An Adventure in Alberta

A few weeks ago, a friend and I took a short trip out of Edmonton. We left late on a Thursday evening, and were back home by late afternoon on Saturday. This little trip was a lot of fun, and I have to say that I enjoyed being a tourist without going far from home!

We left without much of a plan, except for wanting to hit an AJHL hockey game in Brooks, Alberta on Friday night. The rest of the time, we just went with the flow. At my last job, I spent a bit of time travelling around Alberta, but I never really had much time to do any sightseeing. It was nice to stop and take a picture of whatever struck our fancy along the way, such as this lovely bird that you can find in Hanna – the home of Nickelback… Alberta is so proud.
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We stopped many places along the way – from Galahad (a medieval -themed village I picked off of the map), to a mining interpretive site (which was literally on the side of a back highway), to Dinosaur Provincial Park (one of the richest areas in the world as far as dinosaur fossils are concerned).
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We finally made our way to Brooks in time for the hockey game and I have to say I was extremely impressed by the production that this small town put on. The arena was beautiful, and clearly the Brooks Bandits are a first class organization, as far as junior hockey is concerned. This game was the season opener, and they had a few banners to raise so the pre-game show was very cool to see. I wish I could go to games here more often!

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The next day, before heading back to Edmonton, we stopped at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, which features a collection of more than 130,000 dinosaur fossils and is actually an important location for palaeontological research. This museum was extremely well-done and informative, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. I thought that one of the coolest things about seeing all the exhibits was that this area of Alberta really is one of the centers of the dinosaur universe, where many important discoveries have been made.

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After spending a few hours at the museum, it was time to head back to Edmonton. I guess the point of this post is that I wanted to write about how much I enjoyed all of these experiences that were not all that far from home. Having not grown up in Alberta, I haven’t seen many of the things or done many of the activities available here. I always say that I want to travel more, but I also need to keep in mind that there are plenty of exciting and affordable things to experience much closer to home. Whenever I start to really feel the travel bug from now on, I’m going to take a look at the long list of touristy Albertan activities I have not had the chance to do.

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Love KG

Save Me, San Francisco

I’ve been back from San Francisco for a few weeks now, and I’m definitely missing a couple things.

1) Being on vacation
2) Being in California
3) Blogging every day
4) The Pacific Ocean
5) Hanging out at coffee shops

I’m going to stop there… I have a feeling this list could go on and on. I can’t wait to plan my next trip! But while I am still thinking about this one, I wanted to write down a few things that I didn’t get to do in San Francisco that are still on my list. After my time there two years ago, I wrote this post. Going back and reading it now, I’m happy to find that I did many of the things I had picked out. Here it is, with my current comments in black.

Things I want to do when I go back:

Go on an Alcatraz tour (Done!)

Visit Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world) (I was lucky enough to have Rich drive me right down the street this time)

Explore Golden Gate Park, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Conservatory of Flowers (I drove through Golden Gate Park with Rich, but didn’t go into any more of these places. This will stay on my list for the future.)

Visit the Exploratorium (Not done yet, but they’ve just moved to a new location and I’m looking forward to visiting it sometime in the future)

Go to Sausalito – explore, go for a walk, have some lunch, and enjoy the sweet views of San Fran (Did not do this yet)

Go to a San Francisco Giants game… I hear the venue is incredible. (Did not do this yet, but toured the stadium – definitely beautiful. Going to a game here is certainly still on my list).

Things I would add to this list for my next San Francisco adventure:

Tour the TCHO chocolate factory.

Visit wine country!

Do a walking tour in Castro and Haight-Ashbury – if this is something you can do!

Look into We Players to see what kind of cool shows are happening.

Visit the Walt Disney Family Museum

And lastly, not something I haven’t done, but something I should do much more of – ride as many pedicabs as I can. They are the best! If you missed out on how much my friend KP and I love them, check her post about it out here.

I’m sure another San Franciscan adventure would result in even more new and exciting activities! I can’t wait to return.

Love KG

Alcatraz, Azkaban… same thing, right?

