A glow-in-the-dark map of the Solar System graced my bedroom wall when I was a little girl, accented by luminescent cutouts of stars, moons and planets pasted to my ceiling. As I gazed upon my artificial universe, my mind drifted to far-off worlds, fueling dreams about the endless wonders of the universe and who else might be out there with us. My passions turned to travel and the arts as I grew older, but I still find joy in gazing upon the heavens and letting my mind fly high amongst the stars. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival, presented by Rocky Mountaineer, aims to connect people of all ages to the wonders of our universe and to stargaze in one of the world’s largest dark-sky preserves.
Like millions of Italians before and after them, my family was part of the great Italian diaspora that took place at the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. Almost 30 million Italians emigrated during that period for similar reasons – to escape poverty, war and lack of work and to start better lives for themselves and their families. One of those emigrants was my five-year old father, Carlo. The Marrazzo family left poor Southern Italy in waves beginning in the mid-50s. My Nonno (grandfather) followed in his parents’ footsteps and left for Canada in 1956, working hard for two years to save enough to bring the rest of his family over. At the end of 1958, my Nonna, along with three children between the ages of three and seven, said goodbye to their small town of Piane Crati, Calabria, and never looked back. They made the 300km journey by train to Naples, where they boarded the Saturnia ship and spent a week crossing the Atlantic Ocean. This was followed by a week-long train trip crossing the vast expanse of Canada and finally arriving in their new home of Edmonton, Alberta, a place immensely different from the home they had just left behind.
Exploring my home province of Alberta is one of my favourite things to do at any time of year, so when the Alberta Motor Association invited me to be a summer ambassador for their #TheRoadIsCalling campaign to show off my hometown of Edmonton, I was over the moon. I am a weekend warrior and love to discover new places close by, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to discover more about my home city.
Read on for my recommendations on unique things to do in and around Edmonton, and stay tuned until the end of this post to enter a giveaway to win a prize pack that includes admission to all of the attractions I visited!
Puebla is not a name that often crosses travelers’ lips. The medium-sized city of 1.5 million people is a treasure trove of colonial architecture and has earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is one of the great culinary capitals of Mexico, home to many classic Mexican dishes such as the ubiquitous mole poblano, a dark, rich sauce of 20 ingredients including chili peppers and chocolate. Despite the beauty of the historic centre, the endless opportunities for delicious meals, the proximity to Mexico City and Popocatépetl volcano, the second highest peak in Mexico, looming nearby, foreign tourists often overlook Puebla.
Teotihuacan. The Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. The Avenue of the Dead. These words conjure images of complex ancient civilizations, ferocious warriors and a way of life that modern people could only imagine in their wildest dreams. Mexico is famous around the world for its wealth of ruins and archaeological sites, and Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the most famous of them all. The ancient city is only 48km, or 30 miles, south west of Mexico City, making it the perfect place to get out of the bustling city for a day and to discover some Mesoamerican history. Never content with only the easiest option, we decided to tack on a visit Tula, a much less visited archaeological site featuring towering Toltec warriors atop a lone pyramid.
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 travel partner and I 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→
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→
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.
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→
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.