Edmonton Tourist: Thunder Lake Provincial Park

After working my summer away doing cool things. I took a much needed mental and physical break to do more cool things. This time of year I like to visit the west coast but I was there in the spring and honestly, I don’t have the vacation time or money to spend. I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 21st birthday this year. My children can convince me of anything but don’t tell them that. I am putty in their hands and they will always come first. Even now that they are adults, they are the most important thing to me. So, vacation dollars were wasted spent on her. That leaves me with enough spending cash to enjoy a staycation with a few little side trips. Honestly, Edmonton is just as interesting as hundreds of other cities I have visited, the only thing missing for me is the ocean. I still seek out water, it just doesn’t sound the same as my beloved Pacific Ocean.

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Day 3 of my staycation took me to Thunder Island Provincial Park. It is about a 100-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. This is another one of those places in Alberta that I had never been to. It amazes me that I have walked on Vimy Ridge, gazed up at the Sistine Chaple, explored the Seven Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, felt the spray of Niagra Falls, kayaked with orcas, hiked a rain forest, looked at a shrunken head and gazed upon the Book of Kells and stood at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity but I have not explored much of my home province. I am not sure what inspired me to explore Alberta Parks, but here we are.

I am having a hard time being alone with myself lately so I invited the hubs and my Chatterbox to join Captain and me on this day-trip north. I packed a lunch that included the hub’s favourite road trip cookie – the Fudgeo. The lunch is the classic hobo lunch my daughter(s) prefer while on a trip. It is an assortment of good cheese, Italian meats, crusty bread, balsamic and olive oil, veggie sticks and fruit. We threw in extra spicy Cheetos for funsies. I tossed in the trusted Bearclaw quilt that goes to all beaches with me and the 25-foot tether for Cap. There was a bear warning at this park – one was in the area so Cap needed to be close by…just in case.

We arrived at about 10:30-ish and headed straight for the day-use area. We had the vast parking lot to ourselves. We jumped out of the car at took in the view. This place was gorgeous. The leaves were beginning to turn and the air was crisp. Fall is definitely here.

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We walked along the beach for a bit and I imagine this place will be packed over the weekend.  For now, I was just enjoying the silence. Its something I had not experienced in a while. I thought it was quiet at Pigeon Lake but this was the kind of quiet that made you think you were the only person left on the planet. There were no car or boat sounds. No other human voices. Only the occasional bird. Even the trees were quiet, my daughter quipped, “they must be mad at each other”.

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We walked along the shore towards the pier, a small but reminiscent pier of my grandpa’s cabin at Isle Lake near Athabasca. It was solid but small and was yearning for a boat so we could go for a ride or head out to fish.

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As usual, my fraidy-cat dog walked on it and scared himself thinking he might get wet. He quickly scampered off so we decided to get on one of the trails to see what we could see.

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There was a look-out indicated on the map, so we planned to look for it. But the map wasn’t very useful. Eventually, we figured it out. First, we travelled along the shore.

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The water was smooth like glass. We saw beaver evidence and counted the loons on the lake – or ducks. They were so far out of my vision range, I couldn’t tell which they were. We watched a few bees gather pollen from the flowers. Thrive little bees, the world needs you!

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As we continued on our exploration, I pointed out asters and goldenrod, rosehips and dogwood, always reminding everyone they wouldn’t get scurvy being shipwrecked with me! Keeping Cap alive will also be important once we are shipwrecked because that boy is a hunter. He flushed out a grouse who flew into the tree to watch us. Cap was having a great time and I think he would have caught the bird had we let him go. With the bird in the tree, Cap was at the base just teasing it and laughing the whole time.

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We stood watching each other for a few minutes until the grouse had enough and flew off. Cap pulled Chatterbox into the brush but she slowed him down and we got him back on course.

We backtracked to the trailhead for the lookout which went straight up. You could tell we were out of the prairies and headed into the boreal region. More hills and forest than meadows and fields.

