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More Photos Calgary - The Devil Went Down...

Calgary is simply a great city. Ask anyone who has ever lived there. Visit once and you'll wonder why anyone would ever leave. Attractions throughout the city appeal to every interest. Calgary is also home to some of the finest natural areas within a city anywhere in North America. And Calgary is clean! I've never seen any city as clean Calgary. Much of the downtown core is new, having been built during the 1970's oil boom. Even so, historic buildings from the turn of the 20th century are still visible downtown.

Generally, Calgary weather is moderate year-round. Alberta has more hours of sunshine in a year than any other province in Canada, and Calgary is know for its blue skies. During the winter, a unique phenomenon called a Chinook can raise temperatures more than 20 degrees in a single day. A strong wind and an arch of clouds over the mountains herald the arrival of a Chinook. On a previous winter visit to Alberta, I remember having to bundle up going from the car to a restaurant for lunch. There was a definite chill in the air. By the time we left the restaurant, a Chinook had come down and the weather had turned considerably warm.

No Chinook at the Stampede
No chance of encountering a Chinook on this day of our visit. It was the middle of summer, nearing the end of the Calgary Stampede. The temperature was 30o Celsius, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. We arrived early in the morning, rented a vehicle and headed for downtown Calgary not knowing exactly what the day had in store for us. Arriving downtown, the excitement of the Stampede was evident everywhere. Most residents, and many tourists, were dressed in cowboy garb. Organized exhibitions and impromptu street performances filled the air with the sound of people having a good time.

We parked the car in the downtown core. Surprisingly, we had little difficulty finding a parking space considering the draw of tourists into the city for the Stampede. We walked passed the City Hall and Civic Plaza following the sound of marching bands to the Olympic Plaza where the Flour Rope Square activities were already underway. Each morning during Stampede week, the Fluor Rope Square presents marching bands, dancers, singers, fiddlers, and an old-fashioned gunfight. If you're wearing one of the white cowboy hats generally worn by tourists, you could be invited to compete in the Smithbilt World Championship Hat Stomping contest. Expect your hat to be totally destroyed. Or you might partake in the Great Western Flapjack Flip, or be sworn in as an Honorary Calgarian. You can't miss the square. Just look for Jack, the giant cowboy, and his call Jacki. They're 28 feet tall.

Yummy Chuckwagon Breakfast
All around the Plaza, people lined up for a traditional Chuckwagon breakfast of flapjacks, bacon and sausage. The breakfast is provided free, cooked on griddles from the back of authentic Rangerland Derby chuckwagon. These are the same chuckwagons raced at the Stampede. The lineups here were fairly long and moved slowly. Just-the-same, we lined up for breakfast and watched the activities while waiting our turn.

After breakfast, we strolled along Stephen Avenue from the Olympic Square to the Telus Convention Centre. Stephen Avenue is one of the oldest streets in Calgary and this stretch has been turned into a pedestrian mall. Many of the city's best historic buildings, some over 100 years old, line the street.

This five-block walkway is easily covered in a couple of hours. For those interested in shopping or eating, upscale shops and restaurants abound. But on this Stampede day, all the action was outside. Just a few minutes onto the walkway, we were greeting by an Indian Nation parade of about twenty members on horseback and in full native costume. Not sure which tribe they were from (there are five tribes in the surrounding area).

Square Dancing in the Street
A few moments later, we almost got roped into an impromptu square dance lesson right in the middle of the street. We were happy just to watch and listen to the music for awhile. Moving along, we grabbed a coffee at one of the many coffee pubs around, and stopped to watch another dance performance by a young dance troupe. These performers ranged in age from about ten to fifteen years old, and put on a mesmerizing dance performance to the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Charlie Daniels Band.

At the end of Stephen Avenue, we reached the Toronto-Dominion Square, home of the Devonian Gardens. This wonderful indoor green space occupies the top floor of the TD Centre and stretches for almost a whole city block. Admission is free. The gardens are Alberta's largest indoor park, and are a popular lunch break retreat for local office workers. Over 20,000 plants, representing more than 135 varieties of flora, are on display. Meander along flower-lined pathways, feed the fish or turtles, marvel at all the gorgeous hanging baskets, or just relax to the soothing sound of flowing waterfalls and fountains in the Sun Garden.

Wide Selection of Handcrafted Ales
Continuing with what has turned into a walking tour of Calgary, we ventured north along 2 St. SW to Eau Clair Market on the bank of the Bow River. Just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown core, the Eau Clair Market offers a wide selection of boutiques, galleries, food stores and restaurants. Patios are busy in the summer months. We stopped for a drink at Brewsters, which offers a wide selection of handcrafted ales. We tried and recommend the Rig Pale Ale and the Lanigan's Irish Ale.

The Eau Clair Market leads onto a pathway along the Bow River. We spent an hour or so wandering along the pathways around the Bow River, exploring some of the nature trails and parkland areas. Having come from Southern Ontario, we found the water of the Bow River to be incredible clear. Perhaps this isn't so amazing to Calgarians, but we found it impressive. We followed the bank of the Bow River to Centre Street, in the heart of Chinatown.

Chinatown
Calgary's Chinatown is rather small. Nestled between the downtown core and the Bow River, Chinatown is easily accessible and prominently displayed. We didn't venture onto any of the side streets, but kept to Centre Street. Compared to the Chinatown of other cities like Toronto, it is much smaller, but, like the rest of Calgary, appears to be clean and well kept. The Chinese Cultural Centre one block west of Centre St is one of the largest cultural centres in Canada. The central dome, visible from many areas of the city, has been patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China. The centre is one of the few museums in Canada that focuses exclusively on Chinese culture.

At the end of Centre Street stands the Calgary Tower. This is certainly one of the city's most recognizable structures, after the Saddle Dome, and among its busiest tourist attractions. Originally built as the Husky Tower (oil, of course), in 1968, this 625-foot structure offers great views of the city and surrounding prairie, foothills and mountains from the observation deck. Visit Tops Grill for a light snack, quick meal, dessert or cappuccino. This small dining area is the highest point in the tower accessible to the general public. Perhaps later in the day, splurge on some fine dining at the Panorama Dining Room revolving restaurant.

Western Canada's Largest Museum
Across the street from the Calgary Tower is Glenbow Museum, or last planned stop for the day. Glenbow is western Canada's largest museum and highlights many aspects of western life through paintings and cultural artifacts. We even found some artifacts from the Mennonite community in our hometown of Kitchener, Ontario. The Exhibition Galleries are open Monday thru Saturday, 9:00am till 5:00pm. We arrived 1.5 hours before closing and found we didn't have enough time to see everything we wanted. I'd suggest visiting earlier in the day. To really appreciate all the exhibits leave yourself 3 or 4 hours.

There are many, many more sights in and around Calgary we didn't have time to explore. We spent a couple of hours driving around the city. We drove up to Heritage Park, Canada's largest historical park with over 150 pioneer village buildings. Later, we toured around the Canada Olympic Park where the luge track and 90-metre ski jump tower are set into the hillside. We finished the day off with dinner at Earl's Restaurant, where the atmosphere is friendly, the décor is easy on the eyes, and the food is always good.

 
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