Flying to Vancouver – Taking a Break from Retirement

This will be the first of my posts on this trip to Vancouver which will try to explore different aspects and angles of this beautiful Canadian West coast city.

What is it about getting away on a trip that gives you a feeling of release from your everyday world, even when that everyday world is retirement?

This time, the kids would be out of town and we would be “house-sitting” (free-loading) in their place for 12 nights. As always, we were all packed up and ready to go, well before flight time. No point sitting around trying not to mess up a clean house. We called neighbour René and told him we were ready to go. That is one of the many good thing about being retired and living close to the airport. Willing neighbours are available for shuttle duty, knowing full well they can count on us for the same service at any time.

Checked in and through security, we headed for lunch near our gate and enjoyed being relaxed now that we were in the airport. Relaxed about everything, that is, except carry-on luggage space. We had cheaped out on our Air Canada flight and our boarding card said Zone 6. Searching the website, I could find no reference to Zone 6 anywhere and thought, maybe we were flying baggage class.

As we sat awaiting the boarding call, they announced that due to it being a full flight, carry-on baggage room would be tight. Oh, great! But, then they sought out volunteers to check a bag at no cost. We were up for that.

Zone 1 was called… Zone 2 was called… passenger requiring assistance were called… Zone 3… Zone 4… and Zone 5. You get the picture. We sat waiting for our turn, until at long last, Zone 6 was called. Wait, were the gate agents judging us for being cheap? Who cares? We were among the last ones onto the plane and before we knew it we were airborne. That wasn’t so bad after all.

The day was hazy and the view  from the window was not that great, but I managed to capture photos of Washington’s Mount Baker…

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…and these barges on the Fraser River…

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…as well as the feature photo of UBC on Point Grey.

We arrived at YVR early, collected our bags and were on the Skytrain downtown by 3:15. Being cheap was not so bad, after all.

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May 16/18 – Show-bert

Every year we await the blooms on our Schubert Chokecherry tree, to be sure that spring is finally here. My previous post with photos taken only 18 hours earlier showed the blossoms staring to open. At that point we began to despair, as we were headed away the next day for 2 weeks and feared that for the second year in a row, we would miss the tree in all its spring glory.

The next morning, we looked out to see that the previous day’s heat had worked a miraculous transformation and almost all the blooms were open.. We opened the upstairs windows to breathe in the marvelous perfume scent (sneeze, sniffle, cough, sneeze) and quickly closed them again. Lesson #1: Worship from afar.

We will still miss the prime blooms, but, our 2 weeks in Vancouver will more than make up for it. I know our neighbours will send us photos, between sneezes.

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May 15/18 – Spring

Creeping on stealthy green toes, colouring so slowly,

every tree, grass and weed, no matter how lowly,

raising the dead dreary winter landscape to new heights

of verdant colours, lit by brightly shining sunlight.

Blossoms burst forth from buds along once dormant branches,

their scent assailing noses with delicate dances,

as more and more blossoms, bumble and honey bees bring,

our back yard is alive with the buzz of green spring.

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May 10/18 – Man walking Dogs or Dogs walking Man?

Is this man walking dogs or are these dogs walking a man?

This dog walker is walking as many dogs as he can.

These dogs may all be on  leashes all tied in a big loop,

but we both wonder what happens when all fifteen dogs poop.

Does this walker come equipped with fifteen stoop and scoop sacks,

and does he pack all the poop out on the fifteen dogs’ backs?

Or does he simply ignore it and lets it all lie there,

for others to step in as it becomes fertilizer.

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May 10/18 – Under the Dome – Alberta Legislature in Action

Following our “neighbours” tour to the Legislature in September 2017, we all vowed we would be back when the house was in session. It took until today for that vow to come to fruition. Unfortunately, we were down 2 neighbours, but we pressed on nonetheless.

We grabbed a quick lunch at Mucho Burrito and ran a few errands before heading across the river to look for a parking spot. No luck anywhere near the Ledge, so we zipped back across the river, finally finding a free spot. We are retired, don’t you know!

Drizzle lightly falling, we set off toward and across the High Level Bridge, arriving just before the start of the afternoon session. In addition to the standard Union Jack and Canadian flag, the blue provincial flag was flying, showing that the house was in session.

