Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: June 2019

High Level Bridge Streetcar Edmonton; History in Motion

There is nowhere else except in Edmonton where riders can experience the highest streetcar river crossing in the world transported along at a stately pace in a restored almost century old streetcar across a century old bridge like a transportation time machine.

The Edmonton Radial Railway Society is the operator of historic streetcars boasting the largest fleet of heritage streetcars in Western Canada with over twenty-five streetcars including eight in seasonal service, two undergoing restoration and fifteen others in storage or awaiting restoration.

The streetcar takes riders from Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona area through the only Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Tunnel built east of the Canadian Rockies along former CPR tracks out onto the High Level Bridge for the short journey into Edmonton’s Downtown.

Hankai Electric Railway (Osaka) No. 247 was built in 1921, rebuilt in 1947 and remained in service in Osaka until 1990 when it was acquired for spare parts by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society and shipped to the Alberta capital. When the streetcar arrived however it was in such excellent condition that the plans were revised and the car restored for use on the High Level Bridge Line.  Osaka No. 247 has been in regular seasonal service since 1997 and was for a time the only streetcar running on the line.

photo by author

 


photo by author

video by author

The High Level Bridge is an iconic Edmonton landmark but this bridge is both a physical as well as historic link to the past as work began in 1912, the same year as the separate communities of Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated to become one city. The rail deck soars 47 meters or 155 feet above the North Saskatchewan River and the crossing via streetcar affords riders sweeping river valley views in all directions. The bridge was designated a Municipal Historic Resource  when it was added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places in 1995.

At the southern end of the High Level Bridge there is a siding that allows the two streetcars to pass as there is only a single set of tracks across the bridge’s rail deck. Passing Osaka No. 247 is the 1947 vintage Melbourne 930 which served the Australian city until its retirement in 1997 before being shipped to Edmonton as an ambassador for the City of Melbourne and the State of Victoria. Following extensive truck and brake overhauls, car 930 entered service in 2006 and is well suited to the High Level Bridge Line because of its seating  for 50 and max.  capacity of 140 passengers.

video by author

The tracks of the former CPR line winds their way through the Old Strathcona neighborhood on Edmonton’s south side terminating at the Strathcona Streetcar Barn & Museum, just north of the Strathcona Farmers Market. The route runs to Jasper Plaza south of Jasper Avenue on the north side of the river with three intermediate stops where passenger may request a stop.

video by author

A 34-minute round trip ride costs $7 per passenger and includes admission to the Strathcona Streetcar Barn & Museum which has gathered artifacts, pictures and information relating to Edmonton’s original streetcar system whose service ended in 1951 as well as the historic streetcars gathered from around the world. A short 1949 colour film of Edmonton’s streetcars is also shown.

The High Level Bridge line runs daily May 17 – September 2 before dropping to weekend only service between September 6 – October 14 before the last run of the 2019 season on 14 October.

Resort Review: Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda

Guests checking in to the Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda Hotel could be forgiven for thinking they were in Bali as the beachfront all-inclusive resort exudes an upscale exotic vibe that is unlike other family-friendly resorts along Mexico’s Riviera Maya coastline.

A short distance from Playa Del Carmen’s famous Fifth Avenue and 45 km from the Cancun airport this five-star resort offers 510 sumptuous suites, a variety of fun amenities for kids, and a charming environment surrounded by lush tropical landscaping with the adult-only  enclave Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla right next door.

Upon arrival, the lobby greets guests with an aquatic oasis complete with koi fish, small turtles and large modern art.

photo by author

The front desk is less a central station and more of an anteroom off the lobby with an adjacent lounge for guests awaiting their rooms or transportation pick-up. I appreciated that during the check-in process while a resort wristband was required of all guests it wasn’t the cheap plastic variety but rather a small wooden disc with the Paradisus logo and black string making it more of a trendy bracelet and less of a utilitarian identification item.

photo by author

Sporting the spiffy new wristband but being too early to be assigned a room, I tour the resort and beach before stopping for a bite at The Market, a casual restaurant serving an à la carte international menu which includes an awesome smokie sausage on a bun that really hit the spot.

Room 2252 is a Junior Suite with two double beds and at just over 500 sq. ft. is spacious with a small white leather sofa and coffee table as well as a glass table next to the mini-bar which worked well as a spot to power up the the laptop.

photo by author

photo by author

There is an electrical outlet at the glass desk however only one so charging multiple devices here wouldn’t work. The room overall has enough outlets but most are used for the items such as the nightstand LED clock radio and iPod docking station and while the relative lack of outlets stood out to me the upside is the large, laptop size room safe does have a pair of USB ports on the inside back wall so charging devices while they’re locked up turns what could be a negative into a positive.

