Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh, Canada!

I finally got to accompany Greg on a business trip! And it only took 25 years of patience. He had meetings in Calgary, Canada, Monday through Wednesday, so we went up early and spent the weekend.

Calgary: (the locals pronounce it, cal-GARY)

I've always loved Canada. Greg grew up 15 minutes from the Canadian border (outside Buffalo, NY) and we both went to college about three hours from Niagara Falls. I don't know how many times I've been to the Falls (the Canadian side is more beautiful), but I've also spent time in Toronto and Quebec.

The people are friendly, the roadways & parks are very clean and it's fun to hear French spoken occasionally. Heck, even Canadian money is prettier than ours:

Even with the prettier money and the occasional French, tooling around Niagara Falls, Toronto and Quebec never really felt like a whole other country. I guess because we could drive there, or as Goldie Hawn says in the movie, "Protocol", "it's like, attached." Calgary would be a new experience for me because we have to spin our globe to find it (and it's pink!).

We got in late Friday night and stayed at a lovely hotel at the airport. (No, it really was surprisingly nice!) We woke early, picked up our rental car and headed out for Banff. Banff is about a two hour drive north and is in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.

I took about a hundred pictures because every sight seemed to be more beautiful than the next. I tried my best to get it down to a manageable number. These are from our drive:

The white stuff in this photo is a cloud!

The white stuff in this photo is snow!

Here is our hotel in Banff:

The heart of downtown was within walking distance, so we spent the day walking around.

We also explored a famous, old hotel which looks like a castle:

The Fairmont Banff Springs

By the way, the weather was delightfully chilly, about 55 degrees. Not really cold, just fresh and crisp enough to make you feel alive. Being outside even in September in Houston is not life-affirming. It's life threatening! After 30 minutes outside, if you don't drop dead from heat stroke, you want to kill yourself.

That night we ate at a fancy-schmancy restaurant in Banff where I had wild salmon and Greg had elk. Both were delicious. (Sadly, I didn't have the guts to take a picture!)

But wait! There's more! About a five minute drive away are the Banff Upper Hot Springs. We took the waters before calling it a day.

Their (edited) Story:

"Canada's Native people were the first to soak in the hot springs. These were sacred waters - a place to cure illness and maintain health. The new bath house opened in 1932 and rivalled other world famous spas of the time.

Groundwater makes a long journey deep into the earth's crust. It is heated, pressurized, loaded with minerals and travels back to the surface along the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. The temperature at the source of the spring reaches 47.3° C (117.1° F) in the winter and is cooled to make it comfortable for bathers. The water is slightly cooler in the spring due to increased ground water from snow melt."

Sunday morning we drove up to Lake Louise. We walked along the lake, past the shaded area in this photo:

It was just beautiful. There's another famous old hotel facing the lake (behind me as I took this photo) called the Fairmont Lake Louise. (These "Fairmont" people know what they're doing!)

We drove back to Calgary and checked into the Sheraton. This hotel room was on Marathon's dime because Sunday night is when Greg would have arrived for his Monday morning meeting. The room was gorgeous! Probably the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in. You had to swipe your room key in the elevator just to gain access to our floor.

Greg was annoyed that the company spent that much money on his room, but he said it must have been the only room available. You'll get no complaints from me:

Monday morning I had about two hours to kill before I had to leave for the airport, so I walked over to the park. I didn't do a dang thing except watch the ducks paddle by, listen to the wind and smell the pine trees. I gathered a few pine cones and noticed the trees had some tiny buds, like a whisper of the winter to come. As I walked back to the hotel I noticed I was smiling.

Say what you will about Canada, but it's a beautiful place. They seem to value their outdoor spaces more than we Americans do. There are recycling bins everywhere, flowers everywhere and the Calgary Airport is "green". All things that are good for your soul.

I knew it would be hot back in Houston. It was. I got into my car at the Houston airport at 7:00 in the evening and cranked up the air conditioning. It was 90 degrees outside.

No worries. Let's just enjoy my photos, shall we?


jan.noel said...

Caryl, we pronounce Calgary that way because that's the way it's spelled! Um, not to be critcal...most Canadians are very 'protective' of our culture and take offense with those whom make fun of the way we talk. "Eh" is not as common in Canada as you may think - we tend to use it when making fun of ourselves and tend to be offended when American's use it to make fun of us!

I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in 'America's National Park'.

caryl said...

Jan! Don't be insulted. I stole that "eh?" joke from Howie Mandell (a Canadian!) But'cha know what? It's not that good a joke, so I'm gonna delete it.

And I found it interesting that we Americans have been pronouncing Calgary wrong.

As I said in my blog, I've always loved Canada!!! My husband wants to be transferred to Calgary.

jaybszoo said...

Very beautiful pictures, Caryl. I would love to visit Canada sometime. I even showed hubby the pics, hint.. hint...LOL..

I'm glad you had a great mini vacation.

Jennifer said...

Wow, gorgeous!! I've only been to Canada once on an 8th grade French class field trip to Quebec. We stayed at the Chateau Frontenac and it was gorgeous, even at 13 I knew that. But we didn't get to see the amazing countryside you saw in the west. One of these days!

jan.noel said...

No problem and thank you! I guess I'm a bit off balance today because I just found out that they are trying to turn our university into a technical school! It's almost unbelievable and quite a shock.

Keep up the great stories as I love this place and visit almost daily to see if you've written anything.

Love ya girl!

lois meyer said...

Mom said:

I'm glad you and Greg had that great get-away, Calgary loos just beautiful. But I'm not sure I'd like you to all be transferred there, no matter how good the hunting and fishing is!

caryl said...

Well, I definitely recommend Calgary, Banff or Lake Louise for a vacation. Banff and Lake Louise are skiing destinations, if you're into that.

Mom, Greg said there's no chance we'll transferred there, but he just loves the place.

Kenzie said...

The furthest North I've ever been was Grand Rapids, Minnesota. That was beautiful alone, but these pictures are just amazing Caryl!

My dad has asked me to go up further into Canada with him to go fishing, but I'm usually working. Screw work next time, now I know what to look forward too! (and there will be great fishing! wooo!)

Anonymous said...

In my experience as a former resident of Calgary, most locals pronounce the name of this city "CAL-gree."