Rocky Mountain Holiday
in Calgary, Canada on 2nd January, 2013


We arrived at Heathrow with three hours to go before our flight to Canada. We got our tickets a lot quicker than anyone else queuing up. Most other passengers looked like they were moving four carloads of goods from the Middle East to Canada and the checkin staff spent a lot of time on the phone looking as if the said passengers were breaking the law in doing so.

After we picked up our tickets we found the 500 meter queue to get through the metal detectors. Amazingly enough it only took about 30 minutes to get through.

We sat down for breakfast at a restaurant in the departures area and once we placed our order I left Triin at the table to go buy her Birthday present. Our coffees had been served by the time I returned. Triin was very keen to see what I'd bought her so I did my best to keep it hidden.

The flight west over southern Greenland to Canada during the winter lets us see two sunrises and sunsets in a single day. I spent most of the flight watching videos on how to build Rails apps and reading through hacker news comment threads I'd been saving up.

When we arrived in Calgary the border guard asked how long we'd be staying and if I was employed in the UK. She didn't so much as speak to Triin before stamping her in. Our bags came right away and we were out of the airport in no time. It felt good to know that for the better part of a month we'd need not have to go outside very often nor take much public transport.

During each working day the first week I'd wake up at 3:30am Calgary time to work. I had everything setup in my Mother's home office so I could just sit down right out of bed and begin coding and chatting with the rest of the team back in the UK. I had a project where I was integrating new HTML templates into an existing backbone.js app. I didn't need to interact much with others to get the work done and most chats with London were friendly exchanges on my progress.

I could see a big evergreen tree outside the office window and most mornings the sky was red, blue and purple from the killer winter sunrises Calgary gets. The snow on the tree would turn pink during the sunrises. By contrast the only colours I can remember seeing out of the windows at work in London are grey, brown and black. I'm not even sure if grey or black can be classed as colours.

I was finished work around lunchtime each day which gave us the lion share of the day to drive around and do stuff.

We did a total of three trips into the mountains. On one occasion we visited Lake Louise and walked around during a snow storm. The backdrop made for a dramatic effect in some photos I took of Triin and of the horses being ridden by cowboys down the banks of the lake. At one point we caught a man climbing up icicles which were about 10 to 14 meters in length up the side of a mountain.

We left for our second trip to Banff at 8am on a Sunday morning. The sunrise was around 8:30am that day so we caught the whole of the red hour heading through the mountains into Banff. I'm not sure why I never cared about these scenes of nature when I was a kid but I very much appreciate them now.

I bought Triin and myself a trip up the Gondola in Banff and snapped a few pics. I couldn't believe how beautiful the view was. I uploaded one of the photos to 500px and it reached the popular page with a rating of 90.2. Prior to that photo I'd never had a pic rate higher than the low 70s on 500px.

We also visited the Hot Springs on two occasions. The water comes from inside the mountains and hasn't seen sunlight in over 300 years. The water was 47C the first time we visited and 39C during the second visit. The pool has great views of the mountains surrounding it. An adult ticket was ~£4.10 which seemed crazy cheap to me.

We managed to spot a lot of wild animals while driving around. We saw three Elk by Lake Minnewanka, Deer all over Banff eating trees and whatnot in people's backyards, Mountain Goats along the Trans Canada Highway and a few Rabbits around our neighbourhood in Calgary.

I took Triin for a few walks around where I grew up in Calgary. We visited a forest where I had a treehouse when I was a little kid, a street in Douglas Dale where my family and I lived in the late 80s and early 90s and we walked around Lake Bonavista and Deer Run - all the while noticing everywhere seemed very quiet.

We spent a lot of evenings laying in bed watching films and shows off my laptop with one of my Mom's dogs. We got an extra heater in the room so it felt really warm and cozy. The downstairs has a gas-fuelled fireplace so when we had the house to ourselves we'd fire it up and watch TV with the animals while laying on the sofas.

I could imagine if Triin and I were to ever live in Canada we'd turn into Hermits. Even crappy houses in south east Calgary have hot tubs in the backyard, you can buy a home gym for the same price as a three-month gym pass in London and a family friend bought flights and a week in a resort in Cuba for $1,000 a couple days before jetting off. Just everything we came across seemed to be a lot cheaper than what they'd go for in London or Estonia.

My contract hasn't been that fussy about work locations and I've already gotten to work remotely in the Netherlands and Estonia. I'm sort of kicking myself for not pushing to finish the few months of my contract in Canada. Given the choice between London in winter and Calgary I think Calgary ranks slightly better. Winter is very colourful in Western Canada.


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