Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Canmore's Creekside Country Inn & Lake Minnewanka: A Great Getaway Girls' Weekend

Canmore is the perfect getaway in the Canadian Rockies, and we definitely chose a fitting weekend for a last girls' trip before I depart and Janice jumps back into class for the final year of her Masters.  We had beautiful weather that reminded me of my last few trips to the mountains, with Julie in April , with Kristin and Sean in 2010  and with Sean, Bonnie and Janice in 2009.
Above: Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka & Spray River Loop

Stopping in Calgary to see Joanne before I left, we ate at Dairy Land, at Joanne's recommendation (you always recommend the best food places, Joanne!). Vegan tofu scramble with gluten free bread could not have tasted better than that -scrumptious! 

After arriving in Canmore Saturday afternoon and checking in to Creekside Country Inn, we marveled at our upgrade from the usual hostel lodgings. Air conditioning, a comfy queen bed, a mini fridge, free coffee and tea all day, and a simple, but great, continental breakfast. We chilled in our room, caught up on girl talk and enjoyed a bottle of Wolf Blass Shiraz Cabernet and our budget, Safeway snacks.

Sunday morning, we decided to hike Banff's Spray River Loop, not realizing that the map from the inn did not have the correct entrance to the trail on it. So, after an hour long walk on a different trail that finally lead to Spray River, we only hiked 2 more hours of this 11km, mosquito infested trail. Next time, I guess!

The owner of the hostel (who had the softest German accent I've ever heard), recommended that we stop and take pictures at Lake Minnewanka. He was definitely right ---voila! Our amateur photography skills. More photography courses needed, we know! Maybe somewhere between my masters program, MMA, German courses, trying horseback riding, and travelling England, I'll squish that in.

Though our total hike was likely only about 3.5 hours (not including the 35 minute UPHILL run we did in the morning before breakfast), we were quite exhausted by the end of the day. Like all smart budget travellers, we used the washrooms at the most expensive hotel (Fairmont) and enjoyed a latte in the lobby (spiked with Bailey's from Safeway :)

Nice and warm!!

Dinner @ Crazyweed Kitchen 

Despite our eagerness to get out of sweaty hiking clothes and boots, and into our skirts and sweaters for dinner, we were much too exhausted to do any more photo shoots at that point. You'll have to imagine a dressed up, girls' night with pizza  (at Crazyweed Kitchen, a modern, upscale restaurant in Canmore). The pizza was okay--perhaps my expectations were too high given the amount of times people have recommended this restaurant to me--but the After Dinner Mint specialty coffee, sans whip cream, was to die for. We attempted to end the night with a movie, but I have to say that Netflix (the Canadian version, anyway) is very disappointing--the movies are so old that if I really wanted to see them,  I would have done so, already!) Let's hope the new UK version of Netflix, released this past spring, is better!

Morning Walk in the Mountains & A Keeshound

Monday morning was very peaceful (thanks, Janice, for taking a Monday off work!) - since most people were probably working. We only found a short trail near the inn, so it was more of a walk than a hike.  

We did run into a beautiful dog, of a breed I didn't know existed (Keeshound -German Shepherd mix). The Keeshound, apparently from Holland, is a very beautiful dog reminiscent of a Husky or German Shepherd, but fluffier. Koda (funnily enough, what I had always planned to name my second dog), was so friendly and beautiful --she loved snuggling up with us!


Koda the Keeshound

Canmore's Best Coffee & Shops

Monday morning after our walk, we spent a couple hours wandering around town. Advertising "Canmore's Best Coffee",  Mountain Mercato was an interesting cafe /specialty market in which we enjoyed an Illy cappuccino and cake before our long drive home.


Our trip seemed to be a whirlwind couple of days, but wow am I glad that I made time to see the mountains again before leaving!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Heritage Days, Houses, Summer Fun & Packing

Meghan & Sapna - Heritage Days
 Moving halfway across the world sounds easy enough, when you consider the globalized, technological world in which we live. Judging from the fact that it's been a month since my last post, I'm sure you can imagine, it's been a whirlwind of busy events! 

