In the summer of 2007, I left Seattle, my beloved hometown and comfort zone, to embark on a journey. I planned to be gone for one year, preferably to live in Europe flirting with Italian and French men… and British men, too. Why not? I had no plan, I had little money, I did little research, and I just went. That year turned out to be disorganized, discombobulated, tiring, filled with excruciating heartbreaks (thanks, men!) leading to supreme emotional roller coaster rides, and the best year of my life.
I did have a little bit of a plan. I planned to stop in London first where my extended family live, drop my large suitcase off (aka my closet), roll out with a backpack to tour Europe by train, and then return to London again to decompress, speak some proper English, change out new clothes from my closet, and then pack another backpack to do it all over again.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Except I met so many great people on my trip that at times, I ventured off the European path to follow them in their adventures and ended up in Thailand (twice) and Egypt. I could’ve gone many more places, but like I said, I had little money and I needed to make my pennies stretch for a whole year.
Because of all my travel adventures, I longed to write a travel blog to document all the knowledge I picked up along the way. (And so my friends can stop asking me for advice that I keep repeating… haha, love you!) Somehow, this design blog took precedence over the travel blog and that travel blog has been buried under a foot of dust. I’d like to dust it off now and incorporate it into Redesigned, if I may.
I travel like none of my personal circle of friends. I like to visit the heck out of a new place the first time. I cram as much as I can possibly see in that first trip and if I ever come back, then I can feel a little more relaxed and see new things or revisit some favorites. I don’t take it slow the first time around.
I will always gravitate towards anything that is architecturally appealing, be it Angkor Wat or my best friend’s flat in Clapham Common. If I read about a hotel with amazing interior decor, I must see it. If I see photos of a cool retail space, it’s going on my sightseeing list. Even if I randomly walk by something that looks intriguing, I will make an unscheduled stop. That’s just the way I roll.
I am also a map pinner, meaning, I will go to as many small towns or big cities as possible if it means I can pin that place on the map to indicate I’ve been there. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for me to sometimes visit three different cities in one day. One time, on a three day weekend, I visited three countries and six cities, all by train. Not really hard to do in Europe, to be honest, but how many of you have done it?
The last thing you should know about my travel quirks is that I rarely like to visit the same place twice. When given the opportunity to travel to a new place or to some place I’ve already seen, I will almost always choose the new place.
Today, I am inaugurating the monthly travel feature of Redesigned. It is called Travelousness, a word I made up to define the fabulousness of traveling. I intend to focus Travelousness on the design, art, and architecture of the place, but may go off on a tangent and showcase its natural beauty or culture at times. I believe in order for us creative types to remain creative, we must sometimes venture outside our own backyards. There is so much more the world has in store for our imagination.
To start off Travelousness, I want to share with you my most recent trip of Calgary, Canada. I hope I don’t offend any Calgarians when I say that I was told there is nothing to see or do in Calgary outside of Stampede season, but they have really good food. Armed with that information, I didn’t have high expectations of Calgary. I also sought to find something interesting to do in Calgary, despite what I was told.
The good thing about me (and may be the bad also) is that I have many varied interests. I have always been a creative person and loved everything that revolved around it: interior design, graphic design, art, painting, textiles, fashion, hair, makeup, nail art…. what am I missing? And I love vintage and history. Anyway, I found lots of great things to see in Calgary… although, sorry to say, I never sampled any of the great food. Haha!
This trip took place over May long weekend, 2013.
Fly out of YVR.
Land at YYC by 1:30PM.
Picked up rental car and drove straight to Banff.
Arrived in Banff by 4PM; explored Bow Falls, the grounds of Banff Springs Hotel,
and took a scenic drive to Vermillion Lakes
Drove to Lake Louise via Trans-Canada Hwy
Overnight in Lake Louise
Explored Lake Louise with a hike to Fairview Lookout.
Lunch at Station Restaurant; with a brief photograph stop of Bow River afterwards.
Took a scenic drive on The Icefields Parkway; with an hour stop at Peyto Lake for a hike to Bow Summit
Overnight in Lake Louise
Checked out of Lake Louise
Drove to Banff via Bow Valley Parkway (where I saw the bear!).
Arrived in Banff and took the scenic drive of Tunnel Mountain Drive.