Do any of you ever have to think twice about whether you are wanting to say “Alcatraz” or “Azkaban” in a conversation? No? Ok, well then. You obviously need to spend more time in the magical world of Harry Potter.

KP recapped our full day on Monday in her post I think it tastes like pickles… A travel story, but I was lucky enough to get the task of writing about our trip to Alcatraz. It was my first time visiting the island that is home to the most famous prison in the world (except for Azkaban, of course) and it was definitely a very cool experience.

As KP mentioned in her post, we did a drive by of Alcatraz on our way to our first stop at Angel Island. Alcatraz is such an iconic place. Cruising by it on the boat made for some amazing views.

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For those of you that don’t know much about Alcatraz Island, it has a very colourful history as a military fort, as a disciplinary barracks, as a maximum security prison, and as a site for a Native American occupation. During the California gold rush in the 1850’s, Alcatraz was built up as a military fort in order to protect the San Francisco Bay Area. Between Fort Point, Lime Point, and Fort Alcatraz, this area was totally protected, though Alcatraz was never really tested. At this time, the first lighthouse on the West coast was built on the island as well. The island quickly evolved into a place of detention in the 1860’s. At this time, prisoners arrested for treason during the Civil War were housed there.

After the San Francisco earth quake of 1906, military prisoners on the island built a new prison, which became a disciplinary barracks for the US Army. It was this new building that eventually became known as “The Rock”. The island was used by the military until 1933, when it was acquired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to build a maximum-security prison for housing the most difficult inmates from other prisons. This is the Alcatraz that has become famous today.

At Alcatraz, prisoners had rights to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else that they received was considered to be a privilege and not expected. Over the years, there were several escape attempts from Alcatraz, but it is not confirmed that any of them were successful. No man is known to have made it to land, but there are still 5 prisoners listed as “missing and presumed drowned”.

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Alcatraz shut down in 1963, and the island was essentially abandoned until 1969, when a group of Native Americans claimed it as “Indian Land”. They occupied the area for about 18 months, until they were removed by Federal Marshals. Though they were not able to keep Alcatraz, this did lead to the government returning some land to Native Americans across the country. In 1972, Alcatraz was included as part of the newly created Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Since then, it has become one of the most popular national parks in the USA. If you are interested in reading more about the history of Alcatraz, you can do so here.

Upon arriving on the island, we got a bit of an introduction by one of the park rangers, then we were turned loose. KP and I immediately walked up the hill to the cell block to do the audio tour included in any landing on Alcatraz Island. I have to say, the audio tour was amazingly well done. It included voices and stories from past Alcatraz inmates and guards, as well as all sorts of excellent background noises and ambiance. Not to mention, there were many displays with photos throughout the course of the tour. It was crazy to hear the voices of hardened criminals and be able to stare right into their faces as they were discussing their time at Alcatraz. It was also pretty surreal to be able to see the cells these men lived in, usually for years.

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The audio tour also detailed two different escape attempts, and we were able to look right into the cells where guards were killed, and right at the holes in the back of a couple cells, dug by inmates using spoons. We also got to see the tool that one man used to pry the bars apart during an attempt that became known as the Battle of Alcatraz. It was surreal to stand in the very place that all of these things happened.

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One of the most interesting things I learned during my time on Alcatraz was that the prison guards and their families actually lived right on the island. A woman who lived on Alcatraz as a child spoke on the audio tour and told the story of how she would take a boat to school on the mainland in the morning and return in the evening. She never even thought about the prisoners as they were locked away safely and didn’t make much noise.

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After the audio tour, we made our way down the hill toward the dock and found a lovely little hallway with a theatre and several exhibits off of it.

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Before long, we were ready to head back to the mainland to continue our day. Again, here is the post that details the rest of Monday, our last full day in San Francisco.

Love KG

We Made Hostel Friends!

Despite the fact that the attempt to bond with our first set of roommates was an epic fail, KP and I did end up coming out of the weekend with some hostel friends. Also, with some new information: Apparently getting drunk off a combination of wine and tequila does not, in fact, lead to a hangover – I know, I was shocked too.

