EDMONTON TOURIST: ᐄᓃᐤ(ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞

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I wanted to visit Queen Elizabeth Park for a while now that the Walterdale Bridge is finished along with the surrounding landscape. The path below the bridge is now open on the Northside of the river and it leads to Irene Parlby Park. I haven’t had a chance to explore that trail yet but I did get to Queen Elizabeth Park with my trusty pal Cap.

My family has a long history with this park, from swimming in the outdoor pool, picnics and picking lilacs. I am sad to report the lilac shrubs are no longer at the entrance to the east side of the park. However, the changes that were created to the west side of the park is beautiful.

I drove north towards the river on Queen Elizabeth Road and turned left into the west side of the park. The new parking lot and entrance are all shiny and new.

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I parked next to the shelter and began exploring. I think the location of the shelter is where the old Queen Elizabeth Pool Building used to be. Directly to the west is a marker signifying the location of the old pool. I hope the City continues to tell a complete story of City history. Here is a lovely blend of Treaty 6 Nations art and a brief history and the story of the pool. Interesting fact, there were two moose held captive here for two years with the intention of expanding into a zoo. Happily, they were released.

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Cap and I strolled the circular path that led to the different art installations.

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My first stop was mamohkamatowin (Helping each other). Lovely intricate mosaics depicting various symbols including the beaver, raven and people, all working together to build a community. 42665030_10161082336421337_1631326757678219264_n

A few steps later is the valley lookout.

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My city is quickly changing, I almost don’t recognize the skyline. Continuing on, I came to mikikwan. This is a hide scraper for the past, present and future.

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I stood in front of Preparing to Cross the Sacred River for a long time. I thought the birds were geese but after learning about this installation I learned they were magpies. They are deferential to both petroglyphs and beadwork. I was quite mesmerized.

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Pehonan is a storytelling amphitheatre. The highest seat at the top references the deep past. Its the farthest from reach when you are at the base, but when you are sitting at the top, you have the greatest field of vision with the greatest perspective. When you are closest to the future but not able to see so far into the distance.

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Iskotew is fire. It is written in the Cree language.

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Finally, I saw Reign. Fox and Hare with hadrosaurs traversing the valley floor.

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Each of these installations had benches nearby to give a person time to ponder and think about what is before them. I thought about the history on this land long before I began visiting with my family. It is called ᐄᓃᐤ(ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞. Reading one of the cairns indicate this was the homestead of Métis farmer Joseph McDonald. His actual home has been moved to Fort Edmonton Park and is located next to the North West Mounted Police building. During the Treaty 6 recognition, I spoke with McDonald’s great-granddaughter.  She said he wasn’t Métis but his children were because he had married a Cree woman, her great-grandmother. He was Scottish and that meant his children were ‘half-breeds’ not Métis. Of course, that all has changed and now her family is referred to as Métis. We spoke for a while and learned about the script and how her grandmother was a medicine woman. To honour that, the Fort plants medicinal plants in the garden outside the home. She was an interesting storyteller and what lovely validation and recognition for her family.

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Captain and I then crossed the busy road to see if there were any other changes to Queen Elizabeth Park. I was happy to see my bench is still in its same spot. I hadn’t been able to sit on since the construction began years ago. I sat for a while and noticed the view is more obscure that is was the last time I sat in this spot.

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The view of the Rossdale plant was more open and the river is now obscure but it’s still lovely. In the past, I have sat in this spot to read, talk with friends or just to think. I am incredibly happy to my park back.

18 in ’18: Funicular

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Today is the last day of my vacation. I spent a week here ↑ looking at that view. The sky was blue, no rain or smoke from the BC fires. It was relaxing and zen. I loved it. It was my third time vacationing at the Pacific Rim National Reserve. I spent time in Tofino and Ucluelet. I recommend a once in a lifetime visit or regular visits. Whichever suits you. I think it is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. I saw bears, bald eagles, osprey, salmon, ravens, and orcas. Eight orcas to be exact and on two different days. So there’s that.

