Edmonton Tourist: Ten Years of Travel

As we move into a brand new decade, I am reflecting on this decade. The last ten years of blogging have pushed me into unexpected places. I love my city but I knew there were places I hadn’t really been to. The more I visited the nooks and crannies of Edmonton, the more I knew I wanted to explore other places the same way. Becoming the Edmonton Tourist had me looking for those hidden gems that are free to explore and left me with delight at new knowledge of other places. My parents gave me the gift of travel and I have been all over the world. After being the Edmonton Tourist, I think I would explore those places differently if I had the chance to go back. As we move into 2020, I reflected on some of the best things I have seen in ten years. I eagerly look forward to exploring more because, to me, there is no better thing to be than a tourist.

2010: Vimy Ridge. I went to Europe with my famjam. We landed in Paris and explored France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany during a nine-day period – it may have been ten days, IDK, it was A LOT. We had a plan but the best part of the trip was the unexpected happenstance of stumbling upon Vimy Ridge. It was a complete accident that changed my life. The art, the unexploded shells, the trenches and the grave markers of boys who were not much older than my own shook me to my core. Thanks Vimy.

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2011: Banff National Park. My son and I went on a camping trip to Banff. Just the two of us. We created memories that we still laugh about. I learned he is more like me than I realized and we both love Johnsons Canyon. It was a pivotal moment for us. It is one of the greatest vacations of all time.  Thanks Banff.Johnston's Canyon - all paths deserve to be walked on

2012: Regina. I learned from my trip with my son that one on one time with your child is important. The next year my daughter and I went to visit my godmother in Regina. This was an epic trip filled with big things like the world’s largest coffee pot and Al Capone’s secret caves of Moose Jaw. But we also went to Dog River. A fictional town on the prairie where they filmed Corner Gas. It was such fun I cannot begin to describe it. Small town Saskatchewan was an unexpected great trip. Thanks Regina.IMG_1648

2013: Calgary. If you know anything about Alberta, you understand the love/hate relationship between Calgary and Edmonton. A bucket list item was to run a race with my dad. The fat girl whose grade seven gym teacher called her lard ass. Whose ex-boyfriend said fat made him lose his chubby. Proving to myself that I could run and run with my dad was a big deal to me. It was his birthday and we took my son to Calgary for the Calgary Marathon weekend. We ran the 10km. The Hubs and my daughter surprised me at the finish line. It was an epic day. I learned that Calgary puts on one of the best races I had ever attended….better than a Disney Race… The crowds were amazing and the sites were beautiful. Exploring a different city on foot was such a gift. Thanks, Calgary.

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Me and Dadeo at the finish

2014: Hawaii. For my son’s graduation, he got to pick a trip. He chose Hawaii. We went to Aulani, Disney’s resort on the west side of Oahu. We had been before when my son was 7 months old. He learned to crawl in Hawaii. I didn’t want to leave the resort. I am not such a big hot beach fan, I love the cold beaches of Tofino, but this place was magical. I loved it. I learned that I am impervious to sunscreen and can listen to the ocean for the rest of my life. The four of us explored every inch of the resort and spent time on top of volcanoes, looking at war memorials, learning about seafood and pineapple allergies but most of all just loved exploring with each other. Thanks Hawaii.

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2015: Big Sur. I was crew for my friend who ran from San Fransico to Anaheim (500 miles) to raise money and awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It was the loneliest trip of my life, but as with all times of loneliness, the greatest learnings come from that. It was my own pilgrimage of sorts. It was the greatest growth for me. It was the beginning of the end. I shed 500lbs of dead weight and began the long road to creating boundaries. I sat on a rock at Devil’s Slide and watched a pod of humpback whales swim by. It was a spiritual experience and the greatest learning of my life. This was the place where regrets were born, accepted and learned from. I returned to this spot on the way back home with my hubs. I cried for days. I cried all the way home to Canada. The great purge of emotion happened on this trip and I learned who I could trust, and who was loyal. I am grateful to my Hubs for taking such good care of me when I couldn’t care for myself. This place feels sacred. I long to go back. Thanks Big Sur.11921645_1125074180854471_1929081778109239340_n

2016: Vancouver. The year my daughter graduated, her chosen trip was to Vancouver. It is no secret that Vancouver is my favourite city on the planet. She was toying with the idea of going to school here. We did a different kind of trip than we normally do. We visited film sets. Heck, we even crashed a set at the Delta dog park during the filming of the Flash. We drove right on set with the confidence of the film crew. It was only later they asked us who were. We were lost and how the heck do we get out of here? Good times. I learned things about Vancouver I never knew before. What a great place to explore. Thanks Vancouver.