The noon hour protest group we had seen earlier seemed to be gone and all was quiet at the front doors, so in we walked to go…

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…through security, obtain visitor passes and head up to the 4th floor to obtain our gallery access pass. All bags, cameras and cell phones must be checked at the security desk, before you can go in.

We were given instructions before entering the gallery. Be quiet and respectful, no clapping, shouting cheering, etc. and do not come or go if the Speaker of the House is standing. The East gallery was full of a school class, so we sat on the West side, just as the members started making a series of Public interest statements, declarations, etc. At 1:45, the real show, Question Period started. It started off slowly with proper decorum. Those who wanted to ask questions, used the group of pages to ferry these messages to the Speaker, who called each speaker in turn and then called on the relative MLA to respond to the questions. Questions were carefully couched in politeness inquisitiveness, but, as the Opposition relentlessly continued their line of questioning to the party in power (NDP), you could see the tide starting to turn. The gloves eventually came off and retorts, while still polite, became more terse and antagonistic. School classes came and went and we stayed for about an hour. As I mentioned, no cameras are permitted in the Assembly chamber when it is in session. Below, you will see photos taken during our September tour, when the Assembly was empty.

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Back outside the gallery, we were able to wander around the Legislature and enjoy this beautiful public building, constructed between 1907 and 1913 at a total cost of $2,000,000 Canadian. When we got married in 1977 and the weather was less than stellar, my Patty and I were able to have our wedding photos taken inside the building. I am not sure if any other couple had similar good fortune.

1977-09-17 17 Allan and Pat at Alberta Legislature Edmonton

Back outside, the rain had picked up, so we lingered on the front steps to batten down the hatches for our walk back across the High Level Bridge. Planting beds are all freshly turned but not yet planted.

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A few blossoms were out, but, the grounds are not yet at their best.

Ahead of us, the High Level Bridge beckoned through a curtain of green and drizzle.

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One quick look East through the mist as we walked over the bridge.

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May 8/18 – Edmonton International Airport – looking for an outlet

Edmonton International Airport (EIA), located 26 km (16 miles) SW of downtown Edmonton first opened in an arch hangar in 1960. In 1963, it moved to the, then, new terminal building. At the time, this airport located on 7,000 acres of land (largest by area in Canada) was thought by Edmontonians and others to be a white elephant and indeed, as long as the Municipal Airport Blatchford Field), near downtown Edmonton operated, the International languished in obscurity, simply feeding traffic to hub airports elsewhere in the West.

Fast forward 55 years and things have changed. A lot! The Muni was closed in 2013 , a new terminal and gates were added at EIA in 2005,  a new control and office tower were added in 2009 and a further expansion, as well as the long-awaited airport hotel opened in 2013. The airport is now the 5th busiest in passenger traffic (7,807,384) and the 9th busiest by aircraft movements. (source: Wikipedia)

Recently, the airport has been developing land out-parcels to create other development opportunities for a variety of users and traffic.

One of the first out-parcels was the $12,000,000 RedTail Landing Golf course opened in 2003. Talk about your fly-in golfing.

When the old Muni airport finally closed in 2013, STARS Air Ambulance and Alberta Health Services opened facilities at EIA to handle their flights of mercy.

But, the biggest changes seem to be happening in 2018/19:

A new 428,000 sf Premium Outlet Mall (70 of 100 tenants currently in place) opened in May this year. Construction cost was $215,000,000 and created 1,000 jobs. The mall created 200 permanent retail jobs. It has parking for 2,000 cars and is also serviced by the airport shuttles and the 747 bus.

We were dropping someone at the airport and stopped by before opening time, this day for a look, . The place was mostly empty, so I was able to get some uncluttered shots of the common areas. The on-site strollers seem big enough for adults.

There are a number of unusual mall tenants here, as well as the regulars.

And there are plenty of flight display screens scattered throughout the mall, so you can tell if you are about to miss your flight.

The mall was starting to get busy, so we took our leave. Outside, you could see how everything lined up with the airport terminal in the background.

A new Marriott Fairfield Inn, located by the Outlets is also under construction. It will have 135 rooms and construction will cost $21,000,000.

