Rainy Days or the Ohana Donuterie Day

rain

I love a rainy day. Curling up by the window with a cosy quilt and a great book, I am lost in the coolness of the day. Or give me an umbrella and I am ready to walk and explore my neighbourhoods to see what people are up to when they are not outside enjoying the sunshine. Both are good rainy days.

Yesterday was a rainy day. This was an especially nice alternative to the snowy day we had one week prior. I was sitting on the love seat in my room, gazing outside through the rain splattered window and had the urge to go exploring. I bought an umbrella in Vancouver two years ago and love to use it every chance I get. This may seem odd, but it doesn’t seem to rain enough to use it here in Edmonton. We get rain, often at night with accompanying thundershowers, short downpours that last 10 minutes at most. A long slow rain is my favourite and it calls to me.

I had finished reading and decided to go try a doughnut place in Old Strathcona that I heard about but had not yet explored. I called to my daughter, she was game and then asked the hubs if he wanted to join. I didn’t feel like driving and he is often game. I told him the name and let him look it up on the map. I also didn’t feel like navigating.

Chatter Box and I grabbed our umbrellas and hopped into the car. Soon we were navigating the streets of Old Strathcona when I asked, “Do you know where it is?”

He said, “It seems to be in a back alley, which is odd but I might be wrong.”

He wasn’t wrong. Ohana Donuterie is indeed in a back alley – sort of. 10347-80 Ave, Edmonton, AB. Lots of parking out front. You will understand when you arrive, its an alley but it’s not. It’s the kind of place I would take friends from out of town. It’s warm and welcoming, unusual and delicious.

IMG_9345

Walking into the space, I immediately like the bike rack, it obviously understands the clientele.

IMG_9346

I looked around the room and decided it felt like a ‘new’ Hawaiian shop. It is a new distressed shop. I loved the palet, I loved the decor and I loved the smell of coffee and sugar when I walked in.

IMG_9347

I had heard this place made doughnuts to order while you waited. That meant they would be warm when they arrived on your plate. On a rainy day, warm doughnuts are the perfect snack, pair it with coffee and I am a willing participant!

img_9350.jpg

Chatterbox ordered: Vanilla Dip with Coconut Cream and a Chai latté with coconut milk and cinnamon. The Hubs ordered Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Cream and a latté. I ordered a Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Custard and a latté. For my son, we ordered a Chocolate Dip to go.

We wandered over to the window to watch them make our doughnuts.

IMG_9358

IMG_9351

I have many friends who have visited Honolulu and RAVE about Hawaiian Donuts. They were originally Portuguese malasadas. Long story short, when you go to Hawaii you are asked if you had a donut. If you haven’t, people moan and are sad for you because apparently, they are life changing. I wouldn’t say that, but they are delicious!

These are just as delicious.

But it isn’t fast food. You cannot come here hoping to order a dozen and be on your way – that place is called Tim Hortons and it comes with a drive-thru. Ohana’s is slow food. Just like Hawaii. Things are slow and worth the wait. Except my coffee came after my donut. I like my coffee WITH my donut. I could have waited but there is a very good reason I didn’t.

IMG_9355

The doughnuts come warm. Fresh from the fryer. Yes, warm doughnuts are better. I had a chocolate custard and it was cold. It tasted like Laura Secord Pudding (does anyone remember what that tasted like? I was instantly transported!) I wanted to eat it while it was warm. My coffee came way later and it was just okay. It doesn’t make my top ten coffee list. BUT, its a really decent cup of coffee. Way better than typical donut shop coffee.

I wanted to try the other fillings because they had cream. No one would let me stick my finger in their cream filling. Probably a good call on their part.

I suspect they use a granulated sugar for this confectionary because of the gritty texture. It isn’t smooth like liquid sugar. It made it taste homemade – which it kind of was.

It was the perfect snack for a cool rainy day. It would also be a great late night snack and a snowy day snack. There is also a food truck so, probably a really great festival snack too. It can’t be compared to Doughnut Party because they are different. equally great, but VERY different. While eating this all I could think of was my mom and her love of the Bismark. Do you remember those? Essentially a jelly doughnut covered in icing sugar. They came from the bakery at a time before donut shops in Sherwood Park. The warm would appeal to her too.

