See, here’s the thing. I do not like winter. It does not agree with me. It depresses me, it makes me cold and cranky and ornery and sad.
So why do I reside in a city that is occupied by winter for a minimum of five months each year? And not just mild winter; HARSH winter. The kind of winter that renders sidewalks so icy they are hip-fracturingly treacherous; the kind of winter where the daily temperature forecast comes with an automatic ‘feels like’ number called Wind Chill that has made me weep on occasion. The kind of winter that means seven hours of daylight per day – on a good day – between now and next March. The kind of winter that means parkas, toques, mitts, scarves, fleece vests and lined, industrial-strength boots. Where fashion accessories include snow shovels, snow blowers, ice scrapers, hand warmers, flannel sheets and crampons.
Why do I live here? Yup. That’s a damn good question.
But I’ve lived here for 27 years. So there must be something keeping me here. It’s just that, when my relatives from Down East ask (as they inevitably do after having visited me during late November 2007 when the temperature didn’t rise above minus 23 – feels like minus 33! – for the entire duration of their stay) Why do you stay there? I have trouble articulating an answer.
Because, frankly, it’s hell for half the year. And if the other half is, as a former colleague used to say on an annoyingly regular basis, six months of potholes and bad skiing (not to mention the mosquito factor), why do I stay?
The prime reason is, of course, friends. I have an amazing assortment of super amazing friends here, so whenever I start to believe that it might be pleasant (and possibly even artistically more lucrative) to move somewhere with a better climate (literally, politically, culturally – pick any that apply) I am reminded that if I were to leave this place, I would be leaving behind a wonderful tribe of people whom I love and by whom i am loved. That is no small thing.
But there must be other factors that make the place bearable, yes? Absolutely. Because I don’t ski, and nor do I skate; and while I am in fact very much a “sweater person,” I do not enjoy having to wear wool and turtlenecks every day from mid-October to the end of April (and sometimes through the May long weekend).
So for the past several months I’ve been making a list of the things that I like, in fact (dare I say?) LOVE about Edmonton. And I decided to launch this list here in this blog on the day the first snowfall announced the arrival of Winter 2011. Which is today. Sadly. (Although, not so sadly, it could have arrived on a day in mid-October. Or even earlier. So, thank goddess for small mercies.)
Throughout the next few weeks I will list one thing a day that I love about Etown. As you may have surmised, there is nothing winter-related on this list. OK, maybe one thing – but you will have to wait for another day to find out what that is. (Hint – it’s got nothing to do with the Oilers.)
This list is in no particular order, by the way. And a lot of it is going to be about food. Which is my prerogative because I like food … and food is a great thing to share with friends … and it’s MY LIST.
So here goes: kicking things off is (drumroll, please) …
1. The Sugarbowl Cafe.
Located in the Garneau neighbourhood (10922 88 Ave.) next to Red Bike and a stone’s throw from the High Level Diner, the Sugarbowl is historic and cozy and has a great patio. It has an extensive beer list. It offers smoked paprika popcorn + lime (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – and then you will be forever hooked, like me).
It is famous for its cinnamon buns (get there first thing or you’ll be disappointed) and it has lovely warm, dark wood and local art on the walls.
It’s comfortable in the most literal sense of the word.
And though it’s only a few blocks from campus, you don’t have to be a U of A student to hang out there. Lots of writers, in fact, hang out and write there.
I have sipped many a kriek (Belgian cherry beer) on the Sugarbowl patio. I have gotten sunburned on the Sugarbowl patio. I have plotted world travels (and my world takeover) over lattes on the Sugarbowl patio.
And once I found a $20 bill on the Sugarbowl patio.
Did I mention the patio?
Pomme frites, hummus & pita, yam fries, cheese plate … the eclectic menu (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner) has enough options to satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike. Plus, the proprietors get their eggs and meats from local farms. Other bonuses: sometimes there are beer tastings; live music has been known to break out.
And while parking in that area can be a challenge, the Sugarbowl is easily accessible via public transit: the number 9 bus stops less than half a block away on 109 Street.
One down, 29 to go.