The bathroom has a large sliding door to the hallway as well as two smaller sliding screens above the jetted tub that when closed offer some privacy and is a much better format to the open concept bathroom.

photo by author

In addition to the deep soaker tub is the rainfall shower stall with shower wand that offers an invigorating morning shower experience with upscale French fashion designer Thierry Mugler toiletries. The frosted glass doorway to the toilet opens both inward and outward which is infinitely more user-friendly than other similar doors I’ve encountered at other resorts than open only one way.

photo by author

The space-saving sliding door concept is carried over to the closet which opens to the safe and trio of drawers below as well as the clothes closet which has more than enough wooden hangars to house my meager resort-wear collection.

photo by author

The 360-degree room view of the Junior Suite is here and is exactly the same layout as room 2252 but on a higher floor as it features a distant glimpse the ocean however not enough for the resort to categorize it as ocean view. In fact none of the resort’s rooms are close enough to the the waters edge to be called ocean view so those travelers wanting a room with a view take note.

The large (108 sq. ft.) balcony features a pair of wicker chairs and small coffee table but could easily fit a chaise lounge chair which would be a really nice addition. The tropical view overlooks the swim-up pools and forest of towering palm trees.

video by author

The aquatic center of the family-friendly resort is the pirate ship playground which is perfect for smaller children with the Sunrise Grill serving snack food and a swim-up pool bar nearby  for adults.

photo by author

Once during my stay staff set up a foam party on the pool deck that proved massively popular with younger kids.

photo by author

Surrounding the pools are thatched roof Bali beds plus lounge chairs and umbrellas scattered beneath towering royal palm trees. The Bali beds really suit couples but I noticed two adjacent beds used by extended multi-generation families with chaise loungers for teens or adults wanting some time in the sun. There are day beds away from the more active pirate ship pool that are very quiet and I found these my preferred spot to relax and read with an occasional cocktail delivered by one of the attentive waiters who make regular rounds to deliver thirst aid.

photo by author

Not all Bali beds are not created equal as a chart at the pool hut shows with the ten beds in red nearest the Sunrise Grill being part of the resort all-inclusion program and free to claim each day without charge however the others, including the “Premium” beds immediately around the pirate pool, cost an extra USD$29 – $79 per day. The beds themselves are identical and there are no extra perks earned with paying more so the only real difference is location.

photo by author

Coatis, also known as the coatimundis, are members of the raccoon family native to South America, Central America, and southwestern North America and roam freely throughout this family-friendly beachfront resort.

video by author

As the coatis are wild animals parents should talk with their children about giving the furry foragers room to do their own thing and not try and pet them. It seemed fitting that at a family-friendly resort families of coatis could be seen from time to time around the grounds.

A recent addition to the choice of pool play places is the Splash Water Park opened in December, 2018 with zones for toddlers and water slides and a central climbing castle for older children. The big bucket dumps its water every few minutes bringing shrieks of delight from kids doused by the deluge.

video by author

The water park, which is open daily 10 AM – 5 PM, is part of the resort’s all-inclusive program so no extra fee is required to enter.

The beach at the Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda is reached by walking down a long wooden boardwalk and is one of the few disappointments as it ranges from good in spots with lots of room from the tree line and water’s edge to other sections which are noticeably narrower.

photo by author

photo by author

In places erosion has left the beach with a high spot sporting lounge chairs several feet above a lower level which is short gap to the water.

photo by author

photo by author

The lack of guests occupying spots on the beach is likely due to the brown seaweed Sargassum that’s fouled beaches around the Caribbean in recent years and despite the best efforts of resort staff to remove it the volume is enough to make that very hard. The ankle-deep seaweed extended in spots 3 – 6 feet from the shoreline making wading through it to swim in the water where it floats like a brown stain on the surface very unappealing.

photo by author

I spent far less time at the beach during my 3-night stay at this Paradisus because of the Sargassum than I would’ve had it not been a factor but found solace in the serenity of the Bali beds by the pool so was more than content with my stay. It’s almost impossible to predict the future scale of Sargassum as time & tide may deposit it more in certain areas and less in others but for those vacationers preferring pristine beaches the options are to seek alternate resorts  less affected by the seaweed, alternate beach destinations or accept that it could impact a future vacation.

