Thursday, September 13, 2007

Calgary, Who Knew?

From Waterton we drove to Calgary stopping for a quick visit to Head-Smashed-In, an historical site where Indians drove buffaloes over cliffs. In Calgary we hooked up with Cathy and Drew, friends and fellow neighbors from Loreto Bay. They treated us to dinner (Alberta steaks) and the next day a tour of their city. Calgary is a very nice town. It's similar to many Midwestern U.S. cities, ours included.

We stayed at the campground next to the Olympic Park where the 1988 Winter Games were held. We could see the ski jump and luge runs from the campground. The ski jump was our landmark for finding our way back from Cathy and Drew's.
The photo here is of the Saddledome where ice hockey and figure skating took place. Now the "Stampede" rodeo event is held there. Of course, we missed it since it takes place in July. We did a mix of the usual touristy things, like visit the Calgary Tower, where we stood on the glass floor looking down some 600 plus feet--and the neighborly things, like dinner with C & D's friends and a stroll through the neighborhood.

I worried we were not flattering enough with our comments regarding Calgary. After all, it is a refined cow-town not unlike Kansas City, right? We were expecting to meet a city of similar status. We're both known for great beef. We have the American Royal, they have the Stampede. We both have a river, a decent museum, a conservative outlook. I figured maybe they'd have us beat in the humor department. I maintain that Canadians are funny people, but they have to be to make up for not being Americans. However, a few days in the World's Cleanest City, and the city ranked 25th in the world for best quality of life, I began to see the error of my prejudice. Calgary may have us beat: a low crime rate, low taxes, a flat income-tax rate, light rail transit, great winter sports activities, skiing and Banff 75 miles away, and most importantly, a booming economy due to massive oil and gas deposits which recently are more viable as the the world's oil prices keep climbing. It's people are friendly and almost never kill each other (only 25 homicides in 2006). Calgary is looking good.

Then we saw Banff. The Alberta Rockies are stunning and Banff is out of this world beautiful. So what if you freeze your buns off living in Calgary-- with scenery like that just minutes away it makes it easy to downplay the long, cold winters. Hiking the alpine trails in Banff, seeing the brilliant aqua Bow River meander through the valley, the falls below the Scottish baronial style Banff Springs Hotel, the magnificent elk wandering through the parks--puts Canada in a whole new light for us.

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