Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Peel back the concrete for Calgary’s surprises

February 28, 2008

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!

Dispatch: Curling and skiing in Canmore

February 25, 2008

I came to Canmore in Alberta, Canada, to cross-country ski. So Ladies-league night at the the Canmore Golf & Curling Clubhow did I spend my first evening? Curling! No, not my hair, and, OK, I was only watching it and not doing it, though one new Canmore comrade practically pushed me onto the rink. (Having gotten up at 5 o’clock that morning in North Carolina and with a two-hour time difference, I was too darned tired to even try it out.)

Here’s how it happened. When I got to this charming town, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies, I kept seeing signs leading to “Curling Rink.” I was intrigued. I’d seen a brief demonstration of curling when I was in the Northwest Territories in 2002 [Click on image to read story], but Ladies-league night at the the Canmore Golf & Curling Clubhadn’t recalled much about it. I stopped at the rink, combined with a golf course (!) and learned that local leagues would be playing that evening. I returned to the Canmore Golf & Curling Club later that evening and had a fascinating time. Not only was it ladies-league night, but the viewing area is behind glass in a room where you can have a great dinner and sip a brew. I got a great rundown on the sport from some friendly curling women, and we all went outside to watch the lunar eclipse.

The next day (last Thursday) I hit the slopes at Canmore Nordic Centre and Provincial Park. A friend had told me about it a few years ago, saying it was an amazing place to cross-country ski for people of all skill levels. Being a weenie skier, I’m always on the lookout for places that have more than a windswept golf course for novices.

Diane skiing the slopes at Canmore Nordic Centre and Provincial Park; CLICK TO ENLARGEAnd what a day it was!! The sky was bright blue and it warmed up to about 45 degrees, balmy for these parts.  The easiest trails still had some ups and downs, but for the most part I was fine. I did have to fall at one point to avoid careening over a hill when I couldn’t make a turn. This is a typical Diane ski move, witnessed by many friends. Sigh…. The scenery was freakin’ amazing, especially when the trail came to a meadow surrounded by snow-capped mountains. And speaking of snow, it was perfect. Wow, I wish I could visit there every week.

Of course my time there wasn’t all fun and games. I stopped to interview several people, Couple from Washington state skiing; CLICK TO ENLARGEincluding a couple from Washington state; local realtor Laurel Dupuis, who was kind enough to take my photo; and a woman from New Jersey who was overcome by the beauty of the place. In the late afternoon I popped into stores along Main Street, taking notes for my story. I really like this town!

The day ended on not the best note, when a water main broke near my motel and the very, very, very loud construction crew worked to fix it from 5 p.m. until 4 a.m. Argh… Meanwhile, we were without water. Luckily, I always travel with a bottle of water and earplugs! I loved that the nearby Grizzly Paw Brewing Company was pouring until it ran out of glasses, as none could be washed.

On the road in Canada’s cowboy/girl country

February 22, 2008

I heart Calgary and Canmore. So far anyway. I’m in Canada for a travel-writing meeting in Banff (yes, it’s a tough life) and have several stories lined up, because that’s the way it’s done. Go one place and milk it for all its worth. (I really do work hard.)

Peaks of the Rocky Mountains as seen from Banff centerWednesday I landed in Calgary and headed for Canmore, with a quick detour to Banff. The drive was gorgeous.

Here are some first impressions.

A Welcome to Calgary host greeted us when we got off the plane. She was in her 70s, with a red and white understated cowgirl get-up and white cowgirl hat. I loved that! (In the US, I’m sure she’d be under 30 and showing cleavage.)

I felt left out because I was toting a skis in a bag.

The man at the Dollar rental car didn’t try to “upgrade” my economy car. This is a first!!! He did offer me extra insurance coverage and tank-fill-up option, but didn’t push either. This is a first!!!

Calgary has bicycle paths leading to the airport. Woo-hoo!

My little Toyota Yaris (like it a lot) comes with an ice scraper (of course) and an electrical plug-in to keep the battery heated (how heck do you use it?).

People here (including moi) are thrilled that the weather is in the 40s for a couple days after a frightening cold spell. Of course I saw a dude in shorts. The bad side of the warmth is it brings avalanches. Which makes me think of my seatmate on the plane from upstate New York. He’s with three buddies from Vermont and they’re off to ski downhill and backcountry for two weeks.

