Saturday, July 21, 2012

Canada Trip - Grande Finale

The main reason we even went to Canada in the first place was for the 100th Calgary Stampede. The Stampede is a huge deal for Canadians, and Chris used to go almost every summer. This year we were there for most of Friday and Saturday, so I'll combine those two days into my final post about the trip.

The Stampede Parade marks the official start of Stampede. The Leriger/Tutt clain woke up at 5:00am to get these seats. Chris earned major boyfriend points by walking back to the condo and picking me up at a much more reasonable 7:15am. We stopped at the infamous Tim Hortons (and thought of Kimber) for some Timbits and coffee (insert obligatory Canada joke here).
Chris took at least 200 photos from the 3 hour-long parade. I'll post one.

A lovely photo of Chris' family. His dad forgot to pack sunscreen and a hat. Later that day his faced looked like a tomato. Lesson learned.

After the never-ending parade we made a quick stop at Crepe de Licious for some non-fried pre-Stampede lunch. My chicken cesar crepe was another delicious meal. We walked a few blocks further and caught the C Train to the Stampede. The first thing we did was take the chair lift ride across the midway to check out the park.
Some of my favorites rides were the swinging chairs, the mini-roller coaster, and the fun house.

Those clouds were full of 15 minutes of rain. We got drenched
(even in my poncho) but then the sun came back out and we dried off rather quickly.

That night the lot of us had tickets to the Chuckwagon Races and the Grandstand Show.

Chuckwagon races are difficult to explain, but pretty fun to watch. They're also quite dangerous (for both riders and horses). I don't think they do this version of them anywhere in the states, but I could be wrong.

After the races there was a spectacular show featuring a bunch of Young Calgarians, acrobats from around the world, stunt-bike riders, and tons more. The show was well worth the price.

Family breakfast

The next day we headed out to Chris's Aunt and Uncle's house for a family breakfast, where I was appalled to learn that Calgary doesn't have Target. His poor cousins.
Chris' uncle works for the Stampede, so he seriously hooked us up with some Rodeo tickets. We sat right at the end of the infield with all of the wives and girlfriends of the cowboys.
Chris blended right in.

The rodeo was exciting, especially sitting so close.

After we'd seen enough cow wrestling and bull riding to satisy us for a very long time, we went back to the Midway so Chris could spend the rest of his tickets on games and ride.
I'm not as good at rides as I used to be. But roller coasters don't make me sick, yet.

One of Chris' proudest moments was flipping the chicken into the pot on his first try. He won me an adorable giraffe with a slight resemblance to Bevo. Similar to this guy.

We spent a few more hours exploring the Stampede Grounds, then caught the C Train back downtown for a relaxing dinner at home with the family.
Once we'd woken up on Sunday, we packed up our things for the airport. We didn't need to leave until after lunch, so we used the time to walk around Prince's Island Park and Eu Claire Market.
Last day of vacation = last ice cream cone

I got one final bag of All Dressed Potato Chips and we enjoyed some sunshine and people watching. Time to go back to Austin!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Canada Trip - Part Six

See? Sunshine! Jasper was exponentially more beautiful with the sun peering over the snow-capped mountains. Thursday was our day of departure, so after we packed up our things and checked out of the Best Western Jasper Inn & Suites, we drove over to the highly rated, SnowDome Coffee Bar. SnowDome's concept is quite peculiar but amazingly logical. It's part coffee bar, part laundromat, part internet cafe. I mean, all of those things compliment each other perfectly, dontcha think? We didn't try their washing machines or their internet, but Chris' latte was delicioso.
As we left Jasper, there were a few cars pulled over on the side of the road. Everybody wanted to see some elks having breakfast.

Driving down Ice Fields Parkway in the sun was a completely different experience that it had been a few days prior.
Tangle Falls

One of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Finally, we saw some Bighorn Sheep!

Pictures don't do them justice. They were so funny looking! They were right on the side of the highway, eating the salt deposits in the dirt.

Bow Lake

It was nuts, we got out of the car to take some photos of Bow Lake (on the west side of the highway) and there were a bunch of people taking pictures of the east side of the highway. I was like... "dudes, the lake is behind you." But then we looked closer and there was a grizzly bear up on the hillside.
Our final stop in the mountains was back at the Castle Mountain Chalet. I bought another bag of All Dressed Potato Chips and we enjoyed a quick picnic lunch before finishing the trek to Calgary.
Returning the rental car was a bit of a hassle. Driving around downtown Calgary the day before the Stampede, during rush hour = not the best idea. But, we made it! When we left the Avis building, I looked up, and we were directly under the Calgary Tower. Not a bad view.
Our walk to the grandparent's condo from the Tower took a bit, so we ended up being rather late to dinner with the fam at The Keg. My Chicken Oscar was fantastic, by the way. After dinner, Chris and I walked a few blocks further to Beer Revolution and Brewsters Brewing Company. We tried about 14 beers between the two bars.
Around 11pm we started walking home. Oh right, the sun was just setting... kind of surreal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Canada Trip - Part Five

We're leaving a week from Thursday for a trip to Seattle and I have to finish these up before we leave again. The upcoming trip is just for a weekend wedding, but still, I seriously need to wrap this up!

