Western Canada and Our Return to the Northwest US - Summer 2017

For us, the lure of Western Canada was multifaceted.

  • First, the Canadian Rockies called us! Calgary offered a close approach to the National Parks of Banff and Jasper.
  • Second, while in Mazatlan, last spring, we had met friends thatlive near Calgary and we looked forward to a meetup with them.
  • Third, Vancouver always scores high in livability surveys, and we wanted to see for ourselves.
  • Fourth, we had learned that Canada has taken a different approach to immigration from the USA, focused on multiculturalism. The result is that the Canadian population is highly diverse, with a large segment being people from Asian countries. We wanted to see how this worked in practice.

We found that Calgary is an intriguing melange of urban sophistication and old west cow town with multicultural influences. In some ways it seemed very American and in other ways not so much. The city center, with a population of 1.24 million, is a vibrant place for people to live and work, with many new apartments,


. . . many historic buildings, well cared for and still in use,


. . . and a popular car-free pedestrian area.


In comparison, the larger Metro area includes plenty of sprawl suburbs reminiscent of Denver or Phoenix. Yet, we were pleased to find that there were many parks, including a broad expanse (11 square kilometers) of real prairie grassland within the city, as well as botanic gardens, and a pleasant riverfront expanse near downtown.


Mobility choices include the C-Train (light rail) and many buses, plus bike options.


Life here was pleasant, people were welcoming and friendly, and after spending a lot of the summer in France, it was nice to again be in an English speaking place!

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Banff and Jasper National Parks
The Rockies, and these famous parks, not far to the west of Calgary, have long been on our 'must see' list! As we began our visit we were confronted with a couple of challenges - the crowds and later the haze! . The crowds resulted from the declaration that entrance to all National Parks would be free to celebrate Canada's 150th Anniversary! The haze or smoke from wildfires in the forests of British Columbia, sometimes obscured our views. Undaunted, we rented a car and spent a week exploring..

From the rolling prairie around Calgary, the road into Banff climbs gently into a valley with massive, towering peaks on either side - a stunning welcome.


Banff Town, nestled among towering peaks offered us mountain shops and cafes, a couple of museums, and the grand Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, built in the 1880s.


Further north was Lake Louise with its famous turquoise water, looming glacier, plus another grand Fairmont Hotel.


Continuing further north along the Icefields Parkway, we were surrounded by more towering peaks whose heights were crowned with glaciers - plenty of ooh-aah views!


A key stopping point is the Icefields Center, with great views of many surrounding glaciers.


Here we learned of a unique phenomenon - a tri-divide, a place on the Columbia Icefield, high above us, where summer melting feeds not two, but three, watersheds, - the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic .

Onward through Jasper National Park, the dramatic scenery continued, but now with some smoke in the air. Our drive was briefly interrupted by a stop to watch a black bear eagerly munching berries, and another stop to watch a family of mountain goats, both oblivious to all the tourists snapping pictures.


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After our week in the Rockies, we flew west over more mountain ranges to Vancouver, British Columbia. For two weeks, we explored this city, with its picturesque waterfront,


. . . central business district with many high-rise apartments,


. . . many historic buildings, well taken care of.


. . . historic neighborhoods,


. . . and harbour views from Stanley Park .


We even took a sightseeing flight on a seaplane from the harbour downtown - a great way to view the area. Blair even got to enjoy the great views from the co-pilot's seat.


Vancouver offered plenty of fun stuff to do and many opportunities to observe multicultural immigration on the ground.

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Portland, Oregon
A combination bus and Amtrak train trip took us south across the border and on to Portland, Oregon - back in the USA! We spent two weeks exploring this city famous for high liveability, excellent public transit, bicycle friendliness, and strong awareness and practice of sustainability, along with many local breweries, and great food.

As we explored the city, Mt. Hood always loomed in the distance to the east. One day we rented a car and drove out to experience Mt. Hood, close up, including a stop at classic Timberline Lodge, half way to the top.


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Oregon / California Coast
Having met up with Blair's brother and sister-in-law, the four of embarked us on a roadtrip along the Oregon and California coast to San Francisco.

The wonderful scenery was constant, with views of the rugged coast,


. . . walks amongst gigantic redwoods,


. . . and stops in historic towns, like Eurika, California.


San Francisco was the end of this five-month long chapter of our Nomad Life. Looking back we were amazed at the incredible range of scenery and cultures we had experienced, which confirmed what we already knew - Nomad Life suits us well..

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