In retrospect, we really should have visited Edmonton a lot sooner.
Lloyd has a friend who lives in the city and my cousin (like the ones you spend your childhood rolling in the mud with – not the kind you’re surprised to find out is actually your cousin), lives in Edmonton. Yet for some reason, until fairly recently, I’d never gotten around to visiting.
There was also another huge reason why we really wanted to visit Edmonton and that reason is winter.
Canadian winters are things of legend and our winters in the UK are dull by comparison. You’ll struggle to find a place in the UK where you can build a snowman and even when you do, it’s bound to be a slush/water within a few days.
In Canada – they have frozen lakes! Actual lakes where the ice is so thick trucks can drive over them. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
Let’s start at the beginning. We arrived in Edmonton in the middle of something of a cold snap.
We’re talking -30C temperatures (I literally didn’t even know it was possible for temperatures to go that low) – as soon Lloyd and I stepped out of the airport, the first thing we did cough in tandem, both surprised at how dry the air was.
We picked up our car and after driving almost 30 minutes in the opposite direction of the city (apparently, the sat nav was on ‘simulation mode’ and neither of us realised till it said to randomly stop in the middle of a road), we finally got our sat nav working and headed for Edmonton.
We checked into the brilliantly located Mettera Hotel (it’s in Old Strathcona – which is where you want to be if you wanna be close to lots of great restaurants, bars and the nightlife).
The suite here was pretty sweet (bad pun, totally intended…and apologies for the quick night time photos ),… alas there wasn’t much time to enjoy it (or the complimentary charcuterie board sent up to the room) as we’d made plans for whiskey tasting and dinner which we were running late for.
Dinner would be in El Cortez, which we’d been assured by the locals we’d spoken to so far to be quite a fantastic place to head to and the cocktails were at Have Mercy Bar, conveniently located above El Cortez.
Have Mercy have a full-on Southern theme going on, which seemed quite apt to be tasting whiskeys (slash bourbons) and for this evening, we went with all things Wild Turkey (the whiskey – not the animal).
We started off with some stronger whiskeys, moving on to lighter (and more delicious – in my opinion) blends – all the while peppered with interesting whiskey-based cocktails.
The event is organized for locals and visitors alike so it was a nice way to start to settle into Edmonton and experience that famous Canadian friendliness.
Whiskey tasting soon turned into an animated conversation with new friends, which eventually resulted in us being about an hour late for our dinner reservations.
Once we realised how late we were for dinner, we bade farewell to everyone (with numbers/emails exchanged and a promise to meet up for drinks later that week) and head out to El Cortez.
There’s definitely no escaping El Cortez’s Mexican influence and within minutes of sitting down, we were handed tequilas and mezcals to start off the evening with (the former of which I was all too familiar with the latter being something of a new experience for us).
Before long nachos, tacos, guacamole and enchiladas made their way to our tables – aptly accompanied by delicious tequila and mescal based cocktails.
Who knows, it might be the tequila, 😉 (it wasn’t!) but it was dish after dish of Mexican perfection.
Like one of those meals where only you’d be embarrassed to watch the ravenous fervour at which you’re wolfing down these meals.
I was tempted to finish off with churros (which I almost ordered at the start) but as it turns out, in what is actually very surprising for me – I decided to skip dinner and head back to the hotel to rest up for our busy week ahead in Edmonton.
Definitely a fantastic welcome to good old wintry Canada.