The nightly entertainment in the North Avenue Bar outside the main buffet Noas varies from magicians to the Mexican theme night which includes a mariachi band playing favorites such as “La Bamba”, a traditional Mexican folk song that’s one of the most popular songs in the state of Veracruz and was written decades before its most well known version by Richie Valens released in 1958. The dancers are a pair of lovers who, as the choreography progresses, place a red sash on the floor and dance around it until the end when using only their feet they tie it into a bow with which symbolizes their commitment to each other.

video by author

Outside Noas is a stroller parking pad reserved for VIK, Very Important Kids.

photo by author

The dining is a high point of this resort as there is a restaurant to suit every taste on both the La Perla and La Esmeralda sides but over a short three-night stay I was sadly unable to enjoy all the restaurants.

Bana is an Asian-fusion restaurant with menus featuring sushi served Western and Eastern-style along with Teppanyaki and a sushi bar only for adults.

 photo by author

The Grill in La Perla is an Italian-Argentinian steakhouse with an outdoor patio feel. The host welcomed us but said finding an open table may prove tough due to a large corporate group that had reserved one section of the restaurant but within minutes a table was set and we were seated much to our pleasure. The interaction summed up the resort staff’s willingness to bend a few rules to accommodate guests I experienced during my short stay.

Hadar on La Perla side is the buffet breakfast restaurant twin of Noas in La Esmeralda and I appreciated its quieter morning mood without the tiny tot tantrums and volume. Don’t get me wrong as I like kids but there’s something to be said for a leisurely breakfast and coffee without the interruption of other little diners.

Passion by Martin Berasategui is a Basque-French restaurant named for the famed Spanish chef whose restaurants hold a total of ten Michelin stars, more than any other Spanish chef. There’s a    a 360-degree view of the restaurant here but this eatery is not part of the all-inclusive program and will cost MXN$1,650 or roughly CAD$115 per person.

Adult guests of the Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda may enter the neighboring adult-only Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla by way of a hallway in the Zocalo, a zone my adult friend jokingly dubbed the DMZ or demilitarized zone separating the two halves of the larger Paradisus resort complex.

photo by author

Travelling with a friend I’d chosen the La Esmeralda for its two double beds over the one king bed rooms on the adult-only La Perla side and before arrival expected we would spend virtually all of our time with the adults however I preferred to spend the day pool side in La Esmeralda for its quieter Bali beds and visit La Perla for its tamer morning breakfast buffet restaurant and spicy evening entertainment which includes live DJ’s. The one morning I tried La Perla side I’d just settled into my lounge chair when a  speaker a few feet away began blasting the soundtrack to an aquatic Zumba class being held in the main pool and so I abandoned my spot shortly thereafter due to the noise.

Speaking of noise pollution, even on La Esmeralda side there are speakers seemingly everywhere around the pool deck with satellite radio broadcasting an upbeat tempo all day long which for those like myself who prefer a quiet zone free from audio interference is an issue. The Royal Service pool areas on La Perla side seem an island of tranquility so perhaps next visit I’ll upgrade to this room category.

There’s lots to like about the Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda from its seamless exchange privileges with the adjacent adult-only sister section, Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla, to the variety of quality cuisine options, ultra user-friendly rooms and suites to the authenticity of the staff who are genuinely eager to please guests and would rate is as one of the  best family-friendly, all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya and one of my top resort stays ever.

the resort map and overview

Pros

  • Family-centric, all-inclusive beachfront resort
  • Sumptuous suites; some with direct access to swim-up pools
  • Several fun and interactive outdoor swimming pools; one with a swim-up pool bar
  • White sand beach has sun loungers, umbrellas, and water sports
  • Guests have access to 14 buffet and specialty restaurants and 11 bars and lounges
  • Yhi Spa offers massages, a sauna & steam rooms plus a fully equipped fitness center
  • Extensive interactive Kids’ club
  • Family Concierge available with some rooms with a member-only lounge and dedicated staff at the beach & pool
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout the grounds
  • Evening entertainment

Cons

  • Some rooms are a bit of a hike from the beach
  • Some restaurants and facilities are located in the adjacent adult-only Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla
  • Detached from the nightlife of downtown Playa Del Carmen
  • Some restaurants require reservations
  • More in-room electrical outlets would be handy
  • Seaweed on the beach
  • Wristbands required

 

the

© 2019 Canadian Wanderer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