Calgary, we will be back. Alie is not a big fan of cities, so we decided to just drive on through after our motel messed up and had us down for just one night. We got a reservation in Canmore, back in the mountains we love.
But after driving around downtown, stopping for a short walk, and then stopping on a hill overlooking the city, we decided we would be back – perhaps the next time it will be for the Stampede.
Calgary has a population of just over a million and with the surrounding area, is almost a million and a quarter. The economy was agriculture-based and became an important center of commerce after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Then there was an oil and gas boom after World War II, and today they have expanded into medical research, telecommunications, and computer sciences.
In 1988 it was the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Winter Games. We saw an ad for a zip-line and toboggan ride at the Olympic Park, and I imagine there is more to see there as well.
Of course, in July they have the famous rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. Alie thought perhaps the town now had too many skyscrapers and corporate headquarters for a rodeo; it would be better held in a town with more of a “western” feel.
There is a large Chinatown, and the presence of Chinese and Vietnamese is evident throughout the area. One restaurant in particular is famous for its dim sum, another item for our return visit.
Driving down one street, we passed a parking enforcement van with six cameras mounted on it, two near the top front and four in the back. The purpose became evident when we pulled into a public parking lot. As is often the case now, one pays first at a central machine. But here, one enters a four digit code for the “parking zone” and the license plate number on your car. You do not need to put anything on your windshield to show you have paid. You are instructed to park facing in. That way, when the van or an enforcement officer passes behind and scans your vehicle, a computer tells them if you have overstayed your time.
Not really having a clue, we parked near Stephen Street, a street of retail shops and restaurants that has been blocked off as a pedestrian mall.
We went in one large office building to stop at an ATM – the way to get the best exchange rate in a foreign country. Going out the other side of the building, we saw a map of the area which included an area called the Devonian Gardens on the fourth floor of a building. We took an elevator up and were surprised to find ourselves in a three-story glass enclosed mall built over a street (the first floor). And indeed, on the fourth floor were gardens including a playground with trees where a large group of kindergarteners were playing.
After walking along Stephen Street and buying a good belt – for less than a third the price I paid at Wall Drug – we returned to the car. As we drove out of town, I noticed a park on a hill above the Bow River, so we did a quick detour for a fabulous view of the city.
Like most United States citizens, I am abysmally ignorant about Canadian history. But I thought I knew something about the form of government. Therefore, I was surprised to read a column in the morning paper basically advocating a free trade agreement among Canadian Provinces. Not only do they not have the U.S. Interstate Commerce Clause, it appears they have actual trade barriers inside the country. Clearly there is a lot to learn before we leave the country and certainly before we come back to Calgary.