Another quick weekend getaway has come and gone. Once again, my husband and I visited my sister and her husband in Calgary, Alberta. We visited in March just weeks after they moved to the Canadian city from the United Kingdom, and this time, they were better equipped for visitors, with more furniture and more energy.
Our two-day visit flew by, but it featured lazy mornings and pleasant strolls through a newly whitened neighborhood. Its as if we fast-forwarded into December, with not a piece of ground showing beneath the snowy landscape. Despite the peaceful snowfall that blanketed the city over the weekend, you could still see the aftermath of this summers floods. It doesnt seem like too much media attention was given to Albertas floods, which amounted to at least $5 billion Canadian! Because her home isnt near the river, my sisters house was not affected, but a couple blocks away, people were without power and houses were flooded. A bridge collapsed, water treatment was affected, stadiums were flooded and even the zoo had to be evacuated (the only animals left now are penguins).
Although its been four months, large garbage receptacles still line the sidewalks and many homes near the waterfront remain vacant. Road reconstruction is still ongoing, as many roads washed out from the rising waters. Although the snow makes the city look beautiful and peaceful, it just covers up the ongoing effort to bring things back to normal.
And still, after all their hardships this year, the Canadians are so nice! Folks shoveling the sidewalks nodded their greetings and even the protesters on the 11 oclock news were friendly, voicing their demands not with a shout, but a calm smile.
What trip to Alberta would be complete without visiting the impressive Banff National Park? Unlike last time, the tourist areas were largely deserted, and we felt like we had our own personal tour, experiencing the serenity of the Canadian Rockies while overlooking the lovely Lake Minnewanka, having taken an unplowed road to get there.
The part of Banff that was a bit more crowded but worth the experience was the hot spring on the top of the appropriately-named Sulphur Mountain. For about $8 Canadian, you can soak in a pool that reaches a sizzling 40 degrees Celsius (thats 104 degrees Fahrenheit), which is evened out by the wind blowing dustings of snow off the nearby mountain peaks. I forgot my bathing suit, and for just over $1, I could rent one. They even had historic ones hearkening back to the 1920s, complete with a skirt and buttons (and it was surprisingly comfortable!).
The Alpine-themed town of Banff has plenty of shops and restaurants to delight any visitor.
On our way out, we had to stop at the famous Canadian chain Tim Hortons for a coffee and doughnut.
One last thing that touched me is the number of people wearing poppies for Remembrance Day, which we in the U.S. have renamed Veterans Day. Wherever we went in Alberta, people were wearing them with pride. I think we can definitely do more to show support for veterans, and, while I know this tradition is kept by some Americans, it would be much more moving to have the majority of Americans wearing poppies on their lapels like I saw in Canada.
This trip just reinforced my high opinions of Canada and its people. Sure, it snows a lot more and things are generally more expensive, but its a place with resilient and supportive citizens who are surrounded by some awesome natural beauty.