Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Embarking on My Edmonton Escapade

I know, people. You are wondering where I disappeared to and why this blog has been silent for a few days. As I wrote last week, though, I was invited on a little adventure in our neighbour to the south, and frankly I was so busy enjoying it (and tweeting about it) that I didn't stop to write about it. You see, the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation invited me to come down to their annual luncheon where they honour Edmonton businesses with achievement awards. But that isn't all. They set me up with a full itinerary, and frankly I packed more into two days in Edmonton than I normally do in a week. I fell into my bed exhausted every night, and I had the time of my life exploring a city that I thought I knew but didn't know nearly as well as I thought I did. And now I am going to share some of that with you in a series of posts all about my little "Edmonton Escapade", as I dubbed it.

Coffee at Fort McMurray airport
(aka "hand me the latte and nobody gets hurt")

I arrived at the Fort McMurray airport mid-morning, parked my car, and stopped to take care of the first order of business - coffee. Coffee in hand I sat down to check out the itinerary, and I was pretty delighted as most of the things on it were things I had never done, and places I had never gone. That surprised me a bit as I've lived here in Fort Mac for a decade and we go to Edmonton a lot - but it's always the same places. I guess we have become a bit stale in the "trying new things" department so I was quite excited about the chance to explore Edmonton differently, and on my own as well (I love my family dearly but sometimes it's lovely to be totally self-indulgent and not have to take a vote on what everyone wants to do next but rather just go and do what I want to do - anyone with kids knows exactly what I mean here).

And so off on Air Canada I flew, loving my seat where I could watch the landing gear disappear inside the wheel wells (I'm serious here, I love to fly, and I love the technology of aircraft even though the physics of it goes completely above my head). I arrived at the Edmonton airport, collected my bag, and went and found a taxi.

Edmonton International Airport arrivals level

And from the moment I stepped into the taxi I knew it was going to be a very good trip. My taxi driver, originally from Pakistan, asked what I do. When I told him I am a writer he got very excited, showing me the book he is currently reading and talking about the importance of reading. We talked about politics (he expressed his bafflement at North American politics and really I couldn't argue with him), how social media has changed the political world, and how words, written in books and on computer screens, can change destinies. By the time he dropped me at my hotel I think we had discovered some very common ground, and it was an auspicious start to my two days in Edmonton.

The hotel the EEDC had selected for me was one I had never stayed at but that I checked out online prior to my arrival. The Union Bank Inn is a lovely little hotel in a heritage building in downtown Edmonton, tucked away but very central. I stay regularly at the Fairmont MacDonald but I admit I had no idea The Union Bank Inn was so close - or so incredible. The service when I arrived was impeccable - friendly, warm, and welcoming, they checked me into my room, and I headed upstairs to settle in. I was given a room in the heritage section of the hotel, and when I walked in the door I was astonished:

It's truly lovely. My windows overlooked the little plaza outside the hotel, and frankly the room was pretty much perfection for a woman travelling on her own. From a little Keurig coffee maker to fuzzy purple bathrobes to a gas fireplace it was an incredible little spot to use as my launch point to explore the city - and explore I did, moments after dropping my bag on the floor.

First up I needed coffee so I tweeted exactly that and moments later The Union Bank Inn tweeted back suggesting Transcend Coffee just down the street on Jasper Avenue (in fact the person who runs the Twitter account at the inn tweeted me regularly with suggestions and ideas, and I absolutely loved it, I felt like I had a virtual Twitter tour guide!). So, I headed down Jasper towards Transcend but got a bit sidetracked at a little shop called Wener Shoes.

Yes, people, it has become fairly common knowledge I have a shoe problem. Some would call it an addiction, some an obsession, I like to call it a hobby. What I like most, though, is unusual shoes, shoes that are different in some regard or not so easy to find. And Wener Shoes is pretty much ideal for this as they carry unusual lines - like these ones from a line called "Fugitive", from France. I admit it. They came home with me!

After my shoe stop I headed to Transcend Coffee and was delighted to find a charming little coffee shop. I decided to have my coffee to stay and was pleased with this bit of latte artistry:

Lovely latte at Transcend Coffee, Jasper Avenue

Transcend is a lovely little spot for coffee, quiet and quaint, and I managed to find a window seat where I could watch the world (well, at least Edmonton) go by. I chatted on Twitter with some Edmonton people who it seemed were following my little adventure in their city, and I was delighted with their kind comments and suggestions as to places to go (and their kind words of welcome - I was truly starting to feel like an honoured guest!). New shoes at my side, latte in one hand, and iPhone in the other, I looked forward to the next event on my itinerary - dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Tres Carnales and a chat with Peter Silverstone, incoming EEDC board chair, author, physician, researcher, and general "really smart guy". For the moment, though, I sat and drank my latte and hung out on Twitter and just watched the world move on by my window, knowing that my Edmonton Escapade was off to a very, very good start.

Coming Tomorrow:
Dinner at Tres Carnales,
my chat with Peter Silverstone - and
talking Fort McMurray and Edmonton :)

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