Calabria: Father and daughter return to the Old Country – Part One

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By Karlie Marrazzo

The day that I had been impatiently waiting for since my first trip to Italy in 2008 had finally arrived; I was taking my dad to Piane Crati, a small town in the hills of Calabria outside of the city of Cosenza. This sleepy town is where my father and his father before him (my Nonno), were born, and which he hadn’t seen since the family left for Canada in 1958. Neighbouring Piane Crati is the even tinier village of Donnici Superiore, where my Nonna hails from. It is likely that I had really been waiting for this trip for my whole life; although I was born in Canada, the passion and soul of Italy has always coursed through my veins, and I’ve always felt a deep-rooted connection to the land of my ancestors.

To read the introductory post to this series, please click here! This trip took place in August and September 2016.

My eyes snapped open at 2 am, a combination of excitement, jet lag and heat waking me from my light slumber. Today was our first full day in Cosenza, in Italy! I opened the window to let any hint of a breeze flow through and cool down my high-ceiling bedroom at the B&B Paparelle. I heard my dad awake in the other room at the same time; nervousness and excitement likely coursing through his veins even more so than in my own. Eventually, we drifted back to sleep, waking up again at 8:45 am and having a slow breakfast of coffee, fruit and packaged pastries.

It was 10:30 am by the time we got into our compact rental car and headed for the hills. As we drove through the old streets of Cosenza, so narrow that you sometimes find yourself involuntarily holding your breath in hopes that you’ll be slim enough to make it through, my dad exclaimed how cool and beautiful everything was, the word “wow” escaping his lips multiple times. To see him be so in awe with his country of birth, after describing my awe to him for years, brought me so much joy, and still does to this day.

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Cartagena: Queen of Colombia’s Caribbean coast

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Cartagena de Indias, casually referred to as Cartagena, is the beauty queen of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Splashed with bright colours, Colonial architecture, kilometres of historic defence walls surrounding the city, and lively music wafting through the sultry Caribbean air, there’s something special about this magical city that has to be felt to be understood. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its “strategic location, this eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was also one of the most important ports of the Caribbean,” Cartagena is Colombia’s second most popular city with visitors.

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Bogotá: Three days in Colombia’s underrated capital

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Over the past four years, Latin America is a destination that has been enticing and enchanting me the more I visit and learn about it. The spectacular cultures, long and intense histories, incredible food, warm people, world-renowned cultural and architectural sites, and beautiful beaches are just a few of the reasons that I always find my daydreams wandering back to the Southern Hemisphere. Each country, from the top of Mexico to the tip of Chile’s slender finger, has bountiful reasons tempting me to visit. After my first solo trip to Guatemala in spring 2018, and a trip to El Salvador that fell through, Colombia was at the forefront of my travel wish list, and would become the first country I would visit in South America.

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Invermere, British Columbia: A weekend in the Kootenays

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Have you ever had the feeling of a hazy memory, a faint image on the edges of your mind that may have really happened, or that perhaps was just a pleasant dream, but you have no way of distinguishing fact from fantasy? A remembrance so close that you can just about grab it, but then it just as easily slips away? The calm, wide lake, surrounded by mountains on either side, the water lapping at the shore with the sepia-toned sun kissing everything it touches has been that memory for me for years, and this summer I was finally able to grasp it again in Invermere, British Columbia.

Invermere is 585km southwest of my hometown, Edmonton, or, in Canadian terms, an almost-6-hour drive without stops. My boyfriend E and I had been dating for a couple of months and wanted to take a fun summer road trip together, but not necessarily to the typical hot spots of Banff and Jasper that are closer to home for us. I had been to Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs, nestled in the Kootenays, in the summer of 2005, and had a feeling that my mystery dream lake was out that way. Planning a trip to the mountains in the summertime typically requires a bit of advanced planning, at least in terms of booking accommodations before everything sells out. Since we were booking only three weeks out, we let the availability of reasonably priced rooms guide us and ended up booking an Airbnb in Invermere. Invermere is tucked in between the two resort towns, but not yet a tourist destination in its own right.

*Read my posts on Banff and Jasper here.

