A Travellerspoint blog

Bye Bye Banff, Take 2

We are coming home...honest, Mum!

sunny -4 °C

Ok so I may have told a minor fib - I wasn't TOTALLY finished with this blogging thing just yet.

First things first, I spent 15 minutes uploading a video I took ontop of the Grizzly Express Gondola at Lake Louise yesterday...and then didn't insert it into the page! So here it be...360 degree views. Gosh lovely.

I also didn't get a chance to tell you about how enterprizing parents take good care of their young when on the ski fields. Yes, many a time we have seen a tiny kid, no stocks, snow-plowing his or her way down the mountain...attached BY HARNESS HELD BY THE PARENTS! Its the closest thing to a sled dog we have seen all winter. I am actually kind of glad I don't hold the reigns on one of these things, because I think the temptation would be too great to snap the harness and yell "MUSH! MUSH!" Probably not a good look.

And while we are here, I thought I'd start the post trip wrap up. More to be added as reflections continue.

Things We Missed From Home: Mum/Special Loved One(me/Dad) and Theresa ( {> ), mates of all shapes and sizes (things are always better when shared with others), temperatures above 10 degrees, the cricket (oh the cricket!).

Things We Loved About CA: the snow, the scenery, bison, hockey, weird television commercials, customer service, beer, public transport, meeting up with old family friends.

Things We Didn't Like About CA: cranky bus drivers, a currency system too heavy on coins.

Things We Packed And Never Used: Sard soap, thongs, facial wipes, two t-shirts (me), extra backpack, one pair of shoes (Dad) and a scrubbing brush. But as they say, better to be safe than sorry.

The time is now 10.09am. I am packed, and have just a little browsing to do until our 12 noon bus to Calgary airport. Hope the weather is treating you all fantabulously and speak soon!

Posted by 2bitHero 08:56 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation Comments (1)

Bye Bye Banff

Oh we have to go...do we?

snow -12 °C

You will all be pleased to know that my father, Graham, skiied 'prettily' today. All soft edges and beautifully linked turns. His words, not mine. But he was rather happy. So, now you know!

All floury language aside, we have had an amazing two days at Lake Louise, and a stunning last day today in particular. Yesterday, it snowed all day. Lovely, soft, small, powdery flakes, dusting your jacket and bringing a touch of magic to every run. There was no wind, and it you didn't notice the cold. It was that kind of day. Then today, the sun blessed us with its rays all day, and far from turning the mountain into a kind of white Slurpee, it merely made us see all the lovely snow which fell all day and overnight. (There was plenty - they closed the Trans Canada Highway beyond Lake Louise which left a million and one trucks parked by the side of the road, their drivers unable to deliver their cargo any further.) Ullr was most kind! It was such a fantastic way to finish the day (and rounded it off with a couple of Canadian beers and prime Alberta steak!), Dad and I haven't stopped smiling yet! It was everything we could have wanted in a last day, and then some.

And now, we head for home! This will probably be my last official 'blog from Canada' but stay tuned for a full wrap up of all things trip-esque in the week I get back. Which is rapidly approaching. Quickly.

I mentioned the British Colonial Invasion of Banff and surrounds, but we Aussies are making a fair fist of it too from all accounts. Indeed, in the common eating areas at Lake Louise, they are already getting people pumped and primed for Australia Day festivities.

Speaking of festivities...

The New Years Aftermath Award: It was pleasing to see that, just like Australia, the inevitable casualty of any major party is the humble shopping tolley. Yes, these poor metal constructs were littered around the place come January 1. And yes, true to form, they still haven't been recovered by their 'owners'.

TV Idea I Want To Pitch: "Gondi With Condi!". You take your common, garden variety ski gondola, found on many major world ski slopes. You then take the American Secretary of Defence, Condoleeza Rice, and put her in their with a combination of one or many of the following: assorted creepy-crawleys with teeth, your high school chess team, 10 neo-conservatives, 3 hockey defensemen, a group of permanent marker-wielding school children, a tub of KFC, a list of possible post Iraq targets...you get the picture. Sure, the idea needs a bit of work, but I reckon this could be a goer!

Burning Question of the Day: What if Ullrwas a girl? Really. Think about it. Alot of others have.

Famous Last Words: From the UK skier behind us in line for the Ptarmigan Express chair this arvo. "Really, it's about time I hit a tree."

Quote of the Day: Courtesy of an...interesting...20 year old Welsh girl in the bus back from Lake Louise yesterday, explaining why she was going to buy a pair of 300 dollar goat skin boots. "No one in Wales would have them and I HATE wearing the same clothes as other people...You know how there are all those girls in little denim skirts and big boots? Well I LOVE wearing little denim skirts and big boots." Good on you girly. But heaven forbid you wear something the same as someone else. What WOULD happen?! Shock! Horror!