IMG_9349

18 for 18: Workshop Eatery

It seems like all I do is go out for breakfast. Not true…well sort of true. I do have a brunch date in April with my pal Karen and I did go out with Rena yesterday but in my defence, it’s fairly icy at the parks around town so my 18 in 18 list is currently being checked off by visiting indoor type activities.

By participating in the challenge I learned something about myself, I like outdoor stuff. I like picnics in the parks, I like explore outdoor places with my pal Captain, I like photographing unusual things. I have two 18 lists. One for The Edmonton Tourist and one for private me. Private me has crossed a few things off the list too. I am even cool with sharing the not-so-private things. I completed the Master Writing Class with Judy Blume. She was the JK Rowling of my generation. Early 70’s I read everything she published, twice. I wrote her a thank you note at the end of the class AND SHE WROTE ME BACK! I cried and squealed and my friend Krista had me print the letter and frame it. I have a copy at work and one on my desk at home. She signed it, Love Judy. LOVE JUDY!!! She knows who I am and now I want to go to her non-profit bookstore in the Florida Keys because JUDY BLUME!!!

I also started a photo series called the Totem Pole Project. You can find that project on instagram #totempoleproject. I have completed private things that are weird cleaning projects but de-cluttering makes me happy. Thanks Mom. I still have over 10 things on that list and 14 on my Edmonton Tourist List but I am finding this project to be strangely fulfilling. It is satisfying to cross stuff off the list.

That brings me to #4, have Brunch at Workshop Eatery. ( South Edmonton is definitely on the prairies) They have their own gardens out front. I love that in a restaurant!

IMG_9218

My pal Warren told me this was a place I would enjoy. He has never steered me wrong, so I made a reservation for a Saturday morning not knowing who would come with me. I left that for the Universe to decide. As luck would have it, my University friend Rena said, “Hey, want to do brunch?” I said, “ABSOLUTELY and I have a reservation!”

I arrived 5 minutes late and she was waiting in the lobby with these beautiful treats! We brought our own eggs to brunch. The staff found that funny.

IMG_9225

She has chickens in her yard. Part of me is jealous and part of me remembers how terrified of chickens I am. I do love eggs and these are my breakfast. I will boil some for Easter because they are already decorated, thanks Mother Nature! I also think they will become meringues with lemon curd nested on top or I will attempt to recreate the meringues from Café Linnea.

IMG_9220

We had the first reservation of the day, the place filled up fast and with good reason. They post on the website “Our menu is small and our food takes time. This is intentional. We would rather do few things and do them well. Be patient, good things come to those who wait!” I have to agree, although I didn’t think I had to wait longer than anywhere else for food, but it was delicious. I can’t always say that at restaurants where the wait is long.

I had a latté (obviously – hello? Do you even know me?), my companion had Alberta peppermint tea.

Coffee was fine, not in my top 10 but better than Starbucks so it was good in my books! ( I like Starbucks) The tea infuser was cool, and pepperment tea is always nice.

I ordered off the menu.

IMG_9219

Huevos Benedicto and the cornbread made this meal perfection.

IMG_9224

Rena had something…something Benedict (I want to say pastrami hash) It was on the specials chalk board.

IMG_9223

Bread comes from Bon Ton, best Jewish bakery in the city and my personal favourite bakery of all time. She also ordered a side of Mimosa. Apparently it was delicious. I am not sure why I didn’t. Mostly because I thought she just ordered juice, it didn’t occur to me to order drinks. Strange but true.

We dined for about an hour and a half in front of the big window. I am surprised great food is located this for south in the burbs of Summerside because usually its just chain restaurants. This is one of the top resturants in the city and I would likely take out-of-town visitors here to wow them. I would definitely eat here again, likely several times. I want to try dinner and come here for my birthday breakfast, but honestly, I swear I do not eat out that often. Maybe once a month, it just seems like more.

Put this on your list and make reservations. Go check out their menu. I was inspired to buy furniture after breakfast, so proceed with caution.

2003 91 St SW, Edmonton.

I recommend going with Rena, she is always inspirational and makes me think. I like that in a friend. She is one of my people. On second thought, find your own Rena. I am sure you have people you would love to dine with.

18 for 18: Brunch at Café Linnea

IMG_9110

A few years ago my parents sold everything they owned and became Hobos. They travel the world by housesitting for people in Europe. It’s a fairly cool gig. They are submerged into the culture of other places, they learned how to feed and care for chickens and goats, they have lived on vineyards and champagne (farms? champangeyard?) estates. We skype weekly to keep in touch and I taught them about fun filters and share features on icloud, I sent epub books for Christmas and photos of my adventures. They returned to Canada for the nice non-winter parts when Edmonton shines its brightest and has the best festivals to play in. Both my mom and I think Edmonton is the best summer city in the world. Lots of people are angered by their leaving for long stretches at a time but the best advice my dad ever gave was this: “No one is forcing you to do what you don’t want to do. Say no, do what you want to do and is what right for you.” It only took me 50 years to live by that. My Epic 50th Year is taking me places I could not imagine for myself yet here I am living my best life. My parents are living their best life. This past year I said no to things that would shock you. But I slept better afterwards. I have my parents to thank for that.

They returned last week after a 5-month hiatus that felt like 6. It was an In like a Lion moment for March where the temperatures plummeted and the snow came down all at once. We were blessed with an additional foot of snow. Welcome, Home! No, I don’t want to hear about daisies blooming unless you brought some. But thanks for the bottle of Bordeaux! Now it feels like winter is gone! Okay, I do like hearing about the meadow blossoms and the fields of green. I also like seeing some of the bad-ass stuff my dad does like this fun photo from my sister (she went to visit them in France) That’s my dad, breaking rules like a boss since 1948. Those are the fun things I like about travel.

IMG_9094

Where was I? Right…they came home!

It was Mom’s birthday this week and what do you get the person who doesn’t want to own anything but only likes experiences? Breakfast of course! We needed a long newsy visit to catch up. I like to take my parents to places they have not been before. Not easy to do for these people. But I succeed every time. I decided to cross off one of my 18 for 18 items while I was at it. We drove down 119 street when my dad said, “How have I lived here all my life and have never been on this street?” SCORE! I did it!

I booked the private dining room at Café Linnea and we were the first to arrive at the restaurant.  I was struck by the sunshine in this place. This is the old garment district. The restaurant is converted warehouse space. They did a fantastic job making it feel warm and comfortable.

IMG_9112

I grew up with those chairs and tables. We lived in the 70’s with the teak modern style. What I would GIVE for those chairs today!

The private dining room looks like it would hold 12 people comfortably. I booked it for 6 and we had space to sit and visit. It was perfect for the welcome home birthday brunch!

IMG_9111

I heard the drinks menu was delicious but we stuck with coffee.

IMG_9113

This was a good latté. It is not my favourite in the city but I did enjoy it. (favourite goes to Mandolin Books and Café Bicyclette) That meringue on the side was chocolate flavoured with melted chocolate concealed within and is now my favourite treat of all time. It was perfection!

We lingered over coffee and tea (apparently the Provence tea was a delight!)  We struggled with the menu trying to decide what would be the best choice. Mom ordered strictly sides because it was her birthday and you can do what you want when you are celebrating. Everyone else ordered a main.

 

The bacon, the sourdough bread and pickled mushrooms were exquisite, everything else was just delicious. We thought about dessert because they told us about the feature, bread pudding french toast. Bread pudding is my Dad’s favourite of all time. He claims the best is found in New Orleans. My parents are experts at world travel so I believe him. In the end, we decided to take mom to Doughnut Party because she had never been before and had only read about it here on my blog, it was also conveniently located next door.  We all bought doughnuts to take home for later.

IMG_9118

Just an FYI, the chocolate banana was life-changing.

Was Café Linnea worth it? Absolutely. Would I go again? YES! I want to try a couple more things on the menu. Maybe take my sister there to celebrate a thing we are planning. Her and I will obviously try the drinks menu.

Go. It is located at 119 Street Northwest #10932, visit their website here for menu and info.

18 for 18: Adult Night at the Muttart

IMG_9070

There is this new trend, or maybe it is just new to me, Adult Night. There was a time where I was looking for family things to do. Now that my kids are adults themselves, I find the less I am around children, the better it is for me to focus on different things. I get very distracted by children, especially clever and hilarious ones. So an evening without them in the room allows me to see beyond and allow the silence in my head to relax me.

I was looking for a new class or something I hadn’t done before and I came across a meditation class at Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory. I meditate as a daily practice and today marks my 440th consecutive day. I thought experiencing a different way to practice might be interesting. I like learning from other’s perspectives. This class was held on a scheduled Adult Night. Every Wednesday from 5-9 pm the Muttart Conservatory closes its doors to children. I added this to my 18 for 18 list early on, knowing I wanted to experience this. I am glad I made the list, I was tired and didn’t feel like going out but I made myself accountable to the list. So here I am.

I arrived at 5 and had decided to purchase an annual pass. I hadn’t been here since I was a child but had fond memories of going with my family at Christmas to see the Feature Pavilion. It changes with the seasons. An Adult pass is $45.00. Visit 4 times and its paid for. I anticipate visiting on Adult nights and want to go to the concert series this summer. So having an annual pass makes sense for me and ensures I return. I like to get value for my money.

I had time to visit a pavilion before the meditation class began. I decided to go clockwise and began with the Arid Pavillion.IMG_9038

I attended Catholic School as a kid and remember this pavilion from a field trip. The Crown of Thorns plant made quite an impression on me. But I couldn’t find it this visit. I was too busy watching my time so I didn’t miss the start of the meditation session.

IMG_9031

I arrived at 5:30 for the session to begin. The website information was different than the information the instructor gave. I was led to believe this was a 30 min session with 4 sessions that evening so people could come and go. It was one long session where people joined us. I wasn’t prepared for two hours of mindful meditation. Mostly because it involves the instructor talking. When I meditate, I want to sit in silence. However, she also led us on a meditation walk in the Temperate Pavillion. The sites and sounds were like an Edmonton Spring. We have had some extreme cold here this winter so this was a welcome visit.

IMG_9039

The method for the meditation walk was extremely slow. Slower than walking a Bride down the aisle, slower than walking in a crowd. It is akin to walking with a toddler who is just learning. Tiny even deliberate steps. I have severe arthritis in my knees and found this to be an effort to walk this slow, but it was calming and peaceful. It kept me mindful of my steps and breathing, which is the purpose of mindfulness. I can see me revisiting this method especially after a particularly stressful or busy day at work.

IMG_9044

We returned back to the classroom for what I call Savasana or corpse pose. I continued to sit in my chair because of my mobility issues but it was more my speed. The instructor read a short essay from a Buddhist monk that I found to be calming.

At 6:30 we were given a 30-minute break. Who needs a break from resting? I thought that was odd. But I decided to leave and not return for more mindfulness. I had already meditated for 2 hours that day. Time to experience life rather than contemplate it.

I went to Culina the restaurant in the Conservatory that receives rave reviews from Avenue. I think pretentious vegetarian food needs to be called out. The food was fine but I was disappointed. I ordered Shepherds Pie. I received a vegetable medley in gravy (?) topped with sweet potato. I prefer my Shepherds Pie to be traditional. If it isn’t, say so on the menu. The salad was too oily for someone who prefers dressing on the side. This place was full of ladies-who-lunch out for a women’s night because wine was $25 a bottle. I looked at the selection and passed. A single bottle is too much for a single person. Younger me would have felt out of place. While I was the only person dining alone, I wasn’t dressed trendy enough. Business casual was too casual. All I could think was, Avenue Magazine has a distinct set of followers of which I am not one of them. I tend to hang out with people who are comfortable in their own skin, not sitting somewhere hoping to be seen.

I sincerely doubt I will dine there again with so many other opportunities to try delicious cuisine in Edmonton.

After dinner, I turned right and went to the Tropical Pavillion.

IMG_9051

It was getting dark and the pavilion was lit up with soft lighting. Lovely but difficult for photography.

IMG_9052

The humidity was lovely. The room was filled with the sound of water and I thought birds, but I could be mistaken. I stopped to enjoy the orchid house.

IMG_9055

One of my favourite things about Muttart is the way they showcase artists. There was an exhibit in the centre with a No Photos signs. But I took my time to enjoy the installation. The very centre of the Conservatory is a glass fish installation – this was lovely from below.

IMG_9067

I finally made my way into the Feature Pavilion that changes with the seasons. Currently, it is set up for Chinese New Year. Early March it changes again.

IMG_9057

Red and yellow in a garden is one of my favourite combinations.

IMG_9062

It was beautiful. I sat and looked around for a while.

IMG_9058

IMG_9060

I can see myself visiting Muttart Conservatory everytime they change the feature pavilion. My next visit will be mid-March. I’ll keep an eye out for classes and concerts but mostly, I want to come here and sit on a bench to read. That sounds like my idea of heaven.

 

18 for 18: Ice Castles

VZELE9839

I am crossing the first item off the list – I went to visit Edmonton’s Ice Castles. Full disclosure, I received tickets from a friend so I did receive a free entry. Honestly, I am not altogether sure I would have paid to enter. $16.95 for Adults, it really doesn’t look all that special on the outside. I did go with an open mind. As I moved closer, it became more spectacular.

VHXJE2496

I timed my visit so I could hit the magic hour of sunset. 5:00 pm on the day we went. I wanted to capture photos before and after so I could catch the different light. I am glad I did.

GZUNE7787

Different coloured flood lights(?) LED lights (?), I am unsure of the tech, were lighting up the icicles. The time of day made for a very flat light and it was hard to see definition out in the open. As we explored caves and walkways the detail showed itself to be amazing.

RWFLE8826

I took time to speak to one of the staff about how they created this giant ice castle. He explained they grew the icicles by running the water then moving the small icicle to where it was supposed to go, then they built upon that by adding more water. The amount of water needed for this was staggering. I am not going to lie, it does concern me.

Environmental concerns aside, I let myself be swept up in the beauty of the art installation.   We wandered through the tunnels and found the fireplace in the centre of the castle.

IMG_8643

Soot was clinging to the ice and the hearth was melting but it was so cold -25C so the warmth was welcome. I didn’t dress nearly warm enough, I needed 2 leg layers but only had one. I had forgotten how much I love the smell of a wood fire. It was heavenly!

We kept meandering around and located the fountain room. This was beautiful.

KVFUE3262

As the night became darker the greens and pinks from the lights became more dominant.

FBEHE4876

We left to search for the slides, only one was finished when we went through.

NEACE3229

The line was long and I didn’t think my rear end needed to sit on ice. Maybe if I had worn my snow plants, but I passed on that opportunity. You would think Canadians would not find ice so novel, but we did! To the left, we found a throne and I quickly snapped a photo before the next couple sat down. Again, there were massive lines.

ODWPE4071

Not interested in sitting on ice, I did that plenty when I worked as a ski lift operator, or ‘lifty’. I remember it well and I have no desire to relive that, but LOOKing at it was so beautiful. I was very happy I decided to go and experience the beauty of the ice.

IMG_8696

Sunset was happening by this time. I looked up and there was the moon. Cold, crisp and beautiful.

BUT SO MANY PEOPLE! I would wait a long time for a shot clear of people.

IMG_8669

I would shoot up or close, fewer people in the frame.

We spent about 45 minutes and saw everything at least twice. There was a lot of waiting while parents were pulling their children through the tiny spots. People were polite and took turns with the exception of a few who knocked my camera over while pushing their way ahead of me. For a crowd this size, I was honestly surprised at the amount kind and considerate people there.

For the most part I found this to be a worthwhile experience. I do realize many families could not afford to participate in this activity but there are other free and beautiful things to do during Edmonton’s WInter. (Honourable mention to Victoria’s Skating Oval. The lights there are also beautiful and its free) Yet Ice Castles is an instagram photographer’s dream.

For times visit the website for more information.

 

18 for ’18

 

 

CLQGE3615
Lethbridge overlooking the Oldman River

 

I have been scouring the podcast world for new and meaningful content, well, meaningful for me. I spend a lot of time on the road lately and use podcasts as a way to spend my time. On my way home from Lethbridge, Alberta, I was listening to SuperSoul Sunday. SuperSoul is my church. I spend Sunday mornings listening to thought leaders and their perspective on things. On this particular episode, Gretchen Rubin was a guest and was talking about finding joy in little things. This is something I have been intentional about. So I listened just a little bit harder. I am always looking for easy things to do that will increase my joy. For example, when someone asks me how I am, I used to say the truth. More often than not I would get trapped in a spiral of dark depressing feelings. I now say, “I am great!” or some other positive adjective whether I am or not. I did this as an experiment.  I found when I said great and smiled, I did feel a little bit great or happy or whatever adjective I used. The more I said it, the truer it became. I also decided to say affirmations before bed. I always say “I am happy” along with a few other ones. Every time I say to myself “I am happy’ I  smile involuntarily. Going to sleep happy made me wake up happy. Not happy…more like joyful. It is a far better way to start the day than dreading the rest of it.

I digress…

So back to the podcast. I looked up Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast. She co-hosts it with her sister Elizabeth Craft. I discovered Liz Craft is my Spirit Animal. She gets me on another level. This led to Liz Craft hosting another podcast called Happier in Hollywood with her writing partner Sarah Fain. Again, these are my people! Regular moms who work and aim for happier outlooks in a world that is more dark and depressed than ever. Liz and Sarah introduced me to By the Book. If you do nothing else this year but listen to this podcast, it is worth it. They read a self-help book and follow it for two weeks. It is inciteful and hilarious. You’re welcome. So Oprah led me to 3 new (to me) podcasts and that gives me hours of joyful listening on the road. YAY!

One listener on Happier decided to do a list for 2018 of things she wanted to do. It was called 18 for 18. On this list of non-resolution type things were clean out the junk drawer, hike once a month. Try the new cafe. All things that people say they want to do but never get around to it. She posted the list in her bathroom where she sees it every day. When she feels down, she does something on the list then crosses it off. A simple way to create happiness in her life. It is now a thing or movement, the community is doing it.

I LOVE LISTS! I especially find crossing things off my list super satisfying. I pulled out my Bullet Journal – best moment of my life was finding about this type of journaling, okay so I exaggerate, but it has revolutionalized my work projects and achieved my goal of becoming less tied to technology. I am the type of person who goes big. So I created two lists, an 18 for me filled with new recipes I want to try, little declutter projects and classes I want to take, as well as some private items that I have been meaning to do. The other list is for my Edmonton Tourist Project.

I have been struggling with what is left for the tourist to explore. I had visited all the River Valley Parks in Edmonton – except one. I have been to all the festivals at least once and some I plan to never repeat. I found my favourite cup of coffee – shout out to Mandolin! I know where I love to eat breakfast most often but there are little things I still want to explore. I get lots of recommendations that I should try from you guys and from other friends whose opinion I value. This leaves lots of things to do the Edmonton!

numero-18

I made the list. The rules for my 18 in 18: Edmonton Tourist are simple. Do something on the list, blog about it then cross it off. Deadline is December 31, 2018.

  1. Visit Ice Castles √
  2. Have brunch at Café Linnea √
  3. Wine Tasting – ambiguous but there are lots of places to try it including the big Wine Expo.
  4. Have brunch at the Workshop Eatery √
  5. Visit Muttart Conservatory’s Adult Night √
  6. Go to the last park on my list Hermitage Park
  7. Explore MacKinnon Ravine
  8. Explore MacKenzie Ravine
  9. Walk from Fort Edmonton Bridge to Terwillegar Bridge (it’s about a 5k walk)
  10. Go to a board game café like Table Top or something similar
  11. Have Brunch at Rockin Robyn’s Diner
  12. Try Geocaching
  13. Visit 3 small towns in the Edmonton Area and see what they have to offer(bonus points if I find a farmer’s market!)
  14. Visit the Royal Alberta Museum (when it finally opens)
  15. Go to the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter
  16. Visit the St. Albert Farmer’s Market
  17. Visit the Callingwood Farmer’s Market
  18. Visit the Millwoods Farmer’s Market

I will be visiting this page from time to time to cross things off the list and link to the blog post. It should be a fun year!

THE EDMONTON TOURIST’S PRAIRIE ADVENTURE PART 2: Lethbridge

Part 1 

Road trips have become my most favourite way to travel. I love getting to the destination but exploring on the way is part of the fun for me. I never used to be this way. I preferred to get there in a hurry, so I didn’t waste any vacation days. I never saw the trip as part of the vacation. Now I do, and some of my most memorable adventures happened unplanned and by accident. That is how I saw Vimy Ridge, we tripped over it, so we went to see it. It was the single most amazing place I have ever visited. All because we accidentallyVimy drove by.

 

Having never been to this part of the province, I was eager to see new things. To the south of us, we saw a massive rock. I assumed it was a mountain but it was not anywhere near the Rocky Mountain Range. We were perplexed. Turns out it was a butte in Montana. MONTANA! It was 100km away from where we were. I had no idea you could see that far in the distance. I often joked we could see dolphins jumping in the Gulf of Mexico because it was so flat, but knew it wasn’t possible. I saw Montana from the vantage point of Taber Alberta. Cool.

Rolling into Lethbridge we went to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Closed for the season but I peeked over the fence.

While looking through the fence, I thought about my Grandfather. During World War II he was here guarding prisoners of war, Japanese, Germans and Italians. I thought about the internment camps located here and in Medicine Hat. I didn’t research to see if there was anything left, but I did find this information when I came home. I am surprised to see the stories my grandfather told me are in line with what I read. If you knew my Grandpa’s gift for storytelling, you would also be surprised they match!

We left the gardens and made our way to Indian War Park at Fort Woop-Up. It has been years since I have heard First Nations People be referred to Indians. It left me feeling cold.

However, the park is wonderful! It is located in the coulees on the shores of Oldman River. The Lethbridge Viaduct was built by Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR steel trestle is 5,331 ft. (1,624 m) long; 314′ (95.7 m) high; 12 trains a day still cross it.

IMG_8544

IMG_8538

After leaving Indian War Park I had a little time left to visit Popson Park. It is a beautiful spot along the coulees and Oldman River located to the south of Lethbridge.

CLQGE3615

Sunset over the prairies at 4:00 pm in the middle of January. We saw a Pheasant and his hens take off across from these two beauties:

DFOQE5362

They watched us carefully and didn’t move. We stared at each other for a few minutes before I moved on.

The prairies are a beautiful place for a short visit. I recommend taking the time to stop and look before you drive on through to your destination.

 

The Edmonton Tourist’s Prairie Adventure Part 1: Medicine Hat

When I was a kid, my parents packed up my siblings and me for a road trip across the Canadian Prairies: Destination Washington DC. We drove across Canada to Toronto, Hamilton and Niagra Falls, then south to DC for the United States of America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976.

I was 9, and I remember Arlington Cemetary, the White House, the Liberty Bell was in DC for the celebration, all the fire hydrants were painted like Uncle Sam (I always thought Uncle Sam was Sam the Eagle from the Muppets), and the Lincoln Monument. I remember the traffic of DC, New York and Chicago. I remember the spray of the Niagra Falls, eating fish and chips at Hutches on the beach of Lake Ontario. I remember understanding the vastness of Lake Superior. The Canadian shield brought back memories of living in Yellowknife, NWT and I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The trip from Edmonton to Winnipeg was flat and what I called boring. Nothing to see except count the red barns that grandpa asked me to. For every red barn I saw, I would get 10 cents, paid in full upon my return. I think I saw 15.

I remember endless fields of grain and blue sky.

Nothing to look at because I liked looking at mountains. I’d rather travel west than east. I knew for certain the Rocky Mountains were the best in the world because I had witnessed it for myself.

Experience and perspective change a person.

I know understand that The Rocky Mountains are not trying to be the Cascade Mountains. Neither is better or worse. They are the best version of themselves.

The Canadian Prairies are not trying to be mountains. Prairies are flat and treeless. They are the birthplace of grain and other farm-grown goodness. They are the birthplace of endless sunsets and wide open sky that can be bluer than any other sky or filled with a billion stars and showcase the Aurora Borealis.

It took me a long time to stop being competitive with other places and love everything for what it is.

I now have a job where I get to travel to the southern parts of Alberta. Places I had not been before. I didn’t stock up on things to distract me from the drive, I made an effort to appreciate the scenery for what it was.

