The Famous Five's Alaskan Adventure - Episode Two - 'It's a Stampede to see Cousin Laura in Calgary!'

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June 22nd 2019
Published: June 23rd 2019
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The Bow River in CochraneThe Bow River in CochraneThe Bow River in Cochrane

The evening glow over the river.
Up bright and early this morning (19th June) for our onward journey to Calgary. Our flight was at noon from Toronto and whilst the drive should take under 90 minutes, we weren't sure how the traffic would be, so we were aiming to be on the road by 7 am and surprise surprise, we were (!)...........bill paid, checked out and car collected! We did have one last look at the Falls beforehand and it always somewhat amazed me, to open the curtains each morning and see the river still crashing over the falls; I almost expected the water to be 'turned off' overnight and restarted again in the morning - the theme parks around the world have got a lot to answer for - at least for wierdos like me!

The drive was pretty uneventful. We did hit a bit of traffic and had to stop for fuel (to return the vehicle with a full tank), but we had handed back the keys and were checking in at the terminal soon after nine. The Ford Flex was a lovely vehicle to drive, with one especially neat and useful feature, namely a little light which would come on in the wing
The Barn at Bearspaw 1The Barn at Bearspaw 1The Barn at Bearspaw 1

The entrance to the property.
mirrors to warn you that another vehicle was overtaking and was in your blind spot - really handy, once I had actually worked it out what was going on!

Our flight departed on time and was full, with Mandy and I actually stuck in the middle seat of three, in two seperate rows, me in the row immediately ahead of Mand. A bit of a pain (being in separate rows I mean, not Mandy being 'a pain', although...........), but it was only a four hour flight(!), more of a hop really and before too long, we were picking up our rental car from National and were on our way. Made a bit of a mistake with the car though unfortunately; I decided to upgrade to a SUV and although we have got some Hyundai thing, it's not a patch on the Flex and I really should have rejected it and asked for something else, but to be honest we were a bit weary and just wanted to get on the road! In reality, it is absolutely fine, just not really worth paying for the upgrade.

Now then, as I said in the first episode, our main reason for coming to the Calgary area is to visit Laura Munday, Mandy's goddaughter and her cousin's granddaughter, I think that makes Laura, Mandy's third cousin! Laura has been living and working in a town called Cochrane, about 25 miles west of Calgary and we are staying at a B&B in a tiny place called Bearspaw, (Ahhhhh!!) a 10-15 minute drive from Cochrane. It was a pretty easy drive from the airport and we rocked up at 'The Barn at Bearspaw' around 3.30, although it was 5.30 in our world, with the shift in time zones. And what a place this is! The owner Laurie was there to meet us, as we drove up around the back of their beautiful home and in front of the equally beautiful barn conversion which would be our home for the next four nights.

This place is fab-u-lus and a real find - having simply googled places near Cochrane and come up trumps! Laurie is lovely and a great host; interestingly, her and her husband are not long back from touring Europe and when she asked where we lived in the UK and we gave our stock answer of 'about 50 miles north of London',
The Barn at Bearspaw 3The Barn at Bearspaw 3The Barn at Bearspaw 3

Our part of the property on the right.
she then said, 'oh, near AylesBERRY (her pronouciation by the way!)' - apparently, they housed swapped with another family who lived in Aylesbury and they loved the house they stayed in there. What they liked about the rather drab urban sprawl of Aylesbury, compared to the amazing spread they have here, including masses of land, does somewhat beggar belief, but quite a coincidence really.

The room is stunning, with an incredible bed that simply caresses you to sleep, although it didn't stop us both being awake by five in the morning (when we took the opportunity to FaceTime the girls and I decided to write up this part of the blog). After settling in, we messaged Laura and 30 minutes later she was with us for a lovely, if slightly surreal, reunion. We drove back to Cochrane and had some scoff in a lively sports bar called the Canadian Brewhouse and after a quick visit to an ATM and then and an even quicker photo stop by the famous Bow River, iI was about 9.30 and we were pooped, so we dropped Laura at her home and headed back to The Barn.