It snowed in Edmonton yesterday and honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I live in a northern-ish town and it has snowed in September and stayed…this time it’s not staying (Thank you universe!) But it IS my last day of vacation so I felt the need to do some Edmonton Touristy stuff. My parents are hobos as I have mentioned before. Soon they leave for Europe to winter and ride the rails as hobos want to do. I figured I would invite them on an adventure today to see things they haven’t seen in a long while or ever. I rarely invite people on my Edmonton Tourist adventures, only Captain my best pal as seen here:

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I picked up my parents for coffee at 10:00 am. We went to Crumb on Calgary Trail. I love their coffee and think their Pain du Chocolat is the best ever. I then asked if they had ever been on the Funicular. They hadn’t and neither had I, but it was on my 18 for 18 list so I needed to give it try.

We parked at Louise McKinney park because there is free two-hour parking if you are good at parallel parking. I am! My dad wanted to know if he should get out to direct, nope because I learned to parallel park from the best (him). Tight spot, first try, I win! I jumped out and did some She-Ra moves and flexed for everyone then I hugged my dad and said thanks for teaching me that skill.

We walked down Grierson Hill towards the Funicular. This was built and designed to make the river valley accessible to everyone unless you are entering from Grierson. Then you need to take stairs down to the valley path to catch the elevator or up the stairs to the upper deck to catch the Funicular. Dear City of Edmonton, you need a 3 stop elevator so Grierson people who park at Louise McKinney can access it. Kind of a no-brainer for an accessible feature. Perhaps you needed to include physically challenged folk to give feedback on the design.

We walked down the stairs to ride the elevator for the full effect.

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Up we went admiring the view of the valley. It is a great lookout point!

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The valley is just starting to turn colour and the snow has melted here, but not at my house. We walked over the bridge and looked at the public art. We were trying to interpret it. Is it waves? Is it a skateboard park? You decide.

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Then we finally made it to the Funicular. Pressed the button and waited a long time for it to descend.

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As we moved up, we did enjoy the view. These are my hobo parents.

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We rode up with travellers from Yellowknife. They didn’t know what they should see so I gave them a few fun free things to do and look out for and chatted with them about great lunch spots downtown. I showed everyone this.

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Take a risk, its the most Edmonton thing you can do.

I love it!

Then we walked to Churchill square to see the #HappyWall.

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There’s me. I was so happy to see the square and wall empty. So excited, I spelled it wrong because

  1. it’s harder than you think to flip a million tiles.
  2. proofreading your own work is hard.
  3. spelling is hard.
  4. I was excited

It was still there when we left our tour of downtown, so it was up for two hours. TWO HOURS! hopefully still up because it is relevant and important to our city.

We trudged through the construction (but when its all done the Arts District will be FANTASTIC!) to get to the Royal Alberta Museum or as they like to call it #NewRam. I am buying a Mammoth pass for $35 because of UNLIMITED ACCESS FOR $35! I did have to listen to how the British Museum is free, but I said talked to Rachel. It’s not RAMs fault. $35 is reasonable when a single admission is $25. Go twice and boom, worthwhile. Plus it supports culture and history. All the things that make Edmonton a great place to live.

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The countdown clock is up!

18 Days

23 Hours

53 Minutes

until grand reopening. 15000+ people were able to procure free tickets for opening weekend. I didn’t because I hate crowds and the website kept crashing on me, also work, ug.

These crates are all over the city, building excitement. It kind of reminds me of A Night in the Museum, only in Edmonton and not New York.

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We peeked in the window and saw the gift shop and a dinosaur ribcage at the admission door. He wasn’t quite finished being put together yet. We checked out the Post Office Murals that were left/donated/bought(?). This was the site of the Main Post Office in Edmonton and these murals were part of that. I love them.

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We turned around and walked back to Three Bananas for lunch because SOUP IS DELICIOUS and theirs is also good.

Then we headed back to the Funicular. We entered the Funicular and pressed the button to descend. Nothing happened for a really long time. Then the doors opened and it asked us to leave. So we walked down the stairs.

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We watched a guy run up and down carrying full water jugs. Go, Dude! You’ll be awesome at the next November Project stair climb!

When we took the elevator down, I saw a mom/granny struggling with her stroller. See City of Edmonton? You need to add another stop. So Dad and I climbed up the stairs and helped her carry the stroller down to the elevator because that’s what Edmontonians do even when the City Builders don’t.

The big takeaway from this other than having a great day with the hobos, is about what the Yellowknife tourists said to me. They couldn’t figure out how to get to the Funicular and every Edmontonian they asked couldn’t help them. Here is my advice for you Edmonton, get outside and explore your city. It is more exciting than you think it is and we are lucky to live here. We have a vibrant art and culture scene, our restaurants are amazing and our river valley parks system is some of the best parks in the world. What other cities can you see bobcats, bears, moose and deer in the downtown park? Banff and Jasper don’t count. Be present in your life, live it. Don’t let life happen to you.

Love The Edmonton Tourist. xoxox

The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.

 

 

The epic 50th year comes to an end

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So many people fear 50. I chose to see it as a major milestone and embrace it. I made my epic 50th year about embracing adventure. As with all things that sit before you in the future, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I had to face every day by leaning in, purging what didn’t work for me and be present in the moment. None of these things happened overnight, but they all happened. I am turning 51 on Thursday. Let me share what happened this year. If you are interested, I will be exploring these points in great detail over at my other space Still Life, it isn’t for everyone. But it might be for you.

 

  1. Embrace Change.

At the age of 49, I was desperate for change. I knew I didn’t like where I was. I felt mired in grey matter and desperately needed sunshine. I was called on my birthday and was asked to come in for a job interview. I said yes. 5 days later I interviewed. 14 days after the interview I had a job offer. 30 days after the phone call, I was sitting at my new desk completely overwhelmed trying to navigate my new job with very little direction because my employer also wanted change but wasn’t really sure what that needed to look like. 11 months later, we are still collaborating and planning for the future. It’s exciting, inspiring and exhausting.  For the first time in my career, I feel respected and valued. Never underestimate that. It has opened my world up to infinite possibilities and that feels amazing. Being valued means different things to different people. For me, it means, have someone listen to you, respect your ideas even if they are not going to work, ask for your input and is kind and supportive.

2. Take time to value yourself.

I made a promise to myself 609 days ago.  I promised myself I would take the time to meditate every day because when I did, I was calmer, kinder and felt peaceful. I sat on my chair for 609 days and sat in silence. It wasn’t easy, I have a voice that reminds me I am not enough. I had a boyfriend who validated this message. I wasn’t thin, pretty, smart, skilled…enough. He didn’t choose me so it also validated I wasn’t enough.  I heard this message echoed in ‘friends’, family, colleagues, strangers and me. I sat for 609 days repeating my Sankalpa, it began with ‘I am happy’. Once I felt happy after months of repeating my mantra, I changed it to ‘I am enough’ as I learned I was enough I changed it to ‘I am forgiving’ because I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others. This year I am grateful. I learned to love me, let go of outer expectations and focus on my life’s purpose. Not someone else’s. So it may feel like I abandoned you and in some ways I did. You’ll be okay.

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3. Health is more important than you think, listen to your body.

Last December I had a trip planned to go to New York City. I was excited about it. In November when I sat quietly with myself I began to feel like I shouldn’t go. It began with a friend’s reaction. I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach thinking about this trip. I cancelled the trip and immediately felt better. I learned that intuition is my greatest ally. One week later, I was in the hospital. My daughter calls it the time I died. In many ways, I did die. It was a life changing experience. I experienced an awaking. I will talk more about that experience over on my blog Still Life: Finding Peace in Chaos. But I had ignored my body until I couldn’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.

4. Nurture your circle

I was incredibly ill for months. I was home from work for six weeks. If I had gone to New York, I would have died. I didn’t have anyone there to help me. I would have been alone in my hotel room with cleaning staff finding my body. I spent months having tests, hanging out in doctors offices. Learning about my health and understanding what is normal and what is not. I finally have my health sorted and back on track. I feel better than I have in 20 years. Health is important. I sat in the hospital with my daughter and went through the list of people she should call if things became too much for her to manage. I have 8 people in my circle of trust and 3 were all vacationing in Europe at the time. Two others in my circle, my children, were living with me taking care of me at a time in their life when they should be focused on friends, school and fun. The other three were close by and I knew if I needed them, they would be there. Interestingly enough, my circle consists exclusively of family. I love them fiercely.

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5. Purge

I went through a phase where I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a close-knit circle of friends. I never really experienced that. I had one or two friends that I sort of felt close to when I was a kid. But I never really felt like people got me. As an adult, I wanted to experience that. I made the mistake of picking people who were fun but also had fun at other people’s expense. They were fairly focused on themselves and took from me at every turn with the exception of one. He treated me well until he didn’t. It was stressful. I didn’t know if I was speaking to the good guy or the bad guy. My values didn’t align with anything these people did for fun. Because values were misaligned, I was hurt in ways I never expected. It distroyed me. I sat for a long time asking ‘What do I need to learn from this’. I received my answer. I learned about the true meaning of friendship. I went through a purge that rid me of toxic people. I purged things. I gave away truck-loads of things. I burned things to exorcise the demons. I purged my schedule. If I didn’t see value in it, I didn’t do it. Saying good-bye and NO were the greatest gift I gave to myself.

6. Friends

I have a circle of trust – family. They come first in my life always. I have a few friends who I would do ANYTHING for. There are family and friends that do not hear from me very often anymore. My health took centre stage this year. Some people in my life are emotional vampires. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. Emotional vampires literally sucked the life out me. While I was recovering, there were people who kept taking from me and never once asked how I was doing. I thought about this for a while. Why do I keep nurturing this relationship? I reach-out and if the time is not convenient to them, they would swear at me, or blow me off. You would think by the age of 50 I would understand that a friend is loyal, trustworthy, KIND and dependable to the extent they are capable of. I made a list of people who I thought fit those attributes, I have two and with a new friend I made recently it may bump up to three. Friends never want to feel like they are an inconvenience. I hope I have never made my friends feel that way. Please be frank with me if I have, it was never my intent. I am at the point in my life where I need a best friend. I want honesty, loyalty, kindness, as their values. I want someone with the same interests as me. I want someone who loves deep, meaningful conversation about life, spirituality, books, and experiences. But most importantly, I want a friend who I can call up and say, ‘Something just happened, I need you.’ And they say “Yes” or they say, “I am doing this right now….I am going to call in in 15/30/4 hours so I can give you my undivided attention.” That person exists. I just haven’t found them yet or I haven’t recognized them.

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7. Purpose

I found my purpose. I found my life’s mission. The universe takes you there without you seeing it and then it hits you over the head with a brick and says – can you see it yet? I see it. In every situation I have ever been in, I have been in a position to help people by raising them up. This is my purpose. I have a unique skill that searches for the quality in someone that is special. I point it out to them and then I teach them to use it to the best of their ability. Typically it only takes kind words or encouragement to inspire someone into action. As a child, I was told I was too sensitive. Being sensitive IS NOT A BAD THING! It’s amazing. I am empathic. I can feel what others are feeling. I can see things from other people’s perspective. This is my gift and it helps me fulfil my life’s purpose. I have set this as an intention to use in every aspect of my life including work. As a species, we can do better. It is my mission to spread kindness. I am not doing this every day because people can be cruel and it wounds me then I get crabby and angry. But I try to be this every day. Try. I am getting better at it.

8. Adventure

I want to experience things. What I mean is, I want to watch/read/learn/do things. I did things this year I haven’t done before. I stood in the ocean and felt it. I mean really felt it and I was overcome by emotion and sobbed my heart out. I explored Alberta’s prairie and appreciated it for what it was, and didn’t criticize it for being something it wasn’t. Prairies aren’t trying to be mountains. So I enjoyed them for being prairies. I read book genres I hadn’t explored before. I was correct in knowing I don’t need to read frightening books. Now I know for sure. I took the time to learn about First Nations Art, I always enjoyed it but now I have learned its purpose. I took big risks because no one is going to do it for you. I learned more about myself by doing this than by wishing someone would do it for me. I subscribed to a Broadway streaming channel because I love theatre and I have reconciled with myself that I am not going to New York or London to see these plays in person. I want to see them now not some day. This has brought me a surprising amount of joy. I love my city. I want other people to see what I see. I explore it and photograph it. I try different experiences and festivals. I have been all over the world and if you said to me, ‘Robyn, you can no longer travel where do you want to live out the rest of your days?’ I would answer ‘Edmonton…just let me live a bit closer to the valley’.

Happy Birthday to me. We had one hell of a year.

Explore Edmonton: Telus World of Science

When I was a kid, my grandma used to take me and my brother to the Queen Elizabeth planetarium.

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Of course, it no longer looks as spiffy as this, but I rather remember it this way than the rundown version it has become. The mosaics are still super cool though. I loved sitting in the tiny theatre staring at the stars and learning about the constellations. It was one of my favourite memories as a child.

About two months ago I did some volunteer work and was gifted two tickets for the Telus World of Science. I was excited because there are two new exhibits, Dinosaurs and Terry Fox, that I wanted to see.

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The centre first opened in 1984, as a replacement for the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium that had operated as Edmonton’s Planetarium since 1960 but had become limited by its seating capacity of 65. The City of Edmonton selected the Edmonton Space Sciences Centre as the City’s flagship project commemorating the Province of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary. The original building was designed by architect Douglas J. Cardinal. It was the most unusual building I had seen go up in Edmonton. There was a definite space quality about it. The grounds and building have changed over the years, they keep adding to it. Apparently, two new galleries are going in and a complete revamp of the star theatre. This meant the Margaret Ziegler Theatre was CLOSED. My heart broke a little bit. But there was an inflatable star dome so I was happy I could see the night sky show. What they failed to mention was the star dome was for people under four feet who wanted to sit on the floor. That’s not me, so I left disappointed with a side of excitement for the new star theatre to open one day in the future. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Zeidler Dome opens this weekend!

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We went to the Dinosaur gallery. These were animatronics with sound and FEATHERS. First Pluto isn’t a planet and now dinosaurs have feathers. Science is forcing me to unlearn ‘facts’ from science class in the 70’s.

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If I was five I would have been all over this exhibit. Dinosaurs just don’t do it for me. I did learn a fun fact though, Dinosaurs suffered from skull fractures. They were clumsy, bullied and beaten by other dinosaurs. So that was interesting. I walked through the exhibit and took video of the moving creatures. You can find that video on my Edmonton Tourist page on facebook. It would have been WAY COOL if I was five, at 50 it was fine.

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We wandered through the other galleries, not much has changed since my kids were small and we had a seasons pass. The Terry Fox Gallery was worth the trip. I thought I knew all there was to know about Terry Fox and then I saw this water jug. He filled it in the Atlantic Ocean, intending to empty it into the Pacific Ocean. It was sobering.

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His van was on display.

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And his prosthetic leg.

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I had held this before. I had met Darryl Fox, his brother, at an event and he had this prosthetic with him. The weight is unimaginable. That famous blue Adidas shoe had me choked up a bit. His shirts were lined up – the days when everyone ran in cotton.

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And the Companion to the Order of Canada. This is something only amazing Canadians get the honour of wearing. He is the youngest Canadian to ever receive it.

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This was a moving exhibit.

We left the building and walked towards the observatoryIMG_0452.

Next, to the star theatre, this is my favourite place. The dome was open and we looked at the sun – with a special filter, you could pick out the textured surface and sunspots. Then we looked at Venus. Not something you can normally see mid-day. I often spot Venus at sunset.

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If you haven’t been to Telus World of Science lately, give it a go and say hi to Terry. Support science, encourage your daughters to enter into STEM fields. Take time to learn and respect facts. Science is always evolving (- hello? FEATHERS!!! and PLUTO!!!) because we are constantly learning more. I can only imagine what will be uncovered for my grandchildren. Go learn something. 

Explore Alberta: Alberta Railway Museum

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Have you ever explored Canada’s railroad history? There was a time in my son’s life where we would explore the railroads of B.C. and Alberta. We visited the last spike, the spiral tunnels and climbed into steam engines. He was a serious train enthusiast. I suppose it isn’t past tense, he is still a train enthusiast. Just lately he has had some physical barriers he has been dealing with. After a successful surgery, its as if I have my boy back! We decided to celebrate by going to the Alberta Railway Museum’s 50th Anniversary. 

We have visited many rail museums, rode the Kettle Valley Steam Train and gone to numerous model train shows, but never have we ever visited the Alberta Rail Museum. Its located in North Edmonton 24215 34 St NW, so we hopped on the Henday and drove for 30 minutes, missed the turn but then pulled in.

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After checking the website, we knew we could purchase tickets to ride the diesel engine. There was cake at the station, and we ran into a few people we know. One was the father of my son’s best friend. He told us to check out some of his favourite things, like the Mail Car. With the train not departing until 1:00 pm, we had about an hour to explore the cars.

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There were several cars stacked on the rails, some restored and some waiting to be next. But we could walk through the cars checking them out in their various stages of disrepair.

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Our friend was right, the mail car was the coolest.

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There was also a car that was used by the King and Queen of England, it was very velvety. Well, all passenger cars were velvety, the berths were tiny and shockingly complicated.

