Our 16th wedding anniversary this weekend was celebrated with a night away to Banff - without children. Anyone with kids will appreciate the enormity of organising this. I love my kids to bits, but honestly? Thank God for friends who will take them (and the dogs, bargain!) for a night. Friends like this are my heros!
Number One - we had a pub lunch - with alcohol - and sat like real grown-ups, in the sunshine on the patio just chatting about things we wanted to chat about.
Number Two - We wandered into stores that we wanted to go into, and stayed there as long as we wanted to. We booked into the hotel and swam in the pool and relaxed in the hot-tub without having to dive-bomb our children, tickle or rescue them, or struggle back into clothes whilst still wet and brushing hair that has not been conditioned.
Number Three - we took our bicycles with us and went for a ride around the back streets of Banff and up a hill (with no-one complaining) to the other side of the Bow Falls - all the while chatting and looking at things that we wanted to look at (which from my point of view is ogling all those f-off houses that always leave me intrigued as to who can really afford them, and how much they pay the cleaner).
Number Four - oh, you get the idea. No kids around is just sometimes heaven.
Rather than post photos of mountains and lakes (again) - I mean that is soooo old hat - or bore you rigid with just how lovely the couple of days away were for two still-gooey-eyed-old-marrieds, here a few things that caught my eye.
For the uninitiated, the route along Highway 1 travelling west from Calgary towards the Rockies is a journey of pent-up and rising excitement. Those mountains in the distance begin to loom larger and larger and suddenly your senses are assaulted by the magnitude of rock and a slow realisation of just how small and insignificant you are. Whilst quietly whispering "wow" far too frequently. And it doesn't get old.
However, before you roll away on a romantic, snow-capped dreamcloud, let me interrupt your thoughts with a photograph of a factory. This is the Lafarge cement plant which greets you at the gateway to the Rockies - it literally brings your daydreams skidding to an abrupt halt as you stare at this eyesore plonked into the middle of the surrounding beauty. And no matter how they present the plant in the glossy brochure, it simply doesn't fit here. But hey, next time you need some cement, try to imagine it's humble roots.
Canmore is the first town you come to - a town literally nestled in, under and dominated by huge mountains. It's a cute, more artsy and slightly less touristy centre than Banff - it's more famous neighbour - and Canmore has expanded hugely in the past ten years or so (because it is just outside the National Park, hence planning restrictions are not so stringent as Banff, which has barely changed or expanded at all in the past few decades).
The town council helpfully added signage to point you in the right direction.
Some artwork on a wall - not entirely sure why the pigs might fly here, but it looks better than grey concrete blocks.
I liked this dovecote. No inhabitants spied, sadly, which begs the question would doves even visit or survive in Alberta anyway? I trust some other flying fellas take refuge and make use of this charming abode...
Let sleeping ducks lie ...
This made me smile. Not the nuptials, per se, but the footwear. Part of me thinks that if you've gone to the bother of doing the whole white dress and tuxedo routine, then at least finish it off with some matching footwear. On the other hand, what's wrong with opting for comfort and having some Converse on your wedding day?
"Take a left just up here mate". Chief Navigator here was quite comfortable on the lap of the guy in the passenger seat, hanging out of the window and generally making himself at home. But hold on one dog-gone minute, that steering wheel is on the right hand side of the truck and that guy is actually the driver. "I said LEFT"
Finally, in our haste to get back home by Saturday afternoon, we were belatedly reminded that this this a holiday weekend in Canada (Labour Day) and in fact every other bugger was headed in the other direction going to the Banff National Park. The queues of traffic at the gateway were long. Every man and his dog, trailer, truck, RV and canoe was off to enjoy the final days of summer weather. No doubt the hotels, shops and restaurants were geared up to welcome the hordes on what is most likely the last really busy weekend before Christmas. We got out just in time!