Tag Archives: Landscape

A River Runs Through It

Sunday 11 September 2022 – I promised you photos of the magnificent edifice that is the Fairmont Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton, and you shall have them.

The hotel is something of an anachronism. Edmonton is just this city, you know? High rise offices and apartments; obviously a workmanlike rather than a stylish city.  And then you have the Macdonald.

The historic and impressive hotel, named for the first prime minister of Canada Sir John A Macdonald, was built as an early 20th century railway hotel (like so many of the Fairmont portfolio) and occupies a commanding position overlooking the North Saskatchewan River that runs through the city. But, as you can see, it is dwarfed by the modern high rise buildings that tower over it. If you ignore them (and this is easy to do whilst seated on the patio, glass in hand, because the bulk of the hotel is between you and the towers), it’s a very pleasant oasis; we certainly found it very comfortable, and it was a pleasure to sit out on the patio. It overlooks the hotel gardens

which it is nice to wander through, and one gets a decent view looking south over the city’s suburbs.

We had only a single day in Edmonton with no formal items on the itinerary, so there was nothing for it but to go for a walk. Obviously. The river runs through a valley – unimaginatively called the River Valley – so it seemed only reasonable to go and explore that area.

Just by the hotel is something excitingly called a “funicular”, and technically that’s exactly what it is – a railway running up the side of a hill. However, I lived in Stockholm (Sweden) for many years (many years ago, now) and even then many of the the underground stations had a lift that simply ran beside the escalators that most people used. The Edmonton funicular is very reminiscent of that; if it ran vertically instead of at an angle, it would simply be a lift. You can see it on the left of this photo.

It leads down to a platform, the Frederick G. Todd Lookout, which gives good views along the river. From there, it’s easy to walk to the Low Level Bridge, seen here in the foreground

(there are a lot of bridges across the river, rather like Newcastle upon Tyne.)

We had a lovely encounter with an eccentric as we started to cross the bridge.  The eccentric, by the way, was a yellow labrador dog, called Lollipop.  Her owner is a chap (originally from Montréal, not that this is relevant beyond the fact that he identified us as being from the UK rather than Australia) who one might think was taking her for a bit of exercise whilst he cycled along.  The reality appeared to be the other way round; Lollipop had so much energy that she positively pulled him along.  He said that she could pull him for 35 kilometres on the bike, and, looking at the extraordinary energy emanating from this dog, I could believe him.  They had first accompanied us down on the funicular and Lollipop was panting as fast as a watch ticks – about five times a second, I reckon.  I was worried that she was over-exercised, until we saw her running, leaping, swimming and begging for more things to run after. I have never, ever, seen a dog with so much dynamic energy.

We pottered across the Low Level Bridge, which gives a nice view of one of the other bridges, the Tawatina Bridge, as well as the Edmonton Queen sternwheeler riverboat.

The Tawatina Bridge looked interesting, so we headed that way along a trail through the park, getting a closer look at the riverboat,

and, through the sort of serendipity that only aimless wanderers can achieve, had a wonderful half hour around the bridge, which is a double level, rail and pedestrian bridge. For a start, you get another view of the riverboat, hotel, lookout and funicular;

and the view along it is interesting

with some nice artwork on the ceiling.

There was a lot of noise, which came from a crane that was doing something mysterious on the river bank.  We stopped to watch, intrigued by bubbles coming up near the crane’s bucket,

which turned out to be from a diver who was attaching the cable to things to be extracted from the riverbed.  The appearance of the bicycle elicited a small cheer from the observers! It was great to work out what was going on, but it was only a few hundred yards later, as we left the scene, that we realised that we had never actually established why this was happening.  Anyway, we retraced our steps to the Low Level Bridge and carried on along the trail, which went through a park engagingly called Nellie McLung Park.  We had seen another interesting bridge further along the river

and wanted to explore it.  As we wandered, we had some nice views of the city of Edmonton, which is very colourful on a sunny day.

