Category Archives: Exploring Edmonton

Today I took a day off, without doing anything for work or for home. It was great, and looking forward to it was great too.  I enjoyed a whole day of solitude without taking notes or checking my messages.

I headed out around mid-day. It was just above freezing, and I was comfortable in the stripey knitted jacket. I took buses to downtown, where I headed to Zinc and the Art Gallery of Alberta. When I was cutting across Churchill Square by City Hall, the empty square and the colour of the sky and the lack of greenery or Christmas lights to soften the concrete floor and towers reminded me weirdly of Revolution Square in Havana. I don’t know why a lot of school buses were lined up on a street, and I don’t know why a lot of (US?) military vehicles were lined up on an avenue. But while I was taking pictures, a woman came up behind me and said “Are you posting those on Flickr?” I said, um, not this minute (I had actually contemplated whether to get out the big camera to take the pictures home, or use the phone to post immediately on Facebook, so I was a little confused.) “But you’re going to, right? How are you going to tag them besides ‘edmonton’? ” Caught off guard, I said oh, Churchill Square, I guess, and the woman said “Great! Because I forgot my camera!” and walked away.

The Art Gallery has just re-opened in a dramatic new building. In the lobby is the restaurant Zinc, which I’d read about when it opened. It is extremely stylish, with the menus mounted on zinc plates and the place setting knives balanced on edge. Plating was more conventional, my server was competent without being intimidating, obsequious, or over-friendly, and my lunch was good. I had a glass of some Malbec, a couple of tiny buns with flavoured butter (fennel, shallot, and orange), and what they called the Un-burger with a side of gallery salad. The burger meat was elk and caribou, garnished with mushrooms and caramelised onions. It was really good. The salad was straightforward, greens with blackberry vinaigrette. Cost $29 something before tip. Some people were eating alone at the bar and reading. I think all the clients were better dressed than I, but it says something good about my confidence that I only noticed this at the end when I was looking around to describe the atmosphere.

The gallery exhibits included one of Yousef Karsh portraits, a couple of sound installations, Goya prints, and Degas sculptures and drawings of bodies in motion. They didn’t seem to have static exhibits of the permanent collection. The gift shop’s best feature was some really neat stuff for kids. Most of which I resisted buying. Next I walked to the Alberta Craft Council gallery/store, which was neat but I didn’t like it as well as the one in Newfoundland.

The rest of my planned shopping errands were in the 124-Street area of interesting shops. One thing that I wanted to buy was not quite available, so they will call me, and in the intervening time I will think/feel more about whether I want one, and I’ll tell you about it later. I still haven’t found a crochet hook that will pass through the little beads I bought to put in a lace shawl, so I don’t know if I need bigger beads or an even tinier hook or another method. But I got a long-cable needle for the yoke of a sweater I’m working on, and I patted some yarn and didn’t buy any. Then I spent a long time in MEC, figuring out which tent I would buy when I buy my next tent and which sleeping bag I would buy when I buy my next sleeping bag, but deciding I wasn’t ready to buy either. So I spent my Christmas gift certificate from Mum on a shirt, a replacement buckle for my backpack, and some Lindt milk chocolate. It felt like I should use this last gift on something more lasting, but I’ll have opportunities for that with the inheritance.

And then I came home. While I was waiting at the Telus-plaza bus stop, I took time to read the maps and confirm that besides the 7 and 57, I can also take the 70 down 99th. And unless I am waiting with people from OffWhyte and want company, it’s probably just as fast to take the 8 to Bonnie Doon and catch a 4 back from there.

zinc1 zinc3 churchill square 1

Most of the places I’ve lived had what I think of as traditional one-trip-one-fare bus transfer policy, where you can’t break your journey or double back without paying another fare. In Hamilton, where I learned to ride the HSR buses as a teenager, the bus stops where the routes intersected were marked TRANSFER POINT, meaning that you could only use a transfer at those marked stops. If you took the first bus, got off it and turned the corner, and were wondering how long you’d have to wait for the second one, you either had to wait at the transfer point or you had to walk the whole way. You couldn’t just run one stop at a time, then look to see if the bus was coming – you’d invalidated the transfer by walking. Kingston still has one-trip fares, and I’ve heard bus drivers arguing with people who didn’t like this policy.

Anyway, the novelty of the timed transfers in Edmonton still has not expired for me. It’s not against the rules to get on the bus after work, make two or three stops to shop on the way home, and keep using the same transfer every time I get back on the bus in any direction. I don’t know why the price of a bus ticket would feel like such a deterrent to me, but it makes a huge difference. I always feel like I got away with something or should celebrate being frugal, when I get more than one destination on a bus ticket. The transfers are supposed to be set at least 90 minutes away, and drivers usually give you more.

Last night I got on the LRT after work. That’s even more of a bonus, since if you start with the LRT you don’t get the timed transfer until you get on a bus afterwards. I got off at Central station, took an 85 bus from that big stop across from the Hotel Macdonald, got off in Cloverdale, and went to the Muttart Conservatory. (That also didn’t cost me any more money, since I have a membership, and I think it’s free for the last half hour every day anyway.) It was neat wandering around in the twilight, and knitting in the quiet. The display in the feature pavilion was about a newly-discovered ancient species of trees from Australia. The light and shadows and empty Arid-landscape pavilion made me think of the kind of movie where the succulent tentacles begin to move in the dark. Then I was almost sorry I had thought of that.

My trip home didn’t quite work so well. I wanted to find a route without walking up the Connors Road/Gallagher Park hill, and I’d just missed a bus so I had half an hour to wait. I walked along the road (98 Avenue) admiring the attractive new townhouses and mixed-use buildings, then caught another 85 bus. The maps.google application on my iPhone had said to take that bus to the Capilano Transit Centre and then come back on a 4, but I could see that the routes intersected earlier on, at 76 Street. So I just barely missed a #4 bus there, had another half-hour wait in the increasing cold, then got home. All on one bus ticket.

This morning I took a bus a few stops to Bonnie Doon Mall, where I got a flu shot and bought stamps and medicine and groceries, then caught a bus in the other direction to work. All on one bus ticket.

Of course, if I buy a monthly pass in January, it may take away the fun of this game. Then I can play look how many times I can take the bus in a month.