Other than spending a few hours waiting at LAX, we have yet to step foot in America. And yet somehow, Calgary seems to tick every box on a list of cultural stereotypes that one might associate with Canada’s neighbor to the south.
Calgary “feels” like America is portrayed on TV; lots of busy freeway, lots of malls packed with lots of fast food franchises, a vague undercurrent of a frontier motif underscoring the city’s cultural identity.
Arriving via Greyhound we catch the CTrain through the city to our hotel south of the city. I’d spent some time on the bus reading the mostly very negative reviews of our hotel on various websites, so finding that our room was clean, reasonably roomy and included both a mini-fridge and coffee making facilities (largely absent from the hotels we’d stayed at so far) was a welcome surprise.
Heading out to get acquainted with Calgary was a decidedly average experience. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the city – it’s reasonably clean, easy to navigate, is somewhat cheaper and has more shopping/food/booze options than the cities we have visited so far, but for a city that is at the heart of Canada’s oil industry, it doesn’t seem to have anything else to offer.
Walking to Fort Calgary (Calgary’s birthplace) we pass unkempt vacant blocks on the edge of the city core, and weed’s and patchy dry grass surround the unimpressive recreated fort. This wouldn’t seem out of place in a smaller town, but my understanding is Calgary prides itself on it’s cowboy flavour and heritage and that there’s no shortage of money in North America’s fastest growing city.
We head back through the city core passing the tower and the historic sandstone heritage buildings downtown. We see The Bow, we see the Armoury, we see the other landmarks, we finish at Princes Island Park. It’s a hot day, it seems dusty and we’re indifferent.
Later in the evening we’ll walk along a busy highway to purchase American beer (cheaper than Canadian) at a large mall and drink it while watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” on TV in a hotel room. Calgary has no soul. Calgary feels like America.