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When we reached the top, we discovered the ‘Lookout” was grown over and all you could see was choke cherries and hazelnut bushes.

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So much for seeing the lake from up high.

We walked along the road towards the beach to have our Hobo Lunch.

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Picnics are the best.

The drive home was quiet, mostly because I slept all the way. I think I am still recovering from my weekend at Pigeon Lake. Thunder Lake Provincial Park is gorgeous and I highly recommend packing up a picnic or your tent and go spend some time exploring this gem.

Edmonton Tourist: Bountiful Farmers’ Market

There is a new indoor market in Edmonton I was curious about it. I have been to other cities with indoor markets like Seattle or Vancouver. I like the atmosphere of these places. Edmonton has a year-round indoor market in Old Strathcona. The Strathcona Farmers Market is busy and bustling with long-time favourite vendors. The new Bountiful Market is similar but not as bustling as the other ones I had been to. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the lack of people crashing into me. I think this is because of the wide isles. The number of people there had to be as many as found in Strathcona. The cars were parked as far as the eye could see in either direction on 97 street plus the parking lot was full.

The place smelled clean and not of fish or farm. It was bright and airy with a variety of stalls that I hadn’t seen before. Often you go to the City market or 124 street and you can find the same vendors. This all seemed new.

I arrived as it opened with my pal Andie in tow. Our first stop was coffee for here but I just looked around and chatted with her when she wasn’t chatting with people she already knew. People say I know a lot of people but Andie knows twice as many as me. The crowds hadn’t begun to build so it was easy to talk to vendors. I liked the way the stalls were built. Each had a frame and a sign. It was consistent and pretty. I had no idea how important that was until I experienced it. It made the space inviting.

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Most vendors were set up for taste samples. I tried everything from gin – deep regret that I didn’t buy it. I will need to go back to buy some- to gelato. There were pretzels and perogies plus endless fruit and vegetables. The flower vendor had the loveliest peonies available. It made me think of a friend of mine and her lovely garden. She should consider selling cut flowers at different markets.

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We stopped often and spoke to everyone. I sampled things that were delicious and tried some things that I wish never entered my mouth. But that’s how it goes and why you should taste before you buy. My taste isn’t for everyone.

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It excites me that we have another indoor market in Edmonton and on the south side that’s close to me. Soon all the stalls should be filled and then this place will really be hopping!

You can find it here:

  • 3696 97 Street, Edmonton
  • 9am – 5pm every Friday, Saturday, Sunday — all year.

For more information visit Bountiful Farmers’ Market and say hey to the Trouble Monk people, their gin is delicious.

Edmonton Tourist: Hermitage Park

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Forever ago I pledged to visit all the River Valley parks the city of Edmonton has to offer. My criteria were based on parks that were outlined here. Looking at that list, Buena Vista and Gallager didn’t make my cut because I wanted the park to be a destination for more than one activity. Buena Vista is a dog park and I could never go there in spite of Captain my beloved Labrador Husky. He gets distracted easily and I can’t trust that he won’t run off or hurt someone. So, he is never off-leash in my presence. I have walked past Buena Vista numerous times on my run from Hawrlak to Laurier. It looks like all the dogs who visit love it there. Gallager is another odd park, it is a hill with a view and is where Folk Fest is held every year. I have been there but I decided not to include it in my parks series.

I finally made it to Hermitage Park. Why did it take me so long? Well, it is far from my house. It is located in North East Edmonton and I just don’t get there very often. In the late 80’s I lived 5 minutes away by bike, do you think I ever visited? Not a chance. Strange how life takes you places.

I had no idea how to find this place but happily, the City had well-placed signs to help me locate it. Did you know it has a fishing lake? This would have been a place my grandpa would have loved. Yet, we never went.

