Great Canadian Adventure, Eh (Part 2)

September 16, 2017 10:40:10AM

Oh, man. I've really fallen behind on this. Well, not just on this or that, but a lot of things. I should really get this Canada trip series done because 1) the memories are very hazy, even with my notes and b) I'm going on another international trip soon! So I have to make room for more rememberies. Okay, let us continue our journey in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Day 1—Saturday, January 14, 2017

First morning in Canada! If I recall correctly, there's still snow on the ground. The hotel we were in, while actually very nice, did not have a continental breakfast buffet. It did have an attached restaurant, but the reviews were not so good. Looking at the Google Maps, we locate a Tim Horton's about a block away. Driving would be too easy. Time for a walk in the brisk, freezing temperatures of Canada!

I broke down the clothing in the last post. Basically, everyday was the same setup—thermal underwear top and bottom, jeans, flannel shirt (hip and practical), three-in-one jacket (insulating layer under weatherproof shell), gloves, beanie, athletic socks, and boots. The ensemble worked out great. The boots were not great for a while. I had to start walking differently because the the top of the boot was digging into my calf. And the coldness was about at the limit of the boots temperature rating, so most days it was just enough to not have frozen feet.

Anyway, this is our first foray into the cold. Yeah, we were out the night before, but this time, we were walking at least 3/4 of a mil...I mean, about 1.21 km. Was it cold? Yes. I don't remember what the temperature was, but it was somewhere in the 0°-3°C. It was fun crunching through the snow; the boots provided ample traction on the icy parts. We finally land inside Tim Horton's where everything is hot now because of all of the layers.

We ordered some form of breakfast sandwich, which was passable. The real treat was the donuts. For a "specialty" donut, they were quite good. They're cakey donuts, which usually aren't my thing. I can't recall exactly what flavors we got. I think the donut was a sour cream thing, and the donut holes (Timbits®) I think were different flavors. All good stuff.

After breakfast, we ventured into a nearby gas station to investigate our cellular options. Luckily, it seemed like 95% of places had wifi, but we really wanted something so we could navigate. We did a lot of research pre-trip on different carriers, and the main lesson I took away is that Canadians don't seem to be really happy with their cellular service. But, we had to make do. One of the big gas station chains, Petro Canada, had one of the cheaper pre-paid plans, so we went with that. I think we got 1GB of data, which was more than sufficient for our needs.

We get back to the hotel to load one of our phones with this SIM card, only to find we don't have a tool to pop out the tray. We searched the room high and low for something, even trying a shard of a coffee stirrer (spoilers, didn't work). The front desk was without paper clips, which I find questionable. In hindsight, maybe they were holding out on us. Well, there was a dollar store, Dollarama, near the Tim Horton's, so we venture back out into the cold winter morning. We drove this time! Probably to save time. We picked up some safety pins, actually a pack of 100 or so different sized ones. Slightly more than we need, but it gets the job done. We're on the Canadian grid!

In the afternoon, we headed out in search of a place to play in the snow. I was pretty much just looking for big green areas on the GMaps, and we ended up driving to Mill Woods Park. Armed with our usual winter gear and legged with snow pants, we did some light frolicking. There was a small hillside the kids were sledding and tubing down. I'm not a snow expert, but the snow on the ground was more icy than powdery, so it didn't seem optimal for balling. We were able to construct something that passed as a snowman. We made snow angels. Probably the two most touristy things we could do. Walking through the park, it was snow all around as far as you could see. It was pretty cool.

After we had enough of the snow, we headed over to a little mall area across the street to grab lunch. Just normal mall food. I think I had a burger from A&W. By now, the weather was starting warm up a bit. I recall the car telling us it was a toast 8°C, about 46°F. The warmth was noticable.

Back at the hotel, we took a nice afternoon nap, which would become part of the routine. Now it's dinner time. We head out a few miles down the road to an Indian place. There were a lot of international foods around, and a seeming lack of Canadian food places. But I guess, what is "Canadian" food? Besides poutine and maybe a few desserts, I don't know that we really ever got a taste of Canadian cuisine. Or maybe it's just really similar to American? Anyway, I don't remember what our Indian meal was, but it was probably good enough.

And that was our first day experiencing Canada. While it wasn't super adventurous, I think we got a good taste of the winter weather. Well, I still have 6 days to cover, and those are filled with more interesting stories.

canada snow tim horton's donuts winter travel edmonton

Great Canadian Adventure, Eh (Part 1)

April 09, 2017 03:19:07PM

Hey, I'm finally getting around to journal my great adventure in Canada. What a great an exciting time it was. I wish I did this sooner because the memories, while not faded, are surely a bit hazy. Anyway, this one ended up a lot longer than I thought; I'm not sure how I'll break down the other days of the trip, but I'll try to keep the total number of entries to a minimum. Thanks for reading (if you did).