Working Less & Enjoying Summer

Summer students all finished their courses as of August 2nd, freeing up my schedule for preparation for the big move. Although working less means less money for summer fun, it also means more time to finish up my online German course and write the exam (through Athabasca University) before I leave, hang out on Whyte ave with friends, train a lot in MMA, work out at the gym, and become more excited for my next adventure.

Selling a House  (not as fun as buying one!)

I'm so glad to finally say...SOLD!  Since August 3rd, when conditions were removed, I have definitely been breathing sighs of relief. Wahoo! SOLD!!!  7 weeks of no buyers, and then two offers, with a third one as "backup". I guess all that steam-cleaning, marketing and Comfree's top advertising package really works. It sold 4 days under Edmonton's median selling time (60 days), with no agents, and a savings of $12000. Thank goodness I didn't go with the scamming 2% realty (it's not usually 2% if you actually want the house to sell, they tell you moments before you sign a contract), or traditional realtors with fees of $14000 or more. Luckily, the new owner is okay with me leaving most of the furniture, so I've only got my dining table, my car and an MMA punching bag to sell. I'll put my own marketing degree to work, thanks!

Marston, Oxford (church)
Kiara and I have found a wonderful place to stay the first week of September before our flight out of Calgary (thank you, Meghan, for inquiring about your condo's guest suite for rental!). Our new rented house in the neighbourhood of Marston, in Oxford will also be set up for our arrival on September 9th, with the internet connection guys coming the morning of September 10th (yes, I pre-booked this to make sure I'll be able to blog, etc, as soon as possible after my arrival!) To the left, is a picture of the church in the Marston area --apparently I'll be able to hear church bell ringing ceremonies?!

Farewell coffee & dinners with friends 

Bikram Yoga & Manor Cafe
Since I have friends moving to New York, Switzerland and back to Edmonton for their masters programs, we've been celebrating new adventures. Meghan, Ryan, Sean and I went to Heritage Days (my favourite festival!) and enjoyed Nepalese, Norwegian and Romanian cuisine and coffee, to mention a couple plates we shared. Meghan and I went to Bikram Yoga and had brunch at Manor Cafe, in honour of our new adventures, and of Stephanie Wertz (it was her favourite place). She always arranged wonderful brunches for our group of friends. Wherever we are, we hope you're safe and we miss you, Steph!

Lorina and I hung out and chatted over coffee and a movie. Pam and I wandered Whyte Ave and caught up over a latte and quesadilla at Block 1912 (Edmonton's very European cafe on Whyte). Dayna and I have been running our puppies and catching up. Wrapping up contract work at the University, colleagues  and I have also had a rice bowl lunch at Greenhouse, inside Good Earth Cafe. Sheena and I went for an excellent salad and wine dinner at Joey's South Common to catch up - I got to have a very interesting conversation with Alyssa before we left, too (who would have thought an almost 3 year old could have so much to tell you?!) Wow, what a wonderful August I've had so far!

The Packing Challenge

40 kg on Air Transat's Club Class, you say? FORTY kg, that's a lot, right?   NOPE.  Not to squish into my (apparently medium-sized) suitcase and backpacker backpack. Hello, Goodwill---take all my old clothes and books! (Wee Book Inn's used bookstore is very picky, and after an entire afternoon of trying to sell two suitcases worth of books, I've given up).

 Luckily, suitcases come in a size bigger than I had imagined (60 inches) - and so, next week will be a week of vacuum packing, folding, rolling and deciding what fits in, with my mma gear taking up half a suitcase.  At least the house is sparkly clean, from the house sale efforts.

3 weeks from tomorrow, we're off! I have to admit that I'm a little nervous (especially after having some VERY rude responses from customer service teams in the UK when trying to buy products, such as Pet insurance). Perhaps I'm more nervous though, of the precarious transition from working professional to student ---eek, it's going to be time to start pinching pennies, shopping at Tesco instead of organic markets, and (perhaps) choosing Oxford's kickboxing club over a belt-rank school such as Oxford Mixed Martial Arts Academy. That may be my one splurge though ---MMA is so much fun!

Well, I'm off to finish a German assignment, clean, pack, run the dog, and get ready for a 3 day adventure with Janice in Canmore. Stay tuned!