Sunday Special – Xalapa, Mexico


We are nearing the end of the alphabet and are up to the letter “X”. Today we will go to the “birthplace” of the ever-popular jalapeño pepper: Xalapa(pronounced ha la pa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Yep, that spicy pepper has been cultivated  in this highland state capital since the Aztecs. Used widely in its cuisine this mighty pepper has left its impact on the city (and the world). Though there is more to see and learn about than just the jalapeño.

The state of Veracruz is rather hot and humid though due to the higher elevation of Xalapa it has escaped the searing heat, offering cooler temperatures. It is located below the now extinct Cofre de Perote volcano, approximately 101 km / 63 miles northwest of town of Veracruz. Being in such a location gives it its milder temperature and at times brings about abrupt weather changes. Although a sprawling city with no seeming logic to its layout  and notable traffic congestion it is still considered by many to be a very attractive city. Culture thrives here with many forms of music, art, theatre, and history. Street art and performing musicians thrive alongside anthropological museums and classical symphonies throughout the city. Fine dining and trendy bars are in abundance. As a university city the has a pulse all its own. This Mexican city does seem to be a great place to get lost in. Wander on!

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Xalapa Cathedral or Catedral Metropolitana de la Immaculada Concepción de Xalapa – Photo credit: SoundtrckkCatedral Metropolitana de XalapaCC BY-SA 3.0

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Cofre de Perote volcano seen from Juarez Park in Xalapa– Photo credit: nAShE, Cofre de Perote desde XalapaCC BY 2.0

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Fried Jalapeno peppers – Photo credit: KoffermejiaChiles xalapeños capeadosCC BY-SA 4.0

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Monday Sessions – Nepal


Today’s Monday Session is with Linda who I have known for a few years. In October of 2016 she travelled to Nepal and saw the top of the world. Linda shares with us her experiences seeing Everest from Base Camp and the people of Nepal. Thanks Linda!


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WTW:  You traveled to Nepal in October 2016. Why did you choose to visit?

Linda:  I decided to go to Nepal because I was in dire need of adventure and Nepal seemed to be the right place to go. They had the mountains, the culture and the diversity that I was looking for. After reading the book “Into Thin Air”, I became hooked on the fascination of humans climbing Mount Everest. I wanted to hear people’s stories and experience a small portion of the adventure. 

WTW:  That is a fantastic! You went with a tour company.   Which company was it and how did you find this form of travel? How long was the tour?

Linda:  I was in Nepal for just over 3 weeks and I went on a 14-day tour with G Adventures and I would absolutely recommend them.  This was my first time going on a “tour” and I feel like I experienced the hike in a way that I may not have been able to if I hadn’t had a local guide. While you can do the hike on your own, the local government highly recommend doing it with a guide for safety reasons and to help the economy. We had 2 guides, Nima and Tsering, and 4 porters. The guides have the answers to all of our questions, they kept us going at a great pace, and kept our spirits up when we were feeling the effects of the high altitude.  The porters were so amazing. They beat us to each stop by usually half the time and had our duffel bags waiting for us in front of our rooms as soon as we got there.  They didn’t speak much English, however we felt a bond with them instantly and we were all so grateful for their hard work. Towards the end of the hike, some of the trekkers couldn’t carry their own day-packs due to weakness and oxygen deprivation. Without hesitation and on their own time, some of the porters came back to assist some of the trekkers up to the next stop.

WTW:  What an experience. What surprised you the most in Nepal?

Linda:  This was my first time traveling by myself and what surprised me the most was how safe I felt.  Everyone in Nepal wanted to show you around and teach you about their culture and home.  Whenever I thought of Nepal I though of mountains, however, since going I realized that Nepal has a very rich culture to explore away from the mountains too.  I had also been told that the food was not great, however, I learned pretty fast that when people were talking about bad food, they were talking about the food on the trek. The food in the city was delicious. When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I dropped off my bags and went on a hunt for dinner.  My first meal was so delicious that after I made a conscious effort to eat somewhere different everyday and I was so happy I did. 

WTW:  Great to know. What is your fondest memory of this trip?

