Calgary, Alberta, has a population greater than 600,000 people and, like other large cities, probably has half again as many more in towns immediately surrounding. We are in Balzac, only ten miles north, and have a very large mall at the same exit. The number of cars and trucks on our exit road is far in excess of the designed capacity. Yesterday we couldn’t turn onto the road to access the highway ramps and instead drove into the countryside to find another road into Calgary. Apparently the traffic has exceeded the plan. Again.
Our camp ground is a bit of a dump, but location is excellent, location is excellent, location is excellent. Did I say location, location, location? Whispering Spruce, we’ve heard, has one spruce tree. It has a major six-lane highway in front. A pair of Canadian Pacific Railway lines behind. It is in a flight pattern for Calgary’s airport. The interior campground roads are not paved and are deeply potholed in places. A large number of people seem to be long-term residents, which lends a downtrodden appearance here. But the location is only 10 miles north of Calgary, served by an excellent highway. Location, location . . .
Our trip to Calgary on this business Friday included a goal of avoiding rush hour traffic. We went into town at 1500 hours and planned to stay until after 1900 hours, at least. Navigating Calgary was easy with help from our gps. We entered from the northeast, crossed through the city center, and found side street parking on the south side (on 14th St South). So we hiked north along 1st Ave SW, near Calgary Tower (sort of like the Space Needle), until we reached Stephen’s Street Mall.
We walked north from Stephen Ave through the finance district then gasoline alley (Husky, ESSO, BP, others?). Next we headed east and through an edge of Chinatown. We circled south then west and through Stephen Avenue Mall. This is a four blocks long walking mall near the center of town. Boutiques, high-end shops, and sidewalk restaurants and bars abound. A dozen or so nineteenth century building facades remain, a reminder of a little of the history of downtown. We arrived here at a perfect time, if a little late, as scads of downtowners were also arriving to stake out their tables.
Today’s weather, at 30 degrees (86 F) with a slight and constant breeze, is perfect for hanging out here.We stopped for a sidewalk table and ordered a drink at Dakota’s, one of the very busy watering holes on Stephen Ave. It was fun to see the number of suits already starting their relaxation for the weekend. A resounding theme we overheard was how great it is to finally have summer arrive, however late. This is their heat wave, at 30 degrees. Pretty nice, eh?
After a hike back to the truck, we studied our guides for dining opportunities. Isn’t it always the case, despite hundreds of restaurants, we couldn’t pick one to suit our taste? We moved our truck a few blocks west and north and started walking toward town again, knowing we’d find something. Not 200 yards from the truck we encounter the Laurier Lounge, a little French restaurant in a converted house. Okay, let’s peruse the menu and, whammo! This’ll do fine.
We sat on the front deck at a cozy table for two, quaffed a gallon of ice water, and enjoyed a light dinner followed by crepe suzette. Perfect food, gracious service, and a nice crowd around us. Only one thing remains before we head to Balzac — grocery shopping. Luckily, the truck is parked beside a Safeway Grocery. An hour later we’ve found everything we need and we enjoyed the Friday eight o’clock light evening traffic out of Calgary. A nice half-day in Calgary.
We’ll enjoy another day here then head for Banff National Park. First time for either of us to visit Canada’s first national park — what an appropriate place to start!