I have to be honest, I had low expectations of Edmonton, a sprawling, million-plus city in oil-rich Alberta, Canada. But a week there was full of surprises, from great record shops, a fantastic gallery, incisive improv-comedy, tasty vegetarian restaurants, an introduction to ice-hockey, and guitar rental, all the way through to ultra-friendly people. I almost don’t mind not seeing the promised Northern Lights. Here follows the markontour guide to Edmonton.
Peter Von Tiesenhausen is an ecologically-minded artist, who salvages to create. His extraordinary ‘Relief’ – a mountain-scape sculpted from the clapperboards of an abandoned community hall – conveys beauty and sadness in equal quantities and is going to stay in my mind for a long time. As will the Art Gallery of Alberta’s retrospective exhibition ‘Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century”. Who knew there was such a great gallery in Edmonton!
Tredegar House in Newport is where the National Trust are experimenting with allowing visitors to touch and feel history, rather than pointing from behind a rope. As it stands, I would wager that Tredegar House is the only place in Britain where in a single morning one can be tutored in the art of brushing up a top-hat, put on a shadow puppet show, study Elizabethan art, dress up as 1920’s housemaid, enjoy Elizabethan portraiture and sit down to dinner with a Russian princess.
I do love a good dictionary and Dr Johnson remains the master of the genre, three hundred years after he compiled his first such tome. This is why markontour and friends took a short detour to Lichfield on our long drive back to London from the English Lake District, for it was in this little Staffordshire city that Samuel Johnson was born in 1709 and his childhood home has be turned into a lovely museum and bookshop.
Once a town, now a city, Newport is where markontour’s parents were born and bred. They fell in love in the sixth form of Newport Grammar and fifty-six years later the three of us plus Mum’s older brother, my Uncle Malcolm, undertook a pre-Xmas tour of the haunts of their youth. Along the way I learned a thing or two about the Newport Uprising of 1839, how the snow fell so deep in 1947 that schools were closed for three blissful months, how the New Year was celebrated in the 1950s, and what constitutes a dingle.
Markontour is taking a week away from the office to read, think and plan, stimulated by early morning hikes in the Brecon Beacons, and book-ended by late evening blogging. Today’s inspiration comes from a cracking walk up Hay Bluff to see the red dragon cairn (above) that proudly marks the summit. To the east lies England, to the west is Wales. The dragon watches in all directions.
Thanks to the wonderful woman at Worth & Worth hatters, New York City, who restored my favourite pork-pie hat to full glory, after it was defiled by an airport security machine at Heathrow!