Peel back the concrete for Calgary’s surprises

I stayed in Calgary for a couple days for a Boston Globe “Close-Up” destination story (to run May 5) before heading off to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This city, built, and still building, on oil and gas hasCalgary skyline with Saddledome hockey arena surprised me in that it’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It’s a pretty big city, with a metro population of about 1 million and a fair number of skyscrapers. This view is from Scotsman’s Hill in the Ramsay community. That’s the Saddledome in the foreground, home of the Calgary Flames hockey team. (I know, like I care about hockey.)

Although on the surface, Calgary is a concrete jungle on a grid system (ugly and boring looking), underneath it’s a collection of interesting neighborhoods, like so many cities. I’m staying at the Lions Park B&B near funky/artsy Kensington. One night I tried to eat at the very cool Globefish sushi restaurant, but it was so crowded that I moved on. I picked up a bottle of wine for later at Kensington Wine Market and then ate at the bar at Niko’s Bistro.

Ship & Anchor patio at 40 degreesOn Saturday, I joined a bunch of hipsters bopping along Fourth Street and 17th Avenue.  One of my favorite scenes was a packed patio at the Ship & Anchor Pub. The temperature? A “balmy” 40 degrees! In North Carolina, we’d be sitting around the fireplace. 

If I lived here, I’d want to have a home in the city’s oldest community (early 1900s) of  Inglewood.

I think the whole Calgary Stampede thing is interesting. It’s a big-ass 10-day rodeo, and more, around the city every July. From my perspective, it sounds pretty redneck/Hooters (I’ve never been and don’t plan to go), and I wonder over time how it will reconcile with the ever-increasing sophistication of the city. The Calgary version of town and gown.

One of the places I found most inspiring was downtown in Olympic Plaza, where the medal ceremony was held in the 1988 Olympics, held in Calgary. Two of the Famous Five from statue near Olympic Plaza, CalgaryAlso inspiring and nearby is Barbara Paterson’s lovely statues of the “Famous Five,” a group of Albertan women who challenged the Supreme Court of Canada to determine if women were people under the law in 1927, clearing the way for female leaders and politicians. Oct. 18 in Canada is Persons Day, the anniversary of the 1929 judicial ruling that indeed declared Canadian women to be “persons” under the British North America Act. FYI, Manitoba in 1916 became the first province to give women the right to vote and hold provincial office. Perhaps I need to visit there next!

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