12 November 2010

Canadian Rockies

Finally we made it out of the Calgary city limits and what better place to head than the Canadian Rocky Mountains featuring world renowned national parks like Banff and Jasper. Indeed, it was the probably the last chance this year to see the mountains without having to plow through snow - for November the weather was rather warm. Here's a few photos from our outing.

On the Trans-Canada Highway heading towards the mountains. From Calgary it is a bit more than an hours drive to Canmore at the foot of the Rockies and another hour will get you to Lake Louise (Banff town is sort of in between). Anais Thima slept about half of the way, and talked about the last episodes of "Dora" during the other half.

The highway follows the Bow river valley and at Banff it takes a sharp left turn to avoid this sheer wall of a mountain named Cascade Mountain.

As you go further in to the wilderness there's lots of wildlife. All those animals might want to cross the road and to facilitate this the road features a lot of wildlife bridges like this one.

Arriving at Lake Louise we were greeted by a bunch of these fluffy birds called Clark's Nutcrackers. Grey, white, and black seem to be the fashion colours among birds here.

And then the obligatory family picture at the marvelous lake. Hmmm, Anais Thima is quite a cheeky little thing.

And then the panorama picture of Lake Louise. It may be hard to see, but this place is simply unreal. From the turquoise colour of the lake, the massive mountain wall, to the blue ice of the glacier. Unfortunately, we came on a day with a bit of cloud cover so we missed the blue sky - must return next summer.

We hiked a couple of kilometers along the lake-side and took some pictures.

And some more.

Untill we reached the other end of the lake. At that point the path became more steep and icy, thus we decided to turn around and head back.

At the end of Lake Louise where we started our hike this massive resort hotel looms over the waters. The original hotel is more than 100 years old and the tall middle section was built as early as 1925 - no wonder, as this sort of structure would probably never be allowed to be built today.

Its cold up in the mountains.

Anais casting a glance over the turquoise blue water. By this time she was a bit cranky despite being carried the whole way back and forth along the lake.

Time to head back. To make the return a bit different we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, which offers some more close up views than the highway.

The most impressive mountain on the way is Castle Mountain... it should be obvious why it got this name.

Anais was persuaded to have her picture taken =:)

12 October 2010

Calgary stampede

They call it "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth"! Well, it's certainly big and interesting, but whether its "the greatest" is open for discussion. It's hard to explain what it is all about except by showing it in pictures. So, here come the photos we took from out visit to the Stampede:

First important element of the Stampede is the attire, which should include a cowboy hat, cowboy jeans/skirt, and I think most will have realised the pattern! We got Anais a particularly nice hat so that she could pass for a real little cow-girl.

The stampede is traditionally about farming. Oh, and beef is big in Alberta...

A large section of the stampede grounds are taken up by farmers showing off their prime cattle, horses, and even a few sheep. All the animals take part in competitions to be the finest specimens in their class.

Anais got to pat a cow and a fluffy little sheep.

In case of an invasion, the stampede is also a fairly attractive place to be. As it happens the Royal Canadian Forces also take up a large swath of land to display some of their hardware! Here's Anais with her Daddy sitting on a torpedo mounted with a horse-saddle... somehow we get a flashback to a scene from "Dr. Strangelove".

Perfect camouflage for a tank in front of big arena...?

Lunch! We were warned that food and beverage prices on the stampede grounds were virtual rip-offs so we brought our own. Turned out that though things were a bit pricy, it wasn't that bad. Anyhow, we had a nutritious lunch at a nice little green spot.

Slightly less nutritious, but certainly to Anais' liking.

The biggest part of the Stampede is devoted to fun-fair rides. There was a section for child-friendly rides, where Anais passed the height restriction on about half of the rides.

First a roller-coaster ride, which Anais clearly enjoyed.

Then a more relaxed truck-drive... Anais could easily be mistaken for a real trucker =:)

Then a very challenging one! Anais was absolutely tense during the whole minut this thing was going up and down, but afterwards she seemed really happy and proud of having lived up to the challenge.

Finally a quiet trip for all the Clouds in the ferris wheel.

But the Stampede is more than just farm animals and fun-rides. A highlight is the acrobatic ice-show, which is free when you've paid the entry to the stampede. Only catch is that you're not guaranteed a seat! Fortunately, we arrived at the venue just as the doors had opened and we could walk in to get some rather decent seats. The 2010 show was titled "A Rock 'N Roll Fantasy", hence the band and the stage in the one end of the ice-arena. Anais really enjoyed the first half of the show with all the action on and off the ice. The last half, well she probably enjoyed it too, only in her dreams. Due to all the impressions she drowsed off and took a well deserved nap.

