Quick shower at 05.00. Good strong cup of coffee. Last things stowed for travelling and just after 05.30 we were heading north up the A21 to join the M25 heading west in light rain and heavy road-spray, Gatwick-bound. Thanks to friends in Sussex my arrival at the airport would be timely and in comfort and style.
Check-in is always boring, three-hours for North America 50% more so than usual. But I tracked down a free-WiFi spot which helped. MacDonald’s may not pay their UK taxes (not that they are on their corporate own in that) but they do set a good example by providing free WiFi at Gatwick Airport.
As I settled back in the newly refurbished leather seats for the 9½ hour flight the rain streaked the windows as we took off and I thought, with much pleasure, that this may well be last rain I see for a month.
We landed in a snow-covered Calgary with outside temperatures around -10oC. A painfully slow 1 hour journey through customs and baggage collection, the latter more tedious than usual as there were skis and boot bags to wait for as well as the Big Bag, but I was finally through the doors and met by friends who were picking me up. After breathing the artificial, fuggy mixture in airports and plane, walking out into the cold fresh air was like drinking in a refreshing elixir. It helped stir the brain into motion again after 13 hours of putting it on standby in order to avoid becoming a gibbering wreck.
Calgary is a large, sprawling city of more than a million people, Canada’s second largest after Toronto, French-speaking Montreal with more people being classed as a ‘ville’. As we sped under a near-cloudless blue sky through gently undulating, snow-covered low-density urban landscape the roads seemed very wide and open after Britain, everywhere made to look clean and fresh under its white blanket. We swept under Highway 1, the Trans Canada, longest paved road in the world, and on towards the suburbs. The towers of ‘Downtime’ were off to the left, the snowy peaks of the Rockies ahead in the distance. The last time I was here it was dark for both the arrival and departure so I saw nothing of either Calgary or the airport.
After a light snack we went in the car the few minutes to Fish Creek Provincial Park, an area of natural wilderness 13 kilometres by 9, preserved within the city limits with trails running through the forest of pine and poplar bordering the frozen, snow-covered creek …… and ‘washrooms’ left unlocked because there are no worries about vandalism. We stood on a low bluff (cliff) and watched the sun turn the few clouds in the distance a delicate pink.
I had followed the sun westward for 9 ½ hours and still hadn’t caught up with it. It’s still leading me on.
Thank you for glossing over the hash I made of finding the passenger drop-off at Gatwick!