of the low-slung buildings with Mombacho to the south and Lake Nicaragua to the east. The rooftop is small and the bell is never far from your ears. As I was serenely enjoying the views, the giant bell was rung violently by men out of my sight, causing my head to spin for hours afterward.

Continue reading Granada and León: A tale of Nicaragua’s two cities

Jasper in January: Learning to love winter

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jasper-in-january

By Karlie Marrazzo

Growing up and living in Canada for my whole life has produced in me an automatic desire to hibernate in the winter, a hard shell that protects me against the cold and snow and keeps me going until summer finally comes around again. This desire is, however, slightly outweighed by the desire to do, to be, to see and experience new things. Jasper in January, held in 2016 for the 27th time, was the perfect opportunity for me to push my own boundaries and experience the glory of the Canadian winter.

Held over three consecutive weekends in January, the festival celebrates all things frosty and is split into three different themes – Adventure, Appetites and Arts. My husband Dave and I dove right in to the winter adventure experiences with Winterstruck, an outdoor celebration of all things winter, set on the frozen surface of Pyramid Lake, a five-minute shuttle ride from the Jasper townsite.

Continue reading Jasper in January: Learning to love winter

Why I love Airbnb and why you will too!

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By Karlie Marrazzo

As new travelers planning our first trip to Europe in 2008, my husband Dave and I, still wet behind the ears but diving in headfirst and planning 100% independently, did what any average couple would do. We stayed in hotels – overpriced, generic hotels located right in the thick of the tourist masses. It wasn’t until 2013, when we were planning a trip to Iceland, one of the most expensive countries to travel to, that we found out about Airbnb. The website allows people to rent entire homes or apartments, private rooms or even a spot on a couch from private homeowners.

Click here to sign up and get $29 off your first stay! 

Continue reading Why I love Airbnb and why you will too!

Exploring Jasper: Icefields Parkway and Rocky Mountain helicopter ride

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By Karlie Marrazzo

This is the third post in a series on Edmonton and Jasper. Click here to read parts one and two.

The Icefields Parkway, which connects Jasper and Banff National Parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, is arguably one of the most gorgeous drives in the world. Two hundred and thirty kilometres of smooth asphalt pass by the feet of towering mountains, ancient glaciers, and crystal clear streams and, lined with wildlife, it makes every list of ‘Best Drives in the World.’ It was on this road that our rag tag group of writers and bloggers traveled on the last day of our Rocky Mountain exploration.

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Exploring Jasper: Mountain heights and hot springs

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jasper-day-hike

By Karlie Marrazzo

This is the second post in a series on Edmonton and Jasper. Click here to read part one.

As a chronic wanderluster who lives in a city that is so isolated that it takes at least two or three flights to get anywhere exotic, I am constantly thinking of ways to maximize long weekends and make the most of my more immediate surroundings. Fortunately my hometown of Edmonton is only a few hours’ drive from the glorious Canadian Rocky Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the cozy mountain town of Jasper, Alberta.

Continue reading Exploring Jasper: Mountain heights and hot springs

Edmonton: Viewing my hometown through a new lens

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elk-island-park

By Karlie Marrazzo

Edmonton,  Alberta is known for its shopping mall, its hockey team, and its extreme low temperatures. It is the city that raised me, the most northerly city in North America with more than one million residents, and it’s a place I often leave to explore other corners of the globe. Often, when I tell people where I’m from, they ask if it’s near Toronto or Montreal (it’s not). As travelers, we often overlook our hometowns in favour of the more exotic, the warmer, the more far-flung, the better. When I was invited to be a guest of Edmonton Tourism and Tourism Jasper to explore my own backyard this fall, I jumped at the chance to see my city, as well as Jasper National Park, from a fresh perspective – that of a tourist.

Continue reading Edmonton: Viewing my hometown through a new lens

Visiting 30 countries by the time I turn 30!