Crid's 1999 Grand Tour of Canada
3 weeks travelling by train from Toronto to VancouverToronto - Winnipeg - Edmonton - Jasper - Kamloops - Vancouver
Day 10 (Monday) - VIA Rail (Silver & Blue) + EdmontonI didn't sleep all that well. Admittedly I didn't sleep very well travelling from Toronto to Winnipeg, but this time there seems to have been a lot more vibration and noise in the roomette. This might have something to do with the roomette being pretty much over the bogie, although that doesn't explain why it's noisier than last time. Perhaps it's because we were going faster on this leg of the journey. Now we're on the prairies the line is dead straight (no hills to go around).
It was raining when we left Winnipeg, but we seemed to come out of the rain after a while. The weather forecasts I saw in Winnipeg showed the rain was travelling west-east, and it looks like I am in for good weather from here to Vancouver. Of course, that could all change in the next week.
Vance had told me that I might be able to see the Northern Lights on the way to Edmonton. I think I did, although it took me a while to realise it. What I saw looked like thin cloud, but I realised after a while that they were constantly changing shape, disappearing and appearing. Certainly not the colourful bursts of light I have seen on TV. Maybe I need to be further north to see that kind of display. The sky was certainly clear enough overnight to see the stars.
Morning was cloudy but nice. The landscape here is slightly more varied than Manitoba, but still pretty flat.
Showering on the train was an interesting experience. The shower was quite a reasonable size, and I couldn't help wondering how big their water tank is. (No, they don't recycle the shower water - the drainage hole empties straight onto the track - I could see the ground through it).
Unfortunately I missed breakfast because the last call was given while I was queuing for the shower.
We seemed to make up some time overnight. By the time we arrived at Edmonton we were only 45 minutes late. The train backed into the station because it's not on the main line. Compared to the stations at Toronto and Winnipeg, Edmonton station is tiny. And it's not downtown either - it's out of town, next to the municipal airport.
Vance was easily recognised (I'd never met him before - although we have talked via email for about 4 years), and it would appear I am equally easy to identify. I knew I was looking for somebody 6'3" tall with a beard and glasses. I had previously sent Vance a recent photograph of myself, so the only thing he was surprised by was that I am taller than he expected. (I am 6'1"). Perhaps I sound smaller in email.
After waiting for my baggage (I always breathe a sigh of relief when it shows up) we were off in Vance's van (well, more of an MPV) to his parents' house to drop my things off.
Vance's dad wasn't here when we arrived, but his mum was very friendly and made me feel very welcome. I gave Vance and his mum a calendar from England each (I figured I should bring them something English). They both seemed very pleased with them.
Vance's folks have a little Pomeranian dog which yaps a lot. Very friendly though. Vance's mum fed us breakfast, which was very nice of her. Ham, eggs and toast. Lots of it too.
In the late morning Vance and I went to Fort Edmonton Park, which is a museum containing many period buildings which have been moved to the site and placed on streets reflecting different time periods. The centrepiece of the park is a reconstruction of Fort Edmonton itself - a large wooden fort which used to be in the downtown area. The original fort was demolished in the days when the historical importance of such a place wasn't appreciated. The reconstruction was built to the original designs using original techniques.
The park itself was open, although many of the buildings were closed. During the main season many of the buildings have people in period costumes in them. Blacksmiths working the forges, etc. There were a few people around in period costume. The man at the ticket office had told us that you can ask these people questions and they would "give you an answer, or make something up which sounds convincing".
Vance had to head off to school, where he is a mature student learning PC Support. He dropped me back off at his parents' house where I met his dad and then had a chance to wash the clothes I have used over the past week and a half. That should hopefully last me until holiday's end. One thing I noticed about Canada is that front-loading washing machines are virtually non-existant here. Top-loaders are the norm, whereas in England it's the other way around. Despite the preference for top-loading washing machines, all the driers seem to be front-loading. Odd.
I also had a chance to watch some TV (read: veg out) before Vance returned and we headed to the West Edmonton Mall.
The WEM is a massive shopping complex and entertainment centre, all under cover. (Pretty much essential, this far north). There is a water park, an amusement area (complete with two rollercoasters and a pirateship ride which goes right over the top, inverted), a skating rink, an IMAX and normal cinema, restaurant areas and lots of shops. The place is pretty much an entire town all under cover. (The place has four postal codes). Any visitor to Edmonton really should visit the WEM at least once.
Vance introduced me to the delights of eating ribs for the first time while we were at the WEM. I've seen them on menus in England, but never tried them before. I will definitely have them again. Very nice.
I had another chance to see the Northern Lights this evening. There is quite a lot of light pollution in this area, but they were still visible. Apparently last night they had a really good display. The display this evening was similar to what I had seen while on the train, but brighter. Not much colour to see though. Still, it was interesting to watch. If I'm lucky, I may get a good display before I leave.