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Archive by category "America"

Canada Roadtrip (2): Banff and Jasper

Banff and Jasper natural parks need a few days to be discovered. The more, the better. I had to accommodate this visit in five days, so it was quite intense in terms of driving: 1249 km in 19h15’ on my own. This was very good in a way, as I had plenty of time to reflect, to take pictures, and to enjoy the views in a calm manner. It was also very practical to change the plans according to the weather forecast, and have a bit crazy jetlag-early-bird schedule, starting the days before 7 a.m.
The bad side of my loneliness was that I chose to be very conservative in terms of hiking. Although most of the tracks are really well preserved, and should not mean any hazard, the risk of having an encounter with a bear, or having any kind of accident, made me stay within very popular tracks, where I would see people very often.

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The parks have two towns: Banff and Jasper, and one resort at the Saskatchewan River Crossing. The rest of human life are some campings, and isolated accommodations, so take that into account if you plan a trip there. Just for you to have a clearer idea of how it is: in the southernmost part of Jasper park, there is no mobile coverage for almost 100 km.

Canada Roadtrip (1): The Plan

Thanks to a conference in Vancouver, I had the perfect excuse to discover the best spots in the North-West of Canada, and it is one of the trips I have enjoyed the most. I could accommodate eight days to travel outside Vancouver City, so I spent five days travelling on my own through Banff and Jasper parks, and I joined some friends for a couple of days in Vancouver Island, near Vancouver.
When I landed in Vancouver airport, I immediately realized I was in North America as I was walking on a carpet, which makes it a warmer place. The smell finally confirmed I was in Canada: maple syrup, the most internationally known product of Canada. When I looked outside, I thought it was a foggy day, which made sense as Vancouver International Airport is close to the ocean, but later on I realised it was smoke, coming from some Northern fires. That smoke was always present during my tour through Banff and Jasper, which made the views a bit less spectacular.

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 This trip was not easy from the logistics point of view, but after a few analysis, I drafted the plan as follows: from Vancouver, I flew to Calgary, as it is the closest airport to the parks. There, I rented a car, and drove through the parks. Once I left Jasper, I drove a few hours East to Edmonton, where I flew back to the coast. Instead of flying to Vancouver and then crossing to the Vancouver Island, I chose to fly directly to Victoria airport, in Vancouver Island. There we had another rented car to visit the Southern part of the island for a couple of days, and with which we drove back to Vancouver city.

US West Coast – California

California is worth a visit, or even two, if there is a good excuse. I had the perfect excuse: a wedding of a very good friend made me decide what my long holidays in the year would look like: another road trip along the West Coast, adding the Grand Canyon to the equation, which was the big miss of my previous visit.
West Coast
The trip started and ended in Las Vegas for a simple reason: very cheap tickets. There we took the car and drove to Los Angeles (A), a Cinema and TV town: there we visited the Walk Of Fame, looked for some good views of the famous Hollywood Sign, and drove around the Beverly Hills’ mansions, ending in the Santa Monica Beach, where we met the Pacific Ocean which would be our companion for the next days.

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We drove North in the Highway 1, one of the best scenic drives in the world. The southernmost part of it is quite famous and is densely populated (in comparison with the rest of the road), being Malibu the most famous area thanks to the TV shows. We stopped in Santa Barbara (B), where we slept that first night.
The next day was long day on the car with beautiful views in every corner. We headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea (F), the richest town in California, and one of the surfers’ paradise, which was ruled by Clint Eastwood, but did several stops before.

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Sea Lions like to strand in beaches in big groups. One of these beaches is located in Piedras Blancas (C), and it is always fun to see these huge animals fighting and sunbathing.

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One of the next milestones in the road is the Bixby Bridge (D), a beautiful piece of engineering, built in 1931 in a wonderful environment.

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The great discovery in this trip was the Pfeiffer Beach (E), a hidden treasure that is now a must in this route.

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After Carmel, our next stop would be San Francisco (G). Well, I would say a mall near San Francisco (a must when US dollar is cheap), and then San Francisco downtown. San Francisco is always nice to visit, not only because I had the chance to meet Fabio after too many years, but also because it is an attractive city to walk around. Our first stop was Twin Peaks, where one can see the city that would host us for the next couple of days.

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During these days, we took a guided tour around Chinatown, where we learn a few interesting facts about the city. The big increase in population took place in 1848/9 with the Gold Rush: from 300 people, the population grew to 25,000 citizens, and only 300 of them were women! The Chinese came also after the gold promises, but did not count with what was approaching. From 1882 to 1943 (61 years!), the Chinese Exclusion Act was in place. This Act stated that no Chinese could become American citizen, and they could only own grocery stores or laundrymats.

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San Francisco is synonym of the Golden Gate bridge, the most iconic bridge in the world, and which is sometimes hard to see it complete due to the fog… not this time, though. In fact, this year we explored a new viewpoint of the bridge and the city.

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After San Francisco, we headed to the wedding venue: Camp Navarro near Mendocino. This camp in the middle of a forest hosted the most hipster wedding I have ever lived, and we could enjoy the American way, with the conversations around the bonfire while having a sugar shot in form of marshmallows and chocolate.

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After the wedding we flew back to Las Vegas where we took another car, crossed the Arizona desert and arrived to the Grand Canyon (I), where we enjoyed one of the most amazing sunsets you can have. The sun changes the some time before the sunset. I have tried to describe it several times, but I prefer to leave it to the pictures.

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Between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, you can detour to the Historic Route 66 (J), that linked Chicago and Santa Monica. “Historic” is there because since 1985, Route 66 was mostly replaced by an Interstate highway, although it is being revitalised lately by nostalgic people and tourist-avid businesses.

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Our last stop before Las Vegas was the Hoover Dam (K), another impressive historic construction in the Colorado river, between the Nevada and the Arizona States.

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