First impressions of Calgary

This week marks eight weeks since we touched down in Calgary and we’ve been wanting to write this post for ages, but we’ve been so busy doing admin, exploring and having fun, that we just haven’t had the chance.

It’s been quite an incredible adventure so far and we’ve had so much fun exploring our new city.

Here are some of our first impressions of Calgary:

To be honest, when we left the airport and we looked around at the scenery there was a moment of “oh no, what have we done?”. The route from the airport can only be described as quite ugly – the area is very industrial and this time of the year the landscape is dry and brown, and we had this feeling of arriving in a small dorpie in the Free State. But once we made our way into the city and suburbs, we started to see the beauty of Calgary. The clean streets, the parks, the shiny skyscrapers, the trees, the beautiful houses, the woods and the rivers.

It’s definitely true how Calgary has been described as a city with a small-town feel. It’s really not a big city and it’s pretty easy to get around. You’ll soon learn the major trails (highways) that link the different quadrants of the city, and each neighbourhood has it’s own unique feel.

Everything is so big here – from the roads and the cars, especially the trucks, to the shops – and there is such a huge variety when it comes to shopping. It can be quite overwhelming when you first go into a super market and have to try figure out all the different groceries and prices. We have often gone to a grocery or clothing store with a list of items to purchase and we come home empty handed as we are not sure of the brands or quality.

We took a drive out to Banff and Lake Louise within our first two weeks here, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We were treated to the true beauty of the Rockies, and the typical Canadian scenery of lakes, pine trees and snow-capped mountains. It was honestly breathtaking, and more stunning than we could have ever imagined. It really is wonderful having this just a short hour’s drive from us, and we can’t wait to explore the area further.

There are so many awesome woods and trails to explore in and around Calgary and we have loved being out in the great outdoors as a family. Walking along the river, through the woods and even just taking a stroll through the neighbourhood has been an adventure. It’s safe and clean, and the girls have especially loved the play parks, which are dotted around every suburb. There are at least three playparks within walking distance from our house, and we’re very excited to learn that in a couple of weeks, there will be an outdoor skating rink set up next to the one park, just 500m from our house.

The South African community in Calgary has been so helpful and so generous and we are really grateful for all the help we have received, from accommodation, to lifts from the airport or to the shops, to the invites for lunch, coffee and shopping dates. Everyone has given of their time and resources to help us get settled, and it’s been great having access to their insights and advice, and we honestly would never have survived without it. There is a real sense of community among the South Africans, and we look forward to paying it forward wherever and whenever we can.

Calgarians have been really helpful, friendly and welcoming – but we can’t say the same for when they get behind the wheel of a car. Drivers are so aggressive – they don’t give you a gap, drive up your backside and are very quick to hoot, or as they say here, honk their horn. We often feel like we’re really annoying the other drivers, but we’re slowly getting used to the roads and driving on the wrong (right) side of the road.

If you’re not keen to drive, you’ll be happy to know that Calgary has an extensive public transport system. We’ve loved getting around and into the city using the integrated bus and C train system and it’s really easy, clean, safe and convenient. The Calgary Transit App is very user friendly and you can input where you want to go and the App will tell you the best route via public transport, and it’ll even tell you how long it will take you to get there, including how long it may take you to walk to or from any stations.

Every day Calgary feels a bit more like home and we have no regrets about moving here.

We’re looking forward to sharing more of our adventures here soon!

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