For the past 5 weeks, I have been a visitor in my own hometown, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It’s a real strange feeling being here, not living in my own house, no Monday-Friday workweek to follow, no garden to tend to (and yet this is still my home).
When I left Yellowknife in April for my 10-month long round-the-world journey, I had no intention of coming back to Canada for a visit. But after experiencing some fairly major computer frustrations early on, a crazy idea came into my head. I knew I needed a new computer (photo processing had become unbearably slow) and I decided this was a good enough reason to bring me home for a visit! (Yes, it’s true that you can buy computers all over the world, but going back home would allow me to have a small injection of Yellowknife summer, which for me, is the most enjoyable time of the year to be there!)
From Florence, Italy I made a pit stop in Calgary, Alberta, where I purchased a superfast 13″ MacBook Pro! Boy, did I really need this! Pricey, but worth it. (Trey Ratcliff and Curtis Simmons, you can now stop making fun of my slow computer! I just wish I had it from the beginning!)
July 17 was the big day! After only three months into my 10-month RTW journey, I was heading home to Yellowknife, exploding with excitement! I couldn’t wait to be with my girl again (Tika, 8-year old German Shepherd))! This was a surprise trip, intended to be a fairly short visit of only 10 days, with a 4-day side trip to Deline, a small Aboriginal community up north (stay tuned for a Deline blog post).
No matter where I’m coming from, or how long I’ve been away, whenever I’m on a plane descending into Yellowknife, I am always filled with a sense of pride and “homecoming.”
a month beyond my original departure date), and I am still in Yellowknife! (I changed my departure tickets 3 times!) I was hoping that my time here would be a relaxing, do-nothing kind of visit; but it turned out to be almost the opposite. My visit didn’t include any of the typical summer pastimes, such as camping, boating, or fishing; nor was I sunbathing on the back deck, sipping margaritas (which I was really looking forward to doing!) Instead, I had all kinds of things to deal with, overloaded (and excess) luggage, numerous medical appointments, and an overwhelming amount of time spent on travel logistics. I needed this time to get things done.
I became a bit of a zombie, being stuck in front of the computer for nearly the entire month, dealing with all kinds of travel arrangements and changing my mind countless times (and on top of this, you may remember from previous posts that I have a very bad case of “distractionitis”!) The picture below shows only a smidgen of my chicken-scratch travel planning (I also had 2 full notebooks!) Let me tell you, Tika has been my saviour! If I didn’t have a dog, I would never have left the house!
Some of highlights from this visit include Yellowknife’s annual Folk on the Rocks music festival (voted as one of Canada’s top 10 music festivals); Old Town Ramble and Ride (long week-end art-focused event); Yellowknife’s (Tuesday) farmer’s market; dinner with friends; and my favourite pastime, taking Tika out for walks, swims and drives.
Feeding my Belly in Yellowknife
Without going into any detail like the Feeding my Belly in Tuscany post, during this past month I’ve enjoyed BBQs and dinners with friends, eating out at local establishments, and sipping an occasional cocktail!(Side note: I discovered that I’ve become a wine snob as a result of indulging in very good wines during my recent travels. Coming back to Yellowknife, I was not impressed with the wine selection, and this has resulted in much less consumption – which is probably a good thing. Fortunately this glass of wine didn’t go to waste and my friend drank it for me. That was a first!).
Known for their fresh catch of the day, high-priced meals, eye-catching interior, and “memorable” customer service (I will leave this for you to discover), a visit to Yellowknife is incomplete without a feeding of local fish at Bullock’s Bistro. Coming from a lifelong Yellowknifer, Bullocks is my #1 restaurant recommendation in YK. I personally order the pan-fried or grilled whitefish or pickerel, with a side of homemade fries and tasty salad (generous portions); beware though, this and 2 ciders will cost you around $55! Dining at Bullock’s Bistro is an experience in and of itself.
