Twilight Picnic Experience at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden

It is shaping up to be the summer of the staycation, with non-essential inter-provincial travel still up in the air, and international travel ill-advised. As a result, attractions close to home are getting a long second look from locals seeking an escape from the city or something to help break up the summer months. The University of Alberta Botanic Garden seized this moment, and put together a special event that combines access to nature with local food. A couple of weeks ago, Mack, Emily, and I were invited to attend a preview of the Twilight Picnic Experience they have begun offering at the Garden.

Located 15 minutes southwest of Edmonton in Devon, the University of Alberta Botanic Garden covers 240 hectares, boasting cultivated gardens and plant collections, indoor showhouses, and natural areas. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Botanic Garden was closed until recently; on June 1, 2020, they re-opened to visitors by reservation only.

University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Kurimoto Japanese Garden

The Botanic Garden has offered food-inclusive events in the past – back in 2013, Mack and I enjoyed a carnival-themed date night catered by Elm Cafe. By comparison, the Twilight Picnic Experience presents an opportunity for a more intimate and romantic evening.

That night, still without childcare options, and with a daughter who happens to love picnics, we brought Emily along. Before settling down for dinner, we chose to wander the grounds first, finding quiet solace in nature. It was such a privilege to have the spaces we visited to ourselves; when we were in the beautiful Aga Khan Garden this time last year, we were far from the only patrons present. Twilight Picnic Experience attendees will have exclusive access to Garden for two hours after 8pm.

University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Emily in the Aga Khan Garden

Mack and I were able to observe some of the one-way signage and seating closures in place to encourage physical distancing, in preparation for busier occasions. Coupled with the Garden’s intentionality regarding guest limitations, we would feel more than comfortable returning again later this summer.

We headed back to the Kurimoto Japanese Garden to collect our picnic box, and set up our blanket next to the water feature. The Gardens will be limiting the number of parties each night to 30, so there will be plenty of room to spread out.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the picnic box, but upon opening, were immediately blown away by the presentation of the food. They’ve sourced sweet and savoury items from a number of local purveyors, garnished with edible flowers and herbs from the Garden itself.

University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Picnic box

Our box featured products from many of our favourite small businesses and farmers’ market vendors, including fruit from Steve & Dan’s, charcuterie from Meuwly’s, sourdough from La Boule, and peppers and cucumbers from S4 Greenhouses. It was my first time trying the Happy Camel’s labaneh (yogurt cheese), a delicious spread on the accompanying fresh pita. Mack was particularly taken with the raspberry scone, while Emily devoured (and was subsequently covered in) the strawberries.

University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Family picnic

For those looking for something a little more extravagant to nosh on, picnic baskets can be customized with caviar, smoked salmon, or foie gras for additional fees. As well, the Kurimoto Japanese Garden is licensed, so picnic-goers can also have a beer or some bubbly to sip along the way. Lastly, other extras are also available to enhance the evening, including bouquets of flowers and handmade cards.

It looks like this concept of an intimate picnic at the Botanic Gardens has struck a chord with locals; all of June is already sold out!

Thanks again to the University of Alberta Botanic Garden for hosting us that evening – it was a wonderful way to safely shake up our pandemic routine and experience some nature along the way.

To book your own Twilight Picnic Experience, check out the University of Alberta Botanic Garden’s website.

Road Trip: Exploring East of Edmonton

A few weeks ago, we picked up the twentieth edition of the Go East of Edmonton guide from one of those free magazine boxes. It was the push we needed to finally explore some of the communities just east of the city, with a visual map that aided us to plan a day trip away.

Fort Saskatchewan

We started our morning at The Downtown Diner. It was our second time, and we were reminded again of their incredible hospitality. The service was warm and consistent – they kept pace with the way in which I drink my morning coffee; not an easy feat.

At this point, I should remark that the Diner is more highly regarded for their lunch and dinner plates, though they do have a few all-day breakfast specials. I always prefer to have eggs for brunch, so chose the basic eggs, meat and toast platter. Everything was fine, but the breakfast plates never pop as much as the other dishes.

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Breakfast platter

Mack’s mac and cheese, for instance, was a rich and creamy delight, topped with a crunchy bread crumb crust. He also appreciated the accompanying garlic toast.