As we approached this bridge (which is the Walterdale Bridge, by the way),

we saw signs for “EMBFEST”.  I wondered whether the EMB meant “embankment”, but it turns out that that it stands for “Edmonton Mountain Bike“.

Having watched for a bit, we carried on to the Walterdale Bridge itself

and walked across, with the vague objective of finding our way back to the hotel past the City Legislature.  On the walkway underneath the bridge on the north side are two cryptic numbers.

These show the flooding levels in two particularly dramatic years.

At this point it was clear that we’d dropped down rather a long way, as the city was by now well above us; Jane had worked out that the Legislature was just where the city’s High Level Bridge debouched onto terra firma.  We headed, therefore, towards it and the one beyond it

which is another multi-level bridge, the Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (are you taking notes? There may be a quiz later), which itself gives some good photo opportunities.

If you’ve managed to follow this thread, you’ll know that we had, somehow, to get back up to the level of the main city.  Apart from calling a cab, the only route appeared to be

this one – the gloriously-named Royal Glenora Stairs. This staircase appears to be somewhere where people go to work out

and it certainly is hard work to get to the top.  in order to keep you all informed of the scope of my suffering, I started counting the steps until Jane pointed out that some kind soul had actually written numbers every ten steps, all the way up. Unfortunately, there has been a mishap with the counting as, by the time you get to the top, there are  competing versions of the truth.

Whatever, we were glad to get to the top.

We passed by the Legislature, an impressive building which was, sadly, covered with scaffolding and other signs of repair work being undertaken. I’ve done my best to disguise this in these photos.

Then we started to head back towards the hotel.  The hotel address is 100th Street, and we saw that avenue numbers for the Edmonton grid was also in the high 90s.  It would have been great to get some kind of photo of 100th Ave crossing 100th St, but sadly reality doesn’t permit this. The area generally seems to have a heritage component

but we didn’t find explicit explanation for this beyond the fact that 102 Ave leads past the Archives and the city museum.

As we reached the hotel, there was another statue of Robert Burns.  We’re not quite sure why, but this statue is directly outside a hotel called MacDonald, so the two may be linked. Google hasn’t helped me find out why Canada and Burns are particularly linked.

Jane had found something she particularly wanted to see, but it had to wait until after dark.  In order to entertain ourselves until then, we allowed Tyler once again to entertain us with courteously and efficiently-served drinks and a late lunch.

After dark fell we tottered out in search of the intersection of 104th Street and 104th Avenue.  In doing so we passed an engaging clock outside the Westin Hotel

and a couple of buildings which would probably have looked very ordinary in daylight, but which were attractive in the dark.

Eventually, we reached our objective – the Neon Light Museum, which had its external display switched on.

All these are signs from the 1960s which were donated to the Edmonton City Council, who eventually settled on a location to set them up as a tourist attraction.

The walk back went past other nice lighting,

a striking mural

and a quirky display of light boxes.

So my description of Edmonton as being merely workmanlike is a bit dismissive.  Our hotel does its bit to bring colour to the scene as well,

and so, all in all, we had a very agreeable day in Edmonton – sunshine, agreeable temperatures and some interesting things to see. I don’t know how much more the city might hold for tourists, and we certainly won’t find out, as we have to leave sharpish the next morning to get to Toronto.  That will be a day almost entirely taken up by travel, and thus not good material for an entry in these pages.  However, Toronto should be a splendid place for tourists like us to wander round and gawp at things, so please come back in a couple of days and I hope I will have interesting stuff for you to read.


End of Part II – well, nearly

Friday 9 September 2022 – We departed the UK one month ago and we return thither in one month’s time. Our time in Jasper marks the end of Part II – the Rocky Mountains Bit – and it’s been excellent. Part I – the Rugged North West and Wildlife Bit – took three weeks, which was relatively leisurely; Part II has been more full-on.

So we declared today a rest day.

