For the past two weeks I’ve been on a working trip out to Western Canada. Back during my consulting days I spent a lot of time out west, in fact close to four and a half years. And to be clear I loved it!

My first past week was spent in Calgary. Such a different feel from Toronto, not only in the culture but the topography and in particular the weather.

It’s already fall out west for starters… Not so much here in Toronto as the hot, humid summer is lingering (not complaining just an observation!) as it often does into late September. 🙂

One of the things I absolutely love about Western Canada are the mountains. Even in Calgary there they are, stuck on the distant horizon like a hand painted backdrop…and more importantly calling my name each time I take a peek. So unfair, as I’d always prefer to be exploring the mountains.

Interestingly enough even though I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in Calgary I’d never really had the opportunity to explore the city.

Fortunately, during this visit I got the opportunity to spend some time Sunday morning walking along the Bow river and enjoying the many parks and gardens that dot the foreshore. Just gorgeous and peaceful!

As I walked north to the river from my hotel I passed through Chinatown and the many restaurants and businesses that dot this neighbourhood, not just Chinese, but Vietnamese, Filipino and other South Asian establishments.

I was surprised to learn that more than 22% of Calgary’s population of the growing 1.5 million people are of Asian descent. Which, I have to say really adds an the vibrancy of this lovely city.

The Eau Claire neighbourhood, along the the banks of the Bow are so beautiful, particularly this time of year with the leaves changing color, and the flowers still in bloom.

Not only is it a great place to explore, but the restaurant scene is awesome with lots of places to eat along the main pedestrian street (8 Ave SW).

One of my favourite restaurants is situated in the heart of the city and at the hotel I was staying at – The Le Germain. The Charcut Roast House was an incredible dining experience.

Another of my favourites that I discovered on my walk along the Bow is the Alforno Bakery & Cafe, an awesome little bakery and cafe with some delicious treats for your walk, this is especially true for a cool and chilly day. 🙂

Don’t take my word for it, go try them for yourself when you visit next.

After a week spent in this lovely city it was time to fly north to Edmonton for my next leg.

Fort Edmonton first started life as a fur trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company way back in 1795, and became Alberta’s capital in 1905 when Alberta was first established as a Province.

My only exposure to Edmonton in the past had been a day trip from Toronto, in which I flew in for a meeting first thing in the morning, taxied downtown for my meeting, then back to the airport and home all in the same day…yes, you’re right sometimes the life of a consultant sucks! 🙂

This time was a little different. I got to spend five days which was a perfect amount of time in this interesting northern city.

Given the oil prices and general state of the economy I would have thought that it may been a little depressed, but it was actually the reverse.

There is definitely an air of optimism about what’s happening in Edmonton, the breadth of construction and revitalization underway in the downtown core is incredible!

The city is adding a light rail system, as well as a bunch of new hotels in the newly defined “Ice District” neighbourhood adjacent to the ice hockey stadium – Rogers Place. This along with a myriad of restaurants and bars has started to bring the downtown core back to life.

Although not a hockey fan myself, I do have an appreciation for any professional sport. And was quite happy to scalp a ticket to go watch the first preseason game. The Oilers were playing the Winnipeg Jets in their beautiful new arena – Rogers Place which seats 18,500 fans. Nice spot!

Even though it was only the first game of the pre-season, you knew you were in a hockey town with a sea of Oilers jerseys both in and out of the stadium. Yep, they’re super keen fans in Edmonton!

The other huge surprise for me was the beauty of the gorgeous legislature building and large parks and gardens that all overlook the North Saskatchewan river as it meanders it’s way through the city. The legislature was opened in 1907 and is of the Beaux Arts style of architecture, which caught me by surprise.

The other gorgeous building was the Art Gallery of Alberta. It reminded me of the Disney center in Los Angeles with its sweeping curves and beautiful metal lines.

My best meal in Edmonton was at the Izakaya Dorinku. This fabulous restaurant serves Tokyo street food to perfection and definitely not to be missed if you’re in town.

Situated just outside the downtown core, it’s the perfect place to go with friends for Japanese food. Ask for the special menu – as there are always different and additional dishes that the regular menu doesn’t have.

At least this way you’ll eat like a local!

As I’m sure you can tell I thoroughly loved my two weeks in Western Canada. It’s definitely worth a visit to both cities.

Until next week