The "I Choose Life" Award: Awarded to the pedestrian crossings here in Banff, which helpfully countdown how much time you have left to cross. Top idea, right? Nuh uh! You see, it starts at 30 seconds, but when it hits 18 seconds left, it magically turns over to 7 seconds. I literally just lost 11 seconds or so to cross the road. I CHOOSE LIFE DAMN YOU! INFERNAL MACHINE!

And some piccies from the last few days at Lake Louise...
The mountain has a fantastic ice castle as you walk down the steps and into the lift lines.
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And the base lodge at Lake Louise, looking down from the massive runway-esque last run.
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One of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Much better in real life...
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And more of the Rockies. Except some dude got in the way of the scenery on this one.
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New skis! Oh so shiny...
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And finally, the happy couple (not like that!), after our final run down the mountain - thank you random Euro tourist guy for taking the photo!
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And to the dude sitting across from me here in the internet cafe. Shut up. No, I don't care that you find your inbox boring. Or that you aren't impressed with whatever it is you are reading. Really. Go read some spam or something. Yes you. In the red shirt. Im talking to you. Go away.

Posted by 2bitHero 20:36 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

The Morning After The Night Before...

Bleary eyes and powder

overcast -10 °C

I decided that 'best of' lists are sooooo 2006, so you won't see me compiling my top highlights of the past 12 months here. Probably because there have been a few...and I really don't want to bore you all with that now do I? We are here, gathered today, under the wonderful banner that is travel. And skiing. And Canadian beer. And maple syrup. And a desperate hope that England will lose the Ashes 5-0. (Now I think about it, you and I have a lot in common!)

Sunshine was quiet today. A little too quiet? Hardly. Quiet = little to no lift queues = much fun to be had. So while many slept off one too many Kokanee's from the night before (and the distinct lack of snowborders on the mountain might also tell more of a story...), Dad and I joined the select group who braved an overcast and at times windy day to plough onwards and upwards through more of Sunshine's runs. In doing so, we completed yet another Winter Olympics run - this time, the downhill from the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. We also just managed to complete a unique feet. While standing in the shadows of Lookout Mountain, we had crossed from the province of Alberta and into British Columbia...before skiing back again. But we have to now go back on Wednesday and do it properly and ski down the Continental Divide (trail map here). As the elderly Italian gentlement at Guido's told us tonight; "You have to do the cliched thing...and piss from one side of the border to the other!" We might not go that far...but there's certainly some runs we haven't hit yet.

But tomorrow, we take the 45 minute trip up the highway to see Lake Louise, which we are assured is quite lovely. Which suits us just fine for our penultimate day skiing Canada.

So I think I may have found my new set of skis. I've fallen for the 'Head iXRC 800' (more info here , here , here and here...I particularly like the Han Solo reference on the second one...) which, despite being marketed as a fast and high intermediate style ski, seems uber-adaptable. The fantastic 30 second ski reviews at Techsupportforskiers.com says:

"Wow!" commented one retailer. "Everyone will love this ski!" Everyone, that is, except serious speed merchants. Those skiers should look at the Supershape Speed or the XRC 1200. Improving skiers who are working on skills should consider the 800.

See? Ferpect. Dad seems to have found the ones he likes as well - the 'K2 Apache Styker' I think it is. They have a whole Apache/Commanche series, so I'm not sure on specifics. Needless to say, he skiied on them at Whistler and loved it. And anyways, Dad's skis at home are, oh, only FORTY PLUS YEARS OLD. Indeed, in many of the little lodges/chalets/cafes/huts we have stopped for lunch or dinner, almost identical skiis have been mounted on the wall as museum pieces. He still insists they are perfect of course...

Anyways, that's our little touristy indulgence out of the way (thank you for sticking with us!). Onto some more On-Mountain Observations...

Aussie Spotting On The Streets: I passed a guy wearing a Melbourne Victory scarf last night. I smiled.

David Versus Airport Security: So, touch wood, I am the biggest evader of airport security that mankind has ever known. Yes, in these days of dangerous liquids on aeroplanes, one cannot be too careful. Air Canada, Qantas et al have all made it quite clear that should you require liquids on the plane, they need to be less than 100ml and in a clear, resealable bag. And the ask you at each security point too: "Any liquids?". I have answered no every time too, being the good little boy that I am...or AM I?!?! Because despite all this, despite my bag going through countless scanners, MY SMALL ROLL ON DEODERENT BOTTLE HAS EVADED DETECTION! I am, quite obviously, a ninja. Or a master spy. Or both. I will be signing 4x2 glossy photos of myself at Gate 7 of Melbourne Airport on the 6th. Please form an orderly line.

Posted by 2bitHero 19:43 Archived in Canada Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Newish New Years

At least you guys have hit 2007. I'm still 2 hours off!

overcast -15 °C

Today, Dad and I paid homage to Naomi Robson and Today Tonight. (You'll appreciate this Ali.) Yes, that's right, today we skiied...WAH WAH! (For those looking for contextual understanding, click here) It was the first run we tackled fresh off the Banff shuttle/gondola at 11am this morning. And twas quite nice, as was it's neighbouring run, Tin Can Alley. (But Wah Wah wins on name alone.) The snow here is a little different again from the puffs of powder at Whistler. Much more compact, but still squeaky, and it happily groans at you when you poke at it with a ski pole. It's as if the mountain is ALIVE! But we weren't sticking around looking for vital signs; onwards and downwards we ploughed, our skis carving through all and sundry.

