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Alberta Trip report part 3 + Summary ( last ) - Calgary

John Cummings

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This is my last trip report for our Alberta trip. It covers Calgary and Elbow Falls.

August 17, 2005

We left Drumheller in the pouring rain and arrived in Calgary to more rain. We had some trouble getting to the Hyatt Regency because of all the one-way streets in downtown. However we did arrive OK. Once I figured out the streets then it was very easy. We parked our car in the Hyatt's underground parking lot. Parking costs $16.00 /day with in and out privileges. They gave us a 5 day parking pass even though we were staying for 7 nights. There is no discount for the 5 day pass. They just charge it to your room.

We checked into the hotel and they had our room ready even though it was only noon. The service was very good and friendly. We had a non-smoking king room on the 16th floor with a great view of the city. The room was nice but not outstanding. We asked the concierge to recommend a nearby restaurant for lunch. The concierge was very nice and friendly and recommended the Milestone which was right out the door of the Hyatt. We ate there and it was not bad. It was certainly better than what we had experienced up till then.

After lunch I started contacting relatives. Our daughter was due to arrive that day as was my sister. Neither one had arrived yet and my niece was busy doing pre-wedding stuff. So what were we to do on a dismal rainy day? Why head for the nearest casino which is what we did. We went to the new Elbow River casino that just opened. It was very close so we decided to take a cab and the casino reimbursed us for the cab fare. The casino is pretty small and non-descript but it kept us entertained for a few hours even though we weren't winning. I did notice that their machines do not pay as well as ours do.

That evening we took our daughter Delia and her friend Sandra to dinner. Delia and Sandra flew up from Murrieta, CA that afternoon. We asked the concierge to recommend the best place and he recommended Hy's Steakhouse in downtown Calgary. We picked up Delia and Sandra at their hotel and headed for Hy's. Hy's is an upscale steakhouse. All I can say is that it was great. The food was excellent and the service was very good. I had the beefsteak tomato and sweet onion salad and a New York steak. The salad was delicious and the steak was great. Hy's is a little pricey but well worth it. Our dinner for the 4 of us cost $210.00 and did not include any drinks.

Needless to say, I do recommend Hy's restaurant. Unfortunately it is the only one that I can recommend.

August 18, 2005

We ate the breakfast buffet at the Hyatt Regency that was included in our room rate. It was OK but nothing too great. It costs $16 /pp if you have to pay for it.

Now it was time to begin the family reunion. We picked up my sister, who I hadn't seen in 18 years, and then headed over to my niece's house where all the gang was. I won't bore you with all the family stuff. It was great to see everybody and we had a good visit. By the way we actually had a little sun that day.

August 19, 2005

We ate breakfast at the Hyatt. We then picked up my sister and went to the Southcentre Mall to look around. It is a large single story mall with a Safeway supermarket and 180 stores and services. We did a lot of looking but never bought anything. Prices are pretty high. We went into Safeway so my sister could do some grocery shopping. Grocery prices in Canada are much higher than they are here even taking into account the exchange rate. Cheese and other dairy products, chicken, meat, and many other items are very expensive. A few things cost the same but almost everything was higher and some items such as I mentioned are much higher. The prices in Safeway are about the same as they were at the Sobeys that we went to the previous week.

It is a nice shopping center and I did get a lot of exercise walking around it.

We went to the wedding rehearsal in the late afternoon. Some more family arrived so I spent some time visiting with them.

August 20, 2005

We ate breakfast and we decided to walk around downtown as the weather was finally cooperating. The Stephen Avenue Promenade, which is a pedestrian only street, was right out the door of the Hyatt. We walked along the street to a park with a large pond and fountains. It was very nice except for the homeless sleeping on the grass and the benches. There was also a lot of litter strewn around the park. Right next to the park, they had blocked off the whole street and set up street hockey games. That was very interesting. There were some were good players. We then walked back along the Promenade and stopped to look around the Hudson's Bay department store. My wife loves to shop and knows her stuff but after seeing the prices there, she decided that we could better spend our time elsewhere.

We went back to the hotel and got ready for the wedding that evening. The wedding was very nice. I sort of became the designated photographer so I ended up taking about 150 pictures of the wedding which filled up the memory card.

August 21, 2005

Ate breakfast and headed for my niece's MIL's house for the gift opening. Today was warm and sunny which led to my discovery that the air conditioning did not work in my rental car. After the gift opening, I went to look for another memory card. I went to several places, including Wal-Mart but nobody had the Ultra II high speed cards. I then went to London Drugs and fortunately they had what I was looking for. I did see my same camera in both Wal-Mart and London Drugs. It costs about 50% more in Canada then it did here after taking into account the exchange. I also saw our same DVD/VCR player and it was also about 50% more.

August 22, 2005

Well the good weather was over. Today, all of us ( 8 people ) headed to Elbow Falls which is about 35 miles from Calgary. We stopped for lunch at Bragg Creek at a strip mall. The lunch was not too good. While the ladies looked in the antique stores, I checked out the real estate. Real Estate was every expensive with most places costing $700,000 up to well over a million dollars, and I thought we were high. We then went to the falls where we had to hike a little to get to them. They were very scenic and nice. I took several pictures. After that we headed back to eat a home cooked meal at my niece's. Her husband grilled up some prime Alberta Beef steaks which were pretty good. The corn on the cob was terrible.