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Mac and cheese

Bruderheim

After brunch, we were off to neighbouring Bruderheim, a small town of 1,300 known for being the site of Canada’s largest recovered meteorite (back in 1960). More recently, they are among a handful of Alberta towns that have instituted a curfew for teenagers.

One of the downsides to exploring small town Alberta on a statutory holiday was most of the family-run businesses we encountered were closed. One of the exceptions in Bruderheim was Theil’s Greenhouses, a small but charming greenhouse with a good selection of flowers, planters, and vegetables.

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Theil’s Greenhouses

I was particularly impressed with their array of tomato varieties (we picked up one of our perennial favourites – sweet baby girl) and a planter for Grandma Male.

Mundare

It’s always been on my bucket list to plan a road trip based around the unusually large monuments all over Alberta. We were able to hit up two on this trip, so it’s a start!

Mundare’s giant sausage ring (commemorating and erected by Stawnichy’s, the well-known Ukrainian meat shop) is set up just beyond the welcome gates on the town’s main street. It was built for photo ops, with a staircase in the centre to ensure tourists can be captured within the ring.

Mundare Sausage

The sausage

Just steps away from the monument is Stawnichy’s itself, one of the only shops on the street open that day. They were still doing brisk sales – their products are available at Mundare Sausage House in Edmonton, but it was nice to get it from the source; we bought some Ukrainian sausage and jerky to take home.

Vegreville

Vegreville was next on our list of towns and massive monuments. The pysanka is one of the most frequently cited large-scale sculptures, and though I had seen it in photos many times, it took visiting it in person to realize it rotates.

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The pysanka!

Although the pysanka isn’t accompanied by a staircase, it’s actually situated in more picturesque surroundings. Nestled in a park, we stretched our legs in the green space that featured a decommissioned caboose, playground, skate park, gazebo, and picnic areas. The playground even featured the exercise equipment that Mack and I so enjoy.

Vegreville Kinsmen Park

Onto the train!

Last year’s Vegreville Country Fair is actually featured on the cover of the Go East of Edmonton Guide – it definitely caught my eye, and is something I hope to get to later this summer (it runs August 10-12, 2017).

Elk Island Park

Last June, we took a turn through Elk Island Park and were besieged by mosquitos, so we thought a visit earlier in the year might result in better conditions. While this was true, I don’t think we anticipated as many people as we encountered. Although there were a steady stream of cars leaving as we drove in, the parking lot was oversubscribed.

It was great to see so many families taking advantage of the gorgeous weather over the long weekend. There were line-ups for boat rentals, blankets pitched every which way, and many groups set up for picnics.

Elk Island National Park

Busy day at the park

We weren’t dressed for an intense hike, so we took some of the more leisurely trails just off Astotin Lake. And though I was an initial sceptic about the Parks Canada #sharethechair campaign, I have to say I’m now a happy convert.

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Sharing the chair, again

Sadly for Mack, we didn’t happen upon any wildlife on our walk that day, but I’m sure we will be back to Elk Island before the summer’s end. They are hosting quite a number of special events over the next few months, including Parks Day on July 15, the annual Bison Festival on August 19, and Dark Sky Preserve Party on September 2-3, 2017.

Elk Island National Park

Sunny skies

It was a fun way to spend a day exploring the communities just outside of Edmonton. I’d recommend the Go East of Edmonton guide if you’re looking to plan your own daytrip!

Exploring Our Backyard: Lacombe and Pigeon Lake

I’ve wanted to be more intentional with exploring the areas just outside of Edmonton, so at the end of April, Mack and I planned an overnight excursion just south of our city.

Last year on our way to Calgary, we stopped over in Lacombe. They had a charming Main Street lined with well preserved historic buildings, and we stretched our legs in a few of the small shops after lunch at Cilantro and Chive. We didn’t have time to hit up all of the notable businesses, so we made a note to return.

Sweet Capone’s

Sweet Capone’s has received some press for selling out of their specialty cannolis on a daily basis. A few months ago, they moved into a larger space just a half block down from their original location on Main Street.

Sweet Capone's

Pastry case at Sweet Capone’s

On this trip, we were finally able to give them a try ourselves. The pastry was lightly dusted and perfectly flaky, and we preferred the vanilla to the artificial-tasting lemon cream.

