Edmonton: Art Gallery of Alberta, aimless wandering and Muttart Conservatory / by Jessica Lee

It was 7 am. I had just stumbled off of the Via Rail in Edmonton, caught a cab to my hotel and was trying to figure out what to do next.

My room wasn't ready to be checked into yet so the possibility of trying to catch some Zs was out. Luckily, I remembered my friend Josh had moved here for law school just a week ago. I pulled out my phone to see if he was up for some breakfast.

He was.

20 minutes later, we were wandering around Old Strathcona, looking for grub.

This is what the bridge from Old Strathcona to downtown looks like:

The river reminded me of Saskatoon. It is the same river after all, as Saskatchewan is right beside Alberta and the river runs through both provinces.

We arrived downtown, and Josh showed me the water fountains. Unlike most water fountains in other cities, the crowd in Edmonton likes to swim in their water fountains during the summer. It looked really fun, so we ran in too.

We were still hungry though, so we asked around for food recommendations. Note to everyone reading this. Don't go to a place called "Alberts". That is where we went and let's just say it wasn't that great.

This is cool though. I love food trucks.

We also wandered into the nearby mall

This is Edmonton's version of Toronto's "Dundas Square". Or if you're from Melbourne, "Federation Square", basically a central gathering location.

As you can see, here's another fountain.

What's really cool is that city hall is nearby too. I love the architecture and its eco-friendly design. There are public tables and I was saying to Josh how it would be a perfect study space, with its high ceilings and relatively quiet atmosphere.

Next, we ventured into another magnificently-designed building, the Alberta Art Gallery.

The insides are pretty cool too.

Here was an art installation that I found interesting. It juxtaposes a bar with a piano.

There's also a cafe on the top floor, which again would be a great study spot, or just a spot to read a book.

I'm constantly looking for places like this in Toronto, somewhere where there isn't a lot of chatter or people, but has a few souls in there to make the place alive, as quiet motivators working off to the side. For me, the perfect empty to full coffee shop patron ratio is about three to four people who are quietly working- they may occasionally start a conversation to keep things interesting.

Here is the roof of the Art Gallery of Alberta. Again, a good reading spot. Notice the patio chairs and tables in the back of this impressive art display.

They had these little ghost-shaped mirror cut-outs. Here's a photo of Josh and I.

Here's some more amazing architecture, shot from the top of the stairs at the gallery.

This is me at one of the installations. Can you spot words?

After the gallery, with no set agenda, we decided to just wander around the city on foot.

This is what the city centre/ main mall looks like. (This isn't the West Edmonton Mall, I'll show you that in a later post)

I thought the ad below looked cool, so I shot a photo of it. This is in the chinatown area.

There's also a gorgeous view of the city and river from Chinatown. This is what it looks like:

We saw a path and decided to explore. It definitely led away from the city, but I theorized that since I had walked through the prairies of Saskatoon for hours at a time earlier this summer, a walk around the neighbourhoods of Edmonton would be small potatoes. Josh was game, so onward we went.

The path led to a nice walk along the river.

You're probably looking at these photos from your computer or mobile device and thinking "oh that looks like a nice walk". Truth be told, this walk took around 2 hours. I just didn't take photos of the boring parts. It was quite nice though, and worth the while if you have a day to spend.

Here is the Saskatchewan River:

We walked by this interesting building that looked like the Louvre from the outside (with the glass pyramids) and decided to see what it was.

It was a nature conservatory.

Since it was half an hour till closing time, the nice lady at the front just let us in for free.

It was absolutely beautiful.

There were four different curations of plants with different themes.

In this particular one, the theme was around the story sword in the stone. It was so calm and peaceful, I wanted to do yoga in there. So we did (no photos, of it sorry!).

The next one was a desert-themed curation.

The below corpse flower wasn't really a flower when we arrived, because it was in its dormancy/ regrowing stage. You can view its full growth here at this link. Even though this flower was just a patch of soil when we were there, I enjoyed the story, especially when it opened on Earth Day. You can read the timeline below. Since the plant is also from Sumatra, it brought me back to my travels last year in Indonesia.

Afterwards, wandered around and stumbled upon a music festival, where we were fortunate enough to meet a lovely Albertan who drove us back near our starting point.

This is Whyte Avenue, which is the main street near University of Alberta.

We ended our day with a Southern-inspired meal at Dadeos.

I loved the retro feel of the place with its checkerboard floor and vinyl booths. They had small details on each table too:

This is what dinner looked like. Blackened catfish with jambalaya rice.

It was a wildly successful first day in Edmonton. I got back to my hotel and got ready for the next day's adventures.