Our last night in Hamilton consisted of removing unnecessary clothing from my pre-packed bags with the help of Rhiannon. This was the first step towards achieving the goal of leaving most of my clothes in Canada, which is the only way I am going to fit all my luggage into the long-haul allowance. We delivered an IKEA bag full of clothes to our friend who conveniently was working in a nearby bar, where we stayed for a drink with our Australian friend Elly, who we would have to say goodbye to that night for a good few years. We helped Brandon clear his fridge of random food items and then set to sleep for a few hours.
The taxi arrived at 4am, because the bus and taxi would take 2 hours and we needed to prepare for our 8am flight to Calgary. Bleary eyed and grumpy, Brandon, Lauren, Rhiannon and I bundled ourselves together and headed to the airport, where we finally managed to indulge on hash browns and iced tea. The four-hour flight was meant to be the time to catch up on sleep, but Rhiannon and I both couldn’t resist the inflight entertainment of “How to be single” and “Deadpool”. In the first film, the main character travels to the Grand Canyon on her own to make the most of her independence and singular relationship status, which spoke to me on a very personal level considering my trip just a few months earlier.
On arrival we were greeted by airport workers adorned with cowboy hats and boots, a large stuffed bear, and luggage carriages decorated with canoes, moose and other Canadian-themed objects: a very surreal experience for us, the jetlagged and exhausted travellers. This was “real Canada”.
We taxied to our AirBnB, a basement apartment that very much superseded expectations with an Apple TV and two very comfortable double beds. Forcing ourselves to stay awake despite the lack of sleep and two-hour time difference, we bused into town to drink coffee and eat banana bread at a café called Higher Ground. This had received really good reviews on Yelp and I was very impressed by their array of sweets and speciality coffees. On the way we crossed a bridge that resembled a large finger trap (see below).
Calgary surprised us with it’s different Albertan liquor laws to Ontario: all liquor stores were privatised so there were no LCBOs. That night we tried our part at line dancing in a recommended club called Cowboys, where we bumped into a famous volleyball player from McMaster. Once again, the security staff were wearing cowboy attire which was almost comedic. We grabbed late night food at Denny’s and attempted to walk home, surprised by the cold we hopped in a taxi to our much-anticipated beds.
The next day, feeling lazy but rested, we travelled to Peter’s Drive-In, a famous burger and milkshake joint a short bus journey away. My double cheese burger and thick, mocha milkshake were heavenly and seemingly solved all my problems as we ate in the sun on a picnic bench by the side of the road. After a trip to the central mall, we found an alfresco bar that served chilled wine in the sun, accommodating our favourite group activity of people watching. That night we somewhat crashed after forcing down a wonderful, but excessive, stir-fry cooked by our resident chef Brandon, and we retired to films in bed and “serious chills”.
To get it out the way, we travelled for an hour on buses back to Calgary airport in order to hire our car with Thrifty/Dollar. Even though we were able to book a mini-van online, we were told we were too young to at the desk (we had to be 25), which was worrying at first, but fortunately meant we were upgraded to a Dodge SUV for the same price. This saved us around $300.
We parked in Calgary town centre and walked to a place where we could hire bikes. The place also offered peddle-cars which were very hard to resist, but very expensive. The day was sunny and our cycle around the town was very pleasant. I indulged in the most expensive egg-mayonnaise sandwich I have ever had, which urges me to warn anyone reading this who is planning a trip to Calgary to avoid the cafes on the cycle trail by the river. The others afterwards found a Vietnamese take out with very reasonable prices, which proved to be a considerably better option.
We cycled across a beautiful bridge to another island by the lake (the name escapes me) and the others enjoyed their lunches while I worked on my sunburn. This was judged as an appropriate time for a sneaky photoshoot, which ended up being the first of many throughout the next few weeks.
A little smelly and spattered with bike oil, we visited a rooftop patio that was advertised in a bike route pamphlet called National on 8, which had a restaurant, bar and games such as beanbag toss and table tennis. Somewhat reluctantly, due to incredible fish tacos and attractive barmen, we returned as the sun began to set to the car to begin our travels to Kananaskis.