Blindman Brewing

Blindman Brewing has been helping to raise the profile of Lacombe through its craft beer. Located in an industrial area of the town, Blindman offers a lively, comfortable taproom where visitors can sample their various brews.

At least on that day, most of the patrons appeared to be regulars, treating the taproom as a place to meet up with friends for a pint. In addition, Blindman offers on-site sales, so many folks ducked in for growler refills or to pick up a case or two of beer.

Blindman Brewing

Flight of beer at Blindman Brewing

We were both surprised at just how many varieties Blindman produces. On that day they had nearly a dozen varieties, most of which we hadn’t seen before. Of the types we tried that day, Mack’s favourite was the New England Pale Ale, while I preferred the light, inoffensive Saison Lacombe Printemps (I’m not much of a beer drinker most days).

Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

Next door to Blindman sits Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery. In operation since January, they’ve been overwhelmed with demand.

At present, they offer four varieties of vodka and gin, with their most unique product being the Pickled Pepper Vodka, which was made to be mixed with Clamato for a quick but flavourful Caesar. They hope to add rye and rum to their roster soon, in addition to a gin for "juniper heads". Most of their bottles are being distributed in Lacombe and the surrounding communities, but there are plans for wider distribution – Eau Claire was mentioned as the model small distilleries hope to emulate.

Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

Varieties at Old Prairie Sentinel

Although Old Prairie Sentinel doesn’t yet have a tasting room (it’s in the works), the few minutes we spent in there with Rob Gugin were enlightening. His passion for spirits is contagious; we’ll definitely be back when the tasting room is in place.

Elizabeth Lake

Before leaving Lacombe, we stopped by Elizabeth Lake just before the rain came.

It’s a small lake adjacent to a university and a residential area, so it’s not really worth seeking out, but I liked seeing the exercise equipment integrated along the natural paths.

Lacombe

Mack humoured me at the sit-up station

They’re apparatuses we’ve seen in Toronto and Ho Chi Minh as well – it would be great if Edmonton would consider them for some of our park spaces, too.

On our way towards Pigeon Lake, our resting place for the evening, we detoured to a couple of farms.

Pik-N-Pak

Pik-N-Pack is made up of three member greenhouses in the Lacombe area that Edmonton farmers’ markets consumers would be very familiar with: Doef’s, S4 Greenhouses, and Gull Valley Greenhouses. They process, package, and market their products under the Pik-N-Pack label for wholesale purposes (you can also find these at Save On Foods, among other grocery stores).

Pik n Pak

Self-serve Pik-N-Pak

However, Pik-N-Pak’s warehouse also operates an honour-based self-serve store, open daylight hours Monday to Saturday. It’s amazing to me that stores like this still exist, but based on a sign posted on the door of the store, it’s likely they’ve experienced some issues with theft.

Pik n Pak

Picking out some goods!

We picked up some tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes for the road home, but they also had cucumbers, eggplant, hot peppers, and carrots on hand.

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Near Pik-N-Pack is the family-run farm Brown Eggs and Lamb. They also have an honour-system store for their eggs.

In addition, the on-farm store has a good selection of meat proteins, dairy products, and value-added products produced in Central Alberta. We bought a jar of Red Deer made Chai Wallahs honey, creamed honey enhanced with a blend of spices so consumers can easily produce a cup of chai at home.

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Brown Eggs and Lamb is actually hosting a customer appreciation day in July, so if you’re hoping to explore more of the farm (as Sharman did last year), make sure to mark your calendar for a road trip!

Village at Pigeon Lake

I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of a few off-season work retreats to the Village at Pigeon Lake over the years. It’s only an hour away from the city, but the pace of life seems much more relaxed. Mack and I stayed at the Village Creek Country Inn, a basic but well-kept hotel. I particularly appreciate that the hotel is adjacent to several other amenities in the "village", including restaurants, a grocery store, gift shop, and clothing boutique.

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Happy to be back in the village

Chef N’ Pigeon Lake

We ended up at Chef N’ Pigeon Lake that night, as the more well-known Eco Café was closed for a tasting event. I didn’t mind, as our experience at those work retreats with the catering from Chef N has been very positive. Their "uptown country" menu in the restaurant was more extensive than I expected, ranging from burgers and steaks to chicken and dumplings and steamed mussels.

