Day 4 & 5: Edmonton

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It’s been a busy couple of days, first the drive from Jasper to Edmonton, then a walking tour of downtown Edmonton all day yesterday. We are currently leaving Edmonton via Wayne Gretzky Drive, which takes us past Rexall Centre, home of the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s a rundown of the last few days!
We left Jasper National Park a bit later than expected. Both the road to the Miette Hot Springs and the cafe where we had lunch were slower than anticipated. Lateness seems to be a theme for the trip so far, which is fine since we have no real deadlines. We did get to experience some snow while we were soaking in the pools, and we definitely felt more relaxed after a dip in the 40 C waters.
The drive from Jasper to Edmonton, however, is dead dead dead. Most cities have a surrounding network of suburbs, so you get a gradual introduction to the city. This is not the case with the drive from the west into Edmonton. Once you leave Jasper, the road is lined with dense trees and not much else for miles and miles. The fall foliage will only sustain your interest for so long until you become a bit stircrazy!
Luckily, Edmonton itself is a lovely place. “Deadmonton” gets a bad rap for being Calgary’s scrawny young sibling city, but it’s a pretty hospitable and friendly place. The Bear radio station’s “win a Russian bride” contest and Fluid Hair Salon’s offensive “battered women need to look glamourous too” ads unfortunately haven’t helped the city shake their “cavemen in Alberta” reputation. Don’t let that rash of misogynous public relations stories out of Edmonton turn you off. You can find misogyny anywhere; Edmonton is a livable, walkable, affordable city that, albeit politically conservative, has a very “university town” feel to it.
My first impression was that the Oil Capital of Canada was surprisingly similar to Portland or Salt Lake City: industrial but homey, big enough to have some culture and good beer, but not so big that you feel overwhelmed at the amount of stuff to do. Autumn is beautiful, with skyscrapers that seem to rise out of piles of yellow leaves on the tree-packed hillsides (yes, Edmonton has hills – and skyscrapers).
When we first arrived into town, we donned our Canuck jerseys and headed down to Sherlock Holmes, an English style pub in the heart of downtown.
Had we been in Calgary, we would have taken out back and shot. Edmontonians, though, are a civilized bunch, and no one seemed to mind our out-of-town jerseys. I’m not sure if it’s because the game was pre-season, or if it’s because we have a common enemy (the Flames), but we got nary a sideways glance for cheering on the opposing team.
We spent Sunday exploring the city with S, our host, and a recent transplant to the city. She was eager to show it off! Edmonton is most famous for the garish West Edmonton Mall, but really, it should be famous for it’s parks and green space (what?!). The most spectacular spot in the city is the River Valley, a network of trails that runs along both sides of the North Saskatchewan river.
We hiked around for 3 hours, enjoying the fall colours and some spectacular views of the city.
After a tea break and stretch, we ventured on another walk by the Parliament buildings (which were appropriately columned and domed).
We then walked across the industrial High Level bridge. Constructed in 1913, the bridge spans the river and is kind of gloomy, dark, and ominous as far as bridges go. We had dinner and beers at Sugarbowl, a restaurant with an impressive beer selection that is clearly a hangout for students at the University of Alberta.
Edmonton food isn’t exactly diverse, and they do like their steak, but they also like comfort food, and we had delicious bison chili and cornbread.
After dinner, we crossed back across the High Level Bridge and caught a glimpse of the first modern rapid transit system in North America: the LRT, which opened in 1978. We also walked along Jasper Avenue, which is the main thoroughfare through downtown Edmonton, and boasts many of the city’s clubs. They were mostly shut down on Sunday night, but reminded me of what Graville Street looked like before the Olympic revitalization.
Edmonton is definitely on the list of cities I would visit again. But for now, we venture further east. On the agenda today is a northern detour to see the giant Pierogie in Glendon, more prairie driving, and a final resting stop in Llyodminister, a town smack dab on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. As soon as we have some down time with wifi, I’ll do a post with more of our pictures from the trip.
-W-

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2 Comments to “Day 4 & 5: Edmonton”

  1. A few other notes on the high street bridge is that it was built in 1913. In 1987 they put up a plaque to commemorate it. I think by then they realized it wasn’t coming down anytime soon so we might as well renovate and commend it.
    From an engineers point of view the bridge is overdesigned to hell and back. Giant steel section with crossbracing riveted and gusseted at every connection. A few of these gussets seemed like afterthoughts and have since caused stress concentrations. If you’re ever in need of an example of plate buckling take a hike across the bridge. No worrries though, plate buckling aside this is one sturdy bridge.
    Also, not being afraid of heights at all, this is one high up bridge that can make even my stomach churn to look over the gaurdrails.

  2. I really enjoyed both the post, and the comment. And the integration of LRT trivia.
    One note, the “Deadmonton” nickname is actually not a reflection on our nightlife, but a reflection on our high murder rate. In many ways, this is reassuring.

    It was great having you guys stay, and I hope you enjoy Ontario!

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