Wednesday, 18 January 2017

our winter weekend away in edmonton

01 / 17 / 17

Earlier this month I had the idea to go to Edmonton for a weekend getaway with my daughters, just to get out of town while Patt is away working. I messaged my sister Sarah (↑ centre) and my brother's girlfriend Veronica (↑ left) to see if they would be interested in coming with us last weekend, and they willingly agreed. Our biggest motivation for going to Edmonton in winter, a city in the subarctic, was to visit their ice castles, but there are so many other attractions and child-friendly places to visit, we knew it would be a weekend packed with interesting experiences. 

As our trip fell soon after the Christmas holidays, we wanted to do our weekend away on the cheap and we managed to keep our costs low by sharing a hotel room and by forgoing eating at restaurants (despite some amazing recommendations I'll share with you soon). Here is a visual tour of our fun weekend away...

Edmonton is 2 hours and 40 minutes north of Calgary, so we left on Saturday morning, making it to the Edmonton's Old Strathcona Farmers' Market for lunch. Old Strathcona is a vibrant pedestrian district that I have heard about for years, so I wanted to finally check it out. The Farmers' Market is open from 8am-3pm on Saturdays and did not disappoint. Market stalls featured homemade items and delicious food, and there was plenty of people-watching to be found. I loved how non-commercial it was, with individuals and families selling their items behind the booths they made themselves.

I gave Juliette $5 to spend on something she wanted, and almost immediately she found these colourful macarons to feast on. She gave her money to the woman at the stall requesting very seriously the birthday cake macaron with sprinkles. She had such a reverence for exchange taking place, taking the small paper bag containing her cookie along with her change, then saying "thank-you" to the seller. She was so proud to show us her cookie afterwards. It was so sweet to watch her learning these skills.

For lunch we found such an eclectic variety of food to eat. I got a brisket sandwich packed with salt 'n' vinegar chips for myself and the girls (we were on vacation!), while my sister found vietnamese salad rolls, and Veronica got a vegetarian dish with sauerkraut. Edmonton has such a diverse population, including a large community of Ukrainian settlers, and this cultural aspect was reflected in their bustling market.

*** Louise sat in her own chair, with my sister tying her in with her scarf. She is still so small. ***

Juliette and I loved the bright and beautiful colours of the wool at this stall. The woman here dyes the wool herself, and is also an incredible fibre artist. She told us that the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market sticks by the rule "We make it! We grow it! We bake it! We sell it!" Everything sold was made, grown, baked and sold by the vendors themselves. **Spoiler alert: Juliette and I chose a yarn of green wool for the wall weaving workshop I'll be doing in the next couple of months (!)

After the Market we perused the shops along Old Strathcona's Whyte Avenue with its brightly coloured shops, bookstores and intriguing restaurants. I loved the tree lined streets that were lit up as the sun set, and can imagine how beautiful it would be in the summer with all its foliage. While outdoors was frosty, the stylish interiors of the shops were welcoming with brightly lit rooms filled with plants and warm colours. My three favourite stores were: Laurel's On Whyte, The Bamboo Ballroom, and Vivid Print. Also I want to say how friendly and helpful people were as we navigated our stroller in and out along the streets. I loved how easy it was to be there with my toddlers.

Bamboo Ballroom

Juliette's pom-pom!

Vivid Print

Laurel's On Whyte

We were all obsessed with this chicken toy found at Ten Thousand Villages. The little chickens' heads bobbed up and down, pecking at the 'food' in the centre. I would have liked to get it, but the minimalist inside me said better to see this as a fun attraction for the children on their trip and spend money only on items we truly love.

When we started to get hungry we headed to the West Edmonton Mall on the way to our hotel to get our bearings and to pick up a bite to eat. If you have never been there, the mall is enormous. It's the second largest in North America, and I will describe it as being an amusement park with stores. We walked past a water park reminiscent of a Mexican resort, a full-sized skating rink, a pirate ship, a mini golf green and an aquarium. I'm also told there is an actual amusement park in the mall, so I'm pretty confident with my description. 

Following the mall we checked into our room at the Hampton Inn and Suites. Given that we were sticking to a budget I was completely surprised and impressed by this hotel. My sister found this place through her work and we all shared one room which was still plenty of room for us for the night. The hotel included three pools (a deep pool, a kiddie pool and a hot tub) and offered a hot complimentary breakfast with our stay- perfect for our needs. As soon as we got to our room we changed into our bathing suits, letting the girls jump on the bed before going down to the pool! I put a ridiculously adorable video up on instagram of them jumping on the bed, they are the cutest.

After a busy day both girls slept soundly through the night. The adults had plans to hang out and drink cocktails after they went to bed, but instead I ate way too many chocolate mini eggs then fell asleep cuddling Juliette, haha. The next morning we ate our complimentary breakfast (waffles with jam and sprinkles, because we were still on vacation), let the girls run up and down the hallway, and took one more dip in the pool.

While packing up the car with our luggage my sister and Veronica discovered that my car battery died after an interior light was left on all night. They were lucky to find a family in the parking lot with a mechanic dad who helped boost the car and tighten the battery. Thank-you! We were able to leave the hotel just in time to get to the ice castles for our ticketed time.

The ice castles were the highlight of my trip. Made of filtered river water sprayed through (just) one fire hose, the ice grew into towering walls and structures, forming rooms and plazas to walk through. Thrones and slides became interactive ice sculptures for all to enjoy, and tunnels were built in the walls for children to explore. It was truly an awe-inspiring winter experience.

True to my sentimental self, my favourite moment was when Juliette reached to hold my hand, and then asked Louise to hold hands with her as well. I am dizzy with love getting to explore the world with both these bright and beautiful girls.

Sarah and Juliette went down the ice slide together! It looked like so much fun!

Five Queens

My camera and I didn't really know what to do with all the different lighting in the ice castles, but I kind of love how this overexposed one turned out with Juliette. 

And my sister snapped this one of us walking toward the car. I look ever the city-slicker, but I love how Sarah captured a picture of how we so often are at the point in our lives, with Louise on my hip and Juliette's hand in mine. 

We drove back to the West Edmonton Mall to watch the sea lion show before heading back to Calgary. We arrived a little late, so we caught the show from the balcony above, which was still enthralling. Sea lions are without a doubt intelligent animals and I'm interested in learning more about them with the girls when we go to the library next.

On our drive back to Calgary we stopped for one more treat at the Donut Mill in Red Deer (I swear we are healthy eaters most of the time!) It was such a fun weekend, spent with great company. Thank-you so much Sarah and Veronica for helping provide such an incredible experience for the girls, and for sharing many of the pictures included in this post.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Wonderful memories, looks like you had a fun filled girl weekend, love the pictures of My precious granddaughters growing up before my eyes, love your stories, and. pictures
your doing great work J, love reading your stories