I ordered the hot turkey, a fun take on turkey dinner: pulled turkey overtop a stuffing waffle, doused with gravy and coleslaw and a side of cranberry sauce. My only complaint was that the coleslaw should have been served on the side, but otherwise, I enjoyed the diner-style comfort food.

Chef N' Pigeon Lake

Hot turkey

Mack went ahead with the 8oz signature farmer burger, with sauteed mushrooms, Sylvan Star gouda, house-made bacon, crispy potato hay and garlic mayo. The patty was impressively juicy and flavourful, and though it was definitely a five-napkin burger, he said it was worth the mess.

Chef N' Pigeon Lake

Signature farmer burger

Daisy McBeans

The only hot breakfast option in the village, we stopped at Daisy McBeans the next day. Their homestyle breakfast menu isn’t extensive, but features all of the classics you would expect.

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French toast and sausage

Portions were large – I barely finished my French toast and sausage, but it is the kind of place you can linger all morning without worry.

Pigeon Lake Provincial Park

We eventually made our way to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, comprised of day use areas and camp sites.

Pigeon Lake

Pigeon Lake in the spring

The weather was spotty (rain clouds soon rolled in), explaining the likely reason of why the trails were so quiet, but I did appreciate having most of the area to ourselves that day.

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Trails at Pigeon Lake

The trails connected us to the yurt options now available at Pigeon Lake, described as "comfort camping" by Alberta Parks (also more commonly known as "glamping" – glamour camping). They do provide convenience – beds, a fridge, and of course, ready-made shelter, but the price per night ranges from $120-165 per night – a little steeper than I would have expected.

Yurt

Yurt

We ended up taking the backroads to Edmonton, which, in addition to encountering less traffic, meant the potential for more photogenic scenes like this one.

Clouds & Hay Bales

Hay bales

While many may overlook Lacombe and Pigeon Lake in favour of the mountains, they’re worth considering for those who are time-conscious, or just looking to further explore their backyard.

Maze Runners and Marsh Explorers: Edmonton Corn Maze and Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

It’s been six years since Mack and I last visited the Edmonton Corn Maze located in Spruce Grove. Over the September long weekend, we were looking at some outdoor attractions to explore, and it seemed like a good time as any to return.

Edmonton Corn Maze

The Edmonton Corn Maze

Over the past few years, the Corn Maze has grown to encompass activities outside of the maze itself, and now features a petting zoo, jumping pillows, and spud guns. We encountered more people in these areas than in the maze, so it’s definitely a place where families can spend the better part of a day. Admission has also changed in this time, likely to cover the expanded fun; in 2010, we had a Groupon offer that discounted admission to $8 for two people. In 2016, the cost is $12 per adult.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Petting zoo

A visit to the maze when the stalks are still in their prime makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I’d recommend checking it out in the next few weeks while the corn is still standing tall.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Exploring the maze

As we have in the past, we used one of the question guides to help us navigate through the ten checkpoints in the maze. Mack was annoyed that there were several errors in the Edmonton trivia (including a misspelled “Blanchford” Field and the incorrect fact that West Edmonton Mall is still the largest mall in North America), but it was all in good fun.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Mack in the maze

Never wanting to waste a trip outside of the city, Mack had looked up a nearby park just 10 minutes away from the Corn Maze in Parkland County. The Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is a 28 acre wetland preserve that is open to the public.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

It features a combination of meadows, treed areas and marshes. Because of the marshy terrain, some of the trails are built on elevated boardwalks, making it an ideal place to walk after a rainstorm (as in, most of this summer, it seems).

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Elevated boardwalks

We only encountered a handful of people on our way through, and stopped frequently along the way to look for wildlife and listen for birds.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

A place to recharge

In many ways, this volunteer-run park is better equipped with benches, garbage cans, and a restroom than many City of Edmonton parks we visit.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Big sky

The Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is a gem not to be missed, especially if you’re in the area!

Portland: A City of Parks and Public Spaces

Though I did a lot of reading and research about Portland prior to our trip, the vast number and variety of public parks and green spaces was not obvious to me until we started to explore the city in person. Especially downtown, it seemed as if we came across another park or public space every few blocks! In that way, Portland was very welcoming to a weary tourist – we were always within stumbling distance of a beautiful rest stop.

