Calgary Adventures – Calgary, Canada

After sleeping in the other bedroom (due to our bed still being in a state of disrepair) we got up early on Saturday morning to pack up and tidy the cabin ready to hit the road.  We were heading to Calgary where Diane and Ken have their primary residence.  We were originally going to take two cars but with one being incapacitated we had to fit into one – Smokey the cat and all.  It actually worked out really well with all of us in the one car from a sharing the stories, knowledge and experience point of view.  It didn’t appear to sit well with Smokey though – he was quite unsettled for the first half of the journey.

We travelled along the Kootenay River over the Kootenay Crossing before travelling along the Vermilion River and over the Vermilion Crossing.  We then reached the Continental Divide of the Americas (also known as the Continental Gulf of Division, the Great Divide, or merely the Continental Divide) which is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas. The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from (1) those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea), and (2) along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.

Though there are many other hydrological divides in the Americas, the Great Divide is by far the most prominent of these because it tends to follow a line of high peaks along the main ranges of the Rocky Mountains and Andes, at a generally much higher elevation than the other hydrological divisions.

In 1913, Boundary Commissioners R.W. Cautley and A.O. Wheeler toiled up peaks and passes and through marshes, tracing streams to their sources.  With the mineral rights and natural resources of two provinces at stake, precise mapping of the boundary became essential.The four Rocky Mountain national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho share boundaries, scenery, geology, plant and animal life, human history and importance to the world.  These four parks were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.  World Heritage sites and monuments are considered to be of such exceptional interest and of such universal value that protecting them is a concern of all mankind.

 We have heard so many stories of seeing wildlife along the roads etc… We got very excited when we first came across a mountain sheep and her baby and then saw a grizzly bear walking alongside the road.  The mountain sheep are nothing like the sheep we have at home – they look more like goats – they’re quite wiry.  You can imagine the excitement when we saw the bear – unfortunately there was another bloody tourist in front of us and they slowed to take pictures which meant by the time we got alongside it, it was disappearing into the bush so we didn’t get a photo.  A fabulous memory to have in our minds anyway.The plan was to try our luck at Lake Louise – this is peak tourist season and it was a Saturday so it is not always possible to get up there.  We drove into the village only to see signs saying “Carpark Full” and all these traffic controllers turning people around.  There would be no Lake Louise visit for us today unfortunately.  We backtracked with our next stop being Banff.

The mountains that we saw in this area were once flat beds of rock that lay buried to the west.  Immense pressures within the earth cracked the rock layers millions of years ago, forcing them to slide atop one another and shift many kilometres eastward.  These thrust-fault mountains are now the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains.  Much later, great amounts of glacier ice filled the spaces between the mountains, so deep that some of the summits were buried.  For many thousands of years, ice and snow ruled.  About 15,000 years ago, the ice began to melt back to where it is today.

Mt Rundle

Two friendly little gophers were curious to see if we had any tasty morsels for them : )

Banff, Canada’s first national park, was less than 26 square kilometres when established in 1885.  Now covering 6,500 square kilometres of the Canadian Rocky Maountains, it has now become a leader in nature conservation.  Cattle once grazed the meadows.  The railroad cut off water flows.  Wolves were killed off, leaving over-abundant elk to destroy willow and aspen thickets.  In the mid-twentieth century, the lakes were treated with toxic pesticides to control mosquitoes.

But national parks are meant to be passed on to future generations unimpaired.  That is why Parks Canada has used science, innovation and partnerships to restore much of the ecological health of these wetlands.  Cattle are long gone.  Wolves, Cougars and grizzly bears have returned.  Elk are no longer over-abundant and, in response, willow thickets and aspen forests thrive again.  Working with partners, Parks Canada has restored water flows to keep wetlands healthy.  Frogs, fish, Eagles, moose and beavers are among the wildlife that have benefited.

Banff is an awesome little town – it is really touristy but still manages to maintain it’s charm. We had a wander around the shops – you could spend quite a few hours there and part with a bit of money. Luckily, Smokey had us on a tight schedule. We did go into a photo gallery where the photographer had spent many an hour in nature waiting to capture that perfect moment. His work was phenomenal and none of it is photoshopped – it is as he shot it. I fell in love with a photo of a bear cub and couldn’t leave without it. The photographer was in the gallery so he signed the back for me. I could have gone crazy in there.

We had a casual lunch at Coyotes Southwestern Grill sitting at the counter and Steve enjoyed a local beer.  A quick freshen up for Smokey and we were on the road again.  

Banff is a town within Banff National Park in the province of Alberta.  At an elevation of 1,400 m (4,600 ft) to 1,630 m (5,350 ft), Banff is the community with the second highest elevation in Alberta after Lake Louise.  The Town of Banff was the first municipality to incorporate within a Canadian national park. 

Banff is a resort town and one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking, biking, scrambling and skiing areas within the area. Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort are the three nearby ski resorts located within the national park.

