Edmonton: New adventure

EDMONTON— It has been so long since I’ve written that this feels like a completely fresh endeavour.

So much has changed these past weeks. We’re in a new country and we have a new home.

A walk through an Edmonton dog park. (Photos by Sarah Abruzzese)

Frankly, everything else lines up behind those two huge pieces of news.

A little while ago, we changed the blog’s name to Sarah’s WTF, with the WTF standing for WineTravelFood, but in some respects it could be an accurate descriptor of my reactions to things in recent days.

Canada has definitely had its challenges but its also had some amazing benefits.

It is like the United States but oh so different.

For starters everyone here is exceptionally nice, friendly and open. I’ve been handed so many telephone numbers by people wanting to make sure we get acclimated that it’s been slightly awkward.

Obviously for someone who loves wine, travel and food any city would be a difficult adjustment after the delights of San Francisco — such easy access to so many interesting places and fabulous food and wine. It isn’t that this city doesn’t offer great food and wine options, it is just that finding such wonder, in comparison to San Francisco, takes a lot more energy and perseverance.

Happily and more importantly for this blog there actually are some really delicious food options. People genuinely care about what they eat. I think there are more signs about celiac and gluten free on the menus here than in San Francisco or anywhere else I’ve lived. There is a strong farm to table movement here and several of the restaurants also publish information about the local purveyors on their menu. There are 16 farmers’ markets in the city.

Fresh cherries from the 104th Street Farmers’ Market.

We have found a butcher. He’s Dutch, which surprised me a bit as I’ve never run into someone advertising themselves as a particular nationality meat provider. What I’ve discovered so far is that going to a Dutch butcher means that with your Alberta beef and game, you can purchase some Delft or wooden clogs. They also sell massive wheels of Gouda cheese.

But going back to the challenging part…. When we first asked people about a butcher someone sent us to a meat store that only sold packaged, flavored, preservative filled, mostly frozen foods.

As you can imagine, it was a moment of great anxiety.

This is a very wealthy city or at least it feels that way to me. The average household income was $87,930 in 2010, according to Statistics Canada. As of July, unemployment here was 4.5 percent, which is not in keeping with the rest of Canada and certainly not cities in the USA. And apparently that number is considered high.

The immediate neighbors we’ve met include an engineer, a doctor, a special needs teacher and a member of the coaching staff of a professional sports team. (Of course the reason we’ve met them is that they all have dogs.)

However, it appears that many in the area are employed in some facet of the energy sector. The man, who smokes on his balcony across the way from our apartment, often wears an orange safety vest when he returns home at night.

Whatever their employment, the obvious success of those around me stuns me. I’ve seen a surprising number of Ferraris, Porches and Maseratis. There are even more expensive larger vehicles, which might be partly due to the extremely cold winter weather here. At the coffee shop a while back I witnessed a scene that involved the owner of a Maserati and the driver of an 18 wheeler chatting about life at the bistro tables out front.

While our apartment is reasonable in comparison to both DC and San Francisco, food and wine prices rival San Francisco. I bought a medium sized organic roasting chicken and it cost $25 CAD. A bottle of wine that I purchased in San Francisco for $18 can be acquired for $35.

Oh and finding an apartment proved far more challenging than finding one in San Francisco. While we could have a dog at one apartment complex, it had to weigh less than 10 lbs. And you’d best be sure you know if you want a family or not because laws here stipulate 18 or older at many of the apartments and condominiums.

But we did find an apartment and it is glorious with huge plate glass windows, two floors, two full bathrooms and a giant balcony as well as a slightly smaller balcony to house a grill that is powered by natural gas.

Yup, there are some pretty huge animals out here. A picture I took a few of hours outside of town.

Some random highlights include an uncomplicated rush hour. For a million person city, it feels uncrowded and spacious in the summer rather like Georgetown in August when Washington goes on vacation. Rush hour appears to end at 6 pm. And while the High Level Bridge that connects the two parts of this geographically giant city did exhibit flood-like conditions one night it was still drivable and that “traffic jam” was all of five minutes.

That is a crazy contrast to San Francisco. On the few occasions it rained there and I had to drive, it took an hour to get somewhere that had previously taken 12 minutes.

Obviously I could write a great deal more and I will in the coming days. (And I just realized that all the pictures that I’ve posted really don’t give you any kind of realistic view of what this city looks like. I’ll take more and post somehow.)

Next up will be our border crossing a few weeks ago.