August 23, 2005

Another very cold rainy day. The gang got together and came downtown to the Hyatt. My niece works in the tallest building in downtown Calgary so she took us to see it and we went up to the top. However I couldn't take any pictures because of the clouds and rain. I did take some of the building inside which is very nice. After that we decided to go to the Calgary casino which is the largest one in the area. It was nothing great and they charge a fortune for soft drinks and water. They bring them around but then you discover that a soft drink is over $2.00. The slot machines would not accept the new Canadian bills which was pretty annoying. My wife and I preferred the Elbow River casino even though it was much smaller. We then went downtown. I took the gang to dinner at the Japanese Village Steakhouse which is very much like a Benihana. The show was good and the meal was fairly decent. We then went back to the Hyatt.

August 24, 2005

Ate breakfast and got ready to leave. When I checked out, I asked about the parking charges as we only has a 5 day pass and were there for 7. They told us all was Ok. When we exited the garage, the parking attendant said that we owed another $16. I told him what they told me at the front desk so he said OK and we were off to the airport. It was so cold and rainy. We dropped off the car at the airport with no problems and then proceeded to catch our flight. Check in was very smooth. I went to get my receipts validated by the Canadian authorities. I learned 2 things. First you have to show them the merchandise for which the receipts are for. Second, you do not need to validate your receipts for accommodations. Those are basically the only things you get a refund of the GST on. Rental cars. attractions, tours, and meals are not eligible for the GST refund. I only had 2 receipts for merchandise so the very nice lady said OK and stamped them. Going through US customs and immigration was very smooth and we did not have to show anything other than documents. The flight back was fine.

Summary.

1. The scenery was awesome in the national parks. Well worth the trip.
2. Just about everybody was very hospitable and friendly.
3. The Georgetown Inn in Canmore, the Park Place Inn in Jasper, and the Hyatt Regency in downtown Calgary were all very good. Service was great. I strongly recommend all 3 places.

Note: Seniors get a substantial discount at all Hyatt properties in the US and Canada. To get the discount, you must make your reservation with the main Hyatt reservations and NOT at the individual properties. We stay frequently at the Hyatt Suites in downtown Palm Springs and get a discount of 50% or more. Our last stay was just $60.00 /nt

4. Hy's Steakhouse in Calgary is excellent and I strongly recommend it if you have lots of folding stuff in your pocket.

5. Finding good meals is a challenge. After trying omelets at several places, I have come to the conclusion that they definitely do not exceed at making them.

6. Just about everything costs more than it does here with many things being much more expensive even with the exchange. Senior discounts at restaurants are almost non existent.

Note: Use your credit cards and ATM card to get the best exchange.

7. Calgary is booming but we were very surprised by the number of homeless and beggars. One night our daughter got lost and drove right into a drug deal.

8. There is an extreme shortage of service people in many of the restaurants in the tourist areas like Canmore and Jasper. As such, the service can be pretty slow though they try hard.

9. The weather definitely did put a damper ( pun intended ) on things. As I remember it, I do not think that the weather is normally that bad in the summer.
 
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shagnut

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John, I'm sorry you had such lousy food. Maybe I'm not as particular as you but I had some great meals. I was a little disappointed in the steak at Buzzards in Calgary but since I had a 2 for 1 the price helped digest the food. My fav was Patrino's in Canmore, followed by The Grizzley Paw, the salad at the hostel in Jasper and the Pizza at L & W . Oh yeah, the yummy cheesburgers we made ourselves at the Pub on the way to Jasper.

I think you saw more animals than me. I was complaining about all the clouds and lack of sun but I'll take that over what you got.

I agree with the grocery prices, they were higher than here, and the gas!! That was one of my highest expenses. I actually did this trip more economically than I thought I would but I lucked up with my pricelineing and my accomadations in Jasper.

My trip far exceeded my expectations . I know Anne & Lynne were really worried that I would be disappointed but of course I didn't.

Hugs, Shaggy
 

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John, that was a great report and very helpful and I enjoyed your pictures too. Thank you. One day, I hope we can take a similar trip as we have friends in Calgary too. By the way, is Toronto just as expensive as Alberta? My good Dutch friend moved from Seal Beach to Wasaga Beach last year. She has never mentioned it that it is more expensive there than here? I will have to ask her. I know that they bought a beautiful home there for 1/4 of the price from here. She misses our weather.
 

John Cummings

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shagnut said:
John, I'm sorry you had such lousy food. Maybe I'm not as particular as you but I had some great meals. I was a little disappointed in the steak at Buzzards in Calgary but since I had a 2 for 1 the price helped digest the food. My fav was Patrino's in Canmore, followed by The Grizzley Paw, the salad at the hostel in Jasper and the Pizza at L & W . Oh yeah, the yummy cheesburgers we made ourselves at the Pub on the way to Jasper.

I think you saw more animals than me. I was complaining about all the clouds and lack of sun but I'll take that over what you got.

I agree with the grocery prices, they were higher than here, and the gas!! That was one of my highest expenses. I actually did this trip more economically than I thought I would but I lucked up with my pricelineing and my accomadations in Jasper.

My trip far exceeded my expectations . I know Anne & Lynne were really worried that I would be disappointed but of course I didn't.

Hugs, Shaggy

Leslie,

I didn't have any expectations one way or the other because I have been there before. Our purpose in going was to attend my niece's wedding and the resultant family reunion. All of my family lives in British Columbia and Alberta. However, we did enjoy ourselves very much as I have said. I just reported what we found whether it was good, bad or indifferent.
 

John Cummings

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iconnections said:
John, that was a great report and very helpful and I enjoyed your pictures too. Thank you. One day, I hope we can take a similar trip as we have friends in Calgary too. By the way, is Toronto just as expensive as Alberta? My good Dutch friend moved from Seal Beach to Wasaga Beach last year. She has never mentioned it that it is more expensive there than here? I will have to ask her. I know that they bought a beautiful home there for 1/4 of the price from here. She misses our weather.

Emmy,

It has been many years since I was in Toronto. However, Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada with Vancouver a very close second. When comparing home prices, one has to compare comparable homes. There are cheaper homes in Calgary but they are much smaller than what we have. We did look at some homes there and for comparable homes with the same amenities, they were more expensive than here. What amazed me were how high the prices were in relatively undeveloped areas. Calgary is more like one of our mid-Western cities like Kansas City.

You cannot compare home prices in Wasaga Beach, Ontario with Seal Beach, California. Wasaga Beach is a small town on the south end of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. That is a fairly remote area and is a long distance from any city. Seal Beach is on the coast in Orange County in a metro area with a population of 20 million.

Things have changed since last year with the large rise in the value of the Canadian dollar. You also have to take into account the GST 7% tax on all goods and services in Canada. Alberta doesn't have a provincial sales tax but they do have a 4% tax on top of the GST for lodgings. The other provinces have a provincial sales tax on top of the federal GST tax. British Columbia has a 7.5% provincial sales tax + 7% GST plus 10% lodging tax. Foreign visitors can get a refund for the GST but not on all items. There is no refund for meals, rental cars, tourist attractions, purchases under $50.00, and services.
 
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shagnut

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John, I didn't mean to infer that my trip was better than yours. If I came across that way, I apologize. It's always great to be around family and that was the highlight for you. I don't have much family left so I don't get the big family gettogethers. I've always envied those with big families. I just have to do with friends. Weather can really screw up a vacation. I know one of my worst trips I've ever had was to Cape Cod. It rained 4 out of the 7 days and I have no desire to ever go back because of that.

A lot of restaurants tuggers recommend are for a "special" meal aka romantic, wine etc. Heck, it's been so long since I've been romanced I wouldn't know it if it smacked me in the face. :D

Happy travels, Shaggy
 

John Cummings

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shagnut said:
John, I didn't mean to infer that my trip was better than yours. If I came across that way, I apologize. It's always great to be around family and that was the highlight for you. I don't have much family left so I don't get the big family gettogethers. I've always envied those with big families. I just have to do with friends. Weather can really screw up a vacation. I know one of my worst trips I've ever had was to Cape Cod. It rained 4 out of the 7 days and I have no desire to ever go back because of that.

A lot of restaurants tuggers recommend are for a "special" meal aka romantic, wine etc. Heck, it's been so long since I've been romanced I wouldn't know it if it smacked me in the face. :D

Happy travels, Shaggy

Leslie,

There is no need to apologize. We are not in a competition. I am very happy that you had a great vacation. The scenery is very spectacular.
 

susieq

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What nice people .........

Shaggy & John,
Thank you both for sharing your wonderful pictures!! :) We really enjoyed looking all through them. The country up there is so beautiful ........... one day!!! Couldn't believe how many pics, I guess that just goes to show what good subject matter, huh! (EH?) I'm sorry the weather didn't co-operate more with each of you on your respective trips ~ know what a bummer that can be! I've really enjoyed reading about your "adventures" John, and hate the thought of the installments coming to an end. So nice of you to share your experiences with others. You are both really nice people, and one day all that kindness will come back to you! :p You deserve it!!
Sue
 

John Cummings

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susieq said:
Shaggy & John,
Thank you both for sharing your wonderful pictures!! :) We really enjoyed looking all through them. The country up there is so beautiful ........... one day!!! Couldn't believe how many pics, I guess that just goes to show what good subject matter, huh! (EH?) I'm sorry the weather didn't co-operate more with each of you on your respective trips ~ know what a bummer that can be! I've really enjoyed reading about your "adventures" John, and hate the thought of the installments coming to an end. So nice of you to share your experiences with others. You are both really nice people, and one day all that kindness will come back to you! :p You deserve it!!
Sue

Sue,

Thank you ever so much for your very kind words. I am very happy that you enjoyed the trip report and the pictures. It is nice people like you that make the effort of doing the reports and posting the pictures all worthwhile. By the way, I posted less than half of the pictures that I took. Many of them were much the same.
 
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