First impressions of Edmonton: airport wine shops and Toronto jokes
EDMONTON - I'm here for a Canadian Tourism Commission conference called Go Media, where tourism folks and journalists mix and plot out stories and such. It's always a great deal of fun, to be honest, as the people are awesome. And the tourism boards and host cities always do a nice job of entertaining us visitors.
Yesterday, we arrived to lovely, 17C sunshine - a nice bonus. Immediately upon exiting the plane I found a wine shop with lots of nice stuff from around the world. It wasn't a duty-free shop, and it wasn't a government shop, as folks out here actually allow REGULAR STORES TO SELL ALCOHOL. WOW.
I didn't buy anything, but it's nice to see a private enterprise wine store at an airport. It's a nice, bright terminal, and, get this, my bags arrived FIVE MINUTES after I got off the plane. Pearson, eat your heart out. Of course, this airport is far less busy than Toronto, but still...
The Edmonton tourism folks had a juggler entertaining arrivals at the baggage claim area and then again on the sidewalk as we waited for buses to take us downtown to our hotels. A nice guy, and a darned good juggler, too.
Of course, he had to tell at least one southern Ontario joke.
"Hey, how does a Torontonian change a light bulb? He holds the bulb and the rest of the world revolves around him."
The view coming into town is great as you cross over the Saskatchewan River and get a great view of a pretty impressive skyline rising up above the riverbanks. It's far larger than I expected and there seem to be a lot of new apartment/condo buildings.
I went for a walk along Jasper Ave., which is really 100th Avenue. There's a grid system in Edmonton, so streets are numbered and go north-south, while avenues also are numbered and go east-west. I"m staying at 101st Ave. NorthWest and 100 St. NorthWest, which I find pretty confusing.
Anyway, I was told Jasper is the main street downtown. To be honest, it's not much. There are a couple decent-looking buildings and a few restaurants and shops, but it's pretty uneven and not so attractive.
Far better is a short trip to Whyte Avenue, which is really 82nd Ave. They call the area "Old Stratchona," but I think from a marketing standpoint it could use a sexier moniker.
It's kinda like a version of Queen West. Not quite so edgy, but it does have some nice architecture and lots of nice bars and restaurants and shops.
I had dinner at a simple Italian place called Chianti Cafe. It's okay, but they get far too weird with putting pineapple into pasta with seafood and topping salmon with pesto and asparagus and overdoing things. A simple bowl of pasta should have three or four ingredients and that's about it, I think.
Anyway, it wasn't bad and it was only $12.99 for pasta with sliced Italian sausage and onions (cooking the onions would've been nice, but, hey, it was 13 bucks) and $3.99 for a decent starter salad that had Italian vinaigrette and diced ginger, I think.
I'm getting a better tour of the area today so I'll report back on that more tomorrow....