Calgary Tower(s)

Sleep deprivation can play funny tricks on the mind as I am sure you all know … but a decent breakfast in a Best Western? Included in the price?

And free wifi thrown in for good measure?

I do wish the UK would take a long hard look at itself and try to understand what it is to provide a service for people. In one day, Canada has surpassed any experience I have had in my own country.  And they don’t even realise how good they are!

But that’s the last time I will go on about it. From now on I am just going to enjoy the fact that the Canadians and the equally wonderful citizens of the USA are probably going to smash it out of the park every day. I hope so anyway.

The Best Western buffet is not designed to cater for discerning diners, it simply offers quick and fresh breakfast favourites for business people and other travellers who want something to set them up for the day. There’s no massive buffet of once-hot food. No rubberized fried eggs or steamed bacon. It’s just a few choice items, mainly cereals packets and bought-in pastries. But the coffee is nice and hot, and the waffle making machine is the greatest steam-punk invention since H.G. Wells’ time travelling bath chair.

You pour out some batter and fill up the hot iron thingummyjig. Then you have to turn the crank to spin it over. It clunks heavily while the internal wheels, gears and cogs move into the magical waffle making position. It hisses at you to tell you it’s working on a masterpiece. After about two minutes it lets out a beep. You reverse the turning over process, open it up and there is the most marvellous waffle ever created. It’s like it came directly from Willy Wonka’s factory.

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Sample of my breakfast – the fact it is sticking two fingers up at the UK is a coincidence.

Get these damn things exported to my country for heaven’s sake!

Calgary in a day isn’t really possible so we had to be selective as we set out on the first day of our adventure. Clearly we would be eating at some point and so we selected a fast food burger for lunch and arranged our morning activities around that destination. I know we eat a lot of burgers in this blog but this is cowboy country for heaven’s sake. We have to know if they know how to handle beef. We did think about a nice Sirloin but, as we say in Scotland, why have steak when you can have mince?

Our first problem was car parking. Still without a satnav to guide us we picked an easy to find parking area from Google and set off in the morning to secure a slot before the rush hour traffic took over the city. The price of parking in Calgary is one of its least redeeming features. $20 for three hours of Downtown parking is just taking the contents of one’s bladder.  Of course if I had been better prepared I might have realised that a short walk away I can park for free in one of the city’s biggest attractions – Fort Calgary (more of it later).

A selection of Calgary city-scapes for your enjoyment follows.

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Olympic Park built for the winter Olympics in 1988

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Some feminist nonsense in the park.

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Unusual architecture in Downtown Calgary.

Now the Calgary Tower is a marvellous experience, much more nerve-jangling than the Willis Tower in Chicago and a full 360 view of the city to boot. We were given to understand that the ticket allowed us to return at any time during the day but this was false. The security chap at the door described our precious ticket stub as a ‘bookmark’ after we enquired into this. Impertinent fellow!  It will no doubt be displayed by my dear wife along with other bits of paper acquired on this journey inside a glass frame and hung on my living room wall to remind us of our tower experience. But if it falls down it won’t go up again either.

We then did the obligatory shopping much to my thrill and amusement. It was a beautifully sunny day and far too warm for all the walking we did. But we walked nonetheless.

After moving the car out of the danger zone and into the car park at Fort Calgary, we entered to investigate the real history of this great city. We paid $14 each which is a bit steep but it wasn’t really grudged if it helped keep history alive for our children and our children’s children.

Sadly the Fort at the site of Fort Calgary is not in existence for any child to see. It’s a field and a visitor centre. Of course the museum they have set it up explains everything but my hopes of standing on the ramparts and gazing out across the Bow River to the North were badly dashed when it turned out the ramparts could only be seen inside a glass case and were Lilliputian in scale. If it wasn’t for the fact that I got to dress up as a Mountie and get my picture taken beside a big horse I’d have been deeply disappointed. As it was, the experience is worth having – if only to know you have walked in the same path as the first Calgarians.

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This is not me as a Mountie beside a big horse.

Now it turns out Calgary is a Scottish invention. The Fort was positioned here as a means of preventing the illicit Whiskey (their spelling) trade. The founder, James Farquharson MacLeod of Drynoch on the Isle of Skye, emigrated to Canada in 1845 and became a senior police/militia officer. Having set up the Fort here, people came from far and wide to ask the Mounties what the hell they could do for a living now that the illicit stills had been taken from them. Rear cattle, it was suggested. So they did and now Calgary has a rich ranching heritage and is the centre of an annual rodeo which we have arrived too late for (insert sad emoticon if you remember).  And while digging wells for farming in Saskatchewan some lucky beggars chanced upon the largest oil reserves in the western world making the area the largest supplier of crude to the US.

There’s quite a bit of money in Calgary. It shows in the buildings, the cleanliness of the streets. The new-ness of the place.

Anyway – the food.

We still had to secure a satnav for our future journey and decided to walk to 17th Avenue where there is a very large Best Buy full of electronic bargains, and the completely unobtrusive but unbelievably excellent burger heaven, Clive Burger.

It was a good old hike in the heat to get there and we glanced in at Clive’s on the way past and wondered if we might consider pizza instead. It seemed a bit quiet. We carried on securing our satnav for the princely sum of $126 (or eight days worth of hiring one from the Thrifty girl). Given we are here for nearly twenty days and will certainly return some day to these shores, I believe the little Tom Tom unit with lifetime updates for USA, Canada and Mexico represents a bargain. Take that Thrifty!

We again looked over at a pizza place on the way back but stuck with the original plan. Clive Burger were tops on Trip Advisor so best not change plans at the last minute and end up disappointed.

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Well we absolutely loved the burgers at Clive’s. Not only did these sweet Alberta beef patties get cooked perfectly by the grill maestro Nyemike, they were double or triple stacked into a soft brioche bun with relishes, crisp salady bits, cheese, onions, japapenos and Clive’s special sauce (can’t say that without saying it like ‘Bully’s Special Prize’ in a Yorkshire accent). It was a towering triumph. And it was certainly the best burger I have eaten since I travelled Route 66.

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Hello! My name is Clive….

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This is my friend Clive….

Not only was the burger wonderful – the staff were too. Way too friendly and pleasant for us British to understand.  These people really ought to be serving these burgers to the world – and teaching us how to do it with a smile.

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Clive is a artist as well as a burger.

So we rolled out of Clive’s and resolved to eat no more today. There’s no room.

As I finish this we are just back from Walmart where we bought a case of water bottles for our travels and some other bits and pieces to ease the miles away.

Cakes.

Tomorrow we embark on a climb into the Rockies. Dangers may lurk amid those frost covered sentinels of the Pacific, but we will push forward resolute. We have been on top of the world today in more ways than one, and we press on with renewed inspiration.

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