Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Holiday 2011

Warning:  This blog post is really long, and quite boring.

After we knew that the new van would arrive in a timely manner, we decided to book a hotel for four nights in Calgary for our holiday this summer.  We had toyed with the idea of a trip to the USA, but after humming and hawing about it, and not knowing exactly how long the new van would take to get here, we didn't get around to getting passports done in time.  I felt like going to Calgary after trips to Edmonton the last two summers.

We left on Monday morning with me behind the wheel!  I figured that I would not be entirely comfortable driving the new van in Calgary, so thought if I drove the first leg of the trip, and then we switched after a few hours that I could give Jay a bit of a break from driving, but still allow him to do the driving in the bigger city.  I think I did pretty well.  Except for the farmer that decided Monday morning would be a good time to take his auger for a trip down the highway.  When I finally got up the courage to pass (I am sort of wussy with passes that are even the slightest bit iffy) I ended up having to pass him and one other car in one shot and the distance between the two was a little greater than I first anticipated.  I ended up going close to 150km/hr by the time I got passed them both and tucked myself back in.  All the other passing was fine, even on a moderately busy highway.  We stopped to eat our sandwiches at Oyen and that is when we switched driving positions.

When we got to Calgary it was around 5pm so we headed to our hotel, The Glenmore Inn and Convention Centre to check in and unload.  We got to our room, their "barrier free" room, only to find the bed was about six inches too high for Jay to be able to transfer himself into it.  *sigh*  Also, they told me that they have a roll-in shower....I don't know what they think a roll-in shower is....but that was a tub, which in no way can be rolled into.  Thankfully we didn't waste the effort of bringing along his shower chair!  As for the bed we went and talked to the front desk and they paged the maintenance guy to our room.  While we waited for him, we figured out that if they could remove the bed frame, with the box spring and mattress it should about the right height.  I pulled the mattress and box spring off the frame and found it to be attached to the wall with 2 screws.  So when the maintenance guy came, he took the screws out and took the bed frame out of the room and helped me put the box spring and mattress back down and it was almost ideal. 

The hotel itself was decent.  The bed was comfortable and the room was clean.  The location of our room was not ideal (ie right next to the bar/restaurant, the first room at the start of a long hallway with lots of people walking down, and also right near an elevator), however, we left the bathroom fan running, and the fan running on the heater/air conditioner unit and it allowed us to sleep quite soundly. 

The first night, after we checked in we headed over to Joey's Grill (used to be Joey Tomatoes) in the Chinook Centre.  We ate there three years ago (I have been a few other times with other people too) and we always enjoy it.  Jay was a little adventurous and had a lobster grilled cheese and just loved it.  I had a shrimp curry dish that was SO tasty.  After supper we meandered through the Chinook Centre but didn't buy anything.  I think since I was there last there is a Victoria's Secret store (I only took a quick peek inside, and couldn't believe how HUGE it is) and a Williams Sonoma.  What a great store, though kind of pricey.  If I had lots of money I would stock my kitchen from that store.

Tuesday morning we got up bright and early and headed for the Calgary Zoo.  We probably spent a good 3-4 hours there and I have to say the highlight was seeing their baby giraffe, Jengo.  He was born in February, so he isn't teeny tiny, but still awfully cute.  We had lunch at the zoo, and were reminded about how awful their cafeteria burgers are there.  Note to self:  if you have lunch at the zoo again, have a hot dog....I figure hot dogs are pretty reliable even if they are sort of low quality.  After the zoo we headed to Market Mall to look around.  I bought a black cardigan from Jacob.  I had been wanting a light cardigan for a while, and this one was $20 and I think is pretty nice so I got it.  When we were done browsing at the mall it wasn't quite supper time yet, so we decided to head over to the Signal Hill box mall to look around.  They have a Shoe Company store over there and I wanted to check it out.  We also looked in a few other stores before deciding to try the Phoenix Grill.  We were impressed!  There were multiple things on the menu we wanted to try, but being the suckers for burgers that we are, we both ended up ordering off of their promotional burger menu (only available on Mon and Tues).  I had something called the Tropical Turkey had mango salsa, cole slaw, and an orange soy glaze on a whole wheat bun.  It was really tasty!

While we were eating our supper at the Phoenix, it started raining, lightning and thundering.  Then the hail started.  Thank goodness they were just tiny little hail stones so no damage to the new van.  When it seemed to be letting up we made a dash for the van and headed back toward the hotel.  As we drove there was some pretty intense lightning and thunder and VERY heavy rain.  Heavy to the point that we were considering pulling over, but thought we would just take it slow and keep going.  We were headed east down Glenmore Trail when all of a sudden the traffic came to a screeching halt.  We weren't sure what was going on until we started to see people pulling over to the side and realized that it was flooded under the McLeod Trail overpass on Glenmore Trail.  There were about 5 cars ahead of us and I could see a couple of cars stalled out in the 2-3 foot deep water.  Somehow a firetruck managed to pull it's way through the traffic and blocked access so no other yahoos could get stuck in the flood.  We pulled over right to the right hand side of the road and waited and waited and waited.  Finally, after a little over an hour it had drained enough to allow us through and we were on our way back to the hotel for the night.  So thankful we didn't get stuck in the water!

