I should start out by acknowledging I do a grave injustice to Canada by pooling our experience here into a single post. Canada is a land full of friendly people and natural beauty however we were here primarily to visit my brother who is currently working in Alberta. For this reason I did not get out for as many photos or hikes as usual. Absolutely nothing to do with the hungry bears.
Our course took us north from Yellowstone past Glacier National Park (sorry we didn't visit you Glacier, we had to leave ourselves a reason to come back to the US!) across the US-Canadian border and on to Calgary, Alberta. Here we couch surfed and caught up with family. In nearby Edmonton we visited the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where there was a folk dancing festival with both local and international traditional dancers. There is a large Ukrainian heritage population in the surrounding area who started emigrating in the late 19th Century.
We were also in Calgary during the Lilac Festival, an interesting event that has nothing to do with lilacs but takes up an entire street in the CBD with an array of stores and entertainment. It's in late May, just as the winter freeze has thawed out and tries to encourage people back into the sunshine. I was put in charge of a ballista and tasked with launching pop tarts at a toaster over at the Beakerhead stall.
North of Calgary we visited the West Edmonton Mall. This is an absolutely huge shopping centre with a full size replica of the Santa Maria, a large water park with wave pool and several water slides, an amusement park with a couple rollercoasters and other show rides. All this on top of over 800 stores and 100 food court cafes and restaurants. I was cut loose while Shannan and Mum went off shopping, each to return to the rendezvous point clutching armfuls of bags and sporting a limp. I tripped and fell in the Apple store and walked out with a brand new iPad mini, outspending them both in about 30 minutes. For the record, the low sales tax in Alberta (5%) makes it a good place to shop if you are in Canada. The shopping centre itself seemed a bit tired in parts. Some of it was under renovation while we were there and I hope a number of other areas are scheduled in the near future.
Next we visited the Banff and Jasper National Parks. They were still defrosting while we were there, with the lakes partially frozen. Shannan and I threw pebbles onto one of the lakes that was slushy with ice. It sounded like breaking glass as the stone tinkered along the ice before sinking.
The lookout for Morraine Lake was still snowed in but we could walk the final distance on foot. This seemed easy enough until we realised that we could break the crust and fall in up to our waists. After much effort we were eventually rewarded with an overview of the frozen lake, cracks starting to form on its surface. Shannan was rewarded with a sore foot from losing her boot to one too many sinkholes.
Continuing across the country we stopped a few days at Shuswap Lake for a barbie in our lakefront cabin, cashing in on my brothers strategically placed Canadian connections.
Arriving in Vancouver we stayed in an apartment on Granville Island, it really is about who you know. Granville Island is an exciting place with cafes, art shops and a market that sold such varied food Shan and I felt a strong pang of envy for the regular visitors. I saw Wasabi root in its natural form for the first time and Shan spotted a range of thai ingredients that we've never seen in Perth which lend to authentic thai tastes. With no time to get down to making a nice green chicken curry we had to let that opportunity go. We got to (re)visit our adopted Canadian family who we'd first met in Cuba and have a yummy dinner and camp out by the backyard fire.
And just like that it was time to say goodbye to Canada and family as we boarded a train to the US. We have a flight to catch, even if we don't want to leave.