No one said an orientation visit would be a ‘holiday’ but we’ve been hard at it for the last 5 days. Aside from our ‘research’ into the emergency Children’s Hospital (see last blog), we’ve covered a lot of miles both on foot and in vehicle.
The city of Edmonton is beautiful – downtown is compact and everything is within easy walking distance. Whilst we’ve been extremely lucky and have had blue skies and sun for the vast majority of the week – always over 22 degrees – there’s no doubt that the winter when it arrives is cold and long. There are ‘pedways’ linking all the areas downtown such that you never need to go outside and can easily walk from one area to another – essential in bad weather. The majority of car parking is underground and in various ‘parkades’ around the city. However, the best feature is the people who are extremely friendly, welcoming and above all, positively glowing about life in Edmonton and it being the best place on earth to live.
We’ve visited Old Strathcona, a beautiful part of the city where the Farmers Market which is held there every Saturday will be an absolute must. Full of freshly grown produce, home made relishes and jams, honey, fresh bread, cheeses and hand turned wood carvings – the list is endless – the atmosphere is one of fun and welcome. The main street ‘ Whyte Avenue’, is strewn with artisan shops and cafes. There’s a heritage trail you can walk around and the high level streetcar which operates on the original Calgary to Edmonton ‘right of way’, passes many historic sites and is the highest streetcar bridge in Canada.
There are fountains of water for paddling and splashing during the summer throughout the city, and these turn into ice skating rinks during the winter. It truly is beautiful.
By car (we hired a Grand Cherokee which is huge by UK standards), and navigated our way around all the main suburbs and regions of Edmonton. We found areas where we’ll be targeting for houses to either rent or buy – we haven’t decided which yet – and all have immediate access to woodland, parkland and leisure facilities. We stumbled across some water parks which, given the fantastic weather, had children screaming in delight at the water jets and mini fountains they could play on. We don’t have anything like this in the UK – well, not that’s free – and these are dotted all across the city here. We were staggered that there were no entry fees of any kind, and even on a busy day, they weren’t overcrowded. Everything is highly maintained, attractive and fully functional. It’s probably stuff that people in other countries don’t even consider, but it’s such a welcome feature after living in the UK all our lives that I can’t wait to embrace. The kids can’t either!
Food wise, there’s loads of supermarkets and the farmers markets which provide direct produce and all the required essentials. We even spotted ‘English Mustard’, so the panic is over and we’ve identified where we can source this from without importing direct from the UK! Like in America, there is an abundance of fast food, high sugar, high fat and massive quantities on offer. It’s hard to find healthy food quickly and in small portions – all the more difficult when we’re staying in hotels too. That said, we’ve had some exceptional meals. The beef is superb – both in taste and texture. We’ve had bison burgers – lean and mean. A chinese meal that was completely different to that offered in the UK – but the best I’ve ever eaten. The flavour and range on offer for the main dishes was staggering and all the ‘kids’ declared this the best meal of the trip so far. The restaurant was in an unassuming building a few blocks away from where we’re staying, and not somewhere you would naturally think of venturing into. However, once through the door, it is a cavernous building decked in all manner of chinese adornment, and to add more spice, it turns out that the chinese ‘hosts’ have their own reality programme on Canadian TV which has won various awards – no wonder it was busy! Worth the experience certainly!
So, a superb 5 days and we all feel ready to embrace the Canadian life in Edmonton. Off to Jasper and the mountains tomorrow so we’re looking forward to seeing some hills, some snow and wild animals.
Better get the jumpers ready …