Captain and I went on a Friday afternoon. I took some of the overtime I had and decided we needed to enjoy some sunshine after the copious amounts of rain we have had this year. The roads in the park are TERRIBLE. They are covered in potholes, flooded and are in general bad condition. I parked at the far south end in a gravel lot. This park has been around for 40ish years and there is still a gravel lot?

Cap and I hopped onto the paved bike path and began walking north.

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Heading south would have taken us under the train trestle and into Rundle park.  We walked a few minutes and found a dock. IMG_3595.jpg

I had no idea you could fish here. They keep it stocked with lake trout. It was a floating dock and Cap hated every minute we walked on it.

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But it gave us great views of the water. When we walked backed at the end of the day, a family of 6 was fishing. They were hoping to catch dinner.

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Cap was happy to be off the floating dock and back on solid ground. We discovered where the largest goose population in Edmonton is.

 

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There had to be a dozen different flocks or gaggles. This was a great location for ducks too. Strangely, Cap didn’t try to eat one bird as is his usual habit. He did enjoy scaring them by walking up to them and forcing them into the water. He had the biggest smile on his face.

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So many feathers and so loud! The point birds were directing everyone into the water, especially the younglings. Captain just walked on by.

There were several ponds, I think I counted five. Only one was stocked with fish. We walked to the top of the hill and found picnic tables and fire pits. We sat for a bit to enjoy the view.

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Further north was an off-leash dog park and some public art that we didn’t make it to because our day was running short. So we walked back along the road to check out some of the other ponds and explore the wildlife that lived there. I thought I might see muskrats but only found more ducks. The large trees provided lovely shade along the walk.

Hermitage is a lovely park but it is just too out of the way for me to visit often. If I ever decide to go fishing again, I would definitely visit here. Too bad we missed out grandpa.

Edmonton Tourist: Irene Parlby Park Take 2

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Way back in 2016 I did a quest that focused on visiting all the Edmonton River Valley Parks. I did that except one – Hermitage Park. I haven’t been yet. Maybe this weekend. I never think to go there mostly because it is in a part of town I never visit so it’s off my radar. My favourite is Mill Creek Ravine, followed by Irene Parlby Park. You can read the original post here.

I went back as I do, several times a year because I love it. If you told me I could live in Rossdale, I would pack my bags and be there in a heartbeat. Either Rossdale, Cloverdale or Riverdale, I could live there easily. I had heard the walkway from Irene Parlby to the Walterdale Bridge was open. This walkway had been closed since I began running. I ran my first half marathon in 2011, this was my first race. I am not like those other people who work their way up in mileage. No, I like to go big or go home. Now, eight years later, I realize going home is way better. I have all the things I love at home from family and my pal the dog, to coffee and my cozy blanket suitable for snoozing on the couch. But I had always wanted to see what that path was like. SO I DID IT.

Last Sunday.

I parked north of the park mostly because the area is zoned for permit parking because of the proximity to the baseball diamond, ReMax Field. Plus there was a game that day. Captain and I walked the three blocks to the start of the park.

The first thing we noticed was the lack of mowing done by the city. I thought this park was more manicured than it appears. I like growing parks naturally along the river and ravines, but this park should be an exception. Why? For no other reason than I like it that way.

The public art is still beautiful.

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We met other dogs and people along the way. Runners and cyclers were out in full force. Then we made it to the gate that had been closed my entire running career.

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Glory be! It was open and no one was happier than me and my pal Cap.

Did you know there is a new footbridge too? Well, I had no idea what was here so I am assuming its new.

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It looks new. This gave me a nice perspective of Queen Elizabeth Park (formerly my favourite park and is my favourite picnic park).

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To the untrained eye, it is just river valley forest. I know it is in there. Trust me.

We walked further west and checked out the Rossdale treatment plant fun facts. I can’t remember any of them. All about the environment and watershed. Oh wait, I remember the headwaters come from the Columbia Icefields and Saskatchewan Glacier. I may have already known that having visited the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River at Saskatchewan Crossing many times along the Jasper/Banff Parkway.