We had originally considered visiting a couple of nearby lakes or taking an easy hike, but the lure of a lazy day proved stronger. Also, we had thought to go into Jasper itself and report back to Brendan, our long-suffering travel agent in the UK, about what it was really like in Jasper (which still has no power; we’d overheard a group yesterday discussing how they were moving on from Jasper because their hotel had no heating and no hot water). That plan got scuppered by a shuttle bus which departed too early.

Since the sun was shining, we took the opportunity to walk around the (considerable) grounds of the Lodge. It’s very photogenic.

We had some other encounters:

in the Smokehouse, where they serve breakfast, a Bison’s head (making this not so much a Breakfast Bowl as a Breakfast Bison);

A statue that can’t bear weight;

next door to it, an Eagle statue;

a greedy squirrel, stuffing his face with pine nuts;

and a Loon, also called a Great Northern Diver in Europe.

Sorry about the Loon photo, but that’s the best my camera could do. Also observing it, though, was a chap called Neil who was not so much a Loon enthusiast as a Loon obsessive; he even described himself as such. We had a very pleasant chat with him about these remarkable birds. He had a very expensive-looking long lens and video setup and was pulling together a four-minute piece on some aspect of the birds. The Loon is depicted on the Canadian one-dollar coin, which is why they’re called Loonies. That knowledge will win you a pub quiz one day, see if it doesn’t.

The main objective of our stroll, though, was to see a particular group of cabins, collectively called Outlook Cabin.

The reason for our interest was that these cabins were used during one of the many visits to Canada by HM Queen Elizabeth and her retinue, because they offered peace and a degree of isolation. Apparently she liked the Park Lodge for its tranquility; in the light of the news of her death, it seemed appropriate to visit it.

And that was the extent of our activity today, resulting in a mercifully short blog entry. Reader, you can have time off for good behaviour.

Tomorrow we embark on Part III, which is largely a series of successively easterly city visits. We start with a drive to Edmonton. The only thing I knew about it was that it was where Wayne Gretsky, a world-famous ice hockey player, expounded his art, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, a team name which doesn’t somehow convey the image of a chic place. However, we’ve chatted with a couple of hotel staff who are from Edmonton, and it sounds like an interesting town with a few ITTDs. We also have a few digressions en route, so we’re back to relentless tourism after our day panting in the shade. I hope you’ll come back to read about them as we go.

Stanley Nice

Thursday 1 September 2022 – Our last day in Vancouver dawned bright and sunny, with the prospect of the weather staying that way all day.  Guess how we spent most of it?  Yup – we went for a walk.  The obvious area for us to explore, because we’d gone in most other directions, was northwards to Stanley Park.  Exploring there fitted our schedule which had to include a couple of other items, one tedious but necessary and the other much more appealing. We had to be back by about 4pm, so that allowed us our usual latish breakfast before we set out – no mad dogs, but two English folk going out in the midday sun.

Our route gave me the opportunity to try a second time at photographing a couple of scenes.  The first was the “Cauldron”, created for the 2010 Winter Olympics here.  This time it wasn’t beset by hordes of people dressed in white.

Nearby was something we hadn’t spotted before – a highly pixellated statue of an Orca.

As we walked towards the park, we were overtaken by a paddle steamer (or “sternwheeler” as they call them in these here parts)

and we walked along the pleasant pedestrian trail, nicely segregated from hordes of people shooting by on various wheeled contraptions, through the gentrified Coal harbour, near which is another interesting architectural exhibit.

As well as trees and general greenery, of which there’s a thousand acres overall, there are many items of interest in the park.  Statues abound:

Robbie Burns, for no particular reason beyond the fact that he was famous, but I suppose the justification could be verse;

Harry Jerome, BC Athlete of the Century 1871 – 1971, holder of several world records, including 10.0 seconds for the 100 metres (1960); and

Lord Stanley,16th Earl of Derby, after whom the park is named.

There’s a miniature railway, which is jolly cute

and of which I had formed a mental image as having a steam train pulling the carriages. However

I was disabused of that notion. It’s still cute, but would be really something if they could actually manage a steam engine.