More scenic driving through Lake Minnewanka Loop (where I saw the elk!).
Drove back to Calgary, with a brief detour through Canmore
(to add an extra pin in my map – ha!)
Overnight in Calgary
Half day trip to Nanton, starting at 8:30AM, via Hwy 2.
Arrived in Nanton at 9:30AM; explored town.
Drove to YYC at 11:30AM to return car rental.
Explored Stephen Avenue and downtown in Calgary.
Overnight in Calgary
Checked out of Calgary
Explored Inglewood and Design District
Dinner in Calgary (nowhere special)
Fly out of YYC to YVR.
From the Stephen Avenue Walk brochure: “Following the great fire of 1886 that destroyed most of the 70 wooden buildings in downtown Calgary, all new public buildings were constructed from non-flammable materials. With quarries close at hand, sandstone became a preferred building material and earned Calgary the moniker ‘The Sandstone City.’ “
Prince’s Island Park
Just north of downtown lies an island on the Bow River. It has been made into a park where people come to relax and sit under trees. It’s quite tranquil, especially if you stay away from the riverside, which is where the parents take their energetic kids.
However, visit the riverside for a short minute so you can catch a glimpse of the skyline. It’s missing the Calgary Tower, but overall, it’s not bad.
Other Areas of Downtown
Below is a picture of a tall building I saw in downtown; 6th Avenue, specifically. To be honest, I never bothered to look for the name of the building as I was so enthralled with the giant head in the front plaza.
It’s quite a cool thing to behold. There was no information I could see as to who designed it and why it was commissioned, but it was fun to photograph. You can walk inside the head – see those doors at the side of the neck?
The Calgarians Love Their Horses And Cows
The Calgary Stampede is the city’s most popular and well-known event, which takes place annually in July. This region is prairie land, for sure. When driving outside the city, you can see cows grazing in the grass and cowboy gear is quite popular in the shops here.
As I was making my way towards Stephen Avenue, I passed through this charming neighborhood with red brick buildings and stylish storefronts. I returned to visit this area the next day. I learned it was called Inglewood.
Somehow I spent two whole hours in this neighborhood that extended only three or four blocks in length. Some of the shops were still closed from the long weekend, so I couldn’t even see everything. The shops I did get to enter were completely adorable. I’ll have to write another post on the shops of Inglewood alone because there were so many with fabulous interiors.
This old fire station is now a cafe. How fun!
I’m really not sure if there is an official name to this building. It’s not the Espy building because Espy is a retail store on the street level. I was tipped off about this building from a shop proprietor I was visiting just down the street. She told me that at the top floor to this building is a fantastic art gallery with free admission. She also said that there were great views of the city from there. How could I resist paying a visit?
This is the interior of that building. I loved the drama of the decorative metal cross braces as you enter. It’s this sort of stuff that I love finding because it’s not written in the guidebooks.
Here’s another angle of the interior, from the fourth floor.
Unfortunately, when I got to the top floor, the Ecker Foundation was closed for remodeling until June 15th. There was absolutely nothing inside and I didn’t get to see any views or art. As I couldn’t get inside the Ecker Foundation to see its infamous city view, I found this view from the second story of the same building. I wish I had the time to find the postcard skyline view, but this one was just fine in the short amount of time I had. And this version includes the Calgary Tower, which makes it somewhat more recognizable than the one in Prince’s Island Park. Just goes to show that you can find decent views in unpredictable places.
Calgary Abounds With Art
I didn’t get close enough to this statue to find out the name or the meaning behind it. I just love its massive scale and out of proportion people. It’s the sort of whimsical art I love.
Chinatowns in most cities are usually uninteresting storefronts of cluttered interiors and fogged up restaurant windows. It was refreshing to see that color and art was extended into this neighborhood as well.
Even the metal grating has some color and interest! I absolutely love finding art in unusual places. This one has clearly been faded over time, but you know something cool and out of the ordinary was once there.
I loved that the power boxes (calling them that because I don’t know what the technical term for them is) are a part of an outdoor art gallery. In downtown, I saw these art pieces on the sides of power boxes practically on every corner. Art In Motion showcases art by local artists. What a great way to dress up something otherwise so ugly!
This does not seem to be a part of the “Art In Motion” series, but it has been painted with a pretty image, all the same. There are several power boxes like these all over the city – not just within the commercial core.
