First Impressions of Calgary

We entered the downtown core and Jocelyne pointed out the Gulf Canada and Canadian Pacific headhquarters. The last steam locomotive used by the CP Rail is on display outside the CP office tower. The two skyscrapers of Bankers Hall dominate the skyline, one with a silver roof, the other with a golden one. We went up the Calgary Tower, built between 1967 and 1968 originally as the “Husky Tower”. It holds a revolving restaurant and today it was officially closed for a private function, but we had a chance to catch an elevated view of the city.

Just last year the Calgary Tower added a glass-bottomed viewing area. Jocelyne mentioned that for a special occasion a horse was brought up for a photo op, but the horse would resist any efforts of being coaxed onto the glass-bottomed area. I can only understand that too well because when I was standing there looking straight down, it made me feel very squeamish too.

The Barracks at Fort Calgary

Our driving tour continued towards Fort Calgary, Calgary’s oldest landmark. Fort Calgary was founded in 1875 as a North West Mounted Police Outpost and today it houses an interpretive centre and a museum. Jocelyne explained that the exploration of the west progressed differently here than in the United States in that relations with the native tribes were relatively peaceful. Prime Minister John A. MacDonald founded the North West Mounted Police, which later on became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The police arrived in the west before the settlers and established relations with the natives.

The Inglewood neighbourhood is located adjacent to Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Elbow and the Bow Rivers. It’s an attractive neighbourhood with old trees and established homes and surrounds a nice commercial street with many restaurants and antique shops. Jocelyne then took us into a residential neighbourhood called “Scotsman Hill” which offers a tremendous vista of the Calgary Saddle Dome and the Stampede grounds, set against the backdrop of the downtown skyline. A wonderful view…

Saddledome with downtown Calgary Skyline, viewed from Scotsman Hill

She then took us past the grounds of the “Calgary Stampede”, Calgary’s most famous event. What origjnally started as an agricultural fair has evolved in a yearly 10-day citywide celebration of western hospitality and traditions and includes chuckwagon races, rodeos, rides and a Grandstand Show extravaganza. This year’s Stampede will take place from July 7 to 16, 2006.

Back downtown Jocelyne took us through a former industrial area called “Eau Claire” which has been converted into one of Calgary’s most popular downtown residential districts. On our drive through downtown Jocelyne pointed out a typical Calgarian feature: the “+15s”: elevated walkways connecting highrise towers so people can walk between commercial buildings sheltered from the elements. These “+15” walkways connect various shopping areas and malls and allow you to explore Calgary’s downtown core without ever setting foot outside.

Our expert guide, Jocelyne

The name came about because these walkways had to be at least 15 feet above the street below. Calgary is build on bedrock, and contrary to Toronto or Montreal which both have a vast network of underground walkways, Calgary has chosen to provide weather shelter through elevated walkways.

From there we crossed the Elbow River and entered the Kensington neighbourhood, one of Calgary’s primary restaurant and shopping areas. Our guide pointed out a store owned by famous Belgian chocolatier Bernard Callebeaut who makes sweet local delicacies. I heard some people say that these are the “best chocolates in the world”….

The next area on our menu was the Uptown 17th Avenue neighbourhood, another area packed with restaurants and shops. Last but not least, after taking us on 4th Street, which also houses lots of eateries and funky stories, Jocelyne took us all the way to our bed and breakfast, the historic Twin Gables B&B, where we got to settle in after our sneak peek at Calgary.

Arrival at the Twin Gables B&B

It was a whirlwind 4 hour tour through town and by the end of it my head was spinning with all the information. But Jocelyne did a phenomenal job of acquainting us with her chosen hometown and it was a perfect introduction to Calgary – “The Heart of the New West”.

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