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 travel companion and I were deposited in the historic centre of town.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Only a crazy person would drive the length of Canada from Vancouver to Halifax in a 48-year-old Volvo Amazon, purposely avoiding the main highways the whole way, right? Well, that’s exactly what my husband and his friend did earlier this summer, covering 9000km in 11 days, retracing routes from the Shell 4000 rallies that ran in the 1960s, raising money for Alzheimer’s along the way. It was called the Canada 5000, and mere weeks after their return, my Dave decided he hadn’t had enough. He wanted to give the 1965 Regina to Edmonton leg a shot, with me as his passenger/navigator. Most people, including my husband, didn’t think I would want to sit in a car for at least 21 hours, drive to Saskatchewan and immediately turn back around, but I signed up for the challenge without hesitating. Traveling is my passion, and any trip great or small is an opportunity for me to experience something new and see places I haven’t seen before.
Southern Alberta has become one of my favourite destinations in the past couple of years, one that I am fortunate to be able to reach with an easy half-day road trip. I love the larger-than-life Alberta skies and the vast, flat, golden prairies. I love how the landscape can change so quickly and how the Earth opens up in front of me to reveal something completely different.
For this year’s Alberta exploration, I started with two nights in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park before moving on for two more at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park/Áísínai’pi National Historic Site.
My thirst for exploration and discovery is unquenchable, no matter my age or how many countries I have visited. Curiosity runs through my veins and every chance I get to leave my hometown gets my blood pumping, whether I’m flying halfway across the world or driving to a town an hour away. Long-term or long-distance travel isn’t always a reality for me, so over the past couple of years I have been making efforts to explore my own backyard and take advantage of long weekends to get out of town. My husband and I love to take road trips together and have made our own tradition of taking one each year for our wedding anniversary. This year, we were drawn to Southern Alberta again. Our first destination: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, spread over southwestern Alberta and southeastern Saskatchewan, the only interprovincial park in the country, an oasis of forest, lakes and hills rising up 600m from the surrounding prairies.
Earlier this summer one of my longest running wishes came true; I won a trip at a Travel Alberta media event in my hometown of Edmonton. It was a small, intimate event with travel professionals and bloggers from around the province and the first event of its kind that I had ever attended. Great conversation and delicious snacks and drinks were plentiful. As the night wound down, business cards were drawn for several door prizes, each a trip to a different destinations in our spectacular, diverse province. When it came time to draw the prize of a trip to Banff for Performance in the Park, courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism, my husband Dave’s card was drawn. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately for him, depending on how you want to look at it), he was to be away that weekend on his coast-to-coast Canada 5000 Rally. This left me with a free trip to one of the most beautiful places on the planet and my pick of who to have join me.
Over the course of six years, in pursuit of a personal travel goal, I traveled to 32 countries (some more than once), spent approximately 38 weeks abroad (not counting local trips), and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars. It was amazing, and exhausting, to say the least. On my 25th birthday I set a goal to travel to 30 countries before I turned 30, and on a four-week trip to Europe in September 2014, I achieved it. Yet two months after returning home, the itch was back. No matter how hard I ever try to return to a normal life, focus on saving money and relaxing, the wanderlust always comes back. So, on Boxing Day 2014, I booked a trip to Nicaragua.
Even though I have a goal to travel to 30 countries by the time I turn 30, and I have been to many famous places, up until this year I had never been to one of the most famous cities of all: London. Combining London with a trip to Morocco might not spring to mind immediately, but when Dave and I had the choice of either a 13-hour or 24-hour layover, we decided to try the longer one and squeeze in as much of London as we could. Continue reading My 24-hour London layover→
In less than one week I will be touching down for my first Icelandic adventure. We will be spending 11 days and 10 nights there, starting and ending in Reykjavik. After settling in for a couple of days, we will be picking up a rental car and heading out on the Ring Road, circumnavigating the entire island counterclockwise. Continue reading 11 day Iceland itinerary: Part One→