Calgary, the alpha and omega of our vacation
Our vacation in Canada started and ended in Calgary, Alberta. That was really cool since we had not been in this city and rest of Alberta since 2005. It had not been easy though to find some reasonably priced flights to Calgary directly from one of the major European airports.
When we arrived the weather wasn't very great. Due to our time adjustment, we were up awake at a non vacation time and we headed quite early downtown on a Saturday morning. The metropole felt deserted. Starting at Princes island in the Bow river, we started to explore downtown and the high towers. I recognised most towers from the past that indeed seemed a few decennia old and a bit oldfashioned dull, yet there were some pretty cool modern ones added.
When the drizzle was getting too annoying and cold, we headed to the Core shopping center and waited for the Devonian Gardens to open. These are free tropical gardens on the 4th floor of the shopping center. I remembered these gardens well from '95 but they've been closed for years due to a leaking roof that had to be renovated twice. In my memory they were bigger and more impressive than they were now upon my new visit...but it was nice to warm up and be dry for a while.
From there we went to the iconic symbol: The Calgary Tower. Due to the cloudy weather that would not allow us to see the Rocky Mountains, we opted against paying to go up but we explored the tourist info and shop at the foot of the tower. We got the tips to visit the new modern Bell Music Center and the Calgary Fort further up so we headed that way.
At the fort we all got introduced for the first time this trip in the modern Western Canadian history, starting in 2nd half 19th century when the first trans-Canadian railroads got constructed. With that, the first police forts kept order among the worker communities, miners and ranchers came to the western provinces quickly to seek their luck.
It would be the first of several heritage musea we'd visit on our vacation. The Fort Calgary isn't very big but holds some nice displays and some more were under construction (which resulted in a 50% entry fee discount during that period).
At lunch time the clouds really tore open and the rain came down in a constant stream. My rain jacket turned out to be leaking and I felt miserably cold. Returning to the hotel early to enjoy a swim seemed very very attractive to me, but I got overruled by my brave men who wanted to visit the Calgary zoo despite the rain.
We explored all the animals that we hoped to see in the wild later on our vacation, we giggled about the soaked camels and we hid mostly in all indoor exhibits as most of the outdoor animals were hiding from the rain as well. The children got a first introduction to Alberta's dinosaur richness in the prehistoric section of the zoo (don't tell them we really really cut that tour short as by then we were all cold and tired and we knew we'd see plenty more dinosaurs on our vacation).
With 20km in our feet, we took the tram back and we were happy to call it a day.
Our vacation also ended back in Calgary. It was with great sadness that we approached the city back after a wonderful roadtrip and vacation. Leaving the Rocky Mountains behind and change it with the Calgarian suburbs was rather dull. It's also become a tradition for me to arrive in Calgary for my return flight with heavy thunderstorms. The threatening clouds came rolling over the prairie during our last drive but the lashing rain and wind only broke lose once we had checked in into our hotel again.
The last morning it was still grey and a bit rainy but not so much anymore. Since we had some more time to kill we drove to the Heritage Park and Historic Village. For the Belgians: this is like a big Bokrijk. It's Canada's largest history museum with a historic village , but also an First Nations section, a ranch, a fun park, a natural resources section under construction for the gas and mining history, it runs an active steam train through the park with 3 stations and it runs a copy of a historic paddle wheeler on the lake. We had only 2,5 hours to spend so we focused on the steam train and the boat and had to skip a part of the park.
The park felt at the same time very attractive and fun due to it's vastness and interesting range of sections to explore, yet also very commercial and more a theme park then a true history museum (in comparison to the others we had visited before). There were 1400 school children in the park when we were there so it's clearly a popular school trip destination. That didn't make it feel overcrowded however.
With that timed visit, our vacation truly came to an end and our next stop was back at the airport. That weighted on my mood as much as the clouds in the sky.