Linda: I have 2 memories that really stick out for me in regards to my highlights of the trip. The first is meeting a few other girls on the plane and being able to explore Kathmandu with them for a few days before I met up with the group tour.  I remember getting off the plane after traveling for over 30 hours and seeing the chaos of Kathmandu and wondering what the heck I got myself into.  We went to the Pashupatinath Temple on our second day.  This Hindu temple is very active and there were several ceremonies and cremation fires happening while  we walked along the holy Bagmati River. I wasn’t expecting to be able to witness these ceremonies and the whole experience was very humbling and spiritually enriching. Pashupatinath Temple is also home to several Sadhus, who are wandering holy men who have given up everything in their lives to practice their own spiritual journey in Hinduism.

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The second fondest memory would be meeting the Nepalese people living in the villages while we hiked. Their culture and energy  was so amazing. It really felt like I was out of my realm while walking through the little villages up to base camp. It was so fascinating seeing how they live at such a high altitude without any access to pretty much everything.  The people living in these villages have zero transportation and agriculture is very limited.  Everything is carried on their backs or by yaks. This also includes a lot of the food and supplies that they sell to the tourists.  I really realized how lucky we are to have so many simple luxuries that we take for granted here in Canada.

WTW:  Nepal suffered 2 devastating earthquakes in 2015.  From what you learned, how has that affected the Nepalese?

Linda:  The earthquakes have been quite devastating for Nepal.  What hurt me the most was when the Nepalese people would ask me to tell people back in Canada that Nepal is safe and to please come visit.  It was heartbreaking hearing their efforts to bring tourists back to their country just by word of mouth.  Many guides had reached out to past groups to try and get them to come back with friends.  In fact, a lot of the other tourists that I an into had been to Nepal already and they were visiting because they wanted to bring money into the country again.  Structurally, a lot of monuments and history have been lost forever.  Many homes are also still damaged.  When I asked what I could do to help, most of the locals recommended to just come to Nepal and give directly to the people.  The government distributed money to the people after the earthquake, however, it just wasn’t enough.  From what I understand, tourism in slowly increasing in the area since 2015 and I am seeing Nepal on a lot of blogs recently so hopefully the tourists will keep coming!

WTW:  That is heartbreaking yet glad to hear people are still wanting to travel there. What were you thoughts and feelings when you saw Mount Everest?

Linda:  Seeing Mount Everest was pretty amazing.  When people ask me to describe Everest I usually respond with “it was really, really big, every thing was just really big”.   Standing at base camp, I really understand the desire and the call to climb to the top.  I spoke to several locals who were Sherpas taking people to the top of Mount Everest and what fascinated me the most was how they were still amazed and humbled by the enormity of the mountain.  While us Westerners want to “conquer” everything, the Nepalese people are all about the journey.

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WTW:  I like that, being all about the journey.  Do you have any tips or suggestions for anyone considering travelling to Nepal?

Linda:   Nepal has been making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce some of the plastic they use.  They are especially working on cleaning up the garbage along the hikes, where trekkers will drink a minimum of 2 litres of water a day, all out of plastic water bottles.  My suggestion would be to bring your own water treatment tablets so you can fill up your re-usable water bottle with tap water and then treat it yourself.  I hiked for 14 days and drank about 4 litres of water a day. The more water you drink the better your chances are for not getting altitude sickness and you also save the planet from 56 1-litre water bottles. Not bad!  Many of the trekkers were still buying water bottles regardless of the environmental impact, however I hope that people will think twice.

There are so many beautiful places in Nepal and so many locals who are willing to show you around.  I would explore Nepal solo in the cities however join a group tour for the hikes.  You can also find tours once you land in Nepal which are all very reputable.  Hiking is one of the main industries so they have it pretty down pact in regards to what they need to do to make it successful.  If you are not feeling a 2 week hike there are several other hikes you can do to experience the Himalayas.  A shorter but great hike is the Annapurna Base Camp trek which is done in  5- 7 days. The Nagarkot area is also very popular for trekking with many day hikes and overnight hikes available.  Nepal’s slogan is “once is not enough” and after going, I definitely understand what they mean.

WTW:  Those are great things to know. Thank you so much Linda for you time and for sharing your photos (all owned by Linda and used with permission). It’s great to learn so much about Nepal. It sounds incredible.

*Note: Wanders The World  or Linda are in no way affiliated with G Adventures and all opinions expressed are her own. 