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The highlight was when our friend took us into the shed that held steam engine 1392. It was being painted, but we could climb right up into the cab to look around. He explained some interesting facts and talked to my son about the use for the different things he saw on the panel. He explained this engine was waiting for the engineer to get his ticket/certification so he could drive it. It cost $1000 a day to run the engine, fuel costs etc., and a specially licensed engineer. The steam train will be in full operation for the August long weekend.

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We spent three hours climbing up and down the cars, weaving in and out of tiny spaces. It was a day that had me wistful for his childhood, but thankful we packed in a lot of memories while we could. This is three more hours to that list.

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Bring your family, ride the train, and learn new things. Go visit the Alberta Rail Museum. I am so glad I did.

18 for 18: Exploring Edmonton’s River Valley

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A couple of years ago, Edmonton opened the Terwillegar Foot Bridge adjacent to the Terwillegar Dog Park. I explored that park as part of my River Valley Parks series. But I didn’t cross the bridge. I have been wanting to walk this part of the valley for ages, so I put it on my list. The 18 for 18 list.

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When you cross the bridge to the north side of the river and follow the trail, it leads you to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge. This is my favourite bridge. The Fort Edmonton loop is the loveliest little 5k. One time I ran briefly with Kelly Buchburger, former Edmonton Oiler Captain. That was a thrill, he was kind and friendly, then he opened up his stride and left me like I was standing still.

I had always wanted to walk that north section of the trail but never did, so I put it on the list. My pal Captain and I decided to walk it today. When I walk with Cap, it is like walking with my brother or my Chatterbox. I walk, they run ahead, run behind, run off to the side. Basically they ran an extral mile for every mile I walked. There was so many things for him to explore and sniff.

When we crossed the bridge, I was surprised to see grassy meadows. When I walk to through the valley, I expect to be in the woods as in the case with the other parks I explore. Closer to Fort Edmonton, the path is lined with trees, so I expected the same landscape. The meadow started as short grass, but as we climbed the hill (slope? incline?) the grass became taller. Wild flowers were growing sporatically all over the field.  We saw vetch, bedstaw, clover, wild roses, dogwood, morning glories (why is morning glory growing in the river valley?) canola, and camomile. There were butterfiles everywhere! One little orange guy few along with us and booped my chin to say good bye when we entered the woods.

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The path was filled with walkers, runners and cyclists. Dogs stopped to say good morning. But one thing struck me as we strolled along, it was silent. I could hear the wind in the trees and birds singing but I did not hear traffic. It felt like I was in the middle of no where. That was the best part of the walk.

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I one point there was a giant rock cairn, not as uniform as in the Scottish Highlands, but it was the kind of mound my dad would encourage me to climb. When ever we walked past a pile of rocks, I needed to climb them, walk past water and we needed to spit in it, walk past a hill and we had to run up it. All were the rules of the walk. This time I just took a photo. Gone are my climbing days but I could imagine my ghost of walks past climbing up to the top. That was almost as satisfying.

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When we rounded the bend, I saw the familar sign indicating the Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge.

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Now I was in familar territory. The river is down once again and beaches are springing up again. This one was filled with people playing fetch with their dogs.

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I enjoyed the silence today and loved watching the butterflies, but I think I still prefer walking through the ravines. I have two new areas of the valley to still explore and they are ravines. Soon, I will visit them.

18 for 18: St. Albert Farmers’ Market

I love the rain. I woke up to buckets of rain falling from the sky and thought about my plans to visit the St. Albert Farmers’ Market with my mom. I immediately thought to bring my lovely umbrella that I do not get to use nearly enough! I packed another umbrella for my mom. I live as far from St. Albert as humanly possible for an Edmontonian. It is a good 40 Minutes from my house. We hopped onto the Henday ring road and made our way north. I had a vague idea where to find the market because google. I learned about the shuttle service from the village transit centre but we decided to take a chance on parking close to the downtown core. I am sure the rain kept the crowds away and we did score a sweet spot across the bridge. It was a perfectly lovely day for a walk.

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Everyone who has told me about this market raves about how amazing it is. Truth be told, it is pretty fantastic. Great selection, interesting vendors, and bigger than any market I have been to in Canada. Obernai, France is the biggest one I have ever been to.

