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.
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.
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.
Continuing on with our annual tradition of getting out of town for our anniversary, my husband Dave and I visited Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in our home province of Alberta, for our seventh anniversary last August. Like the year before, we wanted to stay close to home since we had a month long Europe trip just a few weeks later. Many people that we talk to here at home don’t know much about Dinosaur Provincial Park, or think that it is part of/near Drumheller, when it is two hours, or 169km, south east of the town that is home to the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum. My dad had camped there previously and raved about it, and we were drawn by the prehistoric history and barren badlands landscape.
Iceland’s popularity is higher than ever and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. And why should it? The small island nation in the North Atlantic is the most breathtaking place I have ever seen, full stop. Volcanoes, dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, geysers, majestic waterfalls, gorgeous glacial lagoons, the cutest sheep and horses, the midnight sun, friendly people and awesome vodka are just a few of the reasons I fell in love with this country.
It’s been a year and a half since I visited Iceland, and my post “11 day Iceland itinerary: Part One” is the most popular page on my site. The number of comments and emails I’m receiving about it continue to grow, so this is the perfect time for me to update all of you on how the itinerary worked out for us.
We woke up early to get to the bus station to catch a bus to Kotor, set in the stunning Bay of Kotor in Europe’s youngest nation, Montenegro. The Stradun, the main pedestrian road through old town Dubrovnik, was still very quiet at 7 am. It gave us a chance to appreciate the beauty of the town in relative peace. We were almost at the main gate when a huge group of people in medieval costumes paraded by us in the other direction. I might not have found this very odd, but the quality of the outfits, along with the hair and makeup of the women especially, and how good looking every single one them was made me take a little extra notice. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed in Kotor 16 hours later that I realized it was the cast of Game of Thrones. I kept hearing people in Dubrovnik talk about how they were filming there, but I don’t watch the show so I didn’t recognize any of the actors.
We got to the bus station fairly early to buy our tickets, then sat around for an hour and a half soaking up the cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes. The bus ride was fairly normal until we got to the border crossing. Our bus driver sort of looked like Balki from Perfect Strangers except surly and always smoking. We parked at the Croatian border and every passenger got out one by one to go up to the border control desk. Needless to say this was not a speedy process. After we got our stamps, the driver made us stand 30 yards up the road and wait. We got back on the bus, drove for two minutes and stopped again at the Montenegro border. A guard came on and collected all of the passports again, which was a lot more efficient. There was an older gentleman in his 80s sitting near us. He was chatting with everyone around him and was very friendly and charming. He was given the stack of passports and was going up and down the aisle, calling out names and giving passports back. He was so cheerful and it made everybody on board smile.
As we wound our way around the Bay of Kotor, the scenery outside was breathtaking. The day was sunny and people were relaxing all along the water. After a while it got a little torturous and we were relieved to step off the bus.
Kotor’s old town is absolutely tiny. You can meander and wander and feel like you’re getting lost, but you’ll end up back where you started without even trying. It is really beautiful and, more importantly, quiet! As much as I adore Europe, beautiful towns are a dime a dozen, and getting an experience that feels more exclusive is a little more rare. Maybe this is what the elusive up-and-coming, before-it-has-been-discovered destination is like. We spent much of our two days in Kotor leisurely wandering the narrow streets, or sitting on a bench by the water looking out at the bay and the impressive yachts from around the world, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Continue reading Making my way through Montenegro→
There comes a point in every trip where you have a moment of regret, whether it’s about your accommodations, the restaurant you went to for dinner, or, unfortunately, the entire town you chose to stay in. I had that moment for three days in Dubrovnik.
On the day we drove to Dubrovnik, my husband and I woke up in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovia. We ate our DIY breakfast of yogurt, fruit and pastries on the bank of the Neretva River, gazing up at Stari Most one more time. The most common route from Mostar to Dubrovnik is the highway that runs along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. We decided to take the road less traveled and try the highway that runs mostly through the interior of Bosnia, taking us through the Serb territory of the Republic of Srpska.
This is the second post in a two part series on Bosnia. Click here to read part one.
Without hesitation, we hopped in our beat up VW and headed down the only highway to Sarajevo. The landscape was sublime – arid mountains rising up on either side of us, sparkling rivers running beside us, the sun shining in the bright blue sky, and hardly any other traffic to speak of. I spent half the time admiring it, and the other half reading the Sarajevo section of my guidebook, figuring out what we should see in such a short period of time.
As we entered Sarajevo from the west, we drove down the infamous Sniper Alley. Along either side are buildings that were heavily damaged during the war, and, due to the struggles of the government and economy in Bosnia, have not been repaired at all. A dilapidated retirement home with the front torn off covered in graffiti and bullet holes, grey communist-era apartment blocks completely covered in bullet holes, the Holiday Inn which housed foreign journalists. I could rattle off a list of the sights we saw, but I feel empty doing that. As I wrote in my journal the next day from Dubrovnik, I said to myself that I didn’t think my words could do it any justice. So much has happened in Sarajevo. I had never been to a place thus far in my travel career that was still so covered in war wounds, still trying to recover almost 20 years after the end of the war, and still with such a long road ahead. The city was such an unexpected surprise. Such a beautiful place, bustling with life, still shining even though parts of it are very run down. The culture is so fascinating; I wish we had given ourselves more time there and I can’t wait to go back someday. I want to see the museums and the memorials and the monuments. I want to eat delicious burek and admire the minarets piercing the sky next to Orthodox and Catholic churches. Continue reading Sarajevo: A city of conflicting emotions→