My favourite place in Yellowknife for a cocktail is at the Explorer Hotel lounge, where they serve Yellowknife’s best Dirty Martini or Campari spritz (one of the few places in YK with this Italian liquor!) Happy Hour is between 5-7pm for discounted drinks, and each day there is a different (complimentary) appetizer.
On my last evening in town, I was taken out for an early birthday dinner to a surprise destination, “The Lodge at Aurora Village.” This was the most memorable dinner I’ve had in Yellowknife for years! Last summer, the Lodge opened up by reservation only (it is about a 20 minute drive outside of town, in the bush, and there is arranged bus transportation available if need be). Aurora Village, as the same would suggest, specializes in aurora tours from around August-March each year.
Wow! The food presentation, menu selection, and flavours were amazing! This truly is a “must-do” for a dining destination in Yellowknife, and I will surely make a point of returning when I return to Yellowknife! The menu is full of mouth-watering locally-sourced game, including “candied Arctic char penne with dill white wine cream sauce and fresh parmesan”, “pan-seared NWT reindeer strip loin with saskatoon berry and birch syrup infusion,” and “seared buffalo rib eye steak with wild NWT fire morel mushroom and brandy sauce” (the latter of which I had, and LOVED!!!!)
For the appetizer and first course(s), I had the “warm duck leg confit and pear on argula,” “northern smoked fish platter” AND the “sea salt smoked dry reindeer ribs with sherry wine and honey glaze” (those ribs alone are worth the visit!) Holy! That is a lot of food! (Some of it was “shared”).
What a special ending to my visit home. I will always remember my first time dining at The Lodge! For something very different and northern, I highly recommend giving Aurora Village a try! (update: no longer open)
Why Come Back to Yellowknife?
Sure, I could have gone almost anywhere else in the world. Many people here have asked why on earth would I come back to Yellowknife for the summer (when this is where I normally live)? While it wasn’t planned to be this long of a visit, when else would I get the opportunity to enjoy the Yellowknife summer and not be working? This is the best time of the year to be here (and besides, Italy was experiencing a very uncomfortable heat wave). While the temperatures in Yellowknife have been a bit cooler than normal, I am at home, with my dog; that alone has made this “side trip” worth it!
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to return to Yellowknife and stay as long as I had. This allowed me to collect my thoughts, make numerous changes to my travel plans, and reassess my luggage choice. My favourite part was bonding with Tika like never before, spending day and night with her.
I came home after only 3 months into my RTW journey, not even half way, and I have 6 more months to go. This is going to be the long haul; no more pit stops to “Home Sweet Home.” As Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and I am ready to go back onto a plane and continue this journey.
VIDEO: “5 Minutes From Home – Our Yellowknife”
If you have a spare 4 minutes and 29 seconds, watch this is a perfect summary video of Yellowknife in the summer; it happens to capture nearly all of the events that I went to (and many more!)
Now doesn’t this make you want to come and visit Yellowknife?
WHERE TO NEXT?
On Sunday, August 30, I’m heading back to Italy (for my 5th time!) until October and will be starting off in NAPLES, ITALY! I’ll be exploring as a first time visitor, who has no knowledge whatsoever of the city (other than it is known as the birthplace of pizza). I’ll be next door to the Amalfi coast, and not too far from Sardinia and Sicily; and I’ll be on the hunt for something fun to do during my birthday!
I have no to-do list, no guidebook, no expectations, no plan. This removes a tremendous amount of stress from the equation. I will simply be guided by my (strong) sense of wanderlust and discover places at my own pace. This is the kind of travel I enjoy best.
I think I will spend 2 weeks in this area, and then head back to Florence to meet up with a friend who I’ll be traveling with throughout Tuscany for another 2 weeks (with a car!!!)
And after that, where to next? Some of you already know, but I think I’ll hold off from sharing until a future post! (I’ve made a lot of changes to my original “plans” and what lies ahead of me doesn’t look like anything that I originally had in mind).