We knew that the weather forecast for our stay in Calgary was a bit iffy to say the least and although we arrived to a bit of sun yesterday, we awoke on day 2 to pouring rain and a temperature at a distinctly chilly 7 degrees. Today will definitely be layers and probably, quite a few of them. Laurie told us that we are very likely to see moose and/or deer in the grounds early morning, but no joy today; I think they saw the weather and thought better of it!! There is even 10cm of snow forecast in the mountains today!! Breakfast was fab, with scrambled eggs (mixed with herbs), bacon and some delicious corn bread and a mint, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan sauce on the side, plus yoghurt and berries - very typical of the breakfasts we've had in American B&B's in the past - not a 'Full English', but absolutely scrumptious.

As we headed out to collect Laura with Mandy driving for the first time this trip, the rain had eased off a little, but is was still looking very grey for our planned outing about 80 miles along Highway 1 to the Rocky Mountain towns of Canmore and Banff
The Barn at Bearspaw 5The Barn at Bearspaw 5The Barn at Bearspaw 5

Relaxing on the sun last!
and whether we would see much of the mountains was looking pretty doubtful. Mandy and I had been lucky enough to tour this part of Canada about 20 years ago and Banff would be a return visit, but Canmore would be a first. Laura was a great tour guide and got us to the centre of Canmore and parked up, without any drama and after hitting the Good Earth coffee shop for a cracking 'beverage and bun', we had a good wander around.

Canmore is really a ski resort, having been the centre for the Nordic Skiing events in the 1988 Winter Olympics, but with the rain having pretty much stopped and it looking a bit brighter, it was clear that the town has so much more to offer than simply winter fun. It is a very pretty place, nestled in the mountains, and is arguably a 'mini Banff', without being quite so commercialised or such a tourist hotspot. The clouds were trying their hardest to reveal some of the mountain peaks and we got some decent snaps between us. There is one lovely little stroll that I would happily recommend, along a boardwalk around and over a small
Canmore 1Canmore 1Canmore 1

The mountains peaking into view.
lake next to the Spring Creek community on the edge of town, which had some very pretty views. After a lovely couple of hours or so in town, we headed off to Banff, about 30 minutes down the road.

Banff is well known as the Gateway to the Rockies and is like 'Canmore on Steroids!'. Although, as I said, it is about 20 years since we were last here, it was all very familiar when we arrived. To me, Banff is a bit of a 'Marmite' place. It is very pretty and bustling, but all a bit twee and commercialised, with tourists by the bus load - lots and lots of bus loads. BUT, if you get the chance, this is a place you MUST come to, because the natural setting is truly, truly magnificent. We really were lucky with the weather, because the rain had stopped, it was a bit brighter and there was even the odd sliver of sunlight peaking through the clouds. We grabbed a quick lunch and had a little stroll around town, but then drove up the road towards Sulphur Mountain on the edge of town, to have a quick peak at the fabulous
Canmore 2Canmore 2Canmore 2

Laura, with some old fossil!
Rim Rock hotel where Mandy and I stayed all those years ago and that's when I remembered what I really love about Banff. As we looked down over the town, the majestic and awesome nature of the surrounding mountains towering over everything else was plain to see, in all their glory. It is a sight that really takes your breath away and as a bonus, the drive back out of Banff with the sun glinting on the peaks was absolutely spectacular. The trouble is, the camera just doesn't do it justice, especially through a car window!

With time marching on, we wended our way back home and the closer we got, the worse the weather became and it was pouring down, with very low cloud again by the time we reached Bearspaw. But we had been very lucky and the weather gods had been just kind enough to allow us to have a fabulous day! A simple snack meal in a bar back in Cochrane and this tired crew fell into bed, very happy.