We’d been walking for about an hour by this stage in temperatures which were officially in the low 20s but which, in the full sunshine, felt a lot higher. So when we passed the rose garden

and its inviting pavilion

the prospect of a coffee or similar became very attractive. The staff seemed a little taken aback by having actual customers, but eventually things got into gear and we got decent coffee, and I had a beer to replace the electrolytes lost thus far on such a hot day.

Our wanderings then led us to the banks of Beaver Lake. At first it was challenging to believe that it was actually a lake

But it was, really.

We then headed towards the trail that leads round the edge of the park, as we wanted to see the Lions Gate Bridge, the large suspension bridge that crosses Vancouver Harbour to the north. Or south, if you’re coming back. It’s very impressive

but kind of difficult to convey photographically. We spent some time trying to do this and, basically, failing, so turned back to walk the waterside trail hotelwards. This took us past a small beach

and towards some further curiosities: a lumberman’s arch;

a kids’ splashpark;

a replica figurehead of the SS Empress of Japan, which took cargo to and from the orient around the turn of the 20th century –

presumably worth displaying because figureheads went out of fashion pretty sharply once steam ships, erm, took off; and a statue called “Girl In A Wetsuit”

Though initially Gull In A Wetsuit seemed more appropriate. Eventually the annoying bird left and I could get a proper version

and we carried on round the edge of the park. There’s never a dull moment: totem poles;

a splendid view of the sulphur processing facility on the opposite shore of the harbour (it’s from Alberta, apparently – the sulphur, that is, not the machinery);

the Nine O’Clock Gun

with its warning

(which is helpful, but goes nowhere near explaining why there’s a loud bang every night);  evidence that the segregated walking/cycling trail had its roots well before cycling became cool;

And even – gasp! – some wildlife.

Heron and harbour seal respectively and unconcernedly fishing and sunbathing (upside-down) as city life went on around them.

We’d walked a fair bit, but it’s clear from the map of our ramblings that we’d left a lot of the park unexplored,

Maybe we’ll be able to get back in some future life and explore further….

As you leave the park, there’s the very impressive HQ of the Vancouver Rowing Club

and then you join the trail leading back into Vancouver city. This gave me an opportunity to get some nice photos of my favourite type: reflections,

including a second attempt at one I tried on our previous visit;


I’m a bit happier with this version.

This brought us back to the city and the first, tedious, one of the two things we had to achieve – checking in for the Rocky Mountaineer, which will be our home for the next couple of days as we start Part Two. Our advance party (otherwise known as brother Chris, who has been about a month ahead of us on his version of a Canadian odyssey) had reported scenes of queues, chaos and confusion at the Pan Pacific Hotel, where a check-in facility had been set up. So we went in to scout out the scene. What we found was just a genteel and well-behaved (but quite long) queue,

So, since I know my place, I did my job as queue placeholder whilst Jane nipped back to the room for the paperwork. Over about half an hour we slowly edged forward and eventually reached the front. Because Jane is superbly well-organised, there was no call for chaos, or indeed confusion; we had all the right paperwork to hand, had checked in online and had our boarding passes; and so very swiftly got our baggage tags and instructions. These included being ready to leave our hotel at 0650 the next day, unfortunately, but, hey, that’s the price we pay for being on holiday.

That then (preparatory packing aside) left the way clear for the second, happily anticipated task, which was to meet the Delightful Danes, Philina and Søren, whose company we’d enjoyed so much in Farewell Harbour. Philina got in touch via this very blog and we established that we overlapped for one evening in Vancouver, so we went to meet them at a local eatery called Riley’s and had a very fine time. They had also had great luck with the wildlife at the lodge – fishing bears and breaching humpbacks, for example – and had visited a couple of wonderful sounding places. It was lovely to catch up with them, and I hope we will get a chance to meet them again some time in the future.

Then all we had to do was to set the alarm for 0530 in preparation for the start of Part Two – The Rocky Mountain Bit. Be assured that whenever I can get time and internet access I will report back, so please keep an eye out for the next thrilling installment.