Here's why it is called an acrobatic ice show. About half of the show was devoted to skating while the other half featured various acrobatic performances. This woman was dangling from the ring doing all sorts of stuff you should not try at home.

And then some skating. This guy, named Elvis Stojko, was one of the most popular performers. He's somewhat of a national hero in Canada. Pretty good at skating too, if I may say so!

Then some more acrobatics. A guy called Dominic Lacasse, nicknamed "The Human Flag", showing off an above average muscle strength as he defies gravity.

Then some more figure skating to famous rock tunes from AC-DC, Pink Floyd, Guns 'N Roses, Metallica, U2, The Beatles, and many more.

Another highlight were the appearances of the 2010 Olympic gold medalists and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. That would have been ok, as such, but the fact that they are Canadian adds a whole new dimension to their popularity =:)

Then another acrobatics act.

And a finale with a grand goodbye from all the performers. Our verdict was that the show in itself was certainly worth the stampede entrance fee.

But hang in there, the Stampede is more than just animals, fun-fair, and ice-show. It's also features several giant halls for shopping. Much of the stuff actually had some "wild-west" appeal, but a lot of the things for sale seemed awfully misplaced - take the one in the photo!

Lots of clothes for sale too. Obviously you'd want to dress up even the smallest cowboys in the family.

But there's even more to the Stampede! How about a live broadcast of a cooking show!

And it's not even finished! The Stampede is also about eating and what could be more appropriate than a barbecue steak burger! That's a really wholesome slice of meat, basted with barbecue sauce, grilled, and then stuck in to a burger bun. The culinary verdict is "so so"!

And just when you think you have seen it all, you realise that most wild-west stories also feature indians. Hence, the Stampede would not be complete without an Indian Village - and, yes, that is what it is called. Apparently, the word Indian has not been replaced by Native Canadians/Americans. Anyhow, the village was made up of teepees decorated with the style used by various tribes from the Alberta area.

And finally, the Stampede is VERY much about competitions. The two main ones are the Rodeo and the Chuckwagon Races. These are serious competitions with the winners collecting a very handsome cash prize. Unfortunately, we were a bit late to decide when to go to the Stampede, and thus could not get any affordable rodeo tickets. That's a thing to do next year.

Time to bid the Stampede farewell. Truly, it is a big show, market, competition, etc.

17 August 2010

Stampede breakfasts

Finally, we publish some pictures from the Calgary Stampede in the beginning of July. We had only barely arrived to Calgary as we were confronted with this very special Calgary experience. Besides the activities in the Stampede itself, the whole "stampede week" is cramped with all sorts of happenings, mostly revolving around a stampede breakfast. A stampede breakfast is an event where pancakes, sausages, etc. are offered for free to anyone passing by and queuing up. There are hundreds of these events all over town and to locate them there are even online search tools to assist the hungry masses. Here are a few snapshots:

First a large stampede breakfast at Brentview Baptist Church, which is close to where we live. One should take note of the word queuing, because that is the effort one has to make to get the free breakfast. This breakfast was held on the parking lot of the church. It is located just across from a small shopping centre and supermarket, which certainly added to the number of attendants. In the far left there was also a live "country/western band"!

That's a typical stampede breakfast serving. Anais went straight for the pancakes!

Besides the breakfast there was a wide range of child-friendly activities. Anais particularly enjoyed jumping around in the bouncy balls.

Even Anais' kindergarten/preschool arranged a stampede breakfast where parents were welcome to join in for a pancake.

10 August 2010

Child's play in Calgary

There's one thing other than SUVs and squirrels that's abundant in Calgary... playgrounds. This is of course a great pleasure for Anais Thima.

Here's a little map of the playgrounds in our hood. The purple spots are public while the red are attached to schools. The latter can also be used by the public outside school hours. So, there's quite a few choices to make... The blue spot is a wading pool, which is quite refreshing on one of the few hot summer days.

Anais' favourite slide is this type of spiral-slide. No wonder!

This wading pool we just stumbled across while going for a walk just north of the Bow River. There's probable about two dozen of either wading or full-size swimming pools around town.

Parental guidance.