Two weeks and two days in Calgary.
It’s not like us to visit a country and not hop from place to place. Three days here, five days there: Two weeks and two days would normally be three to five locations.
Not this time. Lady Devotea and I had but two aims: to spend some time with our eldest son and his lovely girlfriend for the first time in over a year, and to not be where we were immediately beforehand.
R&R: Rest. Recreation. Relaxation. Recuperation. Recharging. Obviously I mean R&R&R&R&R. Not so much of the tourist thing. No tea conferences to speak at. No business, no booked tours.
We arrived more exhausted than a nine-hour flight should leave us, because we were exhausted when we got on the plane.
It has always struck me that the last place you want to be when you arrive in a country is at an airport.
Calgary Airport is different. The first person we saw was some sort of usher, like you used to get in cinemas, only without a torch and bathed in the bright sunshine coming in from the mainly glass walls. She said “Welcome to Calgary” and pointed us in the right direction.
The second person we saw was a gentlemen who did the same.
We collected our bags and went through passport control, which was outstandingly friendly. Ditto customs.
We had yet to enter the public part of the terminals when Lady D turned to me and said “Wow, Canadians are sooo friendly”.
That might sound like a snap judgement based on a small sample, but as I write this after leaving Canada, I can say we had nothing but corroborating evidence. The data was amazingly homogenous.
We were duly picked up, there may have been some tears, but soon we were rewriting the record books for amount of luggage you can cram into a small car with four people, and heading off toward the abode of our hosts.
The first item of business was to present them with a kilo of Doke Black Fusion and the second was to get stuck into that. When we left, I think there was about 10% of it left. Many wonderful times were had over this tea.
Obviously, we drank a few samples and other teas we picked up along the way. Blacks, rooibos, greens, flavoured and plains. We had tea out at a dozen places; in everything from delicate china to glass tumblers to waxy takeaway cups.
We saw some tourist towns, some tourist attractions. The zoo. We shopped. We ate out and ate in, cooked and were cooked for.
We arrived on a summer’s day: it was 25 degrees Celsius. The next day, it was winter, for it snowed. Then a few days later came the spring thaw, with clear skies and melting snow. Then all the trees turned golden and red. Autumn had arrived by about day nine. A year’s worth of weather in nine days.
All the abovementioned R’s.
It’s maybe unfair to judge a whole country by one city. And there are many unsettling things about Canada that I could point to, like the parts that deliberately speak French for no good reason* or the fact that they clearly know how to spell but choose not to: I went past places marked “tire center” and others marked “tire centre” and can only assume they have something to do with sleep deprivation. I never once went past a “tyre centre”. And unlike Britain where they spell “doughnut” the way adults should and the USA where they substitute the troublesome “donut”, Canadians seem to accept both.
They also seem light on fresh food and cooking, big on greasy spoons and microwaving prepared meals, but at least most of their supermarkets have a few loose leaf teas, sadly unlike a lot of UK ones and a growing number of Australian ones.
But Calgary, and by extension, all of Canada, is now very close to our hearts. We would have been glad to go there, just to see our son. We would have been glad to go there, just to not be where we were prior to going there. But now, we love Calgary for its own sake.
Sure, we’d change it a bit. Get rid of the notion that Starbucks is drinkable, for example. Make them all drive on the correct side of the road. Stop adding the tax after a purchase and just include it in the price, like they do in more sane places.
The snow we mentioned was unexpected, it was at the wrong time of the year, and I’m not 100% sure I’d care to be there at the “right” time of the year for snow. This trip, though, would give us impetus to try.
When all is said and done, Calgary is a great place to be.
And who doesn’t want to visit great places, eh?
* Maybe there IS one good reason to speak French. I’m all for “Coriandre” for “Coriander” instead of “Cilantro”, which sounds like a Marvel Comic villain. But that’s it*
**Well, that’s it apart from poutine.