Summer Roadtrip Day 8: Banff to Calgary

With my last night in the Rockies, I woke up with mixed feelings as it was really difficult to leave such beautiful surroundings! On the other hand, heading to be Calgary would be fun, having been bred up in the city where there are more amenities and fun to be had! Before we left Banff though, we went on to order room service once again for breakfast and I had good Eggs Benedict this time round while the other orders were more or less the same as that in Lake Louise. After breakfast, I handled the check out and we had time to explore the hotel’s exterior. The hotel had a courtyard which was accessible from the mezzanine level from the Rundle Bar. From the courtyard, one can overlook the Bow Valley area. There was also a great opportunity to observe the architectural details of the hotel up close.

View of the Banff Springs Hotel from its Courtyard
View of the Banff Springs Hotel from its Courtyard

As we wanted to be in time to Calgary for lunch, we left the hotel and headed to Calgary. But not before we picked up some coffee at Starbucks. With the sun out in the summer time, it’s a great day for Frapuccinos! On the way to Calgary, we also stopped by the Canmore area, where value for money accomodations can be had when one is exploring the Canadian Rockies as it’s half an hour away from Banff and has  a variety of accomodation choices with lots of amenities as well! The town of Canmore is also worth exploring for those spending more time in the area as it offers several side attractions in Kananaskis. But as that wasn’t in the itinerary, we left straight for Calgary. As we left Canmore, the scenery along the highways changed from mountains to rolling meadows with farmland scenery. Indeed, the number of ranches that lines the highway shows the extent of the beef farming in Alberta. Unlike British Columbia which is covered by the Coast and Rocky Mountain Range, anything east of the Rockies from Canmore is all plains and no major mountain exist until one reach Ontario. Which means there’s plenty of land for farming and agriculture. The highway is also pretty straightforward and had 4 lanes, meaning the journey was uneventful but fast. Some travel guides indicates the presence of jams but since May is relatively low season for people visiting the Rockies, the traffic was smooth. We reached Calgary slightly late, however after 1 and a half hours of drive from Banff. Thus we went straight to Eau Claire Park in Downtown Calgary for lunch first. Unlike many large cities, Canadian cities have major parks which also acts as main points of interests for tourists (Stanley Park and Eau Claire Park). We had planned to have lunch at Eau Claire Market near the Park, but the Market wasn’t what I had in mind. I was expecting it to be more like Granville Island Public Market. Some eating places and a food court is in the area, though, so we decided to go for Japanese food at Sumo Lounge. It was nice that the food was good and acceptable for all of us as we ordered their tempuras, salmon sashimi, teriyaki cod, and some sushi rolls to share. For desserts, we went to the Market (more like a small mall) to get some fruit juice to go while we take a walk around Eau Claire Park and the adjoining Prince’s Island.

Skyscrapers in Downtown Calgry seen from Eau Claire Park
Skyscrapers in Downtown Calgry seen from Eau Claire Park

With the day being a nice sunny Saturday afternoon, there was a crowd at the Park and it was a nice day for a stroll with cool weather and a nice sunshine. There was also entertainment from huskers playing music, bikers doing stunts and feeding the ducks and geese along Bow River.

Talented young guitarist at Eau Claire Park
Talented young guitarist at Eau Claire Park

Water from the Bow River in Banff National Park flows all the way to intersect the city of Calgary, providing the setting for its downtown. In fact Prince’s Island is actually located in the middle of the Bow River. There’s supposedly a good restaurant in the Island, so anyone keen to visit Calgary should get reservations for this place. Otherwise, do take a walk around this city park for an after-meal exercise or just to chill!

Summer Bloom at Princes Island in Calgary
Summer Bloom at Prince’s Island in Calgary

After the afternoon walk, it was time to check in at the hotel. To complete our Canadian Rockies trip, I thought it was a nice touch to stay in the Fairmont Palliser, the same heritage hotel that was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Throughout the trip, we have consistently stayed at the hotels which was originally built by CPR to attract the well-heeled into the amazing Rockies, putting them up in comfortable lodging (and making them pay for it). It was well worth it as you get the best location for scenery and amenities. The Palliser is to Calgary what Raffles is to Singapore – a hotel right in downtown close to heritage buildings, beside the Calgary Tower and a block away from Stephen Avenue Mall, a pedestrian only road with shops on both sides. As parking here is charged by the day, we stopped roadside to drop off our luggages, and proceeded for check-in. For this leg of the journey, I got the Fairmont ‘Gold’ Rooms as we could then get breakfast at the lounge and as ‘Gold’ room occupants, we had a private check-in counter at the top floor. In the rooms, we were provided with Werther’s butterscotch candies, which was a nice gesture (the candies are wrapped in gold by the way). After getting our room keys, we got back on the road to visit historic Fort Calgary. The fort at the eastern edge of downtown is just but a ruined wooden structure and aside from the statue of James McLeod, there isn’t really much to see. However photo enthusiasts would be pleased to know that one can get a nice photo of downtown here.

View of Downtown Calgary from Fort Calgary
View of Downtown Calgary from Fort Calgary

The visit to Fort Calgary Park was a short one and we were once again on the road and without any destination in mind, we decided to venture the houses and neighbourhoods around Calgary. Another note about Calgary and Alberta in general is that taxes are lower here compared to British Columbia which means shopping for stuff is cheaper and with that in mind, we went to visit Calgary’s largest shopping mall, Chinook Centre. The mall is located south of downtown, accessible via MacLeod Trail South which runs north-south from downtown. Like many malls in Canada, one can expect Zellers, Roots, AE Outfitters, Zara and the likes occupying the place. There is also a Purdy’s branch here where I got ice-cream from! Another reason why I chose this mall is that Gkemore Reservoir is close by which another nice place to see in Calgary as it has the Heritage Park Historical Village – a small village modelled after the wild west with shops and eateries. It was also easy to see the suburbs of Calgary along the way. With the suburbs of Calgary explored, it was time for dinner and we went in search of this Japanese tapas place called Blowfish, but it was packed being a weekend night. Thus we returned to downtown and decided to try out Chinese food in Chinatown. This brings us to Silver Dragon Restaurant which has done business in town for the last 40 years. Let’s just say there is better Chinese food around in Richmond, though some of the dishes we had was quite good like Pan fried Beef with Green Peppers, and Braised Tofu in Hotpot. There was one specialty the restaurant recommended which was Lamb Brisket in Claypot which wasn’t to our taste due to the strong smell of lamb. As the night was still young after we finished dinner, we brought Dad to the casino near downtown for a game! There are a couple of casinos around Calgary as there are in Vancouver. We had a nice game and rounded up the day by winning some small change at the table games!

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