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2017: Tofino. The Hubs and I came here on our honeymoon way back in the early 90’s. In 2017 the Hubs just retired and I was about to start my new career. It had been a tough summer and I was ready for change. He surprised me with a trip to the Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach in Tofino. I walked straight into the ocean and stood there for an hour or two and just let the waves wash over me and heal me. I cried and let out all kinds of pain, trauma and RELIEF. I was reborn on that beach. It’s corny but true. A baptism of sorts. This remains the greatest vacation of all time. ALL-TIME! It only would have been better by having my kids there. I want them both to get married there and I want to move there. I never want to leave Tofino or Ucluelet again. When I win the lottery Friday night, Saturday morning I am packing and moving there. At least I will have a seasonal home there and a place here in Edmonton because I love Edmonton too. The ocean, the rainforest, the raven and the wolves are something special to me. I love this place. Thanks Tofino.

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2018: Vancouver Island. I loved 2017 so much, I needed to go back. This time I was healthier and could do more. 2017 was what my daughter refers to as the time I died. I didn’t but I was close to it. My kidneys stopped working and let me just say, I don’t recommend organ failure. It was a long road back, by the time I made it back to the west coast, I was ready to explore every nook and cranny. We hiked rainforest trails, explored the lighthouse, ate amazing things, went to a carving shed to meet an artist, met a gal who moved from Edmonton in the ’70s and never went back. This time we went in a boat to explore the ocean as well. We saw eagles, sea lions, harbour seals and orcas. ORCAS! Damn, I love you Tofino.

2019: Jasper. Secret Season is the best. My daughter’s 21 birthday was spent at Disneyland. It took up most of my money. The hubs and I wanted a vacation so we booked off-season at the Jasper Park Lodge and saw things I hadn’t seen before. Winter in Jasper before ski season is THE BEST EVER! We saw wildlife and zero people, except for that couple from New York City who was shocked I was wearing a sweater and no parka. Winter in Alberta is different than in New York. What I think is warm is apparently FREEZING in NYC. Big babies… Seriously though, make the trip for the wildlife and the scenery and the quiet because it is worth every second. Thanks Jasper.

img_4557 2020: The Unknown. I think I will go to Kamloops for a spiritual conference at the Akashic Ranch in June. But I might go to Sedona and explore vortexes or Santa Fe for the Balloon Festival. I might wander down to Waterton National Park or take my kids back to Aulani, maybe we will go to Disneyland and visit Galaxy’s Edge or just stay at home. I don’t know. But I do know I will be exploring more provincial parks, hanging out in my river valley and poking around new restaurants and maybe take in a festival or two. 2010-2019 showed me a lot of amazing things. I am positive the next 10 years will show me more.

Get out and explore, you won’t regret it.

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper Park Lodge

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Last week I told you about my little getaway during secret season at Jasper National Park. We decided to make it a resort getaway, so we booked two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This is the place where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stayed for their honeymoon. The Jasper Park Lodge opened as a tent city in 1915 then eventually was taken over by Canadian Pacific Railway and became one of the great railway hotels of Canada. If you have stayed at any of the other Fairmonts in Canada, you know what I mean. It is high end and exquisite. I had been here before for a quilt workshop and my hubs and I came for a weekend getaway 25 years ago, but I had not been here since.

I booked through the AMA website and found a deal, and I mean DEAL for $200 a night. Worth noting – this is not a sponsored post. That is a typical night stay in town in a regular hotel. Offseason midweek makes a big difference plus being an AMA member sure helps. It’s worth it to keep your eye on deals.

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We checked in late on a Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning the hotel texted to welcome me and asked why I was coming. I let them know it was a nice getaway for us since we hadn’t been in 25 years. They asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said no. I did consider bringing Cap, with a pet fee of $50 per night, I thought against it. If my kids were with us then I would have brought my pal. When we checked in we were immediately upgraded to a cottage on the lake. Here was the view from the living room – that’s right I said living room.

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Lac Beauvert was frozen without snow so in a few weeks there will be some good skating going on! The room was large with a king bed and the sofa was a pull-out. Down the hall were a coffee bar and fridge. There was a large double-wide closet with robes, slippers, and an umbrella.

The first thing we did was take a walk along the lake. To go around the lake takes about 45 minutes, we made it about halfway before it became too dark to walk in the woods in wolf country. The smell of pine in the air is an instant stress reliever for me. Honestly, I don’t know what I prefer more, the mountains or the ocean. The high-end cottages, where Royalty stays, were all decked out with Christmas lights. They were so pretty through the trees.

