Driving through the Icefields Parkway

From Banff, we were set to drive through the Icefields Parkway (and stop at all the lakes in between, of course) to get to Jasper. But in the end, due to the weather (rain/snow), we weren’t able to get to Maligne Lake. However, the drive through the Parkway was beautiful, and we got to walk on glacier. Our original plan was to camp out but that was not possible due to the wind and snow, so we ended up booking the Overlander Mountain Lodge at the very last minute — and it was an amazing stay (highly recommended)!!! In September, you need to be flexible with your plans here because of unpredictable weather.

Remember to fill up on gas before you begin the drive.

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Bow Lake

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Peyto Lake

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Mistaya Canyon

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Ice Explorer!

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Walking on glacier (We did the glacier ice walk as part of the “ultimate explorer” package from here)

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Skywalk (also part of the “ultimate explorer package”) – check the weather before you go! We couldn’t see a thing!

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Athabasca Falls

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The whole drive is supposed to take 3 hours to drive without stopping BUT of course, you will stop to take pictures… a LOT. So it really takes up the whole day.

Found this hidden gem in the town of Jasper called Downstream where you can get this ginormous burger: Alberta beef, chicken breast, smoked muscovy duck, double smoked bacon, cheddar and mozzarella.

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I kept finding these coffee+alcohol drinks on the menus in Alberta everywhere… so delicious.

We scrambled to find a hotel that night in the middle of a storm, and all the hotels in Jasper were quoting $350+ that night. Thanks to a staff member at the Jasper Visitor Center, she found us the Overlander — it was beyond amazing.

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View from our room.

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We continued our drive and found some big horn sheep crossing the road.

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Maligne Lake Road Drive was closed due to the snow storm, so we weren’t able to go there. I guess that means we have to come back!

 

 

 

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Cuba: strolling through the streets of Trinidad

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I hired a taxi through BestCubaGuide.com. They emailed me to make the arrangements. The price for a Modern Taxi from Havana to Trinidad was 160cuc(160 USD) back in May of 2017.  We paid the driver directly in CUC. When the driver arrived, he had his wife/partner with him. He didn’t speak much English so we communicated in Spanish. Afterwards, I made arrangements with him directly to come back the next day to pick us up.

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Havana to Trinidad by car: 4-5 hours. In between, we stopped for a bathroom/snack break. Bought a hot dog for $1 and it tasted very strange… We saw a lot of local people getting it but it didn’t jive well with us.

Once we arrived at our casa (also through Airbnb, and I highly recommend this one!), our host Yacquelin presented us with ice cold fresh mango juice which was amazing. She didn’t speak English at all so we communicated through Spanish. For some reason, I understood her more than I understood the driver — maybe she was used to tourists so she spoke slower and used more simple vocabulary? Yacquelin was the perfect host.

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The casa was a house connected to their family-owned ceramics factory, where people took tours! You can also buy souvenirs here.

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After our mini tour, Yacquelin helped us order a taxi to go hiking.

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We hiked to this waterfall and spent some time in the water.

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Our casa was about 15 minutes walking distance away from the city center (Plaza Mayor), so we walked through the neighborhood, which was interesting.

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My favorite part of the Cuba experience was live street music.

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What I noticed while walking through the neighborhood was that you can see through most homes and stores – there were no glass, no curtains. We saw family pictures, furniture, beds, people sitting on their couches watching television — everything could be seen from the outside. It was bizarre, like looking into someone else’s life. Passing through the neighborhood, we saw a lot of locals sitting in front of their houses just chatting and spending time with each other. It was nice to see that they weren’t on their phones typing away in silence, like we often see in the U.S. When we went back to our casa that night, we hung out on the balcony, sitting outside feeling the breezes, just like the local people. Even though it was hot, the breeze felt nicer than the AC.

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We encountered a couple of local Cuban people who asked us for our “things” — my friend’s plastic wrist band, my pusheen keychain hanging off my bag, in exchange for some goods that they were selling. It broke my heart when a father of a little boy begged and said “please, we can never get it here…” A little girl asked my friend defiantly for his wrist band, and her mother said it was her birthday (the father of the little boy also pulled the birthday card). We got the feeling that it was a common thing to do — foreigners would give away “things”, just little things that we usually don’t even notice, but they would treasure them because it was nearly impossible for them to get them. They never asked for money, just things.

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Our host recommended this restaurant, Esquerra – right next to Casa de la Musica, and they had a live band too!

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Complimentary drinks.

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Ropa Vieja

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Casa de la musica at night.

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Casa de la musica during the day time.

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Staying at a casa meant home-cooked breakfast for $5! Our breakfast here was the best meal we had in retrospect. Yacquelin prepared all this for four of us. I LOVED THE FRESH MANGOES.

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Trinidad was my favorite part of Cuba. Definitely worth the trek.