Winter hit me full in the face when I arrived in Calgary. Toronto had been a bit cold, but walking the short distance just to the bus from the airport terminal made me acutely aware of any thin layers that I was wearing, especially on my legs as the cold seeped through my trousers very quickly.
I did some general exploring of Calgary, and visited two of the major attractions in the the city; the Calgary Tower, and the Big Rock Brewery.
The main attraction on my first day (after running a few errands) was the Calgary tower. It’s pretty nice, especially when its out of season and you can enjoy it when it’s almost empty. It’s not the tallest building in the city anymore but it still provides a great view out over the area. I spent quite a bit of time looking west towards the setting sun, it was a bit hazy, but you could still see the dark looming shapes of the mountains along the horizon. Some of them rose up above the clouds. I tried to get a shot of them which kind of came out!
I messed around with some timelapse footage as well.
For $18 it was pretty good. No glass elevator, but they had some big screens with nice drone footage that rose up sort of like it would look outside, and I like the way that the glass floor extends out from the tower giving a good 180 degrees of view around and an interesting view down.
The next day I braved the cold to head over to Big Rock Brewery.
Big Rock is Canada’s largest independently owned brewery, and distributes its beer all over Canada, with a brewery in Vancouver and a new one in Toronto. Their signature Traditional beer was probably the first alcohol I ever tasted, years ago while on holiday with my parents as a teenager, so it was pretty cool to come out to see where its made. Its been really part of the Canadian experience for me from a young age. Our tour guide, Adam, was extremely knowledgeable and took us through the brewing process step by step; from the preparing of the mostly local Alberta grains (they import some for their specialty beers), to the boiling and washing of the mash, to the huge tanks where the beer is fermented and rested before bottling.
The whole tour was very interesting, I was keen to see where the process splits from that of distilling whisky, and Adam showed us a couple of interesting side projects that we got to taste later on! I stayed for a few samples after, of which there are many to try, and they’re quite generous! They also chuck in a free glass and I picked up a couple of nice little tasting glasses too, it was very good value.
What do I think of Calgary itself?
Well it’s hard to judge a city when you turn up in the middle of a cold snap, in November, on a weekday, but my impression was certainly of a quiet place. I think if you turned up in the summer during the stampede it would be pretty fun, but the rest of the time it seems pretty quiet. NICE, but quiet. The downtown area clears out almost immediately after 5pm, and I got caught out twice looking for food after 8pm, finding very little open. It was a big change coming from Toronto, where there’s always somewhere packed to drink, and you can go for groceries at 10pm if you so wish. It’s certainly very accessible by car and the mountains are short-ish drive away, but the transit system is limited to buses, with all the fun of those, and a very small light rail network. Waiting for either one of these when the temps hit -20 is not fun!
Luckily to avoid the walks in frigid temps they have the +15 a network of paths that run throughout the city, I spent a fair bit of time wandering around these and they cover the city quite well.