Back in the saddle in Canmore

The last two days in Calgary with our friend has been fantastic and thoroughly entertaining. It’s been a while, around 3.5 years since we last saw each other. Her baby boy is an outgoing and lively four year old. And he has a sister with inquisitive big brown eyes. She’s so precious, and very much attached to her mommy and daddy. I’d like to say that she started to warm up to me, but it didn’t really happen. No surprise.

Calgary is experiencing some unusual weather. Stampede is currently happening, drawing in large crowds. I’ve been told that it’s usually very hot, but during our stay the temperatures dipped down to as low as 13 degrees Celsius, and it was cloudy and rainy. We even saw hail on the ground in front of the house! We didn’t go to Stampede, but we wandered down Stephen Ave., which is a pedestrian road lined with lots of restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops. It wasn’t very busy because of the unfavourable weather; however, I still enjoyed seeing the people with their cowboy outfits, including the police officers that traded in their traditional police hats for cowboy style hats. The allure was too great, and I now own my own (touristy) cowgirl hat.

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Hubs pointed out all the enclosed bridges in the downtown core that connects the buildings. Calgary gets so cold in the winter that the city has built these bridges so people can get around downtown without going outdoors. The concept makes me think of Toronto’s PATH, but above ground.

We had a fabulous Italian dinner at Mercato in downtown Calgary. Our friend ordered so much food! It was all delicious, and we had leftovers for her husband who had to stay home to watch the kids. We started with the beautiful antipasto board and caprese salad, followed by a bowl of tagliatelle (classic pomodoro sauce with cherry tomato, fresh basil and Parmigiana Reggiano) and a bowl of linguine (with clams). You’d think this was enough food, but the pasta was just the primo! For the secondo, our friend ordered the double order of bistecca (Fiorentina style rib steak with rucola, lemon and olio verdone) with a side of broccolini. I was stuffed!

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It was sad saying goodbye this morning, though we may have the chance to meet up with them soon in Banff. We made the journey to Canmore this morning, and it will be our base for exploring Jasper and Banff. My father has taken me to Banff, but that was back in 1986, so I’m excited to be back to see what I remember. Hubs chose for us to stay in Canmore because accommodations in either Jasper or Banff would be incredibly expensive. Canmore is a really nice town, with lots of cute shops. We are staying at the Paintbox Lodge, a boutique hotel with only five rooms. It’s so lovely and cosy, because it is small. The staff also contribute to the warmth and charm.

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Erin, who was working front desk when we arrived, was so welcoming and personable. She gave us many tips on what we could do on this rainy day. We were about to head to the Elevation Place to check out the climbing wall, recommended by Erin, but as we started walking, the sun started to come out. We decided to take advantage of the clearing rain and we quickly walked back to our hotel and we each took one of the hotel’s complimentary cruiser bikes.

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Erin had told us that there were extensive trails we could ride or hike along – just walk down towards the river and there will be a network of different trails. It turned out to be so much fun, even though the bikes were much larger and heavier than we are used to. The views!!! It was nice to be back on a bike, though some sections were challenging on this style of bike.

dang-hill

We had to walk up a steep section, and when we were faced with a section full of tree roots, I told hubs that there had to be a better way. We ended up on the road where hubs laughed to himself at how ridiculous we must look. The road was a busy road, downhill, and we were on it on our cruisers that required you to back-pedal in order to brake. We didn’t have helmets. And did I mention we were on clunky cruisers that didn’t handle that well? It was funny.

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We returned to our hotel a couple of hours later, and got ready for dinner. Hubs made reservations at Saltlik Steakhouse in Banff.

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Banff

The town is quite touristy and reminds me of Blue Mountain, but much more developed. It’s quite built up, with many big name stores (Gap, Lulu Lemon, Hudson’s Bay, North Face, etc). It also has many souvenir shops, along with big name restaurants (Keg, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Earl’s, etc). The food at Saltlik was ok – we shared a 16oz bone-in steak.

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The caesar salad was nothing special. In fact, it was over-dressed. Hubs had the French onion soup to start, and he still felt the one at the Keg was better. But the steak was good, and since it was Wednesday, they had a special on their on-tap wine. We got a half litre for $15.75 (vs $12 per glass). It wasn’t the best wine, but it was an easy-drinking red from California. By the time we left the restaurant, it was 9:30 and many of the retail shops were closing, but it was still light out. Hubs reminded me that we were quite far north. We had seen a Beaver Tails earlier and he was craving one, so we walked into one of the two shops. A perfect way to end our night. Actually, we ended it with tea when we got back to our hotel. The small boutique hotels we’ve stayed at, including this one, seem to offer an assortment of free teas and coffees in their beautiful kitchens.

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Another thing I love about Paintbox Lodge is that they support local businesses. Their coffee is locally roasted, their teas are local as well, I just noticed in the shower that their soaps are from a shop I saw when we were riding around (Rocky Mountain Soap), and I absolutely love that they support Olympic hopefuls by providing flexible part time housekeeping work.

We are now planning our itinerary for tomorrow. We’re not sure how much rain to expect, but it certainly won’t put a damper on my spirits. This region is so beautiful, rain or shine. I can’t get enough of the gigantic mountains and the clean mountain air.

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