Banff was first settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley. In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. In 1885, Canada established a federal reserve of 26 km2 (10 sq mi) around the Cave and Basin hot springs, and began promoting the area as an international resort and spa as a way to support the new railway.  In 1887, the reserve area was increased to 673 km2 (260 sq mi) and named “Rocky Mountain Park.” This was the beginning of Canada’s National Park system.

The area was named Banff in 1884 by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.

Speaking of such, our next stop was The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel which was opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  This landmark hotel was the inspiration of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, 19th century railway pioneer and hotel visionary, who famously quipped “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.”  It was originally a five storey, wooden structure built on a cement foundation.  The architect was the renowned Bruce Price of New York.  The hotel was described as “a bastion of luxury,” and boasted 250 rooms with the cost of a room starting at $3.50 per night.  The hotel opened seasonally from the 15th May until the 1st October.

Due to the increasing popularity of the hotel as an international mountain resort destination, a decision was made in 1910 to replace the wooden hotel in stages.  In between 1911 and 1914, the 11 storey centre tower designed by Walter Painter of Pennsylvania was added as the first stage of the new grand and luxurious hotel.  In 1926, disaster struck when the north wing of the original wooden hotel burnt down.  Subsequently, the new north and the south wings were quickly rebuilt and completed on the 15th May 1928.  Styled in the spirt of a Scottish baronial castle, the thick limestone blocks used on the exterior were quarried from Mount Rundle, a short distance from the hotel along the Spray River.  Hundreds of Italianstone cutters and Scottish stone masons were employed to complete the project.

It is a stunning piece of architecture located in a stunning setting.  It reminded me of the Vaduz Palace in St Moritz, Switzerland although with this one you could go in and have a look around.  There had been a wedding on the balcony and they were just taking some photos and setting up for the reception so we got to see that.  It is very grand inside.  It is also a very popular tourist attraction with lots of people coming and going.


 We then drove out to the springs and alongside some of the holes on the Banff Springs Golf Course – wow, what a stunning looking course. Another to add to the list.

By this time it really was time to get Smokey home – we still had another hour or so to Calgary.  He had settled down and slept most of the way home.

Sunday was a lovely day so we took a walk around the South Glenmore Park along the reservoir.  The Calgary Ironman was on so we got to see some of the runners who were also running alongside the reservoir.

That afternoon Diane and Ken hosted a family BBQ – their son, daughter in law and granddaughter were back from Ottawa so it was nice to meet them and also some other members of the extended family.  Canadians are very congenial like Kiwi’s so as you can imagine it was a great evening.  Ken worked his magic on the BBQ with the lamb patties for the home made burgers and we had some delicious salads and home made raspberry flan and a rhubarb, custard pie.  The raspberries and rhubarb were home grown.  Everything was so, so good!  We washed it down with some Pegasus Bay Riesling.

Monday was another lovely day so we ventured into downtown Calgary to have a look around.  It is a really nice city and has all these glass walkways between buildings to make it more pleasant in winter to move about the city.  We wandered down the Stephen Avenue Walk which is a pedestrian and cyclist only street during the day.  There is some lovely architecture along here.  They have preserved the outside facades and erected taller buildings behind in some cases.  

We had a look around the Hudson’s Bay Company department store. The Hudson’s Bay Company, commonly referred to as The Bay (La Baie in French), is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson’s Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada, Germany, Belgium and the United States with Galeria Kaufhof, Gilt, Hudson’s Bay, Home Outfitters, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH. The Company was incorporated by English royal charter in 1670.

We then walked towards the Olympic Plaza which is an urban park and gathering place in downtown Calgary.  It was created as the venue for the medal ceremonies at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. It is now used for various events and doubles as a ice skating rink in the winter.  Along the way we came across the Famous Five.  

The Famous Five or The Valiant Five were five Alberta women who asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” in the case Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General).  The five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, created a petition to ask this question. They sought to have women legally considered persons so that women could be appointed to the Senate. The petition was filed on August 27, 1927, and on 24 April 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are not such “persons”.  The last line of the judgement reads, “Understood to mean ‘Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada,’ the question is answered in the negative.” This judgement was overturned by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on 18 October 1929. This case came to be known as the “Persons Case”.

These five Albertan women were drawn together by the tides of history and a shared idealism. Each was a true leader in her own right: one a police magistrate, another a legal expert who founded the National Council for Women, and three served as Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. And they did all this before they were even fully defined as “persons” under Canadian and British law.

Separately, these five women were champions of the rights and welfare of women and children. They worked hard and courageously in the face of the prejudices and resistance of the day. Together, they formed an unstoppable force that changed the world for women in Canada and in all Commonwealth countries.

The Famous 5 sculpture was done by Edmonton sculptor Barbara Paterson and an identical one is also on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Paterson captured the five women at the moment they reunited over a cup of tea to celebrate their victory.   