While sitting around in the common area, drinking wine and blogging last night, we had a set of girls sit down to eat dinner at the rather large table we had taken over. Before long, a pair of guys came to sit with them, mentioning that they wanted to sit with their roommates. KP and I were overtaken with jealousy as we saw the relationship we had tried so hard to create for ourselves earlier in our adventures flourishing right before our eyes. It was a beautiful thing.

We started to join in the conversation with the group as they were just too infectiously hilarious and awesome not to. Before long, we felt the need to tell them about our previous roommate fail, and ask if they felt that we had maybe come on too strong. “Are you kidding? We would have dropped everything to come and meet you!” was the immediate response from one of the guys, followed closely by “Please continue to do this wherever you stay in the future – seriously! It would probably work 99% of the time”. And thus, the ice was broken.

We continued to hang out downstairs, drinking the magical “delicately bubbled” wine I blogged about the other day and the tequila the boys had provided, all the while laughing and learning about each of our different home countries and cultures. The girls were from Switzerland, the boys from Australia, and of course, KP and I are from Canada. It was quite the group and we had many topics to compare between each of our countries. This was exactly the type of experience I was looking forward to having during my first time staying at a hostel.

The rest of the night was spent getting to know each other and dancing the night away at a bar that was playing Motown music. It was the perfect way to end off my time in San Francisco.

This morning, we left our new friends this note:

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So, to Ivan, Kevin, Isabelle, and Marisa of room 311 – if you are reading this, thank you! You are all amazing people and KP & I are very glad you sat down at our table last night. Good luck in all your future adventures in San Francisco and elsewhere – let us know if you ever make your way to Alberta! We will definitely drop each of you a blog post (that’s right, no other form of communication is more appropriate) if we are ever in your area. Don’t expect any prior notice – it will only include our plans for the evening and a map of how to get there 🙂

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Love KG

“Why are people stopping? Oh, churros! That’s allowed.”

The event coordinator in me really feels the need to write this post. The other night, KP and I went to a ball game in Oakland, which you can read about here. This post is not about the game itself, but about the trip home. Or rather, the walk out of the stadium onto the BART train. I know this sounds like a weird thing to write an entire blog post about, but I swear it was just so darn impressive.

When the post-game fireworks show ended, I was dreading the trek out of the building and onto the train. There was only one relatively narrow pedway across to the train station, and I had horrible visions of how long it would take to get everyone across it. The visions worsened when we realized that they had blocked off the pedway and several hundred people were congregated outside the gate, waiting to be let through. I imagined the pushing, shoving, trampling, and waiting that would ensue once the gate was open. I thought about the fact that most BART stations only have a couple ticket machines, and only a few narrow gates to go through individually with your ticket. I tried to figure out how many trains would pass by before we would finally get on one. Friends, all these worries were completely unfounded, and I’m still not entirely sure how.

When the pedway opened, people moved steadily through it, with a select few stopping to buy from the churro vendors on either side of the walkway. We barely stopped moving the entire way across, down the stairs, through the BART gates, up the escalator, and onto the waiting train. How did this happen? It seemed everyone had prepurchased their return tickets on the BART (we did too), which removed the issue about the ticket machines, but the rest of it was just impressive. I think they must have timed the opening of the gate on the pedway with when trains would be in the station. Likely they also had increased train frequency during this time, and maybe added cars to any trains already running.

I’m not entirely sure on all the details, but I needed to write this post to express my admiration. The little things like thinking through a guest’s experience when leaving an event can have the greatest impact on how they will remember their night. I will forever remember how painless that trip back to the train was, especially compared to where my expectations were sitting. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything as efficient as how that crowd was handled. Well done, BART.

Love KG

The day that we went to the Best Place Ever, did the Best Thing Ever, and listened to the Best Song Ever

Ok, so a bit of the title is a lie. We did not actually listen to the Best Song Ever yesterday (aka Best Song Ever by One Direction), but we did do those other things! This was an absolutely great day in San Francisco.

