Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: December 2018

A short walk to The End of the World

Edmonton’s scenic river valley has a number of panoramic view points, some official and others not so I was interested to learn that one popular perch that was in the latter category joined the former.

‘The End of the World’ is the informal name given to a look-out high above the North Saskatchewan River steps from the tony Saskatchewan Drive in Edmonton’s upscale Belgravia neighborhood that became a notorious hang-out and party place for those wanting to soak in the sweeping views of the city’s west end from a crumbling concrete retaining wall of the decommissioned Keillor Road that served as an unofficial  observation deck.

Despite ‘No Trespassing’ signs locals made their way to the point leaving their litter in the process which together with the safety aspect of potential falls from the steep cliff without railings and an unstable slope prompted city officials to close access and undertake a $1.5-million dollar project to both make the point safe for visitors while increasing accessibility from Saskatchewan Drive.

City of Edmonton artist rendering

Renamed Keillor Point in honour of Dr. Frederick Keillor, a medical doctor and World War I veteran who became an Edmonton city councillor, the new and improved scenic view point features both gravel trail and staircase access and a metal viewing platform.

When they initially conceived the project the city acknowledged that the riverbank is still moving but will monitor the motion and close the site should it be felt to be unsafe.

photo by author

photo by author

Even a cool breeze on a December day couldn’t take away from the majesty of the view which is one I hope other Edmontonians and visitors can experience for themselves.

New screening system speeds up security process at Edmonton International Airport

I’ll confess to not being the most patience of people when it comes to line-ups of any kind whether it be at the supermarket or airport security so it was with interest that I read about the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) unveiling its new carry-on baggage security screening system at the Edmonton International Airport.

The authority has installed the CATSA Plus conveyor system in two of the airport’s eight security lineups but over the next few months all eight queues will switch over to the new system which is designed to make the process more efficient and user-friendly for both travellers in a hurry and those who need more time

The new setup automatically feeds baggage bins into four stations where four travellers can unload their liquids and laptops at the same time and when ready push their loaded bins onto a conveyor belt for a scan in the X-ray machine.

After travellers pass through the metal detector, they can watch their belongings be sorted into two lines — cleared to fly or needing more scrutiny.

Current CATSA screening time for Edmonton International Airport can be checked online before leaving home.

The improvements in the airport security screening process are welcomed by this passenger as having practiced the routine over dozens of flights there was some annoyance being stuck behind less experienced and prepared travellers who prolonged the security screening process. Now if only the supermarket line-ups could be shortened…

 

Christmas comes to Edmonton’s Little Italy

As if part of a master plan a heavy blanket of snow was part of the scenery for the kick-off of Edmonton’s “Winter in Little Italy” celebration in this colourful north side community. The 30 centimeters of snow that fell over the weekend was likely more than event organizers had expected but added an authentic touch to the festivities.

The Little Italy area extends from 107 Avenue in the South to 118 Avenue in the North, and between 97 and 93 Streets and traces its Italian roots trace back to an immigrant influx between the end of World War II and the 1970’s but it was the 1958 opening of Santa Maria Goretti Church that really solidified the enclave as Italian. A street arch welcomes visitors with ‘benvenuti‘ on one side and wishes them goodbye with ‘ciao‘ on the other.

photo by author

At Little Italy’s modern heart is a number of family-owned businesses including the Italian Bakery and the Italian Centre Shop where fresh pasta, prosciutto and deli meats are served in the largest deli in Western Canada.

photo by author

The competing aromas from the bakery, cafe and deli make this a wonderful place to linger and soak up the sights, sounds and smells especially on a cool Winter afternoon.

Just outside the store chestnuts roasting on an open fire had me humming the lyrics to this familiar holiday song.

photo by author

Just across from the Italian Centre Shop is a seated life-size bronze statue of its founder Frank Spinelli who emigrated from a small town near near Salerno, Italy in 1951 eventually settling down in Edmonton to open a store in 1959 offering authentic Italian goods to other recent arrivals to Canada.  Over the decades until his passing in 2000 due to cancer Spinelli grew to become a pillar of both the Italian community and the city of Edmonton and was posthumously elected to the Alberta Business Hall of Fame in 2013. The snow obscures his hands which hold cards as he’s depicted playing his favourite card game Scopa, one of two major national card games in Italy.

photo by author

The Spinelli statue sits in Giovanni Caboto Park named for the Italian-born explorer and navigator that settled in England and we know by his anglicized name John Cabot whose second voyage in 1497 made him the first European to explore the coast of Newfoundland since the Vikings some 500 years prior.

photo by author

The park was originally called Patricia Square Park named for Princess Patricia, the daughter of Canada’s Governor General, Prince Albert, the Duke of Connaught, and patron of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry but in 1981 the local Italian community requested a change in the name to better represent its neighbourhood and culture.

Horse drawn sleigh rides took visitors along Church Street, a stretch of 96th Street that’s home to a dozen different churches, cathedrals and temples. The City of Edmonton in 2017 took the first step toward establishing this area as a historical and cultural destination by preserving current buildings through restrictive zoning bylaws.

video by author

Edmonton’s Little Italy is worth visiting year ’round however it’s especially festive ahead of Christmas so well worth an afternoon detour and evening meal. My visit proved to be a timely antidote to the bland big box stores and generic shopping malls that occupy so much retail space in the city and it was refreshing to stroll the street sampling the goods at a number of family owned and operated businesses and feeling the sense of community that still exists in this corner of the capital.

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