A 3:15am alarm and after only 3 hours sleep we crawled into a taxi to Halifax airport for our flight to Calgary. Despite the super early start we were both extremely excited to return to, truly, one of our favourite cities. We both managed to grab a little shut eye on the plane although, unfortunately not seated together, Katy managed to fall asleep on the shoulder of the poor gentleman next to her - who thankfully took it very well (or was kind enough not to mention it)! We landed at 09:00, hopped on the express bus to downtown and, laden with our luggage, we headed off to a Starbucks to grab a coffee and try to keep us awake for the few hours until our Airbnb was ready. We followed our coffee with a Mexican salad lunch at Original Joe's (it tasted like a healthy taco), and took advantage of their Wine Wednesday discount (Katy) to while away the time until check-in. Once 3 o'clock FINALLY rolled round we headed to our Airbnb and it was definitely worth the wait as it was possibly the nicest of our accommodations so far!
Having had such a hectic few weeks on the run up to our stay in Calgary we were excited to have a bit of chill time in a city we knew so well, so we headed to a local supermarket, stocked up on food, enjoyed a night in with some Friends on Netflix and an early night.
The next morning, in the pouring rain, we headed into downtown to torture ourselves with a visit to Lammle's Western Wear and Tack where we both wanted to buy just about everything in the shop. However given our 55L rucksacks are already full, no boots were purchased however Craig did treat himself to a new hat given the one he brought with him is already sun bleached.
After another afternoon of chilling out, more Friends on Netflix, we headed to Modern Steak to experience the famous Alberta Steak (Katy hadn't heard of Alberta steak). We were served by the lovely Brendan, who's father grew up in Lanark (what are the chances!) and he talked us through the different meats and the farms that they come from. Craig had the Wagyu beef (blue) from Brant Lake Farm which was described as the crème de la crème of Alberta beef and Katy had the Wild Rose Angus fillet (rare) from Spring Creek Ranch, where the cowboys do all of their farming on horseback. Every day the cowboys walk the cows the 35km to their river and back so that the cows only ever eat the top of the grass, this gives the beef a whole different flavour. We both agreed that our steaks were some of the best, if not the best, we had ever tasted, they fell apart as we cut into them. Perfectly accompanied with a Steam Whistle Beer for Craig and a glass of Ontarian Baco Noir for Katy.
Our evening could be described as an evening of two halves as after our delicious dinner we wandered down to the world famous Cowboys Casino and Dancehall, somewhere Craig had previously frequented when in Calgary on a rugby tour in 2013. He was definitely happy to be back even though Katy most certainly couldn't drink like one of the rugby lads and we were in a taxi for 01:00 after drinking maybe a little too much tequila (wine, gin, Smirnoff ice...)!
The next morning was a very, very slow start after the events of the night before, and slightly worse for wear we literally dragged ourselves to Palomino Smokehouse for a quick lunch and a hair of the dog before jumping on the C-Train out to Prairie Winds Park for Country Thunder. As the tickets had been purchased in November 2018 it was safe to say we had been waiting for this for quite some time! The festival was so much more laid back than those in the UK with most people coming armed with camp chairs and picnic blankets. Given we sadly didn't have either we set ourselves up on the large hill in the park that thankfully had a near perfect view of the stage. First up was Shawn Austin who was someone we hadn't heard much of his music beforehand but very talented. Next were the Hunter Brothers, 5 brothers (and an estranged guitarist) from nearby Saskatchewan who unsurprisingly received an amazing reception from the crowd which was difficult not to get caught up in! Craig's favourite song they played was Northern Lights. Then we had Jordan Davis who Katy was extremely excited for and he was every bit as good as she had hoped. Lauren Alaina was next who neither of us thought we were too bothered about (we even had a drinks run planned) however we were completely wrong, she was very charismatic, sharing stories of her "crazy family" and getting Tim, a very enthusiastic member of the crowd, up to dance and sing with her on her song "Next Boyfriend." He was absolutely hysterical, singing every word and showing off some excellent dance moves. When Lauren asked why the song was so important to him he, very emotionally, shared he had seen her at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas the year of the shooting and since then she had become very special to him, I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire park. Jake Owen was the headliner of the night and he was absolutely incredible, playing a mixture of his older songs and his new album he was very deserving of the headliner spot and we both agree we would love to see him in the UK! We had fantastic day out however if we are being honest the crowds in North America just aren't as good as back home!!
A bit weary the next morning we had a very slow start before heading out to One18 Empire for brunch which thankfully revived us enough to enjoy the sights of Olympic Plaza. The Plaza was created as the venue for medal ceremonies at the 1988 Winter Olympics and is now home to the Famous Five statue which was erected in 1999 in honour of the five women (Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Edwards) who petitioned to have women legally considered "persons" so that they could be appointed for Senate. Initially, in 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that women are not such "persons" however that was then overruled in 1929. Very inspiring ladies - and a sad reminder that 90 years on the fight continues and women are still not really viewed as "persons" in the eyes of some of our world leaders!
After, you guessed it, we watched more Friends we decided to go for a walk and we set out along the Bow River pathway to enjoy the last of the days sunshine and take in some of the lovely views back towards the city. Then it was time for a quick dinner, packing the rucksacks and an early night.
Next stop, Banff!