KP and I “slept in”. For the two of us, that means she was up around 8 AM and I was awake by 9:15 and getting ready for the day. Obviously we were exhausted by the craziness of the night before, which KP has recapped for you here.

I had unfortunately dropped the ball and not pre-purchased tickets to tour AT&T Park, so I spent some time attempting to purchase online. A note to Canadian buyers – the online system will not let you purchase due to our alphanumeric postal code. Also, tickets can only be purchased by phone 24 hours in advance. Long story short, once we were ready KP and I headed to the Giants Dugout Store to attempt to purchase tickets that way. We figured if none were available, we would at least take a few pictures outside the park and then continue along the waterfront.

When we arrived at the store, we were excited to learn that tickets were still available – hooray! We were plenty early, so we purchased two tickets and then went to find a coffee shop to hang out at for an hour or so. Coffee shops that were open in this area were hard to come by, but we did stumble upon Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery where we shared a breakfast. It was actually second breakfast as we had hit up first breakfast at our hostel before leaving, but we knew that between the tour and then finding the clam chowder we were craving, we would not be having lunch anytime soon. I would definitely come back here as the food was delicious and the staff very friendly.

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Before long, it was time to head back to AT&T Park for our tour. It is a lovely building, even from the outside.

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Within minutes of the start of our tour, KP and I had decided that this stadium was the Best Place Ever. For those of you who don’t know, AT&T Park is the baseball stadium that the San Francisco Giants play out of and it sits right on the water in downtown San Francisco. It is one of the most beautiful venues in professional sport. Our guide, Dan, actually turned out to be a pretty important guy. Apparently they were busy and short-staffed that day, so though his usual job is coordinating the operations of the stadium, he was called in to tour us around. Despite his warnings that he does not normally do tours, he was a great guide. He was able to share all sorts of fun facts and definitely brought us almost everywhere we could want to go (except for the Giants Clubhouse – apparently that is not allowed while in season due to privacy concerns and MLB regulations). Here is a picture of Dan, so you have a good picture of him in your head.

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Dan started off with a bit of an overview of the stadium and how it came to be. AT&T Park is the only privately owned major sports facility in the US, and it got this way due to the fact that the city was refusing to build a new stadium for the Giants, and the team was looking at relocating because of this. Now, AT&T Park is owned by Giants Enterprises, which is a collection of individuals who came together to fund the building. Dan made the comment that you can never get anything built with the city involved, especially stadiums. Being from Edmonton, I definitely had to agree – our downtown stadium drama has been going on for years! Due to the fact that this venue is privately owned, they actually host a ton of other events throughout the year and have a large staff team taking care of everything to do with the building. Event coordinator at AT&T Park? Hello new dream job!

Dan started the viewing of the facility at the top of the stadium and we worked our way down. Some of the greatest views are definitely from way up in the cheapest seats.

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We went through all levels of seating and took photos of the park at far too may angles, as you can see. This sure is a far cry from the Coliseum in Oakland, which KP wrote about here.

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We even got to see inside a suite! This one belongs to Tony Bennett. He apparently uses it when he is in town, but it can also be rented out for $7,000 to $12,000 per game. Dan said that this is his favourite suite, though it is the smallest. It looks right over the water as well as the game

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We also got to go inside the Visiting Team’s Clubhouse. The room itself was nice, and also included an office for the team’s General Manager, which KP posed inside, as well as a kitchen with an executive chef. Dan pointed out the Atlanta Braves clock on the wall and mentioned that there were many other items throughout the Clubhouse that had all been gifts from other teams in the league over the years.

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But the very best part of the entire tour was that we got to go right down onto the field. Dan warned us against stepping on the grass, but we had free reign on the shale and in the dugouts. We took A LOT of pictures.

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Dan was very serious about not stepping on the grass, but look, what rebels! Our shadows are on the grass!

