Sunday, May 25, 2008
trip to edmonton
edmonton is in alberta, which is the next province along from BC. i have to admit that alberta wasn't on my list of "top ten things to do in canada." it's sometimes known as the 53rd state of america, and is famous for its beef, cowboys and oil rigs. however, to get there you can catch the train right up through the rockies and up through jasper, then down into edmonton, and i've long had a hankering to see those mountains. also, it's where miriam is at the moment, which is a great reason to travel anywhere.
so i caught the via rail train east. the trip took 24 hours each way, through amazing scenery. there was a "bubble car" in the train, where you could sit up near the roof and watch the view through 360 windows:
the train was pretty comfy. everybody got a little pillow and blanket, and the bottom of the seat folded out so you could stretch out at night. there was a restaurant car and a little tuckshop affair which supplied me with coffee first thing in the morning (when the old ppl behind me decided 7am was a good time for a party. grrrrr!)
i like trains!
we started out through the suburbs of vancouver, then through farming land, the mountains behind gradually getting bigger and snowier,
til eventually the train just went past huge towering rockfaces and snowy mountains and raging rivers for hours and hours. it was so stunning.
this is mt robson, the biggest mountain in the rockies:
this is pyramid falls:
we saw not one but *two* black bears. they look so cuddly from a distance! i was hoping to see elk or moose as well, but wasn't lucky this time.
we stopped off in jasper, which has famous natcha. it held up the theory i formulated in whistler about the correlation between fabulous scenery and tacky pseudo-swiss architecture:
after we got through the rockies it got flat. like, *seriously* flat. these pictures can't capture the flatness of the prairies anymore than they can capture the bigness of the mountains:
i've always been very keen to see the prairies of canada, especially since winifred is always telling me stories about winnipeg, and wearing tshirts that say things like "prairie girls are a good catch!" it was very cool to understand a bit what people from central canada are talking about. i like the joke about your dog getting off the leash and watching it run off into the distance for three days.
however, i'm afraid i embodied the vancouver-stereotype and felt just a wee bit exposed and small amongst all that nothing. this stereotype works the other way too, where people from the prairies feel claustrophobic in vancouver cos of being hemmed in by the mountains.
i arrived at 5pm, and we went to check out whyte ave, the funky part of edmonton. unfortunately even the funky part of town featured a man shouting homophobic abuse and lots of people hassling us for money. it was not so cool. in fact, the whole trip featured a lot of being introduced as "miriam's friend" and not holding hands in public. it also featured a lot of scrounging to find food we could eat. did i mention edmonton didn't do it for me? (i'm friends with a couple of albertans who live in vancouver now - they call it deadmonton, hellberta. i'm not allowed to make that joke, though.)
it was hot and dry the first few days i was there, then rained heavily for the last few, which was a nice mixture. i spent a day touristing in edmonton, which was interesting. i found some nice bookshops and gift shops. i think my favourite discovery was a kit to make a plaster cast of your baby's buttocks. they had a sample bum on display.
here's some shots round edmonton. first, some evidence of the great hudson's bay. the company used to own most of canada, and now just owns some department stores. the whole story is fascinating.
apart from oil, edmonton is famous for having the world's largest mall. among other things, it has an ice rink and a water park with trained seals in it. i kid you not.
i decided not to go to that mall, in the interests of self preservation, but i went to a littler one in town, just to be in the spirit of things. i hate malls. here's me with "mall face".
look, the traffic lights are sidewards!
and this is university of alberta. great architecture, huh?
i think that's about all i have to say about my trip. it was a fascinating tourist experience, over all, and i really enjoyed the train journey and catching up with my girl, but i'm glad to be back in vancouver. it feels like home.
at 8:09 pm