Given the size and epic scale of Canada, you’d think there would be a natural gravitation towards larger cities as being the better places to live. Whilst Calgary certainly factors up there in number 2 spot for 2014 (Moneysense 2014 survey of best places to live), a much smaller town appears in the number 1 position – St Albert.
Luckily for me, it’s a small ‘town’ to the north-west of Edmonton in the state of Alberta. It’s a small community with a population of 64,000, unemployment is low, incomes are amongst the highest in Canada, crime rates are low, and whilst the winter is extremely cold and long, it’s sunny all year round. 20 minutes drive from Edmonton (who, incidentally, was placed 8th overall, 3rd best largest city to live in after Calgary and Ottawa), St Albert has an abundance of open spaces, active areas for sports of all types, and for those with ‘kids’ it seems to tick all the boxes, and is a parents’ dream.
St Albert has been mentioned to me by many people as ‘the’ place to live when we relocate. My husband visited it for the first time last week and (as instructed), came home at the weekend weighed down with maps, leaflets, newspapers and general ‘bumf’ about things to do, places to stay, where to eat, schools to attend. In fact, the most noticeable feature when you look at the street map, is the amount of play areas, parks, woodlands and sporting facilities there are available. He described walking around almost every corner to be greeted by another ‘park’ with climbing frames to die for – in fact, based on my middle ‘kids’ recent exploits and ability to fracture her wrist from some monkey bars (see previous blog), she’d be able to break almost every bone in her body each week for a year from what he saw in the play areas and the range of stuff to climb and generally have fun on. (Better make sure the medical cover is up to date 🙂 )
As in the UK, the weather was hot last week in St Albert, with paddling pools in abundance and fountains spraying water over pre-school children who were clearly in their element. These turn to ice rinks during the winter months when the snow arrives. There are basketball courts, rugby fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, athletic tracks, cross-country skiing facilities, BMX parks, canoeing, water parks and of course, swimming pools. Ice hockey pitches, fishing, golfing and nature trails also appear. And all this, in an area with a population size of 64,000.
64,000 people doesn’t sound a lot, and when I look at places I’m familiar with in the North-West of England, it’s equivalent to the population of Bury, a town just north of Manchester (yes, the one with the 2 football teams), and the place I was born and brought up in. I can probably recollect a few of the facilities in the list above being available, but certainly nothing the size and scale of leisure and active sports Canada seems to offer.
On the accommodation front, I hear it’s a busy market with properties not appearing and staying long on the open market before being snapped up. Not surprisingly, if the range of facilities is anything to go by, the sheer number of schools built to educate the youngsters, and the promotional material advertising it’s place in the top spot, it sounds like a prime location and let’s just hope we manage to secure even a tiny spot for the 5 of us.
I’m sure there’s a little space …