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Pioneer Courthouse Square is described as “Portland’s living room”. For a city of their size (metro 2.2 million), it actually was quite small, about half the size of Edmonton’s Churchill Square. But it is constructed in a similar way, amphitheatre-style stairs, a water feature, an on-site cafe, and a tourist information centre (whereas we have a ticket office/souvenir shop). We loved the story of how the Square came to be: citizens, adamant that the design of the square remain open and publically accessible, rallied and contributed to the space, one brick at a time. Ironically, we were told that the park is actually closed for ticketed functions for much of the summer months (as it was when we were visiting).

Portland September 2012

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Still, the history of the Square speaks to the progressive nature of Portland as a whole, and their appetite to preserve and protect public spaces.

The block or so around the Pioneer Courthouse itself also features decorative fountains, and several different bronze wildlife statues. Mack decided to befriend one of them.

Portland September 2012

Being one with the otter

Keller Fountain Park

Keller Fountain Park, also downtown, was not far from Portland State University (the site of their huge Saturday Farmers’ Market). Less a park than a massive water feature, it still provided a picturesque escape in the middle of the city – there’s something about the sound of flowing water that is naturally soothing.

Portland September 2012

Keller Fountain Park

I will say that parts of the fountain itself had the unfortunate odour of urine, but when we made our way to the sweet spot of the fountain where a platform enables you to stand behind the curtain of water, it was pretty magical.

Portland September 2012

Behind the falls

Jamison Square

The Pearl District may be more well known for its retail and hospitality sides, but we stumbled across two of its park gems. We learned later that all water features in Portland’s parks are chlorinated, making them built-in play features for children, seamlessly integrated into the neighbourhood landscape. Jamison Square in the Pearl was thus a family attraction, even on that particularly overcast day.

Portland September 2012

Jamison Square

Tanner Springs Park

Tanner Springs Park was even more interesting, created out of reclaimed industrial land. Designers wanted to return the area to its natural wetlands environment, but also incorporated functional seating features into the park.

Portland September 2012

Tanner Springs Park

To us, being in the park took us out of the urban landscape, as the space promoted quiet reflection and a sense of calm.

Portland September 2012

Director Park

Director Park, about a block away from Pioneer Square, reminded us of a smaller, more functional Churchill Square. In one section was an operational water feature (chlorinated, of course for spray park fun), and on the other, scattered patio sets. A glass canopy provided some sheltered seating next to a small cafe, which seemed more successful at taking advantage of its prime location than Edmonton’s Three Bananas equivalent.

Portland September 2012

Director Park

Mill Ends Park

Of course, a discussion about Portland’s parks must include Mill Ends Park, which has the distinction of being the world’s smallest park, according to the Guinness Book of Records. It is located along a median between two streets.

Portland September 2012

Mill Ends Park

The story of how the park came to be (a journalist created mythology that the weed-run hole was actually the home of a leprechaun) is actually more interesting than the park itself, though given Portland’s penchant for being “weird”, it fits right into the city.

Forest and Washington Parks

Prior to arriving in Portland, we knew about their biking opportunities, but had no idea there were extensive hiking options until we came across Forest and Washington Parks. They feature over 24 kilometres of hiking trails, and covers over 400 acres of land.

Portland September 2012

In Forest Park

After visiting Pittock Mansion, we decided to walk to the International Rose Test Garden. Google Maps indicated it was a 30 minute distance, but that would only have been possible if a direct route existed. Instead, we followed the Wildwood Trail, which took about an hour.

Portland September 2012

Wildwood Trail

It was an absolutely rejuvenating walk, and made us feel like we had travelled far from the city, while in reality, we were still in the thick of it. The trails were peaceful, and we only ran into the occasional dog walker, so it was easy to feel like we were the only ones in the park.

Portland September 2012

Surrounded by nature

The Hoyt Arboretum is one of the features of Washington Park, a living museum of trees. Every now and then we would come across a small plaque denoting the name of a tree species. It turns out schools groups use the arboretum as a teaching centre; what a natural way for children to learn more about the great outdoors.

Portland September 2012

In the Hoyt Arboretum

Portland September 2012

We made it!

International Rose Test Garden

The most visually stunning park that we visited was without a doubt the International Rose Test Garden. Over 7,000 plants representing over 500 varieties are spread out over the 4.5 acre garden. Best of all, admission is free!

