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Reports

Thursday, 10 July 2003
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -> Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

It was already Thursday July 10, but this report starts at 0.30 AM in the early morning. Katya and Annie dropped me off at the remote train station outside of Saskatoon where I got on the night train to Edmonton not much later.
Thanks to VIArail sponsorship I could get to Edmonton, and they even threw in an upper berth in one of the sleeping cars. When I got on the train the bed was already made. I got my stuff up there and crawled under the warm blankets.

Hello Canada, train travelling isn't that bad after all!

It was some five hours later, around 7 AM that I got myself to the dining car where I would get a complimentary breakfast. I had to rush through the vegetarian omelette and coffee because Edmonton was already in sight.

First is saw the glowing green hills with here and there a few oil towers for a while, then the train drove through an industrial area with even more oil refineries and big storage tanks and then I finally got to the residential areas of Edmonton with the skyline of the small city in the background.

At 8 o'clock I met up with Sylvia Martin, who had invited me over in Edmonton and picked me up at the train station. Even in Edmonton the train station is not anyway near the down town area, but that did not seem to be a problem for Sylvia. "My husband had to go to work already, he'd love to have come along. He loves trains," she said.

Welcome to Edmonton, the provincial capital of Alberta! Of course, again, this isn't the biggest city in the province, that's Calgary. But that's how they do things in Canada.

Edmonton is situated above the waters of the North Saskatchewan River, whose green valley winds below the high-rise of the downtown area.

The first thing we did was to drive to Sylvia's family home. Sylvia is married to Doug Carlyle and has two children: Cecely (15) and Stuart (12, but in two days he'll be 13). They all live in a nicely historic house. Sylvia actually finds it small, but I find it comfortable.

"We have been living here for so long now, that we will be breaking out the original kitchen very soon and take down a wall to create a bigger kitchen," she said.

Right after I had settled Sylvia allowed me to have a little sleep-in in my basement guestroom. I had slept on the train, but it was still different because at 8.30 AM my eyes wanted to close again.

After this little sleep I arrived back on the first floor again and met up with the kids who also just woke up. Cecely was walking around with crutches as she had broken her right leg with soccer a few weeks ago. It's the second broken-leg person I meet in two days, because Katya's brother Cayley also walked with a broken leg!

Sylvia prepared a tuna salad sandwich for lunch. In the living room she sat across of me and took out her notebook. This notebook contained two pages of things to do in Edmonton and it was all up to me what I wanted to do or see. I was very impressed, but if you give me options: I am a very bad decider. And secondly, I don't live here either, so I don't know what is more interesting than something else.

We agreed on just going for a drive around the downtown area. It was a really sunny day, one of those days that make a city come alive and people wonder along the streets. On of the stops along the tour was at the High Level Bridge. Cars drive on the lower level and on top rides this very old tram car up and down. But the most particular things is the Great Divide Waterfall that falls down of the bridge. It's basically a big fountain that pumps the water from the river up the bridge and sprays it out again. But even though it's artificial, the waterfall is 63 meters high seven metres higher than the Niagara Falls. While we were there they were actually testing it for full usage later this month. As soon as I took a photo, the fall was suddenly turned off.

We drove along downtown overlooking the green river valley at the side. Sylvia actually pulled over here and told me I had to take a picture of this.

I was honestly not that interested in a green valley, more in the city of Edmonton itself and carefully expressed this to Sylvia. And the next minute we were driving from the Alberta Legislature Building to the main streets of town and passed the pyramids of the City Hall (virtual tour), overlooking the grand mirror glassed sky scrapers.

I can see many green treed river valleys on my travels, but don't often see a city hall in the awkward style of pyramids. On the square in front of the building fountains were cooling down kids who splashed around in a knee-deep pool.

Edmonton felt oddly thin, even in the six-block downtown area around Sir Winston Churchill Square and along the main east-west drag, Jasper Avenue (leading to Jasper).

Sylvia is an Information Services Librarian at the Provincial Court Libraries in Edmonton, so when we passed her big office building I had to take a picture of it.

To experience the city on a different way than on feet or in a car, Sylvia invited me along for a riverboat cruise on the North Saskatchewan River. The Edmonton Queen is a 170 foot paddle wheeler that cruises the river day by day. While enjoying the sun and drinking slush puppies the boat went up and down the river, exposing the green valley and the heavily constructed downtown area.

That was a nice break from the impressive but always overwhelming sightseeing tour. Fortunately Sylvia had invited me to stay another day so she could also take me to the famous West Edmonton Mall and have a stroll through the Old Strathcona district in town.

On the way home Sylvia got a few videotapes for Cecely at Blockbuster. She can't move around much, so she enjoys watching videos with her feet up. "It is not really funny to break a leg when the summer vacation just started," she told me.

Back home I relaxed with the children, who either watched video or used the computer to chat with friends through Messenger. Sylvia was a bit stressed when it came to me using the Internet at their place. The kids had to get off the net as soon as I would need it. Fortunately I first had to write a lot on my laptop, offline, so the kids didn't really have to worry much.

In the evening, during dinner I met up with Doug Carlyle. Doug is director of a landscaping company and with pride he told me how his company is working out a design for a future downtown Calgary. Doug was also fascinated about my project and my way of travels. He looked at me and shook his had. "Such a great idea!"

We cramped together in the small kitchen corner for dinner, eating spaghetti with scallops (a combination that tasted actually very good, as anybody would be used to some tomato sauce or something like that with spaghetti). This is the recipe.

It was after dinner when I relaxed around and watched a movie in the television room in the basement and not much later settled in the computer room to connect myself to the internet.

Good night Edmonton!

Ramon.