Calgary is Calling
Although it’s now famously home to Olympic skaters, skiers, a few tobogganists and the occasional ice-hockey practitioner, prior to hosting the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Calgary was a prairie city dependent on its oil and gas industries, with little to attract visitors. However, the attention the Games earned Calgary helped it grow into a cultural hot spot, choc-full of fashion-forward boutiques, theatres and galleries. Plus, its country music has earned it the title of The Nashville Of The North. Try not to stare – in Calgary the cowboy hat is a normal part of everyday millinery. The Canadians represent just a quarter of Calgary’s population, which accounts for the fabulous multi-ethnic range of eating and shopping to be enjoyed.
This week the city hosts WordFest – 65 events across Calgary, Banff and the Bow Valley – featuring over 70 writers from across Canada and around the world and offering a wealth of entertainment.
The C-train will be your friend around Calgary, offering quick and easy transport around most of the key spots. Hop on and work up an appetite for lunch wandering the lush surrounds of Prince’s Island Park, sitting on the Bow River as it meanders from the supine Canadian Rockies. Stroll off the island across one of the footbridges towards Grand Avenue Café in Eau Claire and refuel on their top-notch salads and sandwiches.
Once refreshed, you’ll find the Core Shopping Centre around the corner on 7th Avenue, home to more luxe brands than you can shake a Swarovski-encrusted stick at. However, at this time of year stay outdoors and check out the independent boutiques on 7th and 17th Avenues. Both streets bustle with shoppers and buskers during the day, with 17th’s Tomkins Park hosting the Live Music Series and Uptown Market every Saturday until 9pm. Come sundown the bars and clubs on both streets spark into life and Laurier Lounge on 7th is a great starting point for Martinis and fondue before heading off to a theatre or one of the many places where hair can be let down and the drinks quaffed.
While you’re there…
On 17th Avenue you’ll find shoppers, carrying Alexander McQueen, Nicole Miller and Diane von Furstenberg among others. Over on 7th Avenue is the one-off boutique Shisomiso, which promotes the work of local designers and artists.
The Muse Restaurant and Lounge’s aim is to avoid food cliché or repetition of old ideas. Their tasting menu changes depending on the availability of fresh, seasonal ingredients and will certainly not disappoint.
Fly like an eagle
Even in the summer the main host venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics, Canada Olympic Park, is open to visitors. It features the Skyline, which allows you to enjoy the sensation of flying off the 90m tower like the ski-jumpers, without the need to concern yourself with snow, skis or a safe and dignified landing.
Where to stay
Fairmont (+1 800 257 7544, www.fairmont.com/palliser)
A go-to spot for A-listers more concerned about comfort than cost. If you can prise yourself from your luxe room wander down to the indoor pool or spa and later enjoy cocktails and live jazz in The Oak Room, or fine dining by the open fire in Rimrock. The trouble will be leaving to see the rest of Calgary.
Canada’s Best Value Inn (+1 403 289 6651, www.cbvicalgary.com)
As the saying goes, “It does what is says on the tin” – it’s clean, comfortable and will leave you with plenty of change for shopping in town. It’s also right across the road from the McMahon Stadium, home to the local football and baseball teams, which might mean you bump into the odd hunky athlete now and then.
Twin Gables (+1 866 271 7754, www.twingables.ca)
Twin Gables might be a B&B but it’s the only five-star B&B in town. Classic period features, Tiffany lamps and the stand-alone claw-foot bath tubs combine to give an air of a bygone era. Only the large HD telly in your room will remind you it’s 2011. Fine dining and shopping on trendy 12th Avenue are right around the corner.
Spotted: The Duchess of Cambridge popped in last month to kick-off the Calgary Stampede.