Thursday, 29 May 2014

The endless conveyor belt of travel

We're back in sunny Vancouver!  Hannah cleverly managed to arrange a day of meetings in Calgary so it was daddy and baby travelling on their own.  It went reasonably well - after three airline G&Ts, travelling with a baby is just like travelling without one! - and I made sure to tire him out before we got on board.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Make love and war

Hannah was working all day on Tuesday so I needed somewhere to take the young boy where he could run around and let of steam, somewhere safe where he couldn't do much damage.  So I took him to a warehouse full of guns and explosives!

The Military Museums of Calgary hosts seven different sub-museums, from a gallery about the Princess Patricias (light infantry) to the Alberta Navy Museum, where we found the crest of the submarine that my dad sold to the Canadians in 1965.

Being an eminently sensible nation, most of Canada's military forays involve peace-keeping for the UN.  The "Princess Pats" also spend a lot of WW2 in Britain before heading out and liberating Sicily.  There were plenty of nice dioramas of people on horseback, specifically Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), with special effects like flashes and explosions.

Pete loved it all of course, being the little warrior he is, and has a new trick of blowing me a kiss and then running off.  So sweet, if you're not his parents.  Anyway, it looks like a shining career in the military beckons, but probably not as a peace keeper...

Big guns.

A spy in the trenches.

This is how I'll expect Pete's cot to look every morning from now on.

Canadians: keeping the peace.

Pete unleashes hell.

$1.30 a day?  More than I make.

This was the "display" that kept Pete entertained for the longest.

But which service to join?

Let's hope so.

The first thing issued to every Canadian sailor.

The wheels on the tank go round and round...

Monday, 26 May 2014

Stampeding into Calgary

It was goodbye to the mountains this morning and hello to the high-rise canyons of Calgary.  One of Hannah's colleagues described Vancouver as a "lifestyle" city and Calgary as a "business" city, which might be a little unfair but also fairly true; we passed Shell Place and the BP Tower after dropping Hannah off at Chevron Plaza.  So what should me and Pete get up to in the city now Hannah has insisted on returning to her first love?  The answer was obvious: go to the mall.

Most things in Calgary are connected by +15s - walkways that join almost every downtown building to every other one, the idea being that you can get around comfortably in the depths of winter, much harsher here than on our side of the Rockies.  And what better way to utilise all this indoor space than fill it with shops?

The centrepiece of this warm retail therapy is the CORE, right in the heart of dowtown, and at the top are the Devonian Gardens: a huge glass-ceilinged space full of tropical plants, fountains surrounded by barriers at perfect trippable heights for toddlers, and even a grand piano for public use.  And shops, of course.  Pete, unsurprisingly, ran around like a mad thing, constantly disappointed that daddy did not let him dive into pools and flowerbeds.

But the highlight of the day came in the evening, with a family reunion.  It turns out that my Godfather's half-sister Suzanne, who he'd never met until a few years ago, lives in Calgary!  My Godfather is the son of my Grandma's cousin, Suzanne's father, which means that Suzanne's great-grandparents are my great-great-grandparents, which I think makes her my second-cousin-once-removed.  As Hannah sagely pointed out: when you're Welsh it doesn't matter how you're family, it just matters that you're family.

After exchanging emails and photos we successfully identified each other in the lobby of our hotel and went out for a delicious Thai meal.  Most of the dinner involved untangling the family connections and working out who Suzanne had met and when.  When the surnames involved are all Price, Edwards and Davies it becomes easier to identify which farm they lived on rather than who they were.  Amazingly, things became clearer the more wine we drank.

Pete couldn't believe he was allowed to be up and eating yellow curry well past his bedtime, and we waved Suzanne goodbye after making plans to meet up again half-way between Vancouver and Calgary which just happens to be wine country.  It's wonderful to have family a little closer than the UK.  Maybe I'll apply for citizenship on the basis of this, and see how respectful the Canadian government is of Welsh genealogy...

One of the famous +15s.

A map of Canada, including the legendary giant beaver that roams the far north-east.

At the playground in the mall, where Pete picks only the most dangerous and age-inappropriate structures.

Inside the Devonian Gardens.

Happy families!

Lazy mountaineers

What's the point of coming to the Rockies unless you go up to the top of a mountain?  But no one wants to actually put in the effort of climbing one, which is why we found ourselves in Banff at the foot of Sulphur Mountain, ready to jump on a cable car and be pulled up to the 8,041ft peak.

Cable cars have never seemed the safest of things to me, and that view wasn't helped by a one-year-old running around crazily inside, but we were soon at the top where a quick trip around the gift shop calmed my nerves.  Outside, handy wooden walkways helped you wander to the best viewpoints.

The complete lack of physical effort was well worth it as we looked down onto Banff and around the 360 degree view of forests and glacial valleys.  For the fit/crazy there is a trail that you can walk from bottom to peak, and they used to give you a free trip down if you managed it.  Not any more!  Further proof that we made the right choice.

Up they go.

Our chariot awaits!

Hannah restrains a bouncy child.

Looking down on the way up.

Pete comes face-to-face with Canadian law.

This is what it's all about.

King of the mountain.

I discovered my camera's panorama mode!  I remember when you had to glue several 6x4 prints together to do this.

Hannah was the only one of us who actually did put in some physical effort today.

This is a cosmic ray measuring station at the summit.  If I stay here for long enough, will I develop superpowers?

It's a personal snow plough!  And now I want one.

Another panorama.  I like this setting.

One of very few mountain-dwellers that we saw up there, puffing himself up against the cold.

Picnic time.  Unsurprisingly, only the Brits were hardy enough to attempt this.

That's all that's holding me up?!

Did I mention that Pete rather enjoyed being in a cable car?

The view on the way back down.

I'm not sure I'd enjoy that up my gondola...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Cold shoulder

We've been congratulating ourselves on our bargain hunting this trip.  It's "shoulder season" here in the Rockies, between ski season and summer season, when hotels and restaurants run all sort of special offers to entice punters in.  Why would you visit at any other time?

We got answers to this question when we visited Lake Louise.  This is what it's supposed to look like:

And this is what it looked like today:

During ski season you can skate and sled between ice sculptures across the frozen surface.  During summer it's known as the most beautiful lake in the world.  At this time of year...well, we stood and watched it melting for a bit.

So we went to Moraine Lake, slightly higher up in the mountains and even more frozen.  Pete loved the snow, but unfortunately his parents had dressed him in sandals so the enjoyment didn't last too long.  Look, we've been living in Vancouver, which is well known to be the "soft" part of Canada.  Who knew that the weather might be different 500 miles away and 5,200ft up?

This bit of water wasn't frozen, and did look very picturesque.

As did this nice mountain.

Ok, this is a better Lake Louise pic, but still not exactly picture postcard.

"Can you self-rescue?  Do you have a plan?"  No, and no.

Here's a little bit of that nice lake colour.  Summer's coming!

Hannah sniffs out the redeeming features.

Someone's happy, but let's see if you're still smiling in July.

Family self-timed selfie.  Note my insistence on wearing a sunhat.

Pete of the Antarctic.

Moraine Lake, putting in even less effort to melt than Louise.

At least he was wearing socks with his sandals, in the British manner.

Why pay to go up in a gondola when you can sit in one without the worry of leaving the ground?

Local wildlife.  Check out the claws on that thing!

Raised by wolves.

The Rockies: not really all that big.

Know your moose.