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One-week Guatemala itinerary

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Guatemala, the northernmost country in Central America and one of its largest, had been at the top of my list of places to visit for years before I finally made my way south from Canada. The combination of volcanoes, Mayan ruins, Colonial architecture, fabulous food, the promise of no jet lag and fewer tourists than other parts of the world are just a few of the reasons I wanted to visit this captivating country. While I am fascinated with this part of the world, it still remains off the radar and a country of concern for a lot of travellers out there. It is my hope that this one-week Guatemala itinerary will help to inspire you and to put your own Guatemala trip together!

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Tikal National Park: Guatemala’s mystical Mayan ruins

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anicent mayan pyramids set in lush greenery against a blue sky

By Karlie Marrazzo

I rose before the sun on another tranquil day in Antigua, Guatemala’s magnificent crown jewel, on the penultimate day of my solo trip through the Central American country that had already captured my heart. My alarm went off at 5:30am; I rubbed my eyes, stepped into the clothes I had laid out the night before, and ate a quick breakfast on the rooftop of my hotel before catching a pre-arranged shuttle to Guatemala City. For the final leg of my week in Guatemala, I would base myself in the small city of Flores. From there I would visit the mystical Mayan ruins of Tikal.

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Antigua: Guatemala’s charming crown jewel

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By Karlie Marrazzo

My first trip to Guatemala began with a blissful three days in the spiritually charged village of San Marcos, peacefully tucked along the shore of Lake Atitlán, one of the most gorgeous places I have been lucky enough to experience thus far in my travels. Even though I could have stayed there for weeks, months, forever, I only had a week in Guatemala and my itinerary told me that it was time to move on. Next stop: Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage city bursting with colonial architecture at the base of three volcanoes; Acatenango, Volcán de Agua and Volcán de Fuego, an active stratovolcano that erupted twice in 2018 alone.

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Soul searching in San Marcos, Guatemala

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Ever since my first trip to Central America on a trip to Nicaragua in 2015, Guatemala has been at the top of my list of destinations to visit. The combination of volcanoes, Mayan ruins, Colonial architecture, fabulous food, the promise of no jet lag and fewer tourists than other parts of the world are just a few of the reasons I wanted to visit this captivating country. Other people didn’t see it that way, though. Whenever I was asked where I wanted to go next, and I answered with Guatemala, I was met with blank stares, quizzical looks and sincere expressions of concern. But since when have I ever let people’s opinions stop me from doing something I wanted to do?

From the moment I returned from my first solo trip to Los Angeles in November 2017, I couldn’t stop thinking about Guatemala. I had just taken a huge step in my personal life and development – after traveling with someone else for over 10 years, I had conquered my fear of doing things alone and rocked a badass trip to LA. I was now prepared to do anything, and not let anything hold me back from traveling anywhere I wanted to go. On Boxing Day 2017, three years to the date since I booked my Nicaragua trip, I made my decision and booked one round trip plane ticket to Guatemala.

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Vancouver Island: BC’s island gem sparkles

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By Karlie Marrazzo

If you look up the definition of ‘travel bug’ in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of my face smiling back at you, guaranteed. Whether I’m flying halfway across the world or driving to a small town one hour away, send me on a trip and I’m the happiest I can be. This past August long weekend, I had not one but two incredible reasons to visit somewhere new – my dad’s 65th birthday and the wedding of my best friend from junior high whom I’ve known for over 20 years.The wedding was being held in the city of Parksville on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, a place I hadn’t even heard of before the invite came in the mail. I had only been to the Island’s capital, Victoria, once before nine years prior, so I was very stoked to explore a spectacular, renowned part of my country that I hadn’t yet seen.

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Curating Calgary’s hidden gems and classic icons

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By Karlie Marrazzo

Alberta, the province that I call home, is the land of diverse and gorgeous landscapes – the Rocky Mountains in the West, the Badlands in the South, and vast fields of canola throughout. Dotted randomly somewhere in the midst of all this natural beauty are Alberta’s two major cities, Edmonton, my hometown, and Calgary, 300km to the south. Although Calgary is a 3-hour straight shot down Highway 2, I hadn’t visited the city since 2011, always passing by on my way to the Rockies but rarely stopping. When I was invited by the Ramada Plaza Downtown to check out their Calgary Made Guest Room Package, I was eager to head south to discover some of Calgary’s best local businesses.

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Visiting 30 countries by the time I turn 30!