Bus Tour 7 – Lake Louise in the snow

Lake Louise, to me, is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It has a beautiful view of the glacier on the opposite end of the lake. On either side, the mountains seem to cradle the glacier, thus creating a natural frame for a beautiful scene.

Lake Louise in the snow

With the morning gong show behind us, we pulled into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for our lunch reservation. We had to pre-order our food on the first morning of our bus tour. I had chosen beef. It wasn’t steak, but when in Alberta, you just have to have beef. That was my thinking.

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Bus Tour 5 – In the Town of Banff

Banff is not a very large town. It sits within the much larger Banff National Park. The town limits are set and are not allowed to expand beyond its current limits, lest it creeps into the national park.

We had finished our afternoon of touristy cliches, we were left to our own devices to for the whole evening. The stores along Banff Avenue would be closing up soon. It was a Sunday evening, so we had to work quick if we were to get a little window/real shopping in for the day.

Shopping along Banff Avenue

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Bus Tour 4 – Hello There, Banff

I’ve been to Banff many times in the past. Having been born in Alberta, my family used to make day trips from a small town outside of Edmonton to Banff. This time, with the bus tour, we were here to do some touristy stuff – the Sulphur Mountain Gondola and the Upper Banff Hot Springs. Hooray for touristy clichés!

Sulphur Mountain Gondola

We had crossed the British Columbia-Alberta border before noon time. We had witnessed the rivers change from flowing westward to the Pacific Ocean to flowing eastward to Hudson’s Bay. We moseyed into Banff soon after. Before we headed for all the touristy attractions, we needed to grab food. If you guessed Chinese food (again), you’d be right.

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Edmonton North LRT – Under Construction

NLRT_to_Nait_Map_PG_rdax_474x700_90Here’s the last of my Edmonton LRT posts from July 2013.  (It’s amazing how far behind I am on posting things, but things are too busy to do photos and blog everyday).  This post covers the construction of the new Edmonton North LRT.  It’s currently the North LRT, but it will eventually be called the Metro Line once everything is finished.

The North LRT currently under construction runs from the existing Churchill Station downtown right by Edmonton City Hall.  Then it runs north and west towards Grant MacEwan University.  The train then swings straight north up 105 Street past the Prince of Wales Armouries to the diagonal running Kingsway Avenue.  The line runs northwest along Kingsway Avenue and passes by Royal Alexandra Hospital and Kingsway Garden Mall.  The line then makes another swing north down 106 Street to it’s terminus at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

Because the line is still under construction, the only way to see what was going on was to walk the line.  So I started around Grant MacEwan and made my way up to NAIT.  That took me a whole afternoon including some breaks at McDonald’s and the shopping mall to rest my feet and get some water.  Here are the photos.  I’m not going to add any narrative this time around.  However, there will be captions.

Grant MacEwan Station looking south towards downtown

A beautiful, but lonely brick building near the new Grant MacEwan Station. It’s in a rougher part of town from the looks of it.

The Lingnan Restaurant – made famous by the reality show The Quon Dynasty

The LRT 105 Street Canopy

Prince of Wales Armouries and new LRT tracks in the foreground

The view downtown near the Prince of Wales Armouries

Kingsway/Royal Alex Station under construction

Road Closed for LRT track construction along 106 Street near Kingsway Avenue

Avonair Curling Club – home to Kevin Martin and his 2010 Olympic Champion Team

NAIT LRT Terminus Station

ominous clouds over Edmonton City Center Airport right beside NAIT

The Metro Line is scheduled for operation in the Spring of 2014.  I’m not planning another trip to Edmonton in the next few years, but I look forward to eventually riding the new Metro Line when it’s ready  After the Metro Line opens, Edmontonians may have to wait until 2020 for their next LRT line.  Maybe I should wait until then, but it seems a long ways off…

Edmonton LRT – South LRT

checker cap side view mirror on Edmonton LRT

After the Health Sciences Station at the University of Alberta, the Edmonton LRT continues south along 114 Street.  The next stop is McKernan Belgravia.  It’s a small, unassuming station near 76 Avenue.  The largest landmark around here is the McKernan School across the street.  Photographically, what interested me was the underground pedestrian/bicycle passage way and the ramps on either side.

Further south along 114th Street is the South Campus/Fort Edmonton station. I didn’t realize that the University of Alberta had a south campus.  Also, the Fort Edmonton name is a bit of a misnomer.  Fort Edmonton isn’t really close to here (unless some early settlement of Fort Edmonton was here).  Fort Edmonton Park is a 5 minute drive or a 15 minute bus ride from the station.  

U of A South Campus football field

After the South Campus/Fort Edmonton Station, the LRT swings east past the Alberta School for the Deaf along 61st Avenue towards 111 Street.  Then the train continues down the middle of 111 Street to just before the Whitemud Drive Freeway.  The next stop is for the giant Southgate mall. There are a giant pair of legs sans body right at the transit centre there.  I took the liberty to go through the mall to get out of the heat and grab some liquids.