Day 3 and guess's pouring down! And...........the forecast has got worse, with this weather looking as though it has settled in for the
Canmore 3Canmore 3Canmore 3

Not a bad view at the end of the high street!
day. And to prove that 'when it rains, it pours', as Laurie arrived with our breakfast, she told us that their basement had flooded overnight; having just had new flooring put in - it seems that the sump to prevent flooding, had been disconnected while the flooring had been done and not been reconnected by the contractors! And to top it all, they had moved a lot of her husband's office paperwork into the basement, while his office was being redecorated, and this was now all floating in floodwater! Not sure how her mind was still on our breakfast, but it was!

We had planned to go into Calgray today by train, but have decided to leave this until tomorrow, when the forecast looks much better. So, after a leisurely breakfast of absoloutly delicious caramelised French Toast and a proper, English style, pork and apple sausage (plus fruit and yoghurt once again), we drove back to Cochrane to pick up Laura and have a look around town. And, as we drove away from The Barn, we realised just how much it had been raining overnight, with the normally manicured lawns of the neighbouring properties awash with newly formed ponds!
Canmore 4Canmore 4Canmore 4

A lovers’ stroll on the boardwalk.
What's more as we reached Cochrane, there were pools of floodwater everywhere, including a slight detour we had to take to get to Laura's, due to one road being impassable! Just like home really!

First stop was Guy's Bakery and Cafe (where Laura used to work part-time) for the obligatory coffee and bun, followed by a mosey down Main Street, with the best shop by far (in my opinion), being Tony's Western outfitters, a great place where the aroma of leather hit you as soon as you walked through the door. There were masses of cowboy/girl boots, hats, shirts and belts; a great place to try on stuff that you wouldn't be seen dead wearing, as you walk down Leighton a Buzzard high street! I stuck to a new belt and tee-shirt.

With the weather far from improving, we headed off to a shopping mall about 25 km away, in the wonderfully named 'Shaganappi' (!!!). To be fair, this was my idea of hell, but I found some nice comfy seating, checked into the Wifi and followed the cricket back home, leaving the girls to it for a while. After a quick bite for lunch and a 'zoom'
Canmore 5Canmore 5Canmore 5

The girls strutting the boards!
around the rest of the shops, we headed off back to Cochrane to take in a local pond which freezes over in winter to form an outdoor skating rink for the locals and to perhaps have a stroll along the river. However, our plans were thwarted by the rain once again, with the ground leading to the pond and the river, simply being too boggy to walk on!! Anyway, we have booked a nice restaurant in town tonight called the Fence and Post for our last evening meal with Laura before we head off to Alaska on Sunday, so we decided to head home for a rest and freshen up, before we hit town again.

Today has been a bit frustrating because of the weather, but it has allowed us to have a slightly more relaxing and certainly no less enjoyable day. Tomorrow, we are definitely off to Calgary for the day AND (three cheers) the sun is due to be showing its face again!!

It was a cracking meal at the Fence and Post last night and after another great night's sleep (we will definitely miss this bed!), we actually woke to sunshine! Breakfast was a huge
Canmore 6Canmore 6Canmore 6

One of the more interesting sculptures in town!
bowl of baked oats and fruit, with a side of bacon which we both struggled to finish, still being pretty full from last night. But we wrapped up the leftovers to return to when we get back later. Laura got to us about 10 and we then headed off to the nearest train station at Crowfoot, about 10 minutes away.

The service is part of the Calgary Transit system and the journey from Crowfoot to City Hall (effectively, the City Centre) takes about 40 minutes and costs just over Can$3 each way, with a large car park at Crowfoot that is 'free', off peak. On arrival at City Hall, we headed straight for the Calgary Tower (about 5 minutes away) and took the $18 ride to the top ($16 for us over 65s), where you get a 360 degree view of the city. Calgary is very spread out and although there are a few modern and attractive skyscrapers in the centre, the whole surrounding area seemed pretty flat and featureless, although the Rockies are visible in the distance. Having said that, it is well worth going up the Tower, with the glass windows not only great for sightseeing, but
Canmore 7Canmore 7Canmore 7

Yep, I think it's a tree! Actually, it is an optical illusion, I was taking a picture of something in the distance.
also good for taking pictures, which is not always the case with these structures - Auckland comes to mind! AND, there is also a glass floor area to stand on, if your stomach can take it!