Lets quickly talk about our new rentals; Dad is on the Head 'Monster' and I am on the 'XLC'. Short from tip to tail and skinny waists didn't encourage us initially, but after one run we were won over. They have so much give and are so forgiving. Worried you might have your centre of gravity wrong? No problem, the skis KNOW, and seem to right the situation. They do, after all (And if the labelling is to be agreed with), have intelligence. Maybe I'm showing my geeky roots, but it kind of reminds me of when magical swords in the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons had intelligence and ego. Except in this case, they don't talk to you. Whatever, they rock our little cotton socks, and that is grand.

Another quick mention on the quad-chairlifts on the mountain, which fairly barrell along at you, slamming into your tail bone, bum and knees to fast you fear you're about to be a small skiier shaped projectile, thrown out from the chair. Maybe the lifties are on a quota or something; on a commission to push through as many people as possible in a day. Hell, they didn't even stop the chair at the top when there was a lady writhing in pain on the ground at the downloading zone. Still, it got the adrenaline pumping, which is always a handy warm up...

This Sunshine Village we skiied today is quite aptly named. It might have been -10 degrees all day, but the sun was always out, basking the surrounding rockies in a shiny glow, and generally making you feel on top of the world.

Here's something which will make you smile. I learnt the importance of not putting away wet or damp clothes in your bag. See, when we left Whistler, some of my ski gear was damp. 'No problem', thinks I, reasoning I can always take it out at Montreal/Mont Gabriel/Warkworth/Calgary and see it dried properly. Except David didn't did he? End result? I fish out my still damp clothes from my bag last night, along with the loving aroma of cheese. Why damp fungus clothes decide to exude a stench not out of place in an Italian deli I don't know, but they do. So, lesson learnt.

More things to make you smile.

The One Thing I Wish I Was In Canada To See: Starting January 2 on 'Books TV' (one of the many free to air channels in these parts) is...NAUGHTY LIBRARIAN MONTH! I am not making this up. Apparently they are going to have the hottest stories, docos and steamy THINGS. Yes. Hot Librarians. It may just have a better shelf life than Little Mosque On The Prairy...

NHL Jargon Of The Day: Dad made me put this one in - he's really taken to this game. But he loved how the commentators described how a certain played had "...burried the loose biscuit" into the net. Those loose biscuits can be hard to burry you know...

The "We Can Still See You" Award: To the tourist who just couldn't wait 5 more minutes to relieve themselves. Here we were, bumper to bumper heading into the carpark at Sunshine, when said certain young female tourist decides she cannot hold, leaps from the car, crosses the road, plows into the snow and begins to undress (I'll save you the graphic details.) Problem is, we could still see her. The ENTIRE BUS could. But she was happy. No urine, no problem! Hey, ho eskimo, don't you eat that yellow snow! (With apologies to Frank Zappa)

Through Kids Eyes 1: It brings a smile to the face of a hardened skiier - and probably a few extra's from Braveheart as well - to hear fearless young kidlings not yet in double digits let out blood curtling shrieks and howls as they plow down the mountain. Plus one to you, kiddies...

Through Kids Eyes 2: This young kid looked uncertain, but his father persisted. "Come on, just go over the jump. It's not that big! Come on!" It wasn't big. He went over it. Silence. Then "WWOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTT! THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! HOW COOL WAS THAT!!!!!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!" Go kid, go!

Posted by 2bitHero 20:36 Archived in Canada Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Bling Banff

We run this ski style, yo! (With respect to Jay-Z)

overcast -7 °C

So here we are, blingin' it up in Banff. (That's the first and last time I'm going to use the 'bling' word on my blog. Sadly overrated and overused in today's popular culture. Seriously, everyone in marketing and advertising should receive new thesaurus's every Christmas. Hell, I don't even know if I spelt that right, but you get the picture...)

Anyways. Banff is pretty, but a little bit further out from the ski slopes than one would imagine, and certainly not the ski in/ski out luxury we lucked out with at Whistler. Sunshine is the closest slope (thats on tomorrow's agenda) at 20 odd minutes by bus. There's also Norquay and Lake Louise which we are hoping to get to as well. The feel of the whole village is a bit more rough around the edges, again compared to Whistler. There's certainly none of the corporate shine that permeates the former. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I dunno. I think it's just a THING.

We also have new skis to try out - this season's Head's. Time will tell how they fare us but if the decals are anything to go by, we are in for a bit of a rush.

