part 1 Banff Grand Hotel - the CPR - Lake Louise - Icefields - Canmore Calgary Heritage Park part 2 Edmonton Edmonton - Stony Plains - Mall - Aurora Borealis from Edmonton to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Other pages Alberta : overview and history | other provinces | articles
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Highway 2 is a good road with four lanes, and the few cities between Calgary and Edmonton are Red Deer, Ponoca and Le Duc.
We were told that the weather around Calgary is strongly influenced by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Its climate is more extreme than in the more northern Edmonton. For instance, it is not exceptional to get caught in a snowstorm, even at the end of May... The limit of this climate line seems to lie around Red Deer.
Highway 2 runs over a plateau, where vast fields alternate with meadows, with only here and there a farm. Somewhat particular is the fact that the soil of the land is pitch black !
The Murals of Stony Plains are strongly recommended by the local tourism office. From Edmonton you'll take Highway 16A west, and fifteen minutes later you'll drive through the city of Spruce Grove. It is a charming and small city, with mainly recent buildings and lots of new construction. It is actually a lot larger than it might appear at first sight, which is probably caused by the rapid growth of its large neighbor Edmonton.
Just ahead lies Stony Plains. The most recent and commercial town area is located along highway 16A, but the murals are located in the old downtown. There are some twenty murals, but the choice of subject, the concept of the mural paintings (several of which are painted on panels), and the artistry of the paintings can sometimes leave something to be desired.
However, they do not really stand out against the more artistic murals in La Grange, Oregon and Shreveport, Alabama. Fortunately, the rare exception proves the rule, but generally speaking the importance of this attraction has been somewhat "touristically inflated".
Edmonton City appears a lot nicer than Calgary or Vancouver, probably through the University's influence. There is a lot of green, the buildings are well spaced, and the lawns are meticulously maintained. All over the city, low-rise buildings take precedence, although Edmonton counts some 700,000 residents.
Some remarkable facts. Edmonton's latitude is quite north, and at night it remains much lighter than elsewhere, at least during the summer.
Furthermore, with a bit of luck one can admire an extraordinary phenomenon : whorls of Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis ! It really is an impressive experience, seeing a "carpet" in the sky !
The Rutherford House is located on the grounds of the Edmonton University. In 1911, Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta, moved to this house on the campus with his wife.
Over the years many public figures were received in this house, and the family occupied it until 1940, after which it was kept as a historical monument.
It is a large, but otherwise quite "normal" house, that doesn't have a "pompous" feel. It is well finished and most functional. Visits are free, and the house also contains a restaurant and a reception hall.
The fort of Fort Edmonton Park has an eventful history behind it, not so much through military or historical events, but rather because its location was changed no less than four times...
* In 1795, the first Fort Edmonton was built by the Hudson's Bay Company, to protect its lucrative fur trade.
* In 1802, it was transferred to what is now downtown Edmonton, as there was an acute shortage of timber.
* In 1810, the whole lot was again moved some eighty kilometers downstream, because the fur trade was supposed to be better there.
* However, that turned out to be a gross miscalculation, and in 1813 the fort was returned to Edmonton...
* In 1828 and 1830 there were local floods. So in 1830, the fort was moved again, this time only 91 meters upstream, and ten feet higher...
It doesn't really come as a surprise that there was a shortage of timber... In 1915, the fort was eventually decommissioned.
In 1967, with the celebration of the Centennial and the 100th anniversary of Canada in their minds, the city's leaders were looking for an appropriate image to immortalize Edmonton.
They decided to reconstruct the old fort. They reserved an area of some 160 acres in the valley around the river, but gradually, the original goals were greatly expanded.
The exhibition is located in a beautifully maintained park, that, next to the old 1846 fort, includes several "streets", which are rather accurately adapted to a particular period in history. Thus, there are streets about 1885, 1905 and 1920, but there is also an Indian camp, an authentic steam train, and even an ancient tram, dating from 1915 !
Costumed actors are prepared to give interesting explanations about life in the different periods, and there are many well-maintained buildings, that are artfully decorated with traditional crafts. A valuable initiative, very well developed, and an excellent presentation. Definitely worth a visit !
The West Edmonton Mall Shopping Mall is the world's largest Mall. At least, that is what they say...
It seems impossible to find out whether this mall is actually larger than the Mall of America in Bloominton, Minnesota, that proudly wears the title of "Largest Mall in the USA"...
There are more than 800 shops, 100 restaurants and 21 cinemas, but that's not all !
The Galaxy Amusement Park has two Roller Coasters and one large Horse Carrousel, besides several smaller attractions.
The World Water park includes a wide beach and several water toboggans, and the pool has lifelike and even fairly strong water surges ! On the Deep Sea Derby you can sail your own boat, and Sea Life Caverns is home to an aquarium with various fish species.
The Sea Lions Rock presents a show with sea lions, and the Ice Palace allows skating on a large rink. In the corridors of the Mall you will find various sculptures, such as a life-size whale, a colorful jester, and even a real pirate ship, floating on the water ! Finally, the Fantasy Land Hotel is famous for its specially designed rooms, each according to a special theme. In short, this is a city by itself !
A visit to Edmonton of course includes the Royal Alberta Museum, that brings an overview of the history of this province over the past 11,000 years.
Alberta has developed a remarkable system for intersections with traffic lights. Approximately 150 meters before the lights, a large and bright yellow panel with alternating lights hangs above the road. Seconds before the traffic light changes to red, the lights begin to flash, and the driver can start braking in time, so as not to drive through a red light...
Highway 16 is about 25 kilometers east of downtown Edmonton. It runs through an extensive industrial area, where most buildings appear to be relatively recent. Ten minutes later however, you'll find yourself completely "in the country". The hills keep rolling on a plateau in a rural landscape, and there are vast fields and lots of cattle... Everything is nicely laid out and neatly arranged.
We drove through Elk Island National Park, and the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Park. The latter is an evocation of a large group of Ukrainians, who immigrated to this place. They still try hard to preserve their own cultural character. You'll find the traditional old houses of the first settlements, the lifestyle of the 1910's, and so on.
An hour later, you'll come across the village of Vegreville, which no one has ever heard of, but it proudly states that it has the world's largest Pysanka ! Heaven knows what a Pysanka might be... Later, we found out that a Pysanka is an old Ukrainian folklore, namely the artistic painting and decoration of Easter eggs !
The landscape pleasantly continues rolling, sometimes decorated with small clusters of trees. There are vast tracts with large herds of cattle, interspersed with fields, and for the rest there is absolutely nothing to see, no farms, no traffic, and certainly no people...
Right on the border between the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan lies the city of Lloydminster. A large sign with "You are in Oil Country" certainly leaves no doubt about it, but this city is a true "Boomtown" ! It is a busy place, that literally smells of oil and money, and you'll find just about everything in terms of shops and restaurants. We were told that the local labor market simply begs for workers, since everyone wants to work in the oil sector, because of the higher wages. Apparently this is a modern Gold Rush !...
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