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The big cottage sleeps ten (I think) and has a full kitchen, fireplace, study, dining room and three bathrooms. Everyone gets a bedroom. I want to book this one year for my family at Christmas. The hotel will put up a tree and we can either have Christmas dinner catered in the cottage or we can cook it. One day… its a bucket list item for sure. This is the Royal one. Very secluded and quiet on the point.

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You walk down from the cottage and can sit on the cute bench, I guessed the royals sat here at least once.

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We walked back to our cottage and I thought about how lovely this was. Very few people were around.

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We made a cup of tea and I pulled out my knitting. It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect ending to the day. Eventually, we made our way to the main lodge for a bite to eat. Since we ate a big lunch at Jasper Brewing Company, it was late before we decided on cocktails and nibblies. We walked the 5 minutes to the lodge and went up to the Emerald Lounge. I looked at the menu and thought hard about creating my own Old Fashion. Look at the choices!

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In the end, after all the big talk of wanting a cocktail, I had a glass of shiraz and the hubs had a Jasper Ale. We ordered the charcuterie board, it had interesting things on there like elk sausage and other game meats, cheeses fruit and nuts. We decided to share dessert and landed on the rhubarb sorbet and lemon mascarpone mousse. It was so good, we ordered another the next night.

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We poked around the lodge before heading back to our room. Christmas in November happened the week before so the decorations were up. After hearing all about it, I put that on my bucket list for another year. Perhaps I can convince my mom to postpone her trip to Europe next year and I will take her for a treat.

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The gingerbread house filled the lobby with the aroma of cinnamon and ginger. I am considering making one for my office and keeping it up all year round.

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I only need 440 lbs of flour. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I can make it in batches.

Stanley the house labrador dog was off duty when we stopped by. I didn’t get to see him at all over the stay, he was either walking or resting.

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The walk back to the cottage was surprisingly bright. The full moon lit up the mountain range.

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This was the same shot the next morning.

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We woke up early, and by early I mean we stumbled in for breakfast about 9:00 am. and ate at Orso Trattoria. The only problem with the secret season is the limited availability for dining options. However, the breakfast was good with a view that was only rivalled by my breakfast view at Wickaninnish in Tofino.

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You are looking at Edith Cavell. That tiny dot on top of the mountain is the Jasper Sky Tram. You can go up there and see for days (but only in the summer season).

After our day of site seeing, we came back to this:

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I guess they thought 25 years meant anniversary? It was so thoughtful and delightful! The raspberry macaron was the best one. They were super fresh. The champagne went in my bag for New Years!

We headed back to the Emerald lounge for snackies, we didn’t have the strength to drive into Jasper  – buy that I mean, I didn’t feel like calling for the car because there wasn’t anywhere to self-park, they do it for you. I loved the ritual of walking to the lodge for meals. Especially in the full moonlight.

The next morning we repeated the same breakfast plan. Each meal we took the time to get to know the servers. Most of the staff come from Austalia or Ontario. The Alberta kids think the Rockies are old hat, so they travel farther west to surf and work at the Wick. The staff live on the property and are amazed at their view every morning. I regret not coming to Jasper after college. I thought about it but never did. In my next life, I am totally doing that!

We took a walk around the property before we headed back to pack.

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The pool is open all year round. It’s heated obviously and you swim through a tunnel from the indoor pool. It was 32F that morning with one brave dude swimming and taking in the view.  Its fine until your hair gets wet. We continued walking towards the boathouse.img_4513

If you are looking for peace, I recommend a few days here. Jasper National Park is a world-class destination, rich in history and wildlife. If you have been before, you know what I mean. If you have never been, come. If you see me poking around, come say hi.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper National Park

Have you heard of the Secret Season? I had, but I had no idea there was a special name for it! Of course, I am referring to the ‘offseason’ in the Rocky Mountains. It is the time after fall but before ski season and Christmas break.

I went the second week of November to Jasper National Park. I had been to Banff during the secret season and its still a little on the crowded side. Lots of tourists out looking at cool things. But Jasper? This as my first time. If you have ever visited Jasper National park in peak season, May to October, then you know how busy it can get.

We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. The plan was to stop at Jasper Brewing Company for lunch, walk around downtown and head off to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to check-in and have dinner. Finding parking is usually a complicated experience so you take the first spot you find at the far east of town and walk several blocks to the far west side of town.