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Bonus view of Walter in the distance.

We made our way to Walter. The new Walterdale bridge. I love this bridge. She is a beaut. I had always wanted to walk underneath but alas it was closed during construction and my entire running career. But now I had my chance and she did not disappoint.IMG_3499

The landscaping around it is lovely.

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All native Alberta plants from trembling aspen to wild rose.

We spent a good hour exploring the area and walked back through the residential Rossdale, where I fantasized about living in one of the restored homes. Although secretly I prefer Infill. Don’t tell anyone.

It’s now open for recreation use and I encourage you to take a peek. I love my city and I hope you get a chance this summer to find out you love it too.

 

Edmonton Tourist: End of the World

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I have often wanted to visit the End of the World located at the old Keillor Road in Edmonton’s Belgravia neighbourhood. For a long time, this place was the stuff legends were made of. The kind of place that was secret and only a few locals knew about. I tried to get there once before but the steep bank looked to be a bit much for me in my current state of health.  I could see myself falling into the river below or worse, breaking something that would leave me laying in the words until animals found my body, dined and scattered my bones across the valley. For obvious reasons, I never made it.

This was once a retaining wall from the old road that snaked its way out of the valley an into the University area. As the bank deteriorated and risk of collapse was something the City wanted to avoid, they closed Keillor Road and converted it into a pedestrian and bike path for people to use. It is a lovely section of the valley. You can park Whitemud Park and follow the path behind the Whitemud Equine Centre. On a good day, horses are close to the fence and come say hi. My dog Captain loves seeing the horses so this is usually a long stop for us to visit with these animals. If you follow the path up the banks of the valley, you find yourself on Saskatchewan Drive. If you make a sharp right you will find the lookout. Alternatively, follow Saskatchewan drive south, you’ll come to it eventually. The walkways are full of people running, strolling skateboarding or cycling. Don’t assume you’ll be alone. Plus there is the added fun of people having a little weed part. I went on 420 so there were a few people enjoying the first legal 420 in Edmonton.

The City of Edmonton also thought this was unsafe for people to visit, so they developed it for everyone to access the lookout. Part of me thinks it was a good idea and part of me was disappointed. Secret locations are fun and feel exotic, but now I had an opportunity to access it.

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As always, my faithful companion on all my adventures joined me. He validated my suspicion of his fear of heights. He does not like bridges and lookouts. But he was brave enough to wait while I took photos but he wasn’t allowing me to sit and take in the view.

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I entered from the south entrance via the stairs. I have to admit it felt a little anticlimactic after seeing the photos of people who hiked through the woods to get to the concrete pilings. There was a lot of people here but I waited to get them out of my photo. I descended the steps to the platform.

There is a narrow section that overlooks the southwest part of the city.

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Off in the distance is the Quenelle bridge but standing here, it’s hard to believe this is the middle of the city. I think that’s what I love most about Edmonton. Stand in the valley and you forget you are in an urban centre.

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Turning to face the river I could see the Valley Zoo parking lot, Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and the rowing club.

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Turning to my right I could see the Beauvista dog park and the bridge to Hawrelak Park.

That Alberta blue sky always gets me. I could have stood here longer taking in the view but my poor dog did not enjoy being so high up, so I let him take me further north along the lookout.

I don’t think the entire space is finished. There are snow fences placed along the edge and the path is gravel. If the city is going to make this accessible for others, I suspect they will pave the path. Although it is a fairly steep climb for a wheelchair.

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It didn’t occur to me to take the photo before climbing out of the valley, but I did turn around once I was at the top.

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I recommend visiting the lookout this summer. I think I will return once the valley is in full foliage and again in the fall. I think when everything is covered in a blanket of snow it will also be lovely. So tell me, did you ever visit before the City built the stairs? Can you tell me about the walk to the End of the World?

Remember to get out there and explore your home. Be the tourist in your town and learn the secret spots. I suspect you live in a fascinating place too.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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