After waking up early almost every day thus far, on Wednesday, we decided to let the rain keep us in bed a little longer than normal. The plan was to spend the first part of the day hiking and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy whenever we felt like it. Based on it's Yelp & Trip Advisor reviews, we chose Patricia Street Deli for some sandwiches and Coco's Cafe for breakfast. My Yelp reviews reiterate their greatness.
Our next stop was a hike down the Maligne Canyon.

This canyon was much deeper than Johnston's, and the water level was insanely high. The hike itself wasn't too difficult, even with the ongoing drizzle.
Impressive tree

Chris: Golf courses design fake waterfalls made to look like that one!

My travel guides suggested we park at the Sixth Bridge, then hike up the canyon to First Bridge. Unfortunately, Sixth Bridge was closed (our theory was flooding) so we didn't do that. As I say, I'd recommend parking at Fifth or Sixth bridge and hiking up rather than down, like we did. Oh well, this is me at Fifth Bridge.
After the hike we drove further down the road to Maligne Lake. Along the way a park ranger approached us and asked, "Do you want to see a bear?" Um, ok!
It was even more awesome to be one of the first cars to spot this little baby bear.

"What's going on guys?"

"hmm, over there looks interesting! Let's cross that street."

After the excitement of the little bear, we finished our drive to check out Maligne Lake. This is the spot I'd definitely return to in nicer weather. It was tough to see the mountains with all the clouds. I started getting grumpy, so we did a quick walk around the gift shop, grabbed some warm drinks (mmm hot cocoa), and headed back into town.
Chris was pretty proud of this photo.

Pretty nice antlers on that guy.

On the way back to Jasper we stopped at the third of the Fairmont resorts, the Jasper Park Lodge. This one is much more rustic than the other two. Also, rather than one gigantic building, the lodge consists of a bunch of cabins and rooms scattered throughout their grounds.
And, as we were getting back into the car, we were completely suprised to be suddenly surrounded by a massive elk family.

Follow the leader.

How many can you spot? It was ridiculous, so many elks!

And, in typical Chris fashion, what'd he have for dinner that night? Elk steak.

After walking all the way down Jasper's Main Street and reading every single menu that we passed, we picked Villa Caruso for dinner. I wrote another Yelp review about the meal and I'm still having dreams about that goat cheese. And the calamari. It was fantastic.
Thus, we wrapped up the night with a stroll around downtown Jasper. Next stop? Back to Calgary.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Canada Trip – Part Four

Forewarning: this might have been my favorite day... but it's a pretty close call.

Per usual, we woke up early and hit the road! Before leaving Radium, Chris filled the car up with gas and I ran over to Meet on Higher Ground for our essentials. Since we’d already seen everything along this drive the day prior, we didn’t need to make any stops this time. I will note, one stop I really wanted to make was at the Paint Pots. It was closed, probably because of flooding, but it had gotten really good reviews. Next time, right?
We arrived at Lake Louise around 9:15am. My travel research said to arrive early because parking can get quite bad. Thanks research, we had no problem finding a spot! After a few photos of the lake and the hotel we hit the trails for our 3.5km hike up the mountain to the Lake Agnes Teahouse.
One of my favs

Today's Chateau Lake Louise has been completely rebuilt from the original, due to a fire in 1924.

As we learned from our experience in Hawaii, Chris is not much of a hiker. His parents didn't drag him up mountains when he was a little kid like mine did. However, this time, we were both mentally prepared to make it to the finish line. He practically raced up the mountain, stopping along the way to take photos of the unbelievably beautiful surroundings.
Mirror Lake, about 1K from the end.

Our hike ended at Lake Agnes and it’s neighboring Tea House. We spent about an hour enjoying a pot of Mango Tea and the natural beauty. Lake Agnes was awesome.
Most of the supplies from the teahouse is carried up the path by backpack or horse. Once a year a helicopter will fly back and forth carrying the bulk supplies.

On our hike back down we started hearing thunder rumbling, and moments later it began pouring rain. We were unprepared. No matter how quickly we hiked down that mountain, we were soaked. Thankfully, the Chateau Lake Louise is not a bad place to recover. We ducked into the Glacier Saloon and enjoyed steaming bowls of soup and crisp Rikard's White Ales for lunch. After our lunch, we explored the hotel a bit more and Chris grabbed some coffee for the road. Our destination was Jasper, many, many, kms away.
The road from Lake Louise to Jasper is called Ice Fields Parkway, one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The rain we got in Lake Louise followed us for most of the drive, and although that wasn’t ideal, the scenery was still incredible. We stopped frequently along the way at many of my book’s recommendations, but our first stop was rather unexpected.
First bear sighting!

It’s a grizzly.

Peyto Lake

Question: What kind of bear is best? Black Bear

The Weeping Wall

Bear #3

Athabasca Falls

We arrived in Jasper just after 6pm, hungry and tired. The All Dressed Potato Chips as an afternoon snack hadn't quite done it for me. We checked into the Best Western Jasper and headed immediately to Something Else Restaurant for some take-out gyros. Later that night we hit the hotel pool, steam room, and sauna. Chris felt so refreshed by the wet sauna, but I could only sit in the room for about 65 seconds. Not a fan.