The Colonial Invasion continues to be in effect on Canadian ski fields. Except, instead of a mass of Aussies to greet us up here, we are elbow deep in British tourists, their cute little accents wafting around everywhere. I just grin, look them dead in the eye and say "WE ARE KICKING YOUR SORRY ASS IN THE CRICKET!"

I'm still feeling warm and fuzzy about last night's hockey game. (Did I mention how much fun it was?!) The fires that spurted out around the place when the Flames scored helped with that...they were searing hot, even from a distance. And that first glimpse of the rink...it was almost like that first glimpse of the footy ground on match day...

But these Canadians...they're very philosophical about their sport in some respects. Oh sure, it's rowdy and the beers are flowing freely during the game, but afterwards, it's just so...chatty and organised. There are none of the near brawls which add so much colour to our post-game spectator regime at the G or the Dome. You want an example? OK how's this. A youngish student-type was sitting next to us at the game, and was trying to explain to his similarly youngish student mate why the Penguins (NHL team) need a new arena.

Student B: So...why do they need a new arena?
Student A: Because they've got the oldest one in the league...
Student B: ...and it's how old?
Student A: 45 years or so.
Student B: Dude, my house is older than that and I don't need to move!
Student A: Yeah, but...Ok Ok. Think about it in terms of Databases. Would you pay 30 grand to re-tweak your old cold, patch it up and try and get it to work again? Or would you pay 50 and get something brand new. Quicker. Better. Easier Access?

See? Very philosophical. :P

While we are on the subject of philosophy, someone needs to tell the hockey league that they don't have to jump on the massive US/cheerleader bandwagon which spins out of control in football and basketball (and off field at lacrosse...) They have tried, oh how they've tried. And the result? A handful of what you would consider "hot ladies" skating out in tight black pants and tops to...scrape the excess ice away from the rink with a shovel. Sorry. It just don't work. They don't even take the ice away from the areas it really needs it! Honestly...

And on the subject of hotties (I can make a segway out of anything, dear reader, just watch me), lets talk customer service. We have had some wonderful experiences with the locals during this trip. Today's bus driver/Greyhound service from Calgary to Banff wasn't one of them. Let's set aside the fact we arrived on the slopes an hour or so late (a fact he continued to put down as having to wait for other connections). But the on ground staff had no idea. They were wandering around with dazed smirks on their faces that made them look like they'd taken a particularly high concentration of Zoloft before breakfast. They didn't know which gate to leave from. Or how many people were on board. Or who these people were. And whether the people from the connections from the other services had arrived and got on. And whether the luggage was present and correct. Enter Mr Bus Driver Who Wasn't Hugged Enough As A Boy. He demanded from the passengers - in a manner of a school teacher berating a class for uncompleted homework - whether anyone had got on while he wasn't on the bus. Like we had been keeping track. He then proceeded to tell us that HIS bus was much nicer than a Greyhound service, was not a Greyhound bus and as such, he would kick off anyone he found damaging it. I almost expected him to ask us to write lines a thousand times. Look, maybe he was just doing his job/he'd hard a hard and tiring day/was as frustrated as we were at the delays. Or maybe he just wasn't getting any. Either way, no brownie points were awarded to him.

But lets move onto happier things!

Acronym Of The Day: Banff. And you thought it was just a ski town. No, it actually stands for "Be Aware. Nothing For Free". Hey, all these little shops are just a tourist trap waiting to happen. Captain Cook's navigator would be hard pressed to find a safe path through some of the locales here...

Best Pre-Slope Warm Up:The stairs at Inns of Banff. Seriously, the place is built into the side of the mountain and twists like a maze. So you run up here, turn there, move across over by the door, up the ramp, twist past the corner...They give you a MAP to get to your room it's that bad/good/interesting. I was tempted to ask for a sherpa and compass, but they were so nice at the desk...

Dr Who Moment Of The Day:So we're passing by Cranmore (about 25 clicks outside of Banff), with national park on both sides and in the shadows of the Three Sisters mountain face...and there, surrounded by fresh snow, is a single, blue telephone box. Totally separate from civilisation. I can hear the Daleks coming from here...

Favoured Mode of Transport On Mountain: Trucks. Big ones. Dodge. Chevy. They're all here. You can quickly tell the locals from the out of towners - they're the ones struggling along in small Suzukis/Hondas etc. Not a hybrid Toyota Prius to be found. Speaking of petrol...

Canadian Petrol Price Watch: 90.9 cents a litre self serve. Sorry guys, I don't think I can bring home liquid gold for all of you. Apparently they frown on liquids in planes these days.

TV Show I'm Betting Won't Last Long: Marketed as "Small town Canada with a little muslim twist", Little Mosque on the Prairie is going to be one to watch...maybe...

The "I Didn't See That One Coming In My Stars" Award: Mine. Scorpio. Apparently we November-December babies are "fluffy"...not to mention powerful, in charge of sex and money etc etc. I kinda tuned out when they kicked off our description with fluffy. Fluffy? I mean, is it gasbagging like a politician kind of fluff? Or is it the kind of fluff you put inside Whinnie The Pooh? This could ruin my year. How can I make resolutions with guidelines like this?!?! Speaking of which...

Problem Of The Day: Just what exactly am I going to do for New Years Eve tomorrow night. Gone are the days of playing Trivia Pursuit with Dad until midnight and then snuggling up among the blankets. (Plus, we don't have a copy of the game.) And I sure as hell am not going to just sit in the hotel bar and drink with the old British tourists. Currently winning in the race for Plan A is to follow the hockey (Flames v Oilers) and Sunday Night Football (NFL) around the various free entry bars. Then, find cheap bar/club entry and actually MEET people. Meh, time will tell.

Happy New Years Eve to you all back home in Oz! Congratulations on surviving another year - plus one to you! Have a drink for me, and may you welcome the year 2 Double Oh 7 in with style!

Posted by 2bitHero 19:11 Archived in Canada Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Bound For Banff

T minus three and three quarter hours until final skiing

semi-overcast

Before I forget - Shaumus, we saw live footage of/read stories about Jerry Potts andd Jerry Potts Junior at the museum yesterday. Dad thought that'd set off a few memories.

Yes, its 9.40am here in Calgary and we are killing time before our 1.15pm bus up to Banff.

But enough about that, let us talk hockey! We had an absolute blast! Pucks, gloves, sticks, ice, music, cheering fas, a Flames victory, last second goals, minor controversy. The works! Final score, Calgary Flames 6 v LA Kings 4. Yes, I love this game. I could give you a real blow by blow...but that would prevent the other tourists here using the computer as I babhled on. Plus, there are already match reports all over the internet - try nhl.com for starters if you are keen.
(pictures I took from the rafters can be found at http://davevscanada.blogspot.com)

And here's something small to make you smile...

Common Confusion Of The Day:Poor Dad, he gets so confused sometimes. Like yesterday, when he mixed up the 'Hooters' chain of restruants with Canada's favourite coffee and doughnut house, 'Tim Hortons'. He also managed to conufse Queen and Cold Chisel at the hockey last night, but you know, he's still just getting his head around Powderfinger...

Posted by 2bitHero 08:33 Archived in Canada Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Keep Walking...

Why Johnny became our motto today...

sunny -3 °C

We pounded the city pavement today, saw much, and ate little. We saw Bankers Hall, Calgary Tower (though didn't make the trip to the top. Meh, seen one skyline....), the historical architecture and monuments along Stephen Avenue Walk and finally Glenbow Museum. The Museum was, without a doubt, one of the best touristy things we've done on this trip. We spent a good couple of hours in their exhibition on the Blackfoot tribe of native Indians in Alberta. Similar to our Aboriginal tribes back home, it's a wonderfully rich culture based around stories and familial values. They also have a meaning or a use behind everything. Everything.

It is also worth noting that we will NEVER have a similar exhibition in Australia, at least not in the forseeable future. The exhibit was openly (be it implicit or explicit) critical of the role the Government has played in destryoing their culture, taking away their land, ruining their tribes with alcohol during the fur pelt trade of the 1800s and abusing their children in residential schools. The works. All stuff that has happened to our original population too, except instead we keep hot shoe shuffling around the idea of a formal apology, while throwing around labels such as the "white arm band/black blindfold" view of history. When you get down to it, it's really quite sad. Anyway, my two cents. No, I don't have a solution, but if anything else this exhibit proved that you CAN display a meaningful, imaginative and true history of a particular culture whilst being political. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

We also toured around their display on a history of military violence (I'll check with Dad later on the official name of the exhibit). Bekky, Twig, Somo, Steve, Scott et al; this is something you have to check out if you ever come here. Top notch, but it reinforces how war is hell.

There's an element to Calgary that I haven't mentioned yet, which makes it stand out a little from the other cities we've spent some time in this trip; sirens. We have heard more police/ambulance/fire sirens in the past two days than certainly, in my last 12 months combined. Not that I feel particularly at risk of crime/injury/fire, but, you know, I notice these things.

The other thing we achieved today? Our final lot of gift shopping got done. Not unexpectedly, we are running out of room, and are set to return with more than we left with. (A million and one people are now yelling 'Told You So!' at their screens. I know, I can see you all!)

Hot Winter Website Idea: "All in the name of glove" says the National Post, who are (again) running their 'National Mitten Registry.' Lost a mitten or glove? It could well turn up here. Find a lonely looking mitten on a random street corner? Don't just nick it for the cat to play with - there is a depressed, mittenless set of fingers out there waiting to find a warmer home....

Another Canadian "It's All Relative" Moment: With thanks to one of the myriad of weather channels they have on free to air TV over here. The esteemed meterologist suggested that it was going to be nice and mild at MINUS TWO DEGREES. Spare a thought for poor Inaquit in the eastern arctic area of Canada. They were expecting a top of -24, but the windchill was set to push that into the -40s...Yes, people do live there. No, they never have any problems with snakes.