Wednesday we had planned to meet up with some friends in Banff for the day.  We had gotten an email Tuesday though, that due to some car problems they wouldn't be able to make it too Banff, so we were flying solo.  It's a nice, and surprisingly quick drive into the mountains from Calgary.  When we got into the park our first stop was Lake Minnewanka.  I had heard about an accessible boat cruise of the lake (I believe they had said it is about 27km long).  We went to check it out, and while it wasn't ideal, I was able to get Jay down to the loading dock.  There were some short, though ridiculously steep ramps to get onto the different sections of dock, but I was told that the cruise that we had arrived for at 11am would be their most accessible boat.  And sure enough it was almost level with the dock when it was next to the dock.  The problem was, that when you were on the boat there was bench seating on either side with an aisle in the middle.  If Jay would have sat in the aisle, no one would have been able to get past him.  So we opted to sit in the back, over the motor, which was incredibly loud.  We shared the back part with an older man who fancied himself to be some sort of photographer.  He came back and right away opened up the big window in the back so he could get better pictures.  Though he was rather unsteady on his feet, and I had quite a few visions of him falling head first into the lake as he leaned out the window and walked from side to side to capture different photos.  All in all, it was a neat experience.  I don't think it was worth the price we paid, being that we could barely hear anything the guide was talking about during the ride.  It was loud, and cold with the windows open in the back part of the boat.  We probably should have pushed our way up to the front and just sat in the aisle, but we didn't and so it wasnt' as good as it maybe could have been.  However, Jay got to go in a boat, which is a pretty rare occurrence for him.

After our boat tour we were happy to get back in the van and crank up the heat to warm up and cruised around the Banff area a bit.  We were quite surprised just how busy it was in the town of Banff.  So many people walking on the sidewalks.  After a quick lunch from Subway we headed out to drive to Johnston Canyon.  I hadn't heard much about it's accessibility, other than the path to the lower falls was paved.  I thought that was a good sign.  My sister commented that she did the hike with her youngest son in a stroller, so I thought we would be okay.  When we got there, it didn't take us long to realize that we would be silly to go much further than we did.  After a super steep push up the very first part of the trail, we decided that we should probably head back before we get into trouble further down the path.  *sigh*  Jay was able to get down to a little river with a bridge and get some nice photos of it.  Mountain streams are so pretty.

When we got back to Banff we drove over to the Banff Springs Hotel and that is quite a sight to see!  It is so posh looking.  I would love to see inside!  I had read about Bow Falls just behind the hotel, so on a whim we pulled in to see if it was accessible at all, and it was!  The was fun.  We hung out there for a while as it rained off and on and had a good look and took some photos.  By then it was getting to be supper time so we headed to the Old Spaghetti Factory for supper.  It was delicious!  I wonder if we will ever get one in Saskatoon?!  I am sure they would do great here!

Thursday's goal was shopping!  We went to Ikea in the morning and spent an hour or so browsing.  We came away with some spice jars, a mirror, a blanket, some curtains for Karen and a 5ft long stuffed snake for Kiwi.  We also bought some nice Swedish food items, like chocolate bars, Swedish fish candy, blueberry syrup and flat bread cracker thingys.  After Ikea we went to Cross Iron Mills mall.  It is a relatively new mall just north of Calgary and I really enjoyed it.  I couldn't believe we ended up spending about five hours there.  We never spend that much time at a mall!  We had lunch in the food court then went to check out Bass Pro Shops.  It is such a neat store!  Even though I am not at all into hunting, fishing, or camping.  It is a sight to see with all the stuffed animals and the fish tank and the waterfall.  Pretty neat!  We spent the majority of the rest of the shopping looking for a hat for Jay.  He tried on a LOT of hats, but settled on one from Le Chateau, and I think it makes him look very handsome :)  I ended up getting a new pair of jeans from the Gap Outlet store there.  We decided to have supper that evening at Big T's BBQ.  I ate at that restaurant with my family after grandpa's funeral and I thought it was quite good.  Jay enjoyed it too.  He was adventurous and tried some catfish.  I tried a bite, and really it didn't taste any different than any other white fish I have had.  I had smoked chicken breast and it came with cole slaw, baked beans, onion rings and corn bread.  Mmm I love corn bread :)

We had brunch at our hotel Friday morning then we were on the road by about 10am.  We drove through rain most of the way home.  Other than a couple of very inconsiderate drivers (ie being tailgated at 100km/hr by a semi) it was a pretty uneventful drive home.  It was good to get home and see Kiwi.  She was so excited to see us.  Holidays always sneak up and then disappear so quickly.  It was a good week, and I am glad we were able to go and enjoy ourselves.  The new van was a really nice vehicle to ride in on the highway.  It has plenty of power for passing, and nice smooth suspension. 

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