I’ve spent the last week and a bit in Edmonton, Alberta working for the CBC as a ‘Shooter’ (Cameraman to you and I).
The CBC News, Edmonton studio
What a strange place Edmonton is. Dumped out in the middle of the prairies, 4 hours from the Rocky Mountains and 3 hours from what is known to hippies as ‘Alberta’s dirty secret’, the oilsands. A vast area devoted to the extraction of oil rich bitumen from the soil. The process was deemed uneconomical a few years ago but as the price of oil has risen, the rich deposits of Americas favourite import have become Alberta, and Canada’s goldmine. Huge swathes of forest have been removed to extract the oil and there are now pipelines running into the USA direct from the source, with plenty more planned as Canada becomes the main supplier of oil to the States.
Enbridge building in Edmonton. They are one of the big Alberta oil pipeline firms
This makes Edmonton a strange mix of regular blue collar workers, a small minority of white collar workers and a bunch of rich people who make every conceivable journey in the biggest vehicles they can lay their hands on. There is a definite sense that no one here even knows who Al Gore is. That the possibility that the huge deposits of natural resources in the this area would never run out. The Texas of Canada I suppose.
The industrial heart of Downtown
The greatest asset to the city is, quite unbelievably, a huge shopping centre. Yes, the West Edmonton Mall! Despite every local I met rolling their eyes when I mentioned it, it is possibly the most impressive achievement the folks here have managed. It is a shrine to the way of life adopted by the Edmontonians. It gets so cold here in winter (-30 degrees Celcius), that you can’t walk dow the high street to get your bread and milk. So, you drive into the worlds biggest car park and wander into this vast mall which caters for everything the modern Canadian could possibly want.
There’s every chain store and restaurant you can think of, a theme park complete with roller coasters which would not be out of place at Alton Towers…
Yes, that’s indoor
A huge water park with (allegedly) the worlds largest water slides…
Yes, that’s also INDOOR
…a cinema, hotel, ice skating rink…
… aquarium, live animal exhibits and last but not least a sea lion show.
You go get some pants and I’ll watch the show love
Aside from this shrine to capitalism, I have found three big positives in Edmonton. The first is the aforementioned Rocky Mountains. They may be a decent drive away but words cannot describe how amazing the place is.
The Rocky Mountains from 40,000ft
I spent a long weekend there mountain biking…
…swimming in lakes…
…crashing mountain bikes…
…walking on glaciers…
….and driving on what is arguably the most spectacular road in the world, the Icefields Parkway.
The second is that the whole of the month of August seems to be dedicated to music festivals. It’s not quite the UK but is easily the best city in Western Canada to get a good range of live music. The Vans Warped tour passed through town the other day, I randomly passed a Scorpions gig on my way home from work today, and I managed to catch a fair few acts at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival at the weekend including the excellent Ben Harper.
Ben Harper on mainstage at the Edmonton FolkFest
The other big plus for Edmonton I discovered only yesterday evening when I decided to spend a quiet night in. A storm erupted at around 8pm and there began one of the most amazing 2 hours of lightning, rain, hail and wind I have ever seen in my life. There were three storms in total which passed right over my head as I sat on the balcony of my apartment in the Saaskatchewan river valley.
The investment in the new DSLR camera now seems justified!