Walking In a Winter Wonderland

Magic has arrived in Edmonton, where Hawrelak Park has been transformed into a scene straight out of Disney’s Frozen. Our very own ice castle has appeared, bringing even the most avid winter hibernators out into the wild. Icicles form an enchanting archway as you step into the castle, welcomed by the instrumental sounds of the Frozen theme song. People eagerly wait for their chance at sliding down the ice slide or to take a seat on the ice throne while the rest of us wander in and out of the paths, tall walls of ice on either side.

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Everywhere you look is another mind blowing display of artistry – hundreds upon hundreds of hand-crafted icicles put together to form the entire castle.

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Don’t forget to dress warm – it is an ice castle after all. Luckily, there’s a little spot for you to warm up your hands.

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… before exploring some more!

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I am SO happy that I turned around after walking out of the castle or else I might have missed this heart that had been carved into the ice.

If you’re in the area or ever have an opportunity to visit an ice castle, I highly recommend it! In the daytime, the ice, snow and winter sky creates a white on white on white appearance that is beautiful. But when darkness hits, the ice castle is flooded in beautiful lights – so a visit in the evening would be just as magical.

 

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‘Tis the Season!

There might not be snow on the ground yet but Canadians are already beginning to embrace the spirit of the Winter season. Churchill Square kicked off the beginning of a number of winter and Christmas-themed events that will be popping up all around the city for the next five months with their annual Holiday Light Up.

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In the hours leading to the light up the square was busy with performances by special guests, food vendors, stilt walkers, clowns and mascots but everything slowed down as the countdown for the light up began.

Bundled up in scarves, toques and mittens, hundreds of people gathered around around to watch the Mayor light up the tree as the sun set and darkness engulfed the square. At 74-ft. tall and adorned with 14 thousand LED lights and decorations, it was a spectacular moment that left everyone in awe.

With cheers and claps from the crowd, the event was topped off with a beautiful fireworks display that illuminated the sky.

If you missed the action, don’t worry! Churchill Square will be lit up (minus the fireworks) for rest of the season. Head out when the sun has gone down, bundle up in your coziest winter attire and take a stroll through the square to get a first-hand view of the beautiful lights on display.

Sunday Snapshot: Moraine Lake

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

And so we did. Break clear away, I mean. Spending a week in the mountains. We took the car from Jasper to Banff, making stops at some of the world’s most beautiful lakes along the way. This one here, Moraine Lake, boasts sparkling blue water surrounded by Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and canoe rentals to go take a paddle if you just can’t help but get closer.

Chasing Waterfalls in St. Vincent

I have been spending my days chasing waterfalls, in search of the tallest, most beautiful one. Ideally one that is hiding a secret cave for me to explore.

After a turn in the wrong direction and a hike up the side of a mountain, we finally made it to the main road just north of Chateaubelair. We said hello to the goats, donkeys and cows that we passed by until we reached the sign.

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The fact that there is a very obvious sign to Dark View Falls is a blessing. In my experience in the Caribbean even notable tourist attractions are completely unmarked, making directionally-challenged people like myself walk and/or drive around in circles and missing it completely in the end anyways.

After scaling a mountainside in the relentless Vincentian heat the prospect of cool, fresh water was a beautiful invitation. With a small fee of $5 EC, we crossed over the bamboo bridge and raced towards the base of the falls. We wasted no time in stripping down and dunking ourselves into the pool.

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Well-maintained, Dark View Falls cascades down the rock face into a pool of water no more than 5 ft. deep and then further into another little pool. With wooden gazebos in the vicinity, washrooms and a snack bar, this makes for a perfect way to spend an afternoon. We brought along with us an assortment of local fruits — mangoes, wax apples, and guava — to snack on after the cool temperatures of the water became too much and we had to find warmth in the sunshine.

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Can you spot the rainbow?

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The Richmond Vale Academy

Melissa and I arrived in St. Vincent five days ago, hopping  in a cab in the late afternoon that would take us on a journey through narrow, winding mountain roads to the leeward side of the island. The first thing we saw as we drove up was a fat, happy looking pig walking beside the road, free from any confines with as much room to roam as he liked.

Isolated in a corner of the island just next to La Soufriere volcano, the Richmond Vale Hiking and Nature Center.. or more commonly known as The Academy… is an environmentally conscious gem away from everything. As our driver pulled the car into the property, we were greeted by a young man in breezy tie-dye clothing. The fresh mountain air is an instant mood-changer and the calm atmosphere of the academy instantly makes you breath a sigh of relief.

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An academy, Richmond Vale runs two programs, one regarding environmental sustainability, awareness and education, etc. and another regarding poverty. These programs are open for anyone local or international to apply but if you’re not wanting to commit to furthering your education, guests are also welcome to stay. As guests, the academy was the perfect retreat to unwind after nearly five months of non-stop exploration and travel. The entire place reminded me of a hippie commune filled with like-minded activists passionate about the environment and poverty.

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Our time at the academy introduced us to a special little place with a unique lifestyle. Everyone living at the compound (apart from guests) work together to keep the place running smoothly, with students having a set schedule of daily chores and classes. As guests, our stay there was easy, calm and peaceful. We spent our mornings waking up slowly on hammocks, waiting for the blessed sound of the bell ringing to indicate that breakfast was served, which we then ate overlooking the Caribbean Sea below. With plenty of vegetarian options to be had, meals at the academy were healthy and locally grown, with an emphasis on providing GMO-free, organic produce straight from their organic garden.

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Though we only stayed for three nights our time at the academy had a rejuvenating effect that only being surrounded by nature can achieve. I would highly recommend staying there if you find yourself in St. Vincent. There is easy access to attractions such as the Falls of Baleine, La Soufriere volcano, the palm tree trail, Richmond Beach, Dark View Falls, Vermont Nature Trail, and more. Surrounded by raw, unspoilt nature, there are endless opportunities for the nature lover.