I particularly liked this following quote by Louise McKinney (1868 – 1931):

“What, after all, is the purpose of a woman’s life? The purpose of a woman’s life is just the same as the purpose of a man’s life: that she may make the best possible contribution to the generation in which she is living.”

The 12 metre tall, bent-wire head of a young girl called “Wonderland” was created by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa.  The  artist’s concept represents the hopes and dreams of young Albertans and the youthful energy of the tenants.  This sculpture is located outside The Bow building.

That evening we came back into the city to have dinner at the River Cafe on Prince’s Island.  If you had been standing on this island in 1885, you wouldn’t even have been standing on an island.  This was just a bend in the Bow Riveruntil 1886, when the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company dug a channel to get logs from Kananaskis closer to Calgary sawmill.

The resulting island was named after the company’s manager, Peter Prince.  Prince was one of Calgary’s earliest entrepreneurs.  In 1889 he formed the Calgary Water Power Company to supply electric streetlights to the town.  Despite its name, the company used steam generators powered by sawdust until 1893, when Prince built Calgary’s first hydro-electric plant near the east end of the lagoon. 

The River Cafe serves seasonal Canadian food.  They are dedicated to sourcing the best tasting local ingredients in season. They connect directly with growers and producers at their farms, gardens and ranches, and carefully choose those purveyors who are responsible stewards of the land. They support and honor the connection to these farms by always identifying the provenance of their ingredients on menu.  The food was delicious with a creative use of local flavours.  After dinner we wandered back along the river where we had some great views of the city.  We saw all these groups of young people on their phones and realised they were all chasing Pokemon – another sign the world has gone mad!

We really enjoyed our time in both Invermere and Calgary and have to say a huge thank you to our hosts Diane and Ken.  They shared their homes, knowledge and passion with us so generously as well as Smokey the cat.  They are so well travelled in both Canada and the rest of the world that their knowledge and experience is endless – they are an inspiration.



Calgary is a city in the Canadian province of Alberta. It is situated at the confluence of the Bow River and the Elbow River in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, about 80 km (50 mi) east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. In the 2011 census, the City of Calgary had a population of 1,096,833 and a metropolitan population of 1,214,839, making it the largest city in Alberta, and the third-largest municipality and fifth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada.

The economy of Calgary includes activity in the energy, financial services, film and television, transportation and logistics, technology, manufacturing, aerospace, health and wellness, retail, and tourism sectors.  The Calgary CMA is home to the second-highest number of corporate head offices in Canada among the country’s 800 largest corporations.

With the energy sector employing a huge number of Calgarians, the fallout from the economic slump of the early 1980s was significant, and the unemployment rate soared.  By the end of the decade, however, the economy was in recovery. Calgary quickly realized that it could not afford to put so much emphasis on oil and gas, and the city has since become much more diverse, both economically and culturally. The period during this recession marked Calgary’s transition from a mid-sized and relatively nondescript prairie city into a major cosmopolitan and diverse centre. This transition culminated in the city hosting Canada’s first Winter Olympics in 1988.  The success of these Games essentially put the city on the world stage.

Thanks in part to escalating oil prices, the economy in Calgary and Alberta was booming until the end of 2009, and the region of nearly 1.1 million people was home to the fastest growing economy in the country.  While the oil and gas industry comprise an important part of the economy, the city has invested a great deal into other areas such as tourism and high-tech manufacturing. Over 3.1 million people now visit the city annually for its many festivals and attractions, especially the Calgary Stampede. The nearby mountain resort towns of Banff, Lake Louise, and Canmore are also becoming increasingly popular with tourists, and are bringing people into Calgary as a result. Other modern industries include light manufacturing, high-tech, film, e-commerce, transportation, and services.

Widespread flooding throughout southern Alberta, including on the Bow and Elbow rivers, forced the evacuation of over 75,000 city residents on June 21, 2013 and left large areas of the city, including downtown, without power.


This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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1 Response to Calgary Adventures – Calgary, Canada

  1. karentobeck says:

    Hi Rachel, really loved this post and makes it even more desirable to get to Canada. One of my clients has just come back, they did a 24 day trip including an Alaskan cruise and Rockies train, they loved Canada and she said she wanted to get back on the plane to go back as soon as she landed in Auckland. Banff sounds amazing, and Vancouver also sounded beautiful. We have decided in the last week that we are going to London for two weeks late September, spoke to Michael this morning and he is very excited that we are coming over. We just thought we wanted to see them and would find a b&b close by and just enjoy being in London. Settlement date on Hawthorne house is 18th November and last hurdle is selling our house for right price by end September, we listed it yesterday, a bit scary but also exciting. We are up at the Bach for the night and enjoying sitting in front of thr Fire, watching the Chiefs (not doing so well) against the Hurricanes. Love hearing from you. Ps you may want to know that Debs mum is not good and has gone back to hospice, very sad and I really feel for her it must be devastating. I don’t think she will last much longer, 😢😢😢. Love Karen

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