I drive to Calgary on a frequent basis,  medical reasons for family, for job-related trips and for a vacation side stop on my way to Banff. I always turn right. Last Friday I turned left for the first time in all my 50 years. I hopped on the Stony bypass and followed the signs to Medicine Hat, Alberta. The weather was crazy, +6C in Calgary and -13 in Brooks, an inversion layer made me think the sky was falling. The blue sky was endless and the fields were dotted with oil pumpjacks. Alberta is Oil Country after all. IMG_8467

Trees are a scarcity where you find farmland and sometimes its hard to see where the land ends and the sky begins.

PUHUE9402

After work, I did some exploring and discovered the coulees lurking below the flats. They pour into the South Saskatchewan River. In Edmonton, we call it the valley, here it is the Coulees.

IMG_8486

Down in the coulees, you find trees and scrub. Beautiful too but all so different from what I experienced before.

IMG_8488

I was searching for the World’s largest Teepee. The Saamis Teepee was originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Designer Steve Illes had the teepee painted “white for purity, red for the rising and setting sun, and blue for flowing waters”. It stood in Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, where it housed the Olympic Flame during the opening and closing ceremonies

IMG_8489

It was perched high above the river on the flats beside the Trans Canada Hwy.

UDEQE2215

The wind was brutal and bit into my face. But I walked, read and learned about the plains people. Soon after we were back on the road heading west for Lethbridge. I am surprised I could not see how beautiful the prairies are when I was a kid. I am happy I can see it now. Next week I will post part 2 of my prairie adventure.

IMG_8520

Discovery

Parks Canada celebrated 2017 and Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations by issuing everyone who wanted one a Discovery Pass. This let everyone enter Canada’s National Parks free of charge. I have no idea what it ultimately charged the taxpayers but I happily partook in the offer, thanks, Justin!

I visited 4 National Parks this year.

Jasper National Park

IMG_E6843

Pacific Rim National Reserve

IMG_1261

Banff National Park

IMG_E7968

Elk Island National Park

IMG_E7051

I appreciate how these spaces are preserved and protected. I saw all types of wildlife, black bears, coyotes, bald eagle, red tail hawks, grey wolf footprints, harbour seals, sea stars, molluscs, dolphins, porpoises, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, fox, elk and numerous squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, geese and songbirds. Yesterday was the last day of the year to use my park pass, so I packed up my pal Captain and we made our way to the closest National Park from my home, Elk Island.

It has been bitterly cold here as with the rest of North America. The temperatures were hovering around the -30C mark with winds dropping the windchill into the low -30 or high -40 range. The type of cold that freezes your nose shut and pinches your face. Happily, the cold is about over and plus temps are on the horizon!

I drove to Astotin Lake to watch the sunset at 4:30pm. Cap and I walked across the frozen beach and he would pause to lift his paws. It was too cold for him.

WKTOE0526

We looked at the sunset and then braved the easterly winds back to the car.

ODRDE0343

I then drove to the Bison Paddock hoping to catch a glimpse of a bison or two. We saw about 10 females with their calves as we drove down hwy 16 towards the park. Obviously, we didn’t stop on the icy roads to take a pic, but we were rewarded with seeing a lone fellow munching on the frozen grass.  But first, we had to turn right following the loop.

The first stop was the famous red chairs. They had been turned around facing west this time. Normally they overlook the meadow to the east.

JQLOE4658

Perfect for viewing the sunset but too cold to sit in the chairs. I have yet to stop to sit, maybe next time. Behind the chairs, the full moon was rising. It was spectacular in the pink sky.

IMG_8444

My face and fingers were frozen by this time, so I jumped back into the warmth of my car and continued around the loop. To my amazement, this guy was still there snacking on some exposed grass.

BRJWE1035

Sunsets on the prairies are beautiful and the colours seem to be brighter in the fidged temperatures.

I watched him for a while before heading home.

Receiving and using the Discovery Passes were a great gift. I suspect the purpose of the free passes was to reignite the passion Canadians feel for their country, especially with the drama that is happening around the rest of the world. I think the point is want to have a pass for 2018, it was a subtle marketing ploy that I think I have bought into. I still want to explore Tawayik Lake with The Captain, there are other parts of Elk Island I have not seen and I also want to get to Waterton Lakes National Park this year. If everything goes as planned, I will make it back to Pacific Rim and head east to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and really explore what it has to offer.

Let me know your favourite Canadian National Park so I can put it on my list.