Road leading to Banff, AB, CanadaThe view driving from Calgary reminded me of Denver. Modern city with majestic mountain views in the distance.

You know how in places with harsh winters, cars get very, very dirty? Here, I’ve seen cars that are almost black with grime, so much so that I wonder how they can see out their windows.

Alberta has a great community radio station CKUA (93.7 FM), which was established in 1927.

On Highway 1A, the TransCanada Highway, I saw a fully loaded cyclist. (Not drunk, but laden with panniers.) Saw a couple racer dudes too. In February! Passed “Elk Crossing” signs but no elk in sight.

More on Banff and Canmore later. I gotta hit the slopes! (Nordic, that is.)

In the ‘other’ Rockies: snow and scones

January 21, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(published Jan. 20, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I loved hearing about this trip to a place that’s been on my wish list for years. I am going to Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise next month, but I’d rather go in the summer, and attempt to cycle up Going-to-the-Sun Road! My favorite parts: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse (I’ve heard raves for years), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (because it’s fascinating and you can’t beat the name), the backwoods immigration border at Goat Haunt ranger station (amazing!), and the Prince of Wales Hotel (you gotta look at the photo). The other thing that is so cool is that finally newspapers, like my Boston Globe, will run a photo of a gay couple. This warms my heart!!

WHO: Ken Paulsen, 45, and David Valentine, 42, of Malden, Mass.

WHERE: Canada.

WHEN: 10 days in September.

WHY: “We’d both always wanted to go to the Canadian Rockies,” Paulsen said. “I love history. I’ve got a PhD in Canadian history, but my specialty is in Nova Scotia.”

the haystackMANY MILES: Although the couple doesn’t do a lot of hiking at home, they did plenty in Canada. “When I figured it all out, it was about 55 miles of hiking. I was surprised we didn’t feel more tired.” Paulsen mapped out the itinerary and made the reservations for five days in Banff National Park and two days at Waterton Lakes National Park, both in Alberta, followed by two days at Glacier National Park in Montana.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: They stayed at the historic Storm Mountain Lodge in Banff. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place, with 12 cabins from the 1920s and a wonderful restaurant,” Paulsen said. “All the food is organic, and the chef is absolutely fantastic. We were quite up high in a canyon, but overlooking it, between 5,000 and 6,000 feet up.”

HIKING HEAVEN: “We did a hike called the Johnston Canyon Trail, which turned out to be a classic hike, but I didn’t know that,” Paulsen said. Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House“You’re going up through a narrow gorge at the beginning and once you get out you’re in this absolutely beautiful mountain meadow with bubbling cold springs.” They also hiked to the famed Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. “We had tea and scones and homemade bread made that morning. It was a great little break before we reached the glacier, at about 6,500 feet.”

BUFFALO SOLDIERS: On the way to Waterton, they stopped at Kootenay National Park and for a soak at the spring-fed pool in Radium Hot Springs as well as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “They have a great interpretive center,” Paulsen said. “The First Nations, as they call Indians in Canada, would use that as a place to drive buffalo over the cliff. So there’s thousands of years worth of buffalo bones in the soil.”

BACKWOODS BORDER: In Waterton, part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, they stayed at the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel, dating from the 1920s. A 12-mile hike took the pair from Canada into the United States. “At the Goat Haunt ranger station, in the middle of the woods, we had to bring our passport. They can’t scan your passport; all they can do is look at it.” Most visitors to Goat Haunt arrive by ferry across Waterton Lake, which is how Paulsen and Valentine returned. They were always aware of bears. “There were campgrounds along the lake closed because of bears, and we saw fresh bear scat and clawed logs,” Paulsen said.

SUN TO SNOW: Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park impressed Paulsen. “You’re starting out at the lake about 3,200 feet [up] and in 10 miles you’re at the top at 6,500 feet. Once you get to the part where it’s steep, there are cliffs above you, and cliffs below you, and it’s very narrow.” One hiking trail they took looked down on the road, “and with mountains soaring a couple thousand feet above. We were there for the first snow of the year, so when we were hiking, there was an inch or two of snow on the ground.”