Portland September 2012

International Rose Test Garden

The flowers bloom from about April to October, and though we were visiting towards the end of September, most of the vines were still bursting with blossoms. The fragrance in the air was almost overwhelming, as we made our way through thicket after thicket of roses.

Portland September 2012

Roses

There are numerous benches and water features placed around the greenery to encourage visitors to linger and contemplate.

Portland September 2012

Walking the paths

Portland September 2012

Mack loves those bronze statues

The garden is also host to numerous outdoor events, as they have an amazing amphitheatre built into the side of a grassy hill.

Portland September 2012

Gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre

If you’re ever in Portland during the rose season, this is one attraction you can’t pass up – the pictures don’t do the garden justice.

Portland September 2012

More roses

Peninsula Park Rose Garden

Portland is also known as the “City of Roses” – that nickname isn’t contained to one garden alone! One day, when exploring Portland on bikes, we cycled to a smaller garden not far from the Mississippi Avenue district, called Peninsula Rose Garden.

Portland September 2012

Peninsula Rose Garden

It did not have the awe-inducing scale of the International Rose Test Garden, but it made up for that with charm. We loved the fountain and gazebo, and of course, the walking paths between rows of well-tended flowers.

Portland September 2012

Peninsula Rose Garden

Portland September 2012

I love gazebos

I know Mack and I are very fortunate to live so close to Edmonton’s beautiful river valley, but there’s just something about the spectrum of colours in the manicured public garden that made me a bit envious of Portlanders.

Portland September 2012

Paths

Waterfront Park and Eastbank Esplanade

Mack is always quick to point out to those who say Edmonton’s river valley is our defining feature that most cities are built around rivers, so this doesn’t make us unique. I love our river valley as much as the next person, but for many, there is an attitude that we need to preserve its natural state to the point where it cannot be easily accessed and enjoyed. What’s the point of having such a great asset if it cannot be taken advantage of?

Portland September 2012

Geese love parks!

Portland’s riverfront is much different than Edmonton’s, in the sense that the gradient is far shallower. But it was, on a brilliantly clear day, amazing to see just how many people were making use of the waterside paths.

Portland September 2012

Waterfront Park

We explored both sides of the parks lining the Willamette River on numerous occasions, on foot and by bike. The Eastbank Esplanade, a pedestrian and bicycle path, even features a 1200 foot floating walkway.

Portland September 2012

The Eastbank Esplanade during the day

Portland September 2012

The Eastbank Esplanade at night

Portland September 2012

The view from the Esplanade

Sometimes, the best thing about travelling are the unintended discoveries. For me, parks and public spaces were definitely a wonderful surprise we found in Portland.

Ezio Faraone Park Photowalk

Finally following through with my intention on wandering the trails leading down from Constable Ezio Faraone Park, I asked Mack to join me on a leisurely photowalk on Thursday afternoon.

It’s funny how easily I took the surrounding area for granted, and though the greenspace (yes, finally getting green!) was so accessible and just down the road from my office, how I never took the time beyond occasional coffee breaks to explore the trail.

Here are a few of the pictures I took with the hopes of enticing you to take advantage of pedestrian-friendly pathways (the complete set is on Flickr).

Framed by trees

“Share the Trail”

Stairs

At trail’s end (or, where we chose to turn back)

Ezio Faraone Park (turns out I’ve been omitting the ‘a’ in ‘Faraone’ all these years)

Ezio Faraone commemorative statue (with the Legislature Building in the background)

Historic High Level Bridge
Bridges

The Beauty of Autumn

It might surprise you to know that autumn is actually my favorite season. I just love the changing foliage, the soft rustling and subsequent dispersing of leaves, and the cool (not crisp) evenings.

This time of year might be construed by some as merely the calm before the onslaught of winter, but in my view, the world seems genuinely at peace – no bustle of spring or bright lights of summer. Nice in their own right, I still prefer those two glorious weeks of autumn when the breeze is light and the midday sun scatters over the reflection of the fallen, but still glowing leaves.