Clan Name Of The Day: Courtesy of the Glenbow Museum. The Kainai Clan had a sub 'group' known as "Many Tumours" which was also known as "Having Friendly Verbal Rivalry". I don't know where the link is for this one.

Great Christmas Ads, Volume 731: Points to the Irish pub in downtown Calgary which had erected a massive sign saying "Looking for that perfect gift? Get one of our gift cards - it's easier to wrap than a keg." Points also go to the promoters of 'The Devil Wears Prada' DVD, which suggested that the viewer "...get her the gift she'll like more than a microwave."

Sporting Tip Of The Day: A pat on the back goes to the NFL expert (if we can call him that) in today's National Post, who suggested we pick Cleveland over Houston in Sunday's match...because Cleveland has the better downtown architecture. Now THAT's insight.

Bill I'm Glad I'm Not Paying Off: England's World War 2 loan repayments to Canada and the US. Today was their final 22.7 million dollar payment to the Canadian government, 61 years after the second great war ended. It also made its final 84 million dollar payment to the US today. And they "WON" the war. See kiddies, War. Is. Hell.

Tonight we go to the hockey, which I am mega-pumped about. And then tomorrow, we head to Banff for 4.5 days of skiing. Then, homeward bound, dear reader!

I have uploaded a few more pics on my pictorial blog --> http://davevscanada.blogspot.com

Posted by 2bitHero 15:21 Archived in Canada Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

A City Of Mud

But mud can be beautiful too...right?!

sunny -3 °C

Calgary is a city of mud. The snow here falls and then just sits there, as cars, feet and the sun beat down (yep, -9 degrees and sunny today) upon it for hours on end. The final result is something akin to the gutters outside classical Saloons portrayed in very early spaghetti-Westerns. It's not overly ugly or annoying. It just IS. Just thought I'd bring that up.

We went and saw what Dad knew as 'CalU' today, but what is now known as U of C...namely, the University of Calgary. It's plenty big, with buildings covered in snow and ice everywhere. Fair to say we got lost pretty quick, especially given that there was no one around to guide us (everyone's off on Chrissy hols). But we DID find the Education and Drama departments, so we have some nice photos of Dad's old stomping grounds. (To be posted soonish)

The public transport here is also worth a mention. It's a cross between our train and tram system and a touch of Sydney's limited monorail. It runs straight through the city centre to various points of interest around the place. Its kinda unique experience to see this thing twice the size of a bus, styled like a major locomotive (with as many carriages) barrelling towards you in the middle of the city street. Good thing is, it's relatively simple and it works, so plus one to you Calgary.

Interesting Calgary facts - it's the most expensive place to buy real estate in North America; it is the fastest growing province in Canada, and it is the only province WITH NO DEBT (to the point where it gave every man, woman and child $400 last year). It is also home turf for a gazillion major corporations. So, now you know.

Oh and as a complete aside, consider this. 2006 was the deadliest year on record for journalists, with 55 killed across the last 12 months, 32 in Iraq alone. Great industry I picked to be involved in. There are some interesting articles about it here and here.

Posted by 2bitHero 12:55 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

More Photos

Still catching up on Whistler memories...

More photos I found just after uploading that last lot. PLEASE be sure to scroll down and actually read the update I toiled over for you all :P!

These date back to Whistler, but I'm just catching up/got a reliable connection/finally got organised now.

Enjoy.

"Just the two of us" (sings). Here we are, bottom of Whistler mountain. Notice the look of relief in our eyes...
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A lovely little wooded run named 'Marmot' on Blackcomb.
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Thumbs up all around. The top of the Jersey Milk run at Blackcomb.
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And wouldn't you know it, I have run out of my upload allowence for this site for photos! Arrgh! Time to implement plan B!

Photos can be found at another website I set up here: http://davevscanada.blogspot.com

Posted by 2bitHero 16:23 Archived in Canada Tagged photography Comments (1)

Carvin' Up Calgary

Oh sweet fast internet, I thought I'd lost you...

snow -5 °C

Whoa!

Okay, so bear with me here, this is going to be a big one. Much to fill you in on, pictures to share with you, experiences to elaborate on etc etc.

First things first, Noel's Adventures have now been almost fully updated at Adventures of a Man and His Hat (my non travel blog for those not in the know), which can be found here: http://daveandhishat.blogspot.com

So we are now in Calgary on the final leg of our journey. Its how I would imagine a cold Texas to look like. (It IS the rodeo centre of Canada). It is also -5 degrees, and snowing. Different snow too. All granular, like salt, or sugar. You couldn't make a snowball out of it. We're here until the 30th before we hit the slopes near Banff, so Dad can give me the tour of what was home some 33 years ago. 'Everything's changed' he keeps muttering...

I hope your Christmasses finished up well! It was different for us this year, but no less enjoyable. Once we arose from our sensory deprevation chamber (what the basement spare bedroom has been dubbed at Warkworth...) it was go go go! Lights, food, cameras, toys, giggles, laughs, alcohol and away it went! We got our white Christmas eventually (late Xmas Night/Boxing Day), ate a real cooked turkey (thanks again Bill and Jane for the hospitality), tasted the wickedest baked brie dish in existence, watched football (I could live this life) and had pancakes with real locally produced maple syrup. We now have full stomachs, and probably never need to eat again - I think I now know how beers go through hibernation. But it was oh so worth it... And then before you know it, your on the train again and zooming across the country side.

There are some unique Christmas conditions Canada seems to revel in at Christmas time - including their facsination with JUNIOR world hockey on TV (we're talking 15-16 year olds here folks), which Canada has won twice. (As an aside, Canada's telecommunications company's also share with ours a desire to sell us their product using animals. What. Is. With. That. Are we going to wake up one day and go "Hmmm. That Beaver seems like he is getting a lot of use out of that new motorola. Maybe I should follow his lead..." ?!?!?!?!?!).

But no, its post-christmas where the traditions really kick in, most importantly Boxing WEEK (we Australians are so weak, only lasting a day) and top of the list, REGIFTING. It's not that the concept is completely alien to me, more so that it reaches epic proportions to rival that of a national sport! "Oh, I'll just regift that..." or "If you don't like it, feel free to regift it" are common phrases just bandied about. Amazing. So myself, and two Ottawa students we shared our train ride to Toronto with have decided we should go the whole hog and have RE-CHRISTMAS! Yes, lets let everyone take stock of their supposed crap gifts for a month after December 25, and then just CUT SICK and barter, swap, give, flog, and generally throw away our unwanted treasures. Who's with me? I'm pretty sure I can get Hallmark on the bandwagon for this one...

We also had the whistle-stop tour of Toronto thanks to Greer and David; saw the tower, past the Air Canada centre, visited the arty/bohemian end of town, visited the Bovine Sex Club. You know, the usual places to go. (For further explanation, on BSC, see below. :D Thanks David, Greer and Darryl!)

Seen a few other interesting things. Got my first real glimpse at one of Canada's famous 'Great Lakes', namely, Lake Ontario. Yes, it's quite great in its size. Very large. You turn the corner and suddenly its as if you are looking at the ocean.

You know, I could have sworn there was more to fill you in on. There probably is. I'll check my journal and update it all again tomorrow.

Now, onto the fly-on-the-wall observations that even Borat would appreciate.

The 'We Would Have/Should Have Been There' Award: Us. We missed what 90 000 others at the MCG saw on the Boxing Day tradition which is Test Match Cricket. In his final home test, Warney took 5 to be the first man to pass 700. Sure, we wouldn't give away this trip for the world, but.....

Question Of The Day: Posed by the straight-shootin' 'Macleans' magazine. In nice, large, white letters it asked "Why Do We Dress Our Daughters Like Skanks?" And then we hopped on the plane and watched Little Miss Sunshine. It all fits so perfectly...

Magazine Of The Day: Because 'Macleans' couldn't win it twice, and I thought Sean-Bad would get a kick out of this mags slogan. Its BLACKMEN: For Strong, Caring, Positive Brothers! (Don't google it. You're probably likely to wind up with some unsavoury images...)

Sports League You've Never Heard Of: AA Midget Hockey. Yup, it's big.

The 'I Can't Believe He Died When My Back Was Turned' Award:
James Brown. You don't watch the news for 48 hours or so and THAT happens. Man, was that guy talented or what? What right did he have to go dying on me when I was yet to finish hearing his full back catalogue?! RIP Godfather of Soul.

Interesting Interpretation Of The Day: Mega-popular TV show CSI loses something in translation when watched in Montreal I think. There, its known as Les Experts.

Nickname I'd Rather Wish I Hadn't Earnt: The Tummy Tickler. I mean, you go out of your way to keep a dog happy and satisfied, and this is what happens. Wait. I didn't mean it like that...

Great Names For Restraunts and Bars: In Montreal, I saw 'Thai Pot'. In Toronto we visited the 'Shanghai Cowgirl' diner, and explored the 'Bovine Sex Club', one of the city's finest rock n roll venues which has been going strong for 16 years. A fair effort. (Thanks for the tees, Darryl!)

Call Of The Day: After being told quite firmly that Santa had come and delivered goodies in stockings to the household, Dad uttered the immortal words 'Everything looks good in stockings...'

Interview Of The Day: At the sidelines of the Miami Dolphins v NY Jets NFL game, a rather ernest boundary rider had tracked down Venus and Serena Williams and was trying in vain to link their tennis prowess to football. It wasn't going well. Then she came up with this gem: "You two have had a few injuries of recent times, but these guys on the field certainly put their bodies through a lot. Can you even imagine what its like to have ten 300 pound defenders pounding you?" Pause. Silence. Uh, yeah, next question?

Oh dear, this blog has taken an interesting turn. Let's clean it up with some piccies!