After Southgate, the next station is about a 24 blocks south.  Century Park marks the current end of the south LRT.  In my mind, I remember Century Park originally as Heritage Mall.  A large shopping centre used to dominate this part of Edmonton.  However, it was torn long ago.  There is a much smaller shopping complex, a large parking lot, a large empty lot, and condos beyond that large empty lot.

Edmonton LRT – Downtown and University of Alberta

The downtown Edmonton LRT stations are currently all underground.  It starts at Churchill Station in the east.  Churchill is right under the Sir Winston Churchill Square which is home to festivals every weekend in the summer.  It’s also right by Edmonton City Hall.

Edmonton City Hall (2012)

The signature undulating Frank Gehry curves of the Art Gallery of Alberta (2012)

The LRT then swings straight westward underneath Jasper Avenue.  3 stations sit underneath Jasper Avenue.  From east to west the stations are Central, Bay/Enterprise Square, and Corona.  I didn’t get to spend much time visiting the downtown LRT stations.  I got a few shots in Corona Station that turned out, but the rest didn’t make the cut.  The glass chandeliers from the mezzanine hanging over the platform are what caught my eyes at Corona.

After Corona Station, the LRT then turns due south to the Alberta Legislature grounds. The grounds can be accessed by disembarking at Gradin/Government Centre.  It’s a quick walk up to the parliament buildings.  Tours of the building are always available.

Alberta Legislature reflecting pool and fountain

Stained glass in the Alberta Legislature

The train leaving south from Gradin/Government Centre soon exits the darkness of the downtown tunnels and emerges along the LRT Bridge crossing the North Saskatchewan River.  Just east of the LRT Bridge is the towering and historic High Level Bridge.  The train’s exposure to the sun is brief and it soon enters the deepest underground LRT station in the city at University Station.

View of LRT train crossing the North Saskatchewan River from the High Level Bridge Streetcar (2012)

University of Alberta crest and motto

U of A’s HUB Mall connected to University Station

For the longest time, University Station was the end of the line for the LRT.  It wasn’t until 2006 that the LRT had finally expanded further south.  The first of the stations on the Southern Extension was Health Sciences Station. I think one of the most impressive collection of health and medicine facilities surround this ground level station.

Health Sciences Station

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Beyond Health Sciences Station are 4 more stations that make up most of the Southern LRT extension.  All of which were completed between 2009 and 2010.   More to come in the next post.

Edmonton LRT – the Northeast

I was up in Edmonton back in July. I was up there for about a week or so. On days that I had to myself, I made it my goal to ride the Edmonton LRT. Previously, I never really had a chance to try it, so I was bent on doing so this time. Being a transit geek, this was only natural for me.

My plan was to get out to one end of the LRT with a DayPass and then make my way to most of the stations along the way. So I headed out to Clareview way out in the northeast of the city. This is where this transit journey begins.

190 Eaux Claires bus at the transit exchange surrounding Clareview Station

LRT train leaving Clareview Station

A very happy park n’ ride bicycle at Clareview Station

There was not much within walking distance out at Clareview Station.  There were two transit exchanges on either side of the station.  Then there was the large park and ride parking lots.  Beyond those were some 4-5 storey apartment buildings.  Oh and a giant overpass just south of the station which offers a tiny view of the downtown skyline.  However, it is quiet out this way if you are looking for that.

The tracks out by Belvedere Station

Edmonton LRT Crossing Arm

train leaving Belvedere Station

The biggest landmark around Belvedere Station would be the Century Casino.  There are the standard bus exchange and park and ride parking lots around the station.  On nearby Fort Road there are a few businesses and a collection of detached single family homes.  Most are more accessible by car than by walking from the station.

Coliseum Station

Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers

This is where the northeast section of the Edmonton LRT gets more interesting and meaningful to me.  Welcome to Coliseum Station and the surrounding Northlands. Northlands is the exhibition grounds for K Days, formerly known as Klondike Days.  Northlands is also home to Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers.  I was once a giant Oilers fan as a young child.  They were Stanley Cup champions in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990.  Oh the heady Oilers dynasty days.  Good memories.

Commonwealth Stadium electronic billboard – inviting the BC Lions to play

Edmonton Eskimos advert at Stadium Station

Then the last of the northeast stations before heading into downtown Edmonton is Stadium Station.  The station takes its namesake from the Commonwealth Stadium next door.  Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games back in 1978.  The stadium is now home to Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos brandishing their green and gold trim.  This is also where I decided to take a lunch break at a nearby McDonald’s.  I thought I’d let you know just in case you’re ever in this part of town looking for lunch.

Memories of the 2012 Calgary Stampede

Where else in the world can you try a Cowboy Sundae, but at the Greatest Show on Earth – the Calgary Stampede.  It’s been a year since last year’s giant 100th anniversary bash.  The 2013 edition runs from July 5 – 14th this year.

2012 was the first time I had ever been to the Calgary Stampede.  Even though I lived in Alberta for many years, I never actually got to go to the Stampede.  So it was time for some rootin-tootin fun.

There was a lot of food choices.  Most of it of the “heart attack” variety.  Deep-fried goodies alongside chocolate dipped treats.  I guess the only thing that can better those items are deep frying chocolate dipped snacks.

