Flying into Edmonton for a conference, I decided to take advantage of the trip out West and extend the 3-day training to a 5-day adventure filled with road trips, yummy veggies eats, mountains, parks, and some seriously needed serenity.
As I am yet to find an economic and environmentally-friendly way to venture across such a wide patch of land on my own (besides hitch hiking and paying a fortune in time and money for buses and trains), a car rental was my only option for getting to point A, B, C, D, E, F and A again. With not much to explore in Edmonton (no offence, Ed), I cruised down to Calgary to pick up mom from the airport (she decided to join in last minute), and grab a quick dinner with my aunt who also happened to be in the city. Clearly a family affair.
Calgary is quite a cool city with a small downtown core made up of high rises, the Calgary Tower (similar to the Toronto CN Tower), and little patches of old school, historical buildings housing touristy shops and restaurants. Once you’re outside of the city centre, it quickly becomes very suburban and quiet. For a decent sized city, I was surprised by the limited amount of cars on the road and endless chains of restaurants and shops, with a heavy presence of American-based chains.
After a dark drive to the airport to pick up mom (there is literally zero lighting on the highways), we drove out to Cochrane to visit my mom’s Aunt Sherril and Uncle Dave. A retired couple living large in the country in a gorgeous home filled with the finer things in life; fancy espresso machine, motorcycles, wine and cheese available at all times, old school records on an impressive player. They definitely make retirement look like paradise. After a glass of Prosecco, accompanied by fresh crusty bread, I crawled into bed for a much needed sleep to digest after a long day on the road.
Waking up to fresh coffee, breakfast and orange juice, mom and I left in high spirits filled with a well balanced breakfast. Although rain was starting to dampen the day, we strolled down the 1A in awe of the scenery around us as we started to ascend into the Rocky Mountains, the infamous mountain range of Western Canada. Entering Banff National Park brought more rain upon us, which called for a shielded stroll through the town of Banff under store awning, in search of more fresh coffee. Once the sky began to clear, it was time for our next stop: Banff Springs Hotel. Although I’ve never been a hotel person, the Fairmont Banff Springs has always been on my list, and for good reason now that I’ve seen it up close and personal. Its ‘Beauty and the Beast’ like atmosphere, enchanting aura and incredible 19th century, Scottish Baronial architecture, makes you feel like you are in a fairy tale (ahem, Princess Jazzmine). Mom and I walked the grounds, stopping to breath in the fresh mountain air, capturing mystical photos of the hotels rooftops, clearly missing gargoyles and dainty blue birds singing sweet morning songs.
Our next stop: Lake Louise; the most photographed lake in Canada, known for its clear blue, glacier waters, and the surrounding deep V of snow topped mountains. As we exited the parking lot, walking towards the waters, I actually gasped out loud. Even on a cloudy day, I felt like I had stepped into a Google image. I was even more in awe after sitting down for a delicious black bean and sweet potato burger and glass of Kelowna Cabernet at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The sun had come out and cleared the clouds away, allowing for a walk around the lake with miles of mountains in the distance beyond the gorgeous waters.
Our adorable waiter gave us the tip of checking out Lake Moraine and my goodness, am I glad we did. This lake was just as beautiful as Louise (if not more!), with a gorgeous chain of mountains as a backdrop. I had stepped into another stock image.
On route to our final destination, Jasper, we were caught off guard by how far we actually had to go. 300 km of absolutely breathtaking views, adorable little stops, and coffee (of course). My favourite stop along the way: Bow Lake; calm waters in the middle of a chain of majestic Jasper mountains. Clearly not marked as a major tourist stop, we were surrounded by almost complete quiet, nature humming a tune in the distance.
As late afternoon began to lower the sun, we stepped on the gas to make it to Jasper. We were later told by a few friends that we were clearly crazy to do so much of Alberta in one day. Our 10 hour sleep that night was an obvious result of our clear craziness. Driving through the park and past the Jasper Icefields, I had never felt so grateful and thankful to be born and raised in such a beautiful and inspiring country. Canada is home to the most diverse landscapes, hundreds of cultural groups, a few accents, two incredible languages and natural resources that are plentiful. These wonderful things about my home country remind me that earth is such a precious gift. The changes we’ve seen around the world in 2017 make it oh so evident of how much we need to take care of this gift, as a community of global citizens.
When I arrived back in Edmonton, I was feeling a little uninspired by what the city had to offer. I definitely judged it on a surface level and thought nothing of exploring what it was made of, and its potential growth. After reuniting my mother with her best friend of 30 + years, checking into my Airbnb and meeting my adorable host, Kelly, and joining my amazing team for a glass of wine before heading into the 2-day conference, I realized judging will always hold us back. The past week has been one of the most fun and inspiring I’ve had in awhile. Edmonton actually ended up being really good to me, and serving up some delicious vegan dishes along the way.
(Can I get an Amen for Greenhouse?!)