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We tasted nifty things and saw very talented artisans showing their wares. I met some interesting Babas and Guidos, old-school farmers who invent their own tools and sell them or cook for days so you can recreate a Ukrainian feast in your own kitchen. A few garden markets had tomatoes, rhubarb, herbs and berries and two different craft breweries were on hand with samples. But my favourite? There was a birdhouse that was called ‘Train Station’, it reminded me of the front porch where I sat with my grandpa while he told me stories of the wild west and how he was a pioneer (all fabrication of course but that was part of the fun) and I loved that little birdhouse.

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I spent money on a wired knife gadget that did amazing things if you practice and I bought a new willow wreath for my fence. It is an exact replica of a wreath I bought the year I moved into my house in 2001. I needed a new one because it had disintegrated and just looked like a pile of sticks.

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My mom bought fresh Arctic Char and we reminisced about eating it when we lived in Yellowknife, she bought craft beer for my dad and she also bought the weird knife gadget from that guido farmer who I thought was a genius. We walked up and down the streets for about two hours, stopping to listen to music or chatting with vendors. I even ran into an old friend who looked fantastic. I loved everything about the morning and was so glad I made the trip. It is too far for me to go to every weekend when there are great farmer markets in closer proximity, City Market comes to mind, but I will go again and perhaps on the next rainy day.

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If you haven’t visited, think about it. Go early and stay long. Details can be found here.

Freewill Players: Shakespeare in the Park

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Summer nights in July and my first thought goes to warm evenings. So why wouldn’t I want to sit in the middle of Hawrelak Park and watch a play? Can you think of a better way to spend the evening?

It rained for most of the day and I was feeling cold but eager to head to the Heritage Amphitheatre for one of my favourite festivals of the year. We left the house at 6:30 because even when you pre-purchase tickets for a particular night if the place fills up, you risk having to sit on the grass. It sounds fun, but grass isn’t as soft as I remember as a kid. As it turned out, we were able to secure second-row stage left. The gates opened at 7:45 pm and they scanned our phones, technology is cool. My daughter bought tickets for last night’s performance in the car on the way. I found myself telling her an old-person story, “I’m from a time when you didn’t pre-purchase tickets except for Rock Concerts, and then you had to camp out at the box office to have a chance to see anyone decent.” Buying in the car is still amazing to me!

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I had the forethought to bring a quilt and a scarf. I regretted not bringing my winter jacket and gloves. It was damp and 16C felt very cold for me. I bundled up and snuggled in with the program while my companions decided to take in the preshow Puppet version of the play. We were seeing Comedy of Errors but Shakespeare isn’t written in a style that makes sense without having studied it and focusing on the cadence of the language. You can get the gist of it by watching the show unfold, but having the background is helpful. The Freewill Players have a short 10 minutes synopsis preshow to help people following along. It makes it a better experience if you understand the show.

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The Hubs and Chatterbox went to the puppet tent and had a great time. They both commented on the way back to the car they commented without the puppet show they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. I admitted I had no idea what the prologue was about until the final scene, then it all made sense, but I had no trouble following the storyline. I did study Shakespeare for three years in high school (Julius Ceasar, Macbeth and Hamlet) and in University (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Romeo and Juliette, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice). I felt confident I could follow along.

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There were several concession tents, one for food and one for beer and wine. There was also a souvenir tent selling shirts, squirrels and pins. Two different contests were going on, a 50/50 draw (I didn’t win) and a survey that enters you in for a dinner to Chanti’s (I didn’t win that either but the gal behind me did). I did have some popcorn at the intermission because the scullery maid ran across the stage chasing Dromio. She paused and said, “this will take several minutes, so why don’t you go get a beverage and some popcorn?” That sounded like a great idea so I gave $5 to Chatterbox and off she went.

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Not to give too much away, but one of my favourite things about the Freewill Player comedy productions is the Bollywood ending. Its fun and kitschy. Watch for no other reason than to see Jesse Gervais and Hunter Cardinal dance with their partners. They were hilarious.

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Comedy of Errors plays odd dates and Hamlet plays even dates. Pay what you will is Tuesday night and I think I might go see Hamlet or at least catch it on the weekend. I hear it is the best of the two productions and I thoroughly enjoyed Comedy of Errors so Hamlet might be worthwhile for me to head back out.

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Tickets and Showtimes available here. Remember to bring a blanket. Shakespeare in the park ends July 15th.

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