First off, Whistler. Yes, this is Whistler PEAK. Yes it really was that close...
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...and Daniel, this is how soft the snow was.
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This is one of the black runs at Mont Gabriel in the Laurentians. I think it might be double black without the snow...
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Bison. Their cute and taste nice. This the before shot (and I think you know what's coming...)
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...and this is the after shot, and the cleanest one I could find on my camera. SELF CENSORSHIP!
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Moving on to something clean and wholesome - Beer Openers! Historical artifacts at the Church-Key Brewery in Campbelford, Ontario.
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The obligatory family shot. Dad and I at Haleys Falls, Ontario, Christmas Eve. I don't care that the thing is man made, it flows fast!
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And self portrait, Christmas Day, living it up in the finest red Mountie tradition.
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We got our white Christmas too! Sure, it wasn't 200 odd centimetres at Banff, but it'll do. :)
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Posted by 2bitHero 15:01 Archived in Canada Tagged postcards Comments (0)

A Very Warkworthy Christmas

Happy happys all!

overcast 7 °C

Merry (Beary!) Christmas from Warkworth (pronounced WALK-Worth)! I hope you all had/are having an amazing time, full of festive cheer, good beer etc etc etc
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So yes, we're 16 hours behind you folk in Australia but hey, Christmas finally rolled around up here. And no, despite all our bragging, we don't have the white Christmas we expected/demanded/were promised. We hear through the grapevine that Buller and Hotham got snow. It's just not fair...who would have thought we could have stayed in Victoria for snow in December! But it is cold up here, so I guess that's something.

I have a confession to make. (Parents/Carers of young children are advised not to let them proceed reading beyond this point.) I feel so corrupt. I had to play Santa last night. It was FORCED upon me. So I did my duty, ate the cookie, drank the milk and left tell tale crumbs behind. I swore I could never look the two young kids here in the eye again. I had CHEATED them. Mind you, when the were overjoyed Santa had come "and drunk all our milk and eaten our cookie!", my trepidation was somewhat erased. It's different to see Christmas again through the eyes of kids. The verve at which they attack any family/food/gift/idea is refreshing, and every moment is surrounded with a flurry of "wows" and a disbeliving "thats mine!". Sure, gifts aren't everything at Christmas, but the reactions certainly are.

Anyways, enough philosophising about Christmas, we get enough of that in newspaper editorials. There are a number of things I can cross off my "things to do in Canada" list. I have seen racoons (which are treated with the desdain and annoyance Dad usually reserves for the wombats who tear up the vineyard). I have seen bison (all 2000 kilos), and then eaten bison (not the same one). It's not nearly as 'gamey' as you might think. I have seen the biggest, blackest squirrel in history, and even a woodpecker. (What can I say? Nature entertains me.) I have also been taught the rules of the game which keeps sweaty grown men in its thrall for weeks on end...NFL. (Though why its called football, when there is generally an absence of foot near ball still escapes me).

I have also drunk local wine, though am yet to try Canada's famous ice wine. (Given the 'warm' conditions they are having here, they reckon this years ice wine crop is ruined.) I have drunk local beer - smoked lager, and also a cranberry and maple syrup flavoured variety. Speaking of syrup, I had local Warkworth produced syrup for breakfast. Pure, is the best word I can use.

And now I have to unbutton my belt bucklet and prepare for more food!

More photos to come (when I'm not on a 56k connection. Sorry! I WILL get there by Calgary!). But to tide you over; here's a picture of the grapes the poor Canadians are tring to grow in Ontario...
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Festive greetings all!

Posted by 2bitHero 08:27 Archived in Canada Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Snow Snobbery

My White Stuff Is Better Than Your White Stuff!

overcast 0 °C

I can`t help it. Whistler has spoiled me big time. The snow here in Mont Gabriel is not REAL snow. Its fake, immitation, made made white coloured ice, with a base of about 2 cm at most. Oh sure, they try to dress it up by opening the ski lift and having a handful of families `ski` on it, but WE know the truth...
(In all reality, Baw Baw is bigger and has seen better falls WITHOUT the French. So there. And HOTHAM is expecting snow on Christmas Day. SO THERE!)

Ergo, today was a day filled with not much. We walked around, spoke to the ski patrol, took many a photo of Noel having a grand old time (yes, the photos are coming, in two days when I have access to a computer with USB) and then spent a leisurely afternoon reading. I still can`t work out what my highlight was; finding out where maple syrup comes from and how itis created, or hearing Shakira`s song ``These Hips Don`t Lie`` blaring from the speakers on top of the one hill they did open for their weekend influx of traffic. Yes Shakira, your hips certainly wouldn`t lie if you fell and broke them on the hard compact ice of Mont Gabriel.

And more good news - we finally secured tickets to the Calgary Flames v LA Kings game on December 29 so all is right in the world.

Tomorrow, we bus it back to Montreal, and then train it to Bellville to be picked up by our family friends for Christmas. Expect updates after that.

Buon Weekend!

Posted by 2bitHero 12:57 Archived in Canada Tagged photography Comments (1)

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