Day 0—Friday, January 13, 2017

Even though it was a scary date, it was also very exciting. This was going to be my first international journey. I guess it's a little less nerve-wracking going to a country that is so similar. Anyway, travel day!

I don't have extensive flying experience. Pretty much all of my flights out of SD have been out of Terminal 1. A while ago, I dropped my sister and her family off at Terminal 2, and it seemed so fancy with it's two-tier drop-off and pick-up area. I was not let down when I finally got to go inside Terminal 2. It seemed so spacious! Maybe because there weren't a lot of people. Or because it's so giant. Or both!

I forget how early we showed up. Our flight was at 12pm, so we were probably there around 9:30am or so. Check in was a breeze. Virtually no line to get through TSA. Even though it wasn't busy, it was still very stressful. We sit around for a bit, and when it gets closer to boarding, we search out for food. We walked down to the other side of the terminal, and I really got a feel for how giant it is. At some point, I also bought some water at a shop, and they had discounted Chargers gear. (This would have been right after they announced their move.) Anyway, plane boarding time.

Surprisingly, not a lot of people on the plane. I had a whole two-seat row to myself. The neatest part of this plane was that they had power outlets. I think I mostly slept and played games on my phone. I think was was five-hour flight to our stop in Calgary. I snapped a couple of photos out the window. There were quite a few snowy landscapes as we got further north. The geotagging on my images says I got pictures over Utah and Idaho.

We land in Calgary, and they have a gigantic airport. I forget exactly what distance the direction signs said, but it was a good 15ish minute walk to get to our gate. It was a trip to see snow on the ground outside. The flight to Edmonton is a short one, so we would be taking a small commuter plane. Which meant a short jaunt in the elements to get to the plane.

I guess I should breakdown what I wore that day to travel. If I recall correctly, on top, I had a long-sleeve thermal top with a t-shirt over it. I wore just jeans, normal underwear. I did wear thick wool socks under my slip-ons. Didn't fit really well, but it worked. So, before we got on our connecting flight, I broke out the heavy jacket. I also had a beanie, but I don't think I wore it now. Anyway, it's time to walk outside for a bit to board. I definitely don't mean to downplay the coldness. It was certainly a shocking cold chill, but I don't think it was terrible. I think the my feet got the worst of it. The shoe/sock combo was not optimal.

This flight was not surprisingly more packed, but it was a short flight. We reached our destination without a hitch. Edmonton's airport, delightfully identified as YEG, seemed less giant, but we probably just had a shorter distance to travel. We get our luggage and bundle up a bit more. We also exchanged some boring American money for fancy Candian money. Time to get the rental car.

This part was the one I worried about the most. I've never driven in cold, icy conditions, or in another country for that matter. Luckily, it wasn't snowing, though there was snow on the ground. I had previously downloaded an area map on Google Maps, so that helped with navigation. We got a nice something (I forget what exactly), a compact something equipped with winter tires (also a stress reliever). The drive to the hotel was a straight shot up the freeway.

Strangely enough, driving in Canada is very similar to driving in America. Except everything is in kilometers (kilometres?) instead of miles. I never quite got used to driving 100km/h, which felt fast because it's a big number, but it's really only 60mph or so, which I would consider slow here. Some notes about driving in Canada:

  • The freeways are very well-lit. It was very nice. I want that here.
  • When lanes on the freeway end, the lines go straight into the line on the shoulder.
  • Hopefully, turning right on red is legal there, because I did that many times.
  • I really like how most left- and right-turn lanes were forked off from straight traffic.

We get to the hotel and settle in a bit. It's dinnertime, so we decide to search for food. After some Yelping, we end up at a place called Original Joe's. Seemed like your typical restaurant/bar place. Sadly, the local townsfolk did not have very noticable accents. That's besides the point. We ordered a burger of some sort and, of course, had poutine. This place also brought out a caddy of condiments to go along with the poutine. Ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, malt vinegar, and a couple other ones I can't remember. The poutine is pretty good on its own (delicious gravy!), but I liked the ketchup addition. Another weird thing about Canada is that when you pay with a credit card, they make you swipe it. Seems much more secure, but to be honest, it wasn't something I considered before.

And that was our first night in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was a long day of travel, but it was an exciting adventure, and it was just beginning.

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Dear diary...

None shall pass...!