Posts Tagged ‘Calgary’

Rocky Mountain high (tea)

February 6, 2011

This was first published April 4, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” I love the trip’s multigenerationalness (is that a word?).

From left, grandparents John and Cathy Looney, daughter Delaney, Christine Hennigan, and son Riley at Lake Louise

WHO: Chris Hennigan, 40, with her children, Delaney, 8, and Riley, 10, all of Woburn, and her parents, Cathy, 68, and John Looney, 69, of Winchester.

WHERE: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

WHEN: Nine days in July and August.

WHY: To take the Appalachian Mountain Club trip “Family Hikes in the Canadian Rockies.’’

WOW FACTOR: Chris Hennigan wanted her children to enjoy hiking as much as she does. “I thought I’d wow them with the Canadian Rockies,’’ she said. “I’ve been hiking since I was 2; my dad used to put me in his backpack. I hiked until I was about 18 and stopped until I was in my mid-30s. The AMC was trying out these family trips, so I asked my parents to go along, too. Hiking isn’t really my mom’s thing, but she was excited because the kids were going.’’

Three Generations, Delaney, Christine, Riley and Cathy, at the bottom of the falls fed by the Daly Glacier

ALL AGES: The group of 25 hikers, ages 2 to 81, including four leaders, met in Calgary and traveled in three minivans. They stayed in private rooms at two hostels for four nights each, the Banff Alpine Centre and then Lake Louise Alpine Centre, both run by Hostelling International. Several children were on the trip. “It was a good mix,’’ Hennigan said. “The older ones could look out for the little ones and motivate them. They had a blast.’’

MINOR CHANGES: Each day three trips of varying levels were offered. “In the original itinerary, the easiest trips were far too difficult for a kid or older person. The first day’s hike was a good six hours and the kids were in tears.’’ The leaders adjusted the schedule, and “after that it was great. We got up later, had a leisurely breakfast, and didn’t feel pressured to keep moving.’’

Christine Hennigan and her daughter Delaney at Bow Lake

WHAT A VIEW: ’’It was unbelievable scenery,’’ she said. “When my kids keep saying, ‘Mom, look at that glacier, look at that cliff,’ you know it’s spectacular. What really got to them was the color of the water, this deep blue green.’’ One day they drove the Icefields Parkway, where visitors can walk on a glacier. “It’s like walking on ice with crunchy snow on top of it.’’

TEA TIME: They knew the final day of hiking, to the Lake Agnes Teahouse above Lake Louise, would be the hardest. “It was switchbacks the entire way up,’’ Hennigan said. “It was a tough climb on everybody. But once we got to the top it was one of the most unbelievable places I’ve ever been. You sit on a porch and have tea and homemade bread with this unbelievable vista. The kids thought it was neatest thing. Before we got back home from Canada, they told me they were already planning to go on the family trip to Colorado next summer.’’

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All cycling paths lead to Lofoten

June 19, 2008

We met two Canadian touring cyclists at the amazingly beautiful and filled-with-info tourist information center in Bergen. (Much bigger and better than Oslo’s, suprisingly.) Like all Canadians do, it seems, they were sporting a maple-leaf flag.

Barb and Janne“Are you really Canadian or Americans posing as Canadians?” I asked Janne. “I’m really Canadian, eh,” he answered in that unmistakable accent. Janne’s family is Finnish and he has dual citizenship. He and his girlfriend, Barb, who live in Calgary, are on a five-week holiday, cycling in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Like us, they’re headed for Lofoten, so perhaps we’ll see them there. They’re taking three night trains to get there, while we, on a much-shorter holiday, are flying. (By the time you read this time-released blog entry, we should be on Lofoten, without email, freezing and enjoying the amazing beauty that the chain of islands above the Arctic Circle has to offer under the light of the Midnight Sun. That was a long sentence, wasn’t it?)

Interestingly, Janne told me, they couldn’t put their bikes on trains or buses in Sweden and had to box them up like freight and “ship” them on the same train they were on. For such a forward-thinking country, that is pathetic.

Lancome pink bikeIn other cycling news, we spied a pink Lancôme bike in Bergen. Funny, I thought the French cosmetics company made only makeup. Must have been for a promotion. If they gave away pink bikes instead of little “makeup gift bags” with a $50 purchase, I’d be first in line to buy a tube of overpriced lipstick. I’d love to post a photo of the bike on a website I found featuring only pink bicycles, but now I can’t locate it. Perhaps a loyal reader can. My friend Alice is good at that. Al, you there?

4.5 Gs of ‘fun’ at Canada Olympic Park

March 5, 2008

I spent several hours recently at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary for a Globe story. It’s only 15 minutes from downtown, and so close to the highway that you can see skiers while you’re driving by. Ski jumping in Canada Olympic ParkI’m sure the park was in the boonies when it was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics, but now the suburbs have reached it. Adrenalin junkies can get their fix in all seasons here. In the winter: skiing, snowboarding (including a pipeline for those who dare), and bobsleigh rides that hit 4.5 Gs. In the summer there’s  luge rides and major mountain biking. Or how about, year-round, a zip line that reaches speed of up to 75 mph (= 120 km/h)? To all this I have to say: yuck.

Diane sits in bobsleighBeing a weenie, I took the audio tour. The audio tracks were fantastic, using interviews and sound effects to really put you in the athletes’ minds and settings. Unfortunately the equipment and technology had many failings, but the park is working to improve it. I did get to sit in a bobsleigh (woo-hoo!), watch ski jumpers, and also interviewed several bobsleigh riders for my article. 

Here’s what one of them, Calgarian Rob Ingram, said: “It starts out like a fast roller coaster then progresses to a hurtling freight train, and sounds like one too. It was deafening as we reached terminal speed (120 km/h). The bumps make focusing difficult and the 4.5 G force in the corners pushes you down in your seat and slams your head against the sled.”

Gross.

Bobsleighing in Canada Olympic ParkThen, and this cracks me up, Rob goes on to say: “It was very fun, especially the Kreisel Corner, the 270-degree corner (the most G-force). I ended up with short-term stiffness in my neck and shoulders from the pounding.”

Excuse me, Rob. It was “very fun”? Are you insane? Well, he did used to drag race, so he clearly has the adrenalin gene. Rob was there for his 53rd birthday. Happy Birthday, eh?

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!

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.)