There were also plenty of livestock on hand.  Cows, chicken, sheep, and horses all over the place.  If you’re kids love animals, they’ll love the Agricultural section of the Stampede.  I, myself, am not so partial to the smell of farm life.  That’s just me.

There was also the stage shows.  We caught Adam and Selina – Masters of Illusion on the Bell Stage. This brother and sister duo from the land Down Under was very popular with Stampede patrons.  Boy, those line ups to get in and out of the seating area was crazy.  I don’t know what acts they have this year, though.

If fairway rides are your thing, then the Calgary Stampede has the standard rides to cater to your thrills.  We were busy with shows and other stuff, so we didn’t spend any money on the rides.  I can get many of the same rides at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.  So I didn’t feel the urge to go the local rides.  But the rides definitely add atmosphere to the fairgrounds, especially as night falls.

And finally, there is the famed Rodeo and Evening Shows.  The Stampede Grandstand tickets are the most popular tickets by far.  Most of the Grandstand seats are sold out well before the Stampede even starts.  You have to line up once the fair opens in the morning for the remaining seats and standing room only tickets.  It’s an intimidatingly long queue, but you should be able to get tickets if you get there early enough.  Just expect standing room only to be left by the end of the line.

To be honest, though, we weren’t that into the chuck wagon races and rodeo stuff.  The standing room only part wasn’t all that comfortable either.  So we ended up leaving after an hour and didn’t stay for the big evening show with fireworks.  If we had to stand for 3 hours, I think it was too much.  At least we had a taste of the Evening Show.  However, it wasn’t our cup of tea.

And, of course, you can go to the Calgary Stampede just to people watch.  It’s not everyday (at least apart from the Prairies) that you see crowds of people with cowboy hats and country wear.  Just go to the Stampede for the feel of the Alberta crowd.

Edmonton High Level Streetcar

Attention train/transportation/transit fans:  There’s a great streetcar ride available in Edmonton, Alberta.  Coming from Vancouver, I have enjoyed our own local historic streetcar.  Unfortunately for 2012, the Transit Museum Society didn’t run the streetcar. However, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society seems to be fairly robust with at least 3 streetcars in their rolling stock and trams that run daily during the summer.

First off, we had to find where to get the streetcar.  Many websites and reviews that I read gave general directions, but I wasn’t entirely clear on the exact location.  So to find the actual starting point, I had to weave my way around the Old Strathcona Farmers Market to find the almost unremarkable loading platform.  The Dropped Pin above marks the exact spot.  I came off of 104 St SW to find the stop, but it might be easier to walk up Gateway Boulevard to the stop.

I was expecting a classic old-timer streetcar, so I was surprised when I saw this modern Siemens tram roll its way towards the platform.  The Siemens car, known as Hannover #601, dates back to the 1970’s.  So that makes the car 40 years old.  I guess it qualifies for a heritage rating now.  The car was actually originally purchased by the BC government as demonstration streetcar to showcase light rail technology for Vancouver.  Eventually, the BC government settled on Bombardier’s automated SkyTrain system and the car was no longer needed.  In 1985, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society purchased the vehicle.  You can read more about Hannover #601 on the Society’s website.

We bought our roundtrip tickets and boarded the tram.  The steps folded down to the platform level to allow passengers to board.  There was a wheelchair door, but unfortunately for all the baby strollers, it was out of service.  This classic 70’s streetcar isn’t much older than the Siemens U2 light rail cars that serve the Edmonton LRT system, so the seats and interior are quite modern and minimal.  It wasn’t the heritage feel I was expecting, but I just arrived on the wrong day for that.

The car made its way northwest down the tracks past the north side of Strathcona and the busy Whyte Avenue.  The tracks ran through a large swath of green.  Sometimes we would pass by a community garden or two.  However, it was like an unofficial linear park flanking the rail lines.

One of the major draws of this particular streetcar line is that it traverses the very loft High Level Bridge.  The bridge towers high above the North Saskatchewan River.  In the summer, the bridge can be an artificial waterfall with gallons upon gallons of water spewed off the side.  It’s great for celebratory occasions like Canada Day.  It’s an outstanding view from the streetcar to see the river valley below.  Also, the streetcar tracks actually are above the southbound automobile traffic.  So car drivers can see and feel the shadow and rattle of the car as it passes overhead.

Edmonton Streetcar #33 crosses the High Level Bridge © Hans Ryffel, ERRS

The streetcar’s final stop at Jasper Plaza just half a block south of the busy Jasper Avenue.  A lot of the locals would get off because they had planned a one-way trip.  I got off the car to take a few photos of passengers waiting to go back over the bridge.

On the way back over the High Level Bridge, I spotted the Edmonton LRT on the LRT bridge crossing below.  The five-car Siemens LRT is the actual full-time working rail transit in Edmonton.  It was also one of the first LRT systems in North America.  The bridge also doubles as a bicycle and pedestrian bridge which can seen just under the LRT.

So our round trip took roughly an hour.  It was well worth the $5 to take the High Level Bridge ride with the vast and wide river valley view.  Check off another transit ride from my bucket list.