Here’s an example of real graffiti art – not that vandalism tagging crap. This wall was commissioned by Art Central… er, I think. It’s located in downtown.
I found this pretty number on a side of building in Inglewood.
Even the recycle bins were decorated! This metalwork art was on the side of the bin facing the street. Another way to dress up something normally very utilitarian.
A different design of a recycle bin. I must have seen about three different designs in various colors.
And Other Cool Things
I love this book sharing program! I only saw two of these boxes and they were both located on Stephen Avenue. I seriously considered taking a book, but didn’t have a book to leave behind in exchange. Such a cool idea to instill culture and literacy in the community.
I have never seen metal feet on a gutter grating (is that what they’re called?) before. I think it’s so cool, not only for added interest in the city, but also very practical for ladies wearing high heels. They no longer have to walk around the grating!
Other Things I Did On This Trip
I spent the first two and a half days in Banff National Park. I stayed in Lake Louise, but I explored Banff, Lake Louise, and took a scenic drive on The Icefields Parkway. You can see my photos from that trip here. Banff can easily be taken as a day trip from Calgary as it’s about a two-hour drive from the city. Do keep in mind that there is a park fee to enter; it’s about $10 for each day. They take credit cards and cash at the toll. There’s lots of great hiking in that area, so make sure you bring your hiking shoes!
After I returned to Calgary, I took a half day trip to Nanton. It is a small, small town (if it can be called that) about an hour south of downtown. It sits on Highway 2, literally. As you drive south, you’ll slow down when you approach Nanton, then turn left off the highway onto Main Street. If you drive down to the end of the block, you’ll be back on the highway heading north. Haha! No joke – it’s that small! Why did I go to Nanton? Well, I read on the Internet that it’s where Calgarians go for antiquing, so I had to make the trip. I told Mr. M that Nanton sounds like it was a town made for him because the top four attractions all appeal to him:
- The Candy Store
- Lancaster Society Air Museum
- Museum of Miniatures, and
- Ultimate Train shop
When I listed these sites to him, he genuinely responded with, “It’s like my Disneyland!” He melts my heart. As for me, there definitely were some great antique stores and old-timey buildings to explore. I especially thought the people in Nanton were the sweetest ever! I had several conversations with various shop owners. I only spent two hours there. I might’ve been able to spend more, but I went on Monday when it was a national holiday, so most of the shops were closed. Keep in mind that almost nothing opens until 10AM.
I did also explore the Design District, just south of downtown Calgary, but there wasn’t much to photograph, which is why I have nothing to show you. There were a bunch of interior design shops scattered between 4th Street and 14th Street, so I guess that qualifies as a Design District.
On one evening, I made a trip to University of Calgary to drop off a friend, who told me that Children’s Hospital with some interesting architecture was just up the street. Of course, I had to swing by to take a look! It was indeed a very interesting building! The exterior was clad in colorful squares and the main building was imprinted with a giant child’s handprint. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera with me that night, so I don’t have any photos to show you. It was a rookie mistake, and I’m better than that!
On My Next Trip
I only had two days in Calgary, so I didn’t get to see everything worth seeing. Plus, my injured foot is still on the mend, so I didn’t quite have enough speed as I usually do. I got tired really quickly from limping around so much. When I return next time, I want to do it in July during the Stampede. What a great festival that would be! Or maybe it would be mad, but I don’t care. I didn’t get to explore the Beltline or Upper 17th, which are both neighborhoods south of Downtown. I would also like to spend a day or half a day at Heritage Park, a historical village that is a living museum of how life was back in the day. That’s totally something I would love. I also want to take a day trip to Drumheller for Dinosaur Park. I also read that Horseshoe Canyon and Horsethief Canyon (en route to Drumheller) are pretty cool to see as well. Also, Moraine Lake in Lake Louise was closed, so I’d love to go back to see that. Maybe I’ll even try to squeeze in a trip to Jasper and actually make the full four drive along The Icefields Parkway. Maybe.
Who said there wasn’t anything to do or see in Calgary? I have a lot to cover a week’s worth of days on my next trip!
Anyone living in the Calgary area or have visited? What else should I add to my list?
Hope you enjoyed this first installment of Travelousness. What did you think of it? Any particular place you would like to me feature next month?