The lack of people almost tricked us into parking by the totem pole. Almost. I suggested we drive closer to the brewery. We found four spots IN FRONT OF THE BREWERY! FOUR people, FOUR!

We went inside and one other couple was there. We didn’t have to wait for a table. While we were there one couple and a group of 8 came in. That was it. Lunch was delicious as always and we each had the winter ale because…winter and we like ale. But I know from experience the 150 IPA is fab and so is Jasper the Bear Ale, which is my usual. When I say ‘usual’ I mean the last time I had beer was three years ago. I gave it up, and all things carbonated. I treated myself on this occasion because ale is just so good with the fried chicken sandwich with siracha aioli.

After lunch, we toured around town, which was empty and largely closed. A lot of shops and restaurants were closed for the season.  We popped into Parks Canada’s information building and bought a friends of parks t-shirt. All proceeds go to supporting Parks Canada. My favourite vacation spots in the world are thanks to Parks Canada, so I support where I can.

Across the street from Parks Canada is the totem pole, so I stopped in the middle of the road and took a photo. No one tried to run me over, I stood there for a good long while just marvelling at the spaciousness of an empty park. It was absolute heaven!

The totem still looks good and is easier to see without people standing in front of it. Then we sauntered back to the west side of town and drove to the hotel where we had booked a few nights. I will go into greater detail of the resort in a future post. But I will say this, Jasper Park Lodge is lovely. We had dinner at the lodge and poked around the grounds before calling it a day.

The plan for the next day was to head down the Banff Jasper Parkway and see what we can see. At breakfast, we overheard people talking about the big horn sheep heard at Medicine Lake and thought maybe we should go there first since we are already on the south side of the Athabasca River.

We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Maligne road. We normally stop at the canyon first but we wanted to see the herd before they moved on. It didn’t take long for the dry snow-free road to becoming a snow-packed but sanded winter driving road. The higher we climbed in elevation the more snow we encountered.

The vistas were phenomenal. I come up here frequently in the summer but the mountains really show off their craggy detail in the winter when covered in snow. It was spectacular. There was a forest fire through the pass a few years ago so the mountains are on display for all to see. When we arrived at Medicine Lake, there was the herd, down on the frozen lake. They look like dots but it really shows the scope of Annunciation peak.

Here they are in the zoom version.

Then we came across a moose sow and her calves. I have only been this close to a moose on my street. Never in a National Park. But that’s Canada for you.

The air was crisper than at the lower elevations. Jasper townsite is 1060 metres (3477 feet), the climb up to Medicine lake to us to an elevation of 1670 metres (5479 feet). It put things in perspective, Vancouver’s elevation is 0 because its at sea level and Edmonton is at 2300 feet. It was 9C in town but -5C at the higher elevations. We met a couple from New York State sitting in their car at Maligne Lake. They had boots, snow pants, down-filled jackets big mittens and a hat. I wore my converse, jeans and a sweater. They marvelled at the lack of winter clothing we had on. It felt like spring to us, but we are smart winter travellers and know that anything could happen. In the car were winter boots, jackets, mitts, hats scarves, blankets plus an emergency kit with hand warmers, booster cables, emergency blankets and all that other important stuff you need to keep warm in your car until help arrives. Happily – none of that was needed and we chatted for a while with the American tourists.

We made our way back down to the townsite and ate lunch at the Other Paw, a sister bakery to the Bear Paw. Both are delicious. The Other Paw, is more of a deli and we had fantastic sandwiches and cookies.

Bellies satisfied, we went south down the parkway to Sunwapta Falls. This is where I was not dressed for the conditions. It was too slick to hike down the icy pathway towards the falls. I did not want to be a statistic, so we took photos of the totems and drove back towards Athabasca Falls.

Again, not dressed for the conditions, but we drove over the bridge and took some lovely shots.

Then hopped back into the car and headed north to Pyramid Lake. I didn’t take a single photo. It was nice just to sit and look. Being present on this part of the journey was wonderful. It was interesting to me that Patricia Lake was not frozen, yet 200 meters away, Pyramid was. I wondered f there was an underground spring or heat source that kept the water open. During WWII, they tested ice hull aircraft carriers and one is at the bottom of this lake. Not that the open water had anything to do with it, but it may be why they chose that lake to test it.

Driving back to the room, we saw a mule ear buck just sauntering along Mildred Lake. The amount of wildlife we saw on this trip was the opposite of the amount of people we saw. Elk, deer, big horn and eagles were out in full show. Come during the secret season for a quiet and restful few days. You won’t be disappointed.