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Summer Fun in Vancouver


I originally complied this list and posted it on Couchsurfing at the beginning of the spring (and received some info from other members too). Seeing as there is a plethora of fun events around town I decided to share it here as well. Summer in Vancouver is fantastic. Generally the weather is agreeable, outdoor activities abound and patios beg for attention. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver this summer, I hope this list finds you. If you live here, I hope to see you out and about at one or many of these activities.

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RICHMOND SUMMER NIGHT MARKET – May 10 – Sep 8, 2013
One of 2 night markets in Richmond; enjoy entertainment, food and various vendors

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET – May 17 – Oct 14, 2013
The other night market in Richmond! Enjoy the food, vendors and entertainment

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL TEQUILA EXPO – May 24, 2013
Held at the Hyatt Regency, learn all you need to know about tequila (like the good stuff actually tastes good). Tickets required.

IN THE HOUSE FESTIVAL – Jun 7 – 9, 2013
Enjoy comedy, music, art, magic and much more in the comfort of someone’s home. Reservations required.


Make Music Festival – Jun 21, 2013
A free music festival where musicians will participate all over Yaletown and Gastown areas of Vancovuer.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL – Jun 21 – July 1, 2013
Enjoy everything Jazz at various venues in Vancouver. Some events are free, some required tickets.

STEVESTON SALMON FESTIVAL & CANADA DAY CELEBRATIONS – July 1, 2013
Take in the music, arts & crafts, parade, salmon BBQ and much much more in the Steveston Village in Richmond.
CANADA DAY @ CANADA PLACE – July 1, 2013
3 stages with live music and entertainment and many exhibitors, enjoy Canada’s birthday here.

CANADA DAY IN SURREY – July 1, 2013
Enjoy great music (Sam Roberts Band, Hannah Georges), cultural shows, dance shows and much more at the Cloverdale Ampitheatre

SUNDAY AFTERNOON SALSA @ ROBSON SQUARE – Every Sunday in July & Aug, 2013
Learn salsa for free and then have time to practice every Sunday afternoon.


Vancouver Folk Music Festival – July 19 – 21, 2013
Head to Jericho Beach for one of the best music festivals in town. Tickets required.

SURREY FUSION FESTIVAL – July 20 -21, 2013
Head to Surrey’s Holland Park for 2 days of food, culture and music. All shows are free. Line up for 2013 to be announced.

CARIBBEAN DAYS FESTIVAL – July 27 – 28, 2013
Head over to North Vancouver for the largest Caribbean Festival and enjoy music, entertainment, food and much more

POWELL ST FESTIVAL – Aug 3 – 4, 2013
Celebrating Japanese culture & art

VANCOUVER ZOMBIE WALK – Aug 17, 2013
Live out your dreams of being a zombie at this awesome annual event

LATIN FESTIVAL – Aug 18, 2013
Trout Lake Park is the venue for this family fun festival celebrating Latin music & culture

VANCOUVER PRIDE PARADE – Aug 4, 2013
The biggest and most fun parade in Vancouver – a must see! 


Squamish Valley Music Festival – Aug 8- 10, 2013A weekend of music and fun. Tickets required.

Burnaby Blues Festival – Aug 10, 2013
A celebration of Canadian and International Blues musicians.

PNE (PACIFIC NATIONAL EXHIBITION) – Aug 17 – Sep 2, 2013
Carnival midway (Playland), games, exhibits, food (mini donuts)!! Tickets required.


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There you have it. An impressive list of Vancouver summer events. This is by no means exhaustive but does cover the main events. Happy summer.

SUNDAY’S SPECIAL SPOT – TURKEY


In trying to decide on today’s spot I encountered some difficulty. Not because I did not know which country to choose but which area of it to opt for! Turkey offers so much – it is permeated with history and culture yet maintains a modern flair with eco-tourism, adventure travel and pure beauty in a Mediterrean climate. I have yet to meet someone who has been to Turkey and has not liked it. I can’t wait to visit!!

Cappadocia

The Cappadocia region, found in central Turkey, is home to much history and natural volcanic rock vistas. Ancient “fairy chimneys” populate the view around Goreme. Due to the soft nature of these “chimneys”, the locals created carved homes, churches, temples and other structures into them.

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn