Monday, March 17, 2014

navigating city life in Iqaluit

Sometimes Iqaluit feels like the Toronto of Nunavut.

I'm trying to get some sleep in the midst of all the big city lights. It doesn''t help that my mind is stuck in a different time zone, the week after Daylight Savings. I'm kept awake by the bright street lights outside my hotel window. The occasional shout on the street. The banging of doors in the hall. I hear a security guard chase a group of kids outside, searing at them.  During the day, you can practically feel the vibrations of the airplanes landing - the airport is located right in the town. Iqaluit is definitely the biggest city - the only city - in Nunavut.

The Yonge and Dundas of Nuavut

This is the place known by locals at The Four Corners. I presume it's because it's a four-way intersection.  The Four Corners is the Yonge and Dundas of Nunavut.  It's located right in the middle of downtown Iqaluit. It doesn't look like it in the photo, but it's the busiest intersection come rush hour...or, rather, rush minute. Locals often gripe about the traffic jams that build up at the Four Corners, grumbling how the city needs to get their act together and put up traffic lights, or at least a traffic cop. 

(the only traffic lights in all of Nunavut, by the way, are in Cambridge Bay.  They are warning lights that blink all the time, regardless of who is crossing, and therefore are ignored all the time.)

It's interesting to see the unique mix of Inuit traditions and "big city" life. The snowmobiles roar down the sidewalks, dangerously swerving around pedestrians, much like the way motorcycles do in parts of Asia. The restaurants here serve duck confit ravioli and caribou burgers.  There are bars here, actual bars, where you can order a beer or a scotch - but it'll cost you $9-12.  Inuit artists will stop by your dinner table to display their latest carving, and these constant interruptions are seamlessly accepted as part of the dining experience.

Service Canada

women's washroom sign

Hotel Arctic

The movie theatres play public service announcements before the feature film, warning about syphilis with Inuktitut translations, the whole message accompanied by throat singing. Actually, my hotel's public washroom has a sign something something about syphilis too, but only in French and Inuinnaqtun. What does it say? There's syphilis in the bathroom? I guess they aren't worried about warning the anglophones about syphilis.

When Martin Frobisher discovered Iqaluit, he first named it Frobisher's Strait, because he thought he found a strait leading to Asia. He was wrong. It didn't lead to Asia. Also, it was a bay, not a trait. So it definitely didn't lead to Asia.

When I arrived in Iqaluit, I was not trying to find a passage to Asia.  I was just trying to remember how to survive in the city. It was a bit disorienting, remembering how to look both ways before crossing the street, or watching my purse (my wallet got stolen the last time I was in Iqaluit...oh, scary big cities.)

Not sure how I was supposed to go through the front door. Guess I'm not going shopping!

Guess I'm not going to the spa, either.

Hey, it doesn't look like the Bay is open (the old Hudson's Bay Company trading post in Apex)

one of the bigger stores in Iqaluit

I went to the Visitor's Centre, which I presume was built to welcome visitors.  I stood at the front desk for about twenty minutes, while the staffer worked on her homework and pointedly ignored me while I waited. I just wanted to find a map of the local park.  She looked unimpressed when I finally interrupted her homework and asked her if the Visitor's Centre were closed and was that why she was ignoring me. No, she didn't have any maps of the park.  Did she know where I could get a map of the park? No, she did not. Nobody has a map of the park. Go away, visitor.

The Visitors' Centre

We thought we might sit in on a session of the Legislative Assembly, especially since so many things have been happening in the news lately.   But when we arrived, we found out they were closed for the weekend. I guess we're not the only ones who wanted a Friday afternoon off.

The Legislative Assembly

Politicians working hard...but somewhere else

bench inside the Legislative Assembly building, shaped like a kamotik

What I did end up enjoying, however, was the Grind & Brew.  Iqaluit has a bunch of restaurants, and some of them are high-end fine dining places, like the Gallery or the restaurant at the Discovery Hotel. Me, as much as I enjoy culinary experiments, I tend to gravitate towards greasy spoon type places for comfort food.
The Grind & Brew
I haven't quite figured out why exactly why I like this place, but I do. Despite its name, it doesn't have a coffee shop feel at all. Nor is it exactly going for a diner feel. It's got an unpretentious sense of clutter, and no in a cute kitschy way, in a sort of schizophrenic sense. The place sells pizza, Asian food, sports collectibles, freshly ground in-store coffee, candy, wome's shoes and skateboards. I don't mind the scatterbrain feel of it though. Because the truth is sometimes you just want to order Thai curry, even if its made by a French-Canadian.

The Storehouse
For some reason, I didn't think I'd need snowpants in Iqaluit. I guess my reasoning was that I was going south - and I was - and therefore it was going to be warm.  It is warmer here than Cambridge Bay, but it's still pretty damn cold.

the road to Apex

House in Apex

Interestingly shaped house in Apex

I love this house by the water (Apex)

Graffiti with an Italian accent

"And the concrete beneath my feet
has got inside my soul and it’s sucking out the heat..." -Sarah Harmer, Luther's Got The Blues