Week 35 – Canada (Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise & Kelowna)

Week 4 of our North America road trip and we’ve driven 6,337kms so far (that’s 748kms this week). We’ve only ventured one province over from Alberta to British Columbia after spending 6 nights in Calgary. While I was writing last week’s post Anna, Marlena and Gabriel were hard at work constructing a large Welcome Home sign for Tom. He was returning home from Yellowknife, where he works for 2-3 weeks at a time, and we thought it would be great to embarrass him at the airport with a big cheesy sign. We all piled in the car and headed to the airport ready for the big surprise but when we arrived we found out that the flight was delayed due to fog. We headed to Tim Horton’s (as you do in Canada) and waited an hour but the flight continued to be delayed further and further. We aborted the mission and retreated back home. Tom arrived home 3 hours later and he was very impressed with the sign that we mounted over the doorway. I suspect that Tom was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to embarrass him at the airport. I think he would’ve loved it. He did crash through the sign in spectacular fashion like an 80’s wrestler. It’s no wonder that I still can’t see Tom as a doctor… he’s too much fun. Dr Guzowski must have a serious side that he leaves at the hospital.

Our time in Calgary was all about spending time with family and seeing the city that Anna lived in for 3 years. Our stay just happened to align with Canadian Thanksgiving which turned out perfectly. It was cold and snowing outside while we were nice and warm preparing for the big feast. Anna and Gabriel made cupcakes together which was fun to watch. Anna is so patient with him and is really good at keeping him engaged. Like any kid, Gabriel’s favourite bit was licking the cake mixture off the beaters. Anna and I made cranberry sauce from scratch which was surprisingly easy and turned out pretty good. Marlena was very excited about Thanksgiving because she had never celebrated it before. We had barszcz (Polish beetroot soup) for appetiser and then a feast of roast turkey and mexican bean chilli. Then we topped it all off with the cupcakes and a thanksgiving cake from the store with a turkey made of icing. It was all really nice and I was particularly impressed with turkey being so well cooked on Marlena’s first attempt. Being so full after dinner we moved to the couch to watch a movie in the comforting glow of the fireplace. The day felt like something from a movie with the big turkey dinner and everything blanketed in snow. I hope we have a white Christmas this year.

Anna first spent 4 months in Calgary during her university co-op (paid work experience) and when she graduated they offered her a job and paid to relocate her. During her time in Calgary she lived in four different places so we ventured into town for a look at the different neighbourhoods she lived in and then checked out the different offices she worked in. Anna completed her CFA when she was living in Calgary, so she pointed out lots of places where she used to study. It sounds like for a period of time she was part of the furniture at the nearby Starbucks, where they had two tables that were secluded but had a window that you could look out to watch the world go by. I love listening to Anna tell me stories of her past as I can picture them so clearly in my mind. She’s so conscientious that she would’ve been studying away in the corner and glancing out the window once or twice per hour. If I was the one studying there I would’ve watched out the window the whole hour and glanced once or twice at my notes. I’m sure my mother will agree with that statement. Anna is such an adult compared to me and has so many stories of challenges she has faced and different places she has moved to on her own. She’s tough, much tougher than me.

Gabriel received a good report from school on Tuesday so we all went to Chuck E Cheese’s as a reward. I thought it was just a burger joint but it turns out that it’s a kids restaurant with fun food and lots of arcade games. They had lots of machines where you earn tickets and exchange for prizes so we were all trying to earn as many tickets as possible for Gabriel. Tom won the jackpot on one machine and scored 260 tickets. Considering we ended up with around 600 tickets he definitely carried the team. The highlight for me was when Chuck E Cheese (a poor employee dressed up in a mouse costume) comes out and dances to cheesy music every hour. Tom joined in with the festivities and provided us with excellent footage for our monthly video. You’ll love it.

Tom’s big win at Chuck E Cheese’s

When we stayed with Tom and Marlena in Milan we travelled across town to a restaurant for cheese fondue only to be told that they weren’t doing fondue because it was spring. Since we were all together again we decided it was our chance to finally get some fondue. Marlena found a place and double checked that they serve fondue year round. We had cheese fondue, followed by beef fondue, finished with chocolate fondue… the fondue trifecta. It was so good. We must’ve had quite the appetite though because we then headed to a restaurant close to their house and ordered 3 pounds of chicken wings. I guess it kind of counts as dessert.