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After an hour and a half of magical time spent touring the Best Place Ever, we wandered into the Giants store. I really wanted an AT&T Park souvenir, but I didn’t want it to be Giants-related. Why is this so irrational? Sadly, I did not find anything – but I’ll always have the memories.

We next headed toward Fisherman’s Wharf, which was a bit of a trek from the pier we were at. We decided this was finally the time. We had been admiring and discussing the rickshaws that were zipping up and down the waterfront, pulled by men on pedal bikes, and this would be our chance to ride one. This was, if you haven’t guessed it, the Best Thing Ever. I won’t go into detail here, as KP has outlined everything for you in her post Walking is for Chumps. Long story short, we loved it.

Our fabulous rickshaw (or pedicab, as they refer to themselves) driver left us at Pier 39 and we walked the rest of the way to Tarantino’s, a restaurant that Rich had recommended to me as having the best clam chowder in a bread bowl. I just love having a local contact that can point me in the right direction to the best meals and places to visit! I had the clam chowder, of course. KP opted for the calamari steak. Both our meals were perfect, and they came with a lovely view!

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Next we walked over to the Musee Mecanique, which was another recommendation of Rich’s. It is a building right on the pier that is free to access. Inside, there are hundreds of antique arcade games that you can play for a nickel, dime, or quarter. We wandered around, spending all the change we had.

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After spending all of our money there, we continued our walk through Fisherman’s Wharf to Hyde Street Pier, purchasing a few souvenirs along the way. We found a store with giant candy, which was awesome.

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We both sunk our feet into the sand and enjoyed the view of the water when we arrived at the base of Hyde Street.

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Next we went up to the Black Point Cafe, which I had stopped in at earlier in our trip, and spent some time drinking coffee and hanging out. This cafe is very trendy and has a great atmosphere inside. It is located right across the street from Ghirardelli Square, mere minutes fro Hyde Street Pier on foot.

Once we were done there, we went back to the hostel – KP is covering the story of our journey home in her post as well. We were both pretty tired by the time we arrived back and spent our evening drinking wine and blogging – or drunk blogging, as we like to call it. We bought this lovely bottle of wine across the street without reading the fine print and noticing that it was “Delicately Bubbled”, so the first sip I had was absolutely magical.

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We had an early night due to the fact that we were exhausted and also to the fact that the next morning would be an early one. It was a rough day, going to the Best Place Ever and doing the Best Thing Ever. It can sure suck the energy out of you!

Love KG

A Genius Business Idea

I came up with an absolutely genius business idea. I’m not sure if this is something that exists already somewhere, but if you have heard of anything similar, please let me know as I would be so curious about how all the details would work.

As many of you may know if you have been keeping up with my blog recently, I am currently on a trip to San Francisco. During my time here, I have been riding many different trains to many different places, but every train usually feels the same – quiet, and no fun whatsoever. Everyone who is sitting there is bored out of their minds and the majority are on their way to work or wherever and therefore don’t have any company or anyone to talk to. I know we have all experienced this, and I got to thinking – what if there was a way to make the ride more fun, especially for people who commute on a regular basis? The answer I came up with is this:

COMMUTER DATING!

Genius, right? I’m not quite sure how it would work – perhaps individuals could sign up for an online profile and would input their commuting schedule (ie. what buses/trains they ride at what times) and people could be matched up that way. They set up where to meet and wear some sort of identifier, such as a name badge or a specific colour of scarf, perhaps? The possibilities are endless! The website could also list how many people are on the train before and the train after a participant’s route, so they could change things up as they saw fit.

I really think this idea could work for a few reasons:

1) Like I said earlier, everyone is bored on a train/bus/etc. At the very least this would mean having company on an otherwise boring ride.

2) This date has a solid ending, and both parties can choose to meet up again if they hit it off well. Sometimes dinner can be too long for a first date, especially if it is going badly.

3) In today’s busy world, this would be an easy way to meet new people, and even if you don’t find someone you want to date, you might find a new buddy to commute to work with – which is a win in itself.

What do you think? Does anything like this already exist somewhere in the world? I’d love to hear about it.

Love KG