Next stop was Stephen Avenue Walk, the main pedestrianised centre of Calgary, a long walk which probably used to be the principle financial district, but like almost everywhere else, the lovely old bank buildings are now mostly bars and restaurants. We stopped at the James Joyce Irish bar/restaurant for lunch, mainly because it had a patio area in the sun and..........that sun thing was now beating down, from clear blue skies! Lunch done, we strolled to the end of Stephen Avenue Walk and then back again (taking plenty of pictures) and headed towards the new Public Library, which we had been told was a beautifully designed modern building........and it is, both outside and in!

It was then on to the Bow River, which from its start point in the Rockies, had now turned into a major force of water. As it happens, there are, in fact, two rivers in Calgary, the other being the Elbow and the point where they meet was
Camore 8Camore 8Camore 8

The view across the boardwalk lake.
about a mile down river from where we were standing and we decided to wander down there, to what is a very historic place in the history of Calgary, namely Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city of Calgary in 1875. Fort Calgary was established by a troop of North West Mounted Police, (now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 'the Mounties'), sent to the area to bring law and order to a wild and lawless wilderness land and to extend the influence of the Canadian Government further West. Bearing in mind that part of that NWMP role would have been the exploitation and control of native tribes, it was quite ironic that in the park next to Fort Calgary (now a museum), were events taking place to celebrate Canada's 'Indigenous Peoples' Weekend', a weekend dedicated to the culture of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. The park was buzzing with families, it was full of Tee-pee's, an old fashioned boat, a craft market along with a large stage playing live music from morning through to late evening.

After strolling through the park, we headed back to City Hall and our train back to Crowfoot - incidentally,
Banff 1Banff 1Banff 1

The mountains.......
the trains run every ten minutes - and once in Crowfoot, we drove back to Cochrane for one last treat with Laura, a visit to Mackay's Ice Cream shop - and very good they were too, even my milkshake! Our visit with Laura was now at an end and it was time to say our goodbyes. Even though the weather has been challenging, we have had a fabulous time and Laura has been the perfect host. It has been so great to see her and we will miss her so much on the rest of our trip. Lots of love Loz.

But, time and tide waits for no man and tomorrow morning, bright and early, we go back to Calgary airport for our flight to Alaska and our get together with Steve, Lily and Sarah. We have had a great time seeing this part of Alberta and renewing very fond memories of the Rockies, such a beautiful part of the World. One final task before we left Cochrane was to fill up with fuel and how about this........99 cents per litre or about 60p!!

There were no answers to the quiz question in Episode One, but for anyone
Banff 2Banff 2Banff 2

.....and more mountains....
that night be interested, it seems that when Blondin crossed Niagara, it was actually a little downriver from the Falls, whereas Nik Wallenda was the first man to actually position his tightrope (and walk across it), along the rim of the Falls.

I am going to persevere with the quiz questions anyway, so today's is this:

What is name of the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies?

Additional photos below
Photos: 50, Displayed: 34


Banff 3Banff 3
Banff 3

.......and more.....
Banff 4Banff 4
Banff 4

......and, guess what, more mountains......
Banff 5Banff 5
Banff 5

....yep, even more mountains.....
Banff 6Banff 6
Banff 6

.......sorry, even more large hills......
Banff 7Banff 7
Banff 7

One of the views from town.

23rd June 2019

I know the answer, it's Mount Elbert - clever me!!!!!!!! (By the way, they are threatening us with 32 degrees by the end of the week (bloody nightmare!!!!!!)
23rd June 2019

So, so close Gilly, but I think that hot weather has gone to your head! Mount Elbert is indeed the highest point in the Rockies, but the US Rockies not the Canadian, where Mount Robson reigns supreme. Thanks for taking the time to plough through each Episode Gill, I really appreciate it. Lots of love from us two. xx

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