Calgary is uncharted territory for me. Although I grew up in Alberta, before last month, I think I had visited the province’s largest city once, maybe twice, not counting the times I’ve flown or driven through it.
Even last month’s visit was less than 48 hours long. So I make no claim to know the city, but I can say this: what little I’ve seen, I like.
Here’s what impressed me:
# 1: It has Chinooks. These warm winds that swoop down over the prairies from the Rockies can melt a winter’s worth of snow in a day. We had them occasionally in Edmonton, where I grew up, but they are much more frequent in southern Alberta. Chinooks are a welcome respite from the cold Arctic air that usually blankets the province during the seemingly never-ending winters. What I didn’t realize is they occur year round. My first morning in Calgary, I looked out the window, saw a menacing storm cloud, and wondered aloud if it was going to rain. My sister took one quick look, then enlightened me. “That’s a Chinook arch,” she said.
# 2: It’s got not just one, but two rivers. And the one I got up close and personal with has lovely parks alongside it.
I say “up close and personal” because the Bow River is pretty much at street level, which seems strange to me. I’m used to the North Saskatchewan River’s deep valley that neatly bisects Edmonton into a north side and a south side. It’s so much easier to understand how devastating the 2013 floods were for Calgary when you see the geography of its rivers firsthand.
# 3: It’s got a CTrain. I love that it’s a street-level train, rather than a monstrous elevated Skytrain like in Vancouver.
# 4: It celebrates its frontier history in a big way. Not only does it host the “greatest outdoor show on Earth” (another confession: I’ve never been to the Calgary Stampede), but just look at the number of thoroughfares named “trail” ― a reminder of the city’s original wagon trails. Macleod Trail goes south towards Fort Macleod; Edmonton Trail goes north. And then there’s Crowchild Trail, Stoney Trail, and the big one: Deerfoot Trail (named after a fast-footed Niitsitapi man who was known for his speed and endurance back in the 1880s).
# 5: It’s got Stephen Avenue, a well-manicured pedestrian mall smack in the middle of its downtown core, which does a nice job of melding the old with the new.
# 6: It’s even got bike lanes!
# 7: And last, but not least, it treats its canine population with a goodly amount of respect.
So there you have it: my whistle-stop tour of Calgary. Hopefully it’s only the first of many.