Sadly our 6 nights in Calgary flew by and it was time to farewell the Guzowski’s to continue the adventure. Anna was devastated to be saying goodbye to Canush as she wanted to keep him. He is such a cute dog and we really enjoyed taking him out on daily walks. We headed for Banff National Park and went directly to the gondola that takes you up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. The gondola puts you 2,900 feet above Banff and provides awesome views of the mountains. I now understand why Anna has always said that the Blue Mountains in Australia should be called the Blue Hills. The mountain ranges here are pretty spectacular and it’s a nice time to see it with snow on all of the peaks. Up the top of the Sulphur Mountain there is a boardwalk that takes you to the very top. It was cold and very slippery but the view was totally worth it. I did feel a bit for Anna – it was her 4th time up here and it was $49 each, but she did say it was a must-do attraction. After coming back down we headed into the town of Banff to wander around the main street and to find some lunch. Banff is really nice and next time I’d spend a couple of nights just to soak up the atmosphere.

Next up was Lake Louise so we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway rather than taking the highway. We were keenly looking out for wildlife but didn’t see anything. By the time we reached Lake Louise the snow was covering most of the ground which gave the lake a different feel than the typical photos you see. The lake wasn’t that crazy emerald colour that you get on a nice bright day, but it was still impressive. We went into the Fairmont Hotel to use the facilities, but we can’t afford anything like that.

On the recommendation of Greg, a friend of mine that I worked with at the railways, we ventured half an hour north from Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway. As we headed for Peyto Lake we noticed the snow piling higher and higher on the edges of the road. When we reached the lake lookout we found that they had closed the carpark closest to the lookout because it was snowed in. We parked in the lower carpark and had to trek up to the lookout which was quite a challenge since we only have worn-out running shoes. The view of the lake was great and totally worth the trek in. The way back down to the car was interesting as slipped over about 5 times and had to go down one hill sitting down. It was good fun. We then drove to Golden where we had sourced a cheap but reasonable hotel.

For breakfast we headed to a cheesy diner that was full of 50’s and 60’s memorabilia. We shared a big breakfast and we still couldn’t finish it. We made tracks for Kelowna which is where my friend Neil has been living for the past couple of years. The drive was a little hairy around the Glacier National Park where we saw a truck that had rolled and a 4WD that had spun out and ended up in the bushes. We took our time and safely made it through with no problems. The drive down through Vernon and along the Kalamalka Lake was particularly pretty. It was also amazing to see the temperature gauge hit 15 degrees as we arrived in Kelowna. We haven’t seen temperatures like that in over 2 weeks. We met up with Neil and had some catch-up beers before heading to a local hockey match. Six of Neil’s friends joined us to watch the game and then we all headed out to a nearby bar afterwards. I was pretty sore when I woke up this morning, but I don’t think that was from the late night, it was from the 2 poutines (chips, gravy and cheese) I ate in a post-midnight feast. This reminds me of when Neil lived in Sydney!

Today Neil took us out for a tour around Kelowna and we drove up to Big White Ski Resort. There’s already snow up there and Neil thinks he should be able to move up there in the next week or two. He works on the ice climbing tower so we went to see the tower without ice. I’ve seen pictures of the tower in operation and it looks very different. He showed us the different places that he has lived up there and I can tell he’s excited to get back up there. His typical day of snowboarding in the morning and then working in the afternoon and evening sounds pretty good. We went to the pub to check it out and he was surprised to see so many familiar faces before the season has already started. I think he’s going to enjoy it.

In the summertime Neil has been working at the marina, preparing boats and launching them for their owners. Working around rich people has its perks – now he knows owners who’ll take him out on boats or even let the guys take their boats out. You’ve got to love having wealthy friends. I never really understood why Neil has spent 3 years here doing this but now that I’ve come and seen it, I get it. You’ll never get rich doing it, but it’s all about the lifestyle. This will be Neil’s last season but I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.

Tomorrow we’ll head for Vancouver and go from there.



Fail of the Week
Six month old running shoes and icy snow paths don’t mix. I mentioned earlier that I slipped over a bunch of times, but I didn’t mention that I had to hobble along all, crouched over like an old man to try and minimise the impact when I fell. We weren’t the only ones caught out but hiking in snow wearing runners is silly.

Meal of the Week
The Thanksgiving feast that Marlena prepared takes the top gong this week. It was so nice to be with family for the holiday. I can imagine we would’ve ended up at a fast food place and it wouldn’t have been a real holiday feast.

More photos


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