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The new Century Mile horse racing venue (longest horse track West of Toronto) is set to open some time in 2019. Construction will cost $50,000,000 and it will have stabling for 800 horses, a multi-level casino, as well as viewing suites and grandstand seating for 500. It will create 200 full and part-time jobs.

A new 154,000 sf Costco warehouse store will open in the fall of 2018, providing jobs for 250 employees. It will be the 7th Costco warehouse in the Edmonton area.

DSC06486The new 800,000 sf Aurora Sky marijuana facility (size of 9 football fields) capable of growing 110 tons of cannabis annually. Construction will cost $110,000,000 and the facility will employ 400 people. All in preparation for Canada’s upcoming pot legalization.

To access all of these new venues without further congesting traffic to the airport, a road and interchange upgrade costing $15,000,000 was recently completed.

EIA is no longer a white elephant, but one wonders with the increase in on-line shopping, will the new mall remain viable in the long-term?

May 2/18 – West Edmonton walk – On and Off the Beaten Path

Disappointed by our attempt to hike Patricia Ravine back on April 9 and with the promise of good weather, we wanted to give it another try.  Parking by the trailhead on 156 Street, we were soon making our way downhill to the forest below. Signs of spring were all about.

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The sun was in and out of the clouds, which was a good thing, as I had forgotten my hat. Being follically challenged, I did not want to burn. A few hardy souls were out running the 200 wooden steps into the valley.

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We took our time climbing down to the path below, where this time, the bridge and path to the West were open. More leaf buds here and definite evidence of spruce pollen on the river water near the shore.

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The sounds of water birds were everywhere, but only a few non gulls were visible.

 

On the Fort Edmonton footbridge, we stopped for a picnic lunch where we could watch the activity on the river below. Icebergs splashed in from what little snow was left…

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…a lone rower silently slid by…

 

 

…while the Canada Geese let everyone know where they were, on the water and in the air. Busy times for geese and ducks as they prepared for their nesting season.

 

Lunch over, we headed on up out of the valley on Whitemud Road to the residential areas above. On the way, an abandoned building caught our eyes behind the leafless trees and a pair of downy woodpeckers flitted back and forth, never sitting still long enough for a portrait.

Our main reason for gaining the height of the river bank was the view at the bend in the river (area is named Riverbend, after all) where several homes slid into the river a few years back.

 

Someone flew a remote controlled glider in the strong air currents, while a class (possibly Engineers) learned what happens when you build on unstable river banks. From here, we could clearly see the towers on both footbridges that we would cross this day.

 

After the viewpoint, it was back into the trees to head into Terwillegar Park. The catkins (and we suspect, the poplar pollen) were flying about everywhere. They were complimented by the knitted tree coverings that were now beginning to show their age.

Along the path down, we kept passing rough trail openings where adventurous mountain bikers had created shortcuts. Feeling adventurous ourselves, we opted to try one which was still fairly steep.

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Looking back uphill, the strong sun was illuminating the flying catkins.

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Down on flat ground once more, we stopped for a break on the Terwillegar footbridge for another break and to enjoy the view up and down river, as well as up in the air.

In the distance, you could see the tenuous foothold some of the houses on top of the riverbank had. We wondered if you could ever get a peaceful night’s sleep there. The photo below shows the area where 3 houses had gone mobile already.

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Off on foot again, we reached the end of the bridge to boredom. The path was well built, but ran through a flat floodplain with no trees and no views of the river. In hot weather, it could be unbearable. But, wait, there was a rough bicycle path heading East as well. Not knowing what we were getting into, we took it and were soon in the trees.

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Once on the path, we began to have doubts as to whether it was a good choice.  If you look at the feature photo, you will see a series of zigs and zags that I put in to approximate the fact that we likely walked 1.8 km on this path, instead of 600 meters on the paved path. It was interesting, with lots of deadfall and hilly bits and we were at least in the trees.

At long last, we reached the end of the open field and could see our way back to the paved path, just before it re-entered the trees. There were some serious cockleburrs along the path.

Ducks, ice, graffiti and all of a sudden we were back at the flight of 200 steps back up the hill. Yikes. Don’t wanna do this at +30C.

While pausing on these and the other 2 flights of stairs, we noted that it must be spring, as the flies were out

Total distance walked 11 km (6 miles) and a gain and loss of elevation of 80 meters (262 feet).