The map below is the route and stops we made while in Alberta. If you missed our previous stops, click here for stop #1 and here for stop #2. For our third stop, we could have driven straight to Jasper National Park via Banff National Park. But we had Canadian friends in Edmonton that we were excited to visit.
Leaving Cowtown (aka Calgary) behind, we moved north to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta and the farthest north we would journey this year.
But before visiting our friends, we checked out West Edmonton Mall – dubbed the largest shopping mall in North America, and the tenth largest in the world. We had no plans to buy anything, but we wanted to see this mega-mall for ourselves.
It’s massive! At Galaxy Land, Steve was itching to ride one of the roller coasters until he saw the waiting line. There were huge crowds everywhere we looked – at the stores, recreation areas, iceskating rink and everywhere in between.
We stumbled upon the T&T Asian Supermarket, and I couldn’t resist pulling Steve into this Asian mega-market. That ended our wanderings in the noisy and crowded mall, as we had to haul our bounty out to the car. Well, I didn’t think we’d be buying anything!
Back to our real reason for this stop – to visit friends Matt and Gloria. We met them last February in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, when we took our first caravan south of the U.S. border. They were one of the few caravan couples to cross two international borders (USA and Mexico) to join the party.
Having friends in interesting places is always a good thing!
Our first excursion with them was on a beautifully refurbished high-level trolley car dating back to the early 1900’s. During this short jaunt the conductor/driver shared the history of the streetcar (which took 17 years to rebuild from scratch), and a sense of Edmonton’s early days as we rode across the 100-year-old high level bridge.
The streetcar took us right to the Alberta legislature building, the province’s foremost historic site. We were a bit early for the first tour, so we wandered around the 55-acre grounds. The sun was behind the clouds, and it was a bit chilly as we admired the acres of buildings and manicured lawns.
We caught the first free tour of the day and learned about the building and heard some fascinating stories behind its portraits and magnificent art.
On the fifth floor, our tour guide pointed out a section dedicated to Alberta’s “Famous 5.” In 1927, Emily Murphy and four other prominent Canadian women fought a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that decided the word “person” did not include women. These women fought hard and won a legal and political battle to have women recognized as persons under the law. They have been celebrated for their many contributions that paved the way for women to participate in other aspects of public life, and the assertion of women’s rights.
Fort Edmonton Park
Our next stop was a main attraction in Edmonton – Fort Edmonton Park. It’s a living museum that represents four distinct time periods and explores Edmonton’s development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest to a booming metropolitan center after the First World War. The park has authentically re-created streets of the years 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920. It was a unique way to give folks a chance to experience what life was like long before digital technologies came along.
It was in the year 1846 section that I learned about the significance of the beaver in Canada. Without beavers, Canada as we know it would not exist. Everything changed the moment early French explorers realized, “Well, they don’t have any gold, but damn those rodents would make good looking hats.”
We learned that fur trade was instrumental in the development of the country that would become Canada, and the beaver was at the heart of that enterprise. Its pelt was used to make everything from felt hats to robes and winter coats.
It was this demand for beaver pelts that prompted the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish a trading post. The sole purpose of the post was to trade European goods to the local Cree, Blackfoot and other indigenous people in exchange for valuable beaver pelts. The use of the beaver as a symbol stems back to the company’s coat of arms that dates to 1621.
Boys and Girls Day
The following day was the boys and girls day out. While Gloria and I went to a conservatory to smell the flowers, the boys had their fun at the airport.
At the Muttart Conservatory were four glass pyramids, each housing thousands of species of plants of distinct environment representing different biomes of the world. They were the arid, temperate and tropical, with the fourth being a featured pyramid.
On the other side of town, Steve and Matt enjoyed some guy time at the airport. Matt had very generously set up a flight for Steve with his friend Eugene, in the beautiful Van’s RV7 that Eugene built. They flew for about 40 minutes and did a roll along the way. This plane really made Steve miss his flying days and got him thinking – oh oh!
Matt also showed Steve his amazing project plane, on which he is engineering a custom-built amphibious landing system. Steve was so upset with himself that he had left his camera at Matt’s house, but he still totally enjoyed his time with “the flyboys” and started wondering what we might do after our RV travels…
Matt and Gloria were wonderful hosts, and they showed us how Canadians entertain guests from across the border. We can’t say enough how grateful we are for the time they spent with us in their beautiful city and home. We’re so happy we’ll be hanging out with them again in Puerto Peñasco next winter!