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Trip Report Mini-Alberta trip

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We left SFO for Calgary at 7 p.m. On Tuesday, lucky we made our flight because the taxi was ½ hour late (and we live only 5 miles from the airport!). Uneventful flight to Calgary, picked up car no problem, stayed overnight at the Acclaim Calgary Airport – very nice airport hotel (newish – modern décor, although “inexpensive” - kind of like Target). Good bed, good shower, okay breakfast (skip the hot items, though, they aren't made fresh, and premade scrambled eggs heated in the microwave just don't do it for me).

Took a little driving tour through downtown Calgary – by the Olympic Park, the Saddledome, the CN Tower. Stopped for coffee at the Coffee House. I always like to find a local coffee shop, and this fit the bill! It was jam-packed at 10 a.m. On a Wednesday, seriously, there must have been 50 people in there. Off to Banff.

We decided today we'd head for Banff and Lake Louise, and to save the Icefields Parkway for tomorrow, which turned out to be a mistake, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had lunch in the Lounge at the Chateau Lake Louise. It was very good – not your ordinary coffee shop fare – and, of course, the views from the gigantic windows are spectacular (even if you can't see the lake because it's covered with snow).

Back to Banff. Walked around the downtown area for a couple of hours. Thought there was too much “junk” on the main drag (Banff Avenue), the next street over is definitely “nicer”, but enjoyed poking around. Went to find a hotel – looked at a couple that I nixed (depressing- narrow dark corridors, chipped sinks, desk clerks who don't loook up from what they're doing) , and ended up at the Delta Royal Canadian, which was fine, 3-1/2* (would have preferred the Rimrock if it were “in town”) - large room, decent bathroom, beds a little hard, nice staff. We would have eaten at the Bison had it just been us, but our daughter nixed it and we ended up at St. James Gate Irish Pub and it was perfect. Good food and atmosphere – the soup (Guiness, crab, asparagus, cheddar) was delicious (enough to ask for the recipe) as was the lobster risotto (lobster risotto in an Irish pub?) . Everything was good, the local beer included, except the burger which I didn't like (but I had the lobster risotto, so it didn't matter, did it?).

Got up with the intention of driving up the Icefields Parkway (Thursday morning) ending in Jasper. We had breakfast first at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery. DD and DH weren't so impressed (their waffles and pastry were "dry"), but my hot cereal was fabulous (not hot enough, but oh so good). Like I said, we should have driven this route Wednesday! Starting in Banff, it was drizzling, as we got closer to Lake Louise there were flurries, by the time we reached the Lake Louise exit, it was clear we weren't going any further – I rolled down the window to ask a Canadian Parks guy what it looked like, and he said “It's closed”, which was a good thing, because if it were open, my husband would have kept driving, which wouldn't have been a good thing! Turned around and headed for Edmonton via Calgary. Stopped in Cochrane for very good ice cream at McKay's (in business 60+ years, apparently a local institution), then just kept driving. Fortunately, no snow going this way, just some rain. Thought we'd either stop in Red Deer or keep on going to Edmonton. When we got to Red Deer, we drove around in circles (the way our GPS sent us, looking for a Starbucks with free WiFi so I could find the phone number for our Edmonton hotel). That Starbucks must be one of the ones they closed down this year! Anyway, the Edmonton hotel was able to change our reservation to include that night, so we plowed on. Got to Edmonton, checked in (Courtyard by Marriott – okay, not great – personally I think it's “tired” plus the bed is NOT a typical Marriott bed, much too hard, and there definitely was not a enough hot water, in fact, at times, there was only lukewarm water – after my shower Saturday morning, I had to jump back bed to warm up).

Dinner Thursday at the Blue Plate Diner, which we enjoyed. Local, just the right “urban” atmosphere, nice service, and different/good food. My salmon was delicious, the tandoori chicken and meatloaf were very good. Again, local beer.

Breakfast Friday at Barb and Ernie's. While we liked it, and again, LOVE eating in local places, we didn't really think it was worth a special trip (but then, I'm not sure what breakfast place is). Walked from there to Whyte Avenue (Old Strathcona).

Poked around Whyte Avenue (like Melrose Avenue for reference – some chain stores, some local boutiques, everything from low end to pretty high end, a lot of “organic clothing” type places) for a few hours, then took an interminable bus ride to West Edmonton Mall (I would have been perfectly happy to skip it, but DH and DD wanted to go). Seriously, the bus ride was close to an hour. At least we got to see some of Edmonton, including the University Area, which we liked. The Mall was exactly what I expected, which is pretty much “downscale”. I've never seen so many junk stores in my life. It's cool that they have a skating rink (DD skated) and the water park, but for shopping? Not on your life. There are about 10 stores sprinkled among 800 that I might ever go in a second time. Back downtown on the bus. In this direction, the interesting area you go through is the 124th Avenue (Street?) area, but we didn't have time to explore.

As we got closer to where we thought we were going, we asked the bus driver to tell us when to get off and he told us we were on the wrong bus! He was right! Don't know how we made that mistake! Luckily, we were right at the LRT, so we got off the bus, went two stops on the LRT and walked to Coliseum Steak and Pizza – 3 minutes late for our dinner reservation. We really enjoyed dinner – comfort food, and it was cold enough out that we wanted comfort food – I had a very tasty and perfectly cooked steak, DD and DH had baked pasta. We'd definitely return if going to another event at Rexall Place.

Walked to Rexall for the hockey game between the Oilers (boo) and the Sharks (yea). Good game, although pretty sloppy on both sides. Sharks were down 3-1 in the 3rd, tied it, went down 4-3, tied it with 1:27 to go, and won in the shootout. This was the first time we'd ever seen an overtime that was 3-on-3 (usually overtime is 4-on-4 but both teams had taken penalties) and we hated it! Lots of room to skate (which is why we love 4-on-4) but no one to pass to! And it was very odd being one of about 10 people out of 17,000 rooting for the Sharks! At the game, we met another Fodorite (planned in advance), fullofjoy, and her husband, who were sitting one section over from us. That was fun – we visited before the game, and again between periods. They're huge sports fans, as are we.

Got up Saturday morning, coffee at Second Cup (good coffee, bad pastries), then off to the airport for an uneventful flight home (uneventful and FAST – we arrived a full ½ hour early).

We had a great time, and would definitely like to return to the Rockies in the summer. We were surprised by the “urban-ness” of Edmonton – somehow we had the idea it was much smaller than it is. I cannot believe how many coffee shops there are in all the places we visited.

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