Coincidentally, I came across a quote that expresses the beauty of the season better than I ever could (from the Globe & Mail‘s “Social Studies” section, compiled by Michael Kesterton):

“The summer is over now. It is October and autumn. We are having delightful fall days, misty and purple, with a pungent, mellow air and magnificent sunsets, followed by the rarest of golden twilights and moonlit nights floating in silver. Maple and birch are crimson and gold, and the fields sun themselves in aftermaths. But it is autumn and beautiful as everything is, it is the beauty of decay – the sorrowful beauty of the end.”
– Lucy Maud Montgomery, in her journal, 1899

A view of the river valley from Ezio Farone Park

Picnic in the Park with The Copper Pot

Doug had a great idea for his farewell lunch at work – instead of the standard sit-down meal at a nearby restaurant, he wanted us to take advantage of having the beautiful Ezio Farone Park just across the street from our building by having a picnic together. So ordering sandwiches from The Copper Pot (101, 9707-110 Street), we gathered on the grass under absolutely perfect weather.

Besides their regular lunch menu (which can be viewed on their revamped website), The Copper Pot also offers three sandwiches, one wrap, and a soup & salad combo available for take-out only. Priced at $8 each (sides extra), the selections are on the steep side, but considering its downtown office building location, the expense is understandable. I ordered the Ham & Cheese Panini (blackforest ham and brie on grilled French bread) and fries. As I enjoyed my sandwich with good company and for a special occasion, I didn’t mind incurring the cost for something easily duplicated at home for much less, but on a regular day, I doubt I’d order it again.
So – thanks Doug for a great Friday afternoon, and all the best with your future endeavours!
Ham & Cheese Panini and fries
Doug shows off his Pulled BBQ Beef Sandwich
Violet does the same
Evania and Michael pose with their respective Ham & Cheese Panini and Greek Salad Wrap (this is starting to feel like a Copper Pot advertisement)
Doug’s turn to give a speech as Anna looks on
Group shot

Random Weekend Notes

  • Millwoods finally has its first stand-alone Starbucks (2331-66 Street)! Though “finally” is a misnomer in this case, as its been in operation since August of last year. I guess I just haven’t paid enough attention when passing by the south side of the Mill Woods Town Centre complex. Anyway, to help ease the pain of phonetic transcription exercises this morning (I naively thought my days facing the evil schwa were over), I bought myself a vanilla cupcake. I must say it wasn’t bad – moist, and topped off with creamy, buttery icing, I even pardoned the oily paper cup as a byproduct of forced freshness. So at $1.95, and more accessible than the few and far between specialty cupcake shops, it’s a worthwhile indulgence.

Vanilla cupcake, coffee, and homework

  • Speaking of Starbucks, Mack told me about a novel documentary called Starbucking that will be out on DVD in April. The movie focuses on why a man has made it his personal mission to visit every Starbucks in the world.
  • Yesterday afternoon, I decided to make like my coworker Anna and walk home after a seminar at the Grey Nuns Hospital (if you were wondering, as I was, Youville Drive, the street the hospital is on, is named after St. Marguerite d’Youville, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood). It was one of those perfect pre-spring winter days with sunshine, fresh, cool air, and active, visible wildlife. The trek was a modest 45 minutes, and particularly after a meandering stint in the Mill Creek Ravine (I wish I had my camera!), made me wonder why I don’t do this more often. Like withdrawn new year’s resolutions, the answer to that is simple of course, but I hope to be more “active” as the weather shifts, and perhaps blogging this will make me more accountable for such grand visions.

Reactine, Christmas generosity, and Ezio Farone Park

A few things before Christmas:

  • I love Lucky the Golden Retriever as much as the next person, but my allergies typically start acting up before the two hour mark after contact. Encouraged by Mack, I took some Reactine before heading to Jane’s house for the potluck last Friday, and it worked wonders. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?
  • Shopping on Saturday with May at Edmonton City Centre, I stopped in Mayfair Shoes to ask about a waterproof spray for my Kenneth Cole boots I bought in November, as the salt was not being kind to my shoes. The two store clerks recognized me, as I am in the store quite frequently, and when asked which product would work best for my boots, they offered me a can for free! They even gave May one too! Random acts of generosity, any time of year, are very welcome.
  • Lastly, I took a few pictures at Ezio Farone Park, located near the north end of the High Level Bridge while waiting for a friend on Thursday. The Park is across the street from the building I work in, but I never take the time to enjoy it. Perhaps my pictures may encourage you to go out and appreciate what downtown Edmonton has to offer.
The High Level Bridge and LRT track

A trail at dusk

The Legislature in the background