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Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-08-25 13:13:35 | Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Keywords: architecture, city
I didn't have a real motivation to visit Calgary. Once I planned out my stop in Banff, I basically thought it would be nice to visit nearby Calgary. I didn't have any expectation and Calgary didn't have good surprises for me. It's true though I mostly used that stop to rest and do some catch-up in terms of writing and Couch surfing search.

The city is almost totally new, with dozens of glassy skyscrapers in a compact zone near the Bow river splitting the city.  My first surprise in arriving to my downtown hotel was how deserted downtown was, and it was Thursday night before 8 PM!  All shops, drugstores, convenience stores, restaurants (even coffee shops!) were closed.  Only exception was a few bars.

Calgary is essentially a donut city, where downtown is reserved for business and that's all.  Even though there are a few apartment towers downtown, there's no such thing as a neighbourhood life there.

Like many cities on the West coast, Calgary is divided into quadrants, which is confusing for tourists.  Downtown is compact and easily walkable, there's also a free-fare section inside downtown to use the light-rail system.  Besides a bit of shopping and eating, and check out the closing hour because they close the city early, there's not much to do for tourists.  One of the signs of the lack of tourist interest and attractions is the fact that there is no city tour offered by tour companies.  The companies only offer departures from Calgary to go in the Rockies.

Calgary is a small town (even if it's the 4th largest city in Canada, it's metro area is just above the million mark) that got boosted on oil steroids in the last decades and hope to become an important financial centre, but has not quite realized its ambitions.  It's a brand new city, where history is quickly dismissed for something shinny and new.   It's a city where there is tons of money and like a newly rich kid, it likes to show off.  That is visible in its architecture but also in the cars driven by its citizens.

But I was surprised by a few elements in Calgary.  First, the streets aren't filled with cowboy hats like I was expecting it to be.  Then I was surprised by how patriotic the city was.  There are so many flags waiving all around that I would have thought I was back in the USA already, unless I noted the absence of blue on the flag.  That's quite surprising when you know Alberta is the second province who would leave Canada.  Quebec would do it for political reasons, Alberta for economical ones.  Maybe it's the fact the Prime Minister is from Calgary.

An interesting fact I discovered about Calgary was its Plus 15 network of pathways throughout downtown.  Montreal built its underground city to keep people downtown in winter, Calgary built an elevated pathway system to link about 60 buildings.  These pathway cross the street at an elevation of about 15 feet above ground, thus the name of Plus 15.  Sometimes these pathways are part of the building (in malls for example), perched on the side of a building, over a backstreet or literally across the streets making a series of pedestrian bridges.  This being downtown, most of the sections of the system are only opened during weekdays, for a bit longer than business hours.

The city has a good transit system but, like most things in Alberta, it's expensive, despite the downtown free zone: $3 per use... $9 for an all-day pass.

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Canal of Panama


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