Road tripping around Canada: The Prairies

Whenever I told anyone that Lox & I were going to drive across Canada, every person said to get out of the prairies as soon as possible (as well as “Oh, it’ll be cold!”, as if we were unaware that Canada gets cold in the winter). Everyone had sold the “flat, boring” prairies as the worst part of Canada, so much so that I was actually really excited to see them.

We left the beautiful Banff for Calgary, and noted along the drive that everything seemed to vanish around us. The hills slowly flattened and sunk into the ground, letting us see hundreds of kilometres into the distance. The flatness was so absolute that my first impression of Calgary was a vague sense of feeling unsettled, though I got used to it pretty fast – you kind of have no choice, as there is nothing else around. The highlight of Calgary, aside from the three cats at our Airbnb, was going to Studio Bell, which is like a museum dedicated to Canadian music. As well as learning a ton about Canadian musicians (Alanis Morissette is Canadian?), they also had a few different pianos on display (including the white piano that Elton John composed “Your Song” on!) and tech stations where you could practice mixing tracks.

We then headed to Drumheller, population: 8000, and known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World. We went solely to go to the Royal Tyrell Museum because we are both mentally 8 years old and dinosaurs are still so exciting. It’s a fantastic museum with a lot of really astounding fossils, so if you’re a dinosaur nerd/were ever an excitable child, you’d absolutely love this place.

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Drumheller was also great because it had hills. Dinosaur Valley is obviously not flat so I immediately felt much more at ease. I didn’t realise just how much hills meant to me ’til we were surrounded by them again. NZ is mainly mountains and volcanoes, so evidently I need some variation in the landscape to feel at home. But we didn’t stay in the hills for long – Edmonton was calling our names.

We spent most of our time there at the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. Often being in a big city will highlight to me how little NZ is, and this mall really brought the message home. In my experience, a mall is a place with lots of clothing stores, a foodcourt (just one), the odd café, and there might be a movie theatre if you’re really lucky. The West Edmonton Mall has all the normal features of a mall, plus a theme park, a waterpark, an ice rink, two mini golf courses, an aquarium, a bowling alley, a mirror maze, and a hotel. We got two-day passes and managed to see pretty much everything the mall had on offer, including riding the world’s largest indoor rollercoaster, which we later learned crashed in the ’80s – pretty glad I didn’t know about that beforehand.

Saskatchewan was next, so we spent the past few days in Saskatoon doing very little, other than see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (non-spoiler thoughts: overall it was very good, I loved the costumes, Eddie Redmayne was great, disappointed in the Grindelwald casting, also I would like a niffler please), and we’re now in Regina. The prairies have definitely not been terribly boring like I was led to believe, but I wouldn’t want to stick around for long – I’ve discovered I really love my hills.

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