ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Prince George

ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Prince George

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Just north of the 54th parallel sits a bustling town with a lot of history. Founded in 1915, Prince George was originally settled by the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and has now grown to a population of 76,000 people all nestled in this densely forested area along the Fraser River. It was a town I had heard many things about but hadn’t considered as a travel destination. Now that Central Mountain Air are offering a direct flight (which, by the way, is only an hour!) it makes it incredibly accessible to those interested in exploring off the beaten path. Keep scrolling for highlights from my two days in PG.

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DAY ONE

We landed in the quaint airport that, unsurprisingly, had a lot of log detailing. It was misty out and everything smelled fresh, the way Northern BC tends to be. We were greeted by two mascots, Amelia Bearheart and Fraser the Moose, as well as our lovely hosts from Tourism PG, Annie and Anna. Off we went in a Pathfinder straight to the downtown core for breakfast at Ohh Chocolat Cafe. If there’s one place I love going, it’s a restaurant based around my favourite sweet – chocolate, and this one did not disappoint. Between the exceptional London Fog down to the candied bacon included in my breakfast, everything was a real sweet treat.

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Our second stop was the Two Rivers Art Gallery. I was taken by the photographs of Adad Hannah and the rooftop installation Standing Split: My place, out of my place by David Jacob Harder. While we were walking around the second floor, we were watched by some curious eyes of children who were busy making duct tape wallets. The art gallery is definitely a hub of activity between its classes and evenings for the public to freely use equipment such as 3-D printers.

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From the art gallery, we were able to hop on a free walking tour of Prince George where we quickly learned of its very fiery history. It seems as though each building downtown has caught fire or burnt down completely on numerous occasions. With that said, many historical sites have managed survive perishing to flames over the years and we were able to appreciate them in real life instead of old photographs. I was impressed by the number of public art pieces we can across whether it was larger installations, a mural on a private building, or simply the sidewalk painted rainbow in honour of their Pride parade (which started in 1997 and celebrated its 20th anniversary this year!)

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Then it was time to eat again. Lunch was at Betulla Burning, a gorgeous pizzeria located on the main street. With a fire burning pizza often as the focal point of the restaurant, it was quite a sight to see. This restaurant also fell prey to flames right before opening and had to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. I think they did a fantastic job.

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Everything on the menu looked so delectable but this is the point in which this trip became all about charcuterie. We went for the full antipasto which included the most amazing smoked olives, pickled carrots, and such thinly sliced prosciutto, it just melted in my mouth. I followed that up with the Salmon Crudo, a lighter dish of sockeye salmon, tomato & cucumber gazpacho, spruce tip granite, shiso & rye gremolata, Betulla garden herbs. It was dreamy.

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We finished lunch with dessert, of course. The nutella calzone and London Fog panna cotta almost made me cry. The calzone was so good, Karlie from Miss Wanderlust ended up taking it with us on our travels for the day. Cally the calzone became the 7th influencer on this trip in addition to Diana from 204 Park, Andrea Hanki of Andrea Hanki Land, Kelsy Neilson of Twirls & Travels, and Phil of the Baconhound.

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After eating our weight in cured meats and cheese, we headed to the Exploration Place. There, we enjoyed a whip around the riverside park on a mini steam train. There’s nothing quite like catching a good breeze next to a body of water while chugging along some steel tracks on a tiny train. I highly recommend it. The Science Center is conveniently located next to the train so we popped by there for some taxidermy of local wildlife and a wonderful Lheidli T’enneh exhibit.

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For a brief moment, we checked into our accommodations, the Treasure Cove Hotel, where I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to see the handsome Mr PG statue in the distance. What a dreamboat. There wasn’t any time to swoon over him, we had places to go. It didn’t matter anyway because I knew we had a date with him arranged for the following day. I could wait. So off we went to the Northern Lights Estate Vineyard to see how they make fruit based wines at BC’s northern most winery.

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I did not get the memo re: wear floral to the vineyard so I just admired the floral on floral on floral from afar. We toured the winery grounds adjacent to the Nechako River as the sun began to creep behind the hill. They mentioned that they host movie nights overlooking the vineyard on their natural amphitheater. No winery tour is complete without a tasting and a charcuterie board, both of which I can confirm were so good that I was too busy enjoying them to photograph them. Try to imagine…… a glass of wine…… and a board full of meat and cheese. You get the picture.

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If wine wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t of course because this was a trip of sheer gluttony, we had to stop at a brewery as well. Pacific Western Brewery is home to Cariboo brewing. Turns out I’m not a huge beer enthusiast but I sure enjoyed their Wild Rootbeer. That is one tasty drink! Deliciously deceptive if you will, I could not even taste the alcohol in it.

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Our final stop for the day was at a restaurant downtown called North 54. The energy level was pretty low at this point but we weren’t about to stop this food frenzy over a little fatigue. I started with the Wild Maine Scallops seared & served with a creamy miso glaze and pea shoots. I can honestly say, these were the best scallops I have ever eaten. They were seared to perfection and the sauce was otherworldly. 10/10 would eat again. I followed that with Lobster Ravioli, handmade and served with fresh basil, caramelized onions in a rich roasted garlic tomato sauce. Duuuuuuude. There are no words. I basically went comatose after this meal.

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DAY TWO

I went to sleep at 10 pm because I could not keep my eyes open. I slept like the dead and awoke at 6 am famished and ready to begin eating once more. Are you sensing a trend on this trip? Fortunately, we had made plans to meet early at Hummus Brothers, a restaurant next door to the hotel. Perfect. Diana and I decided to split the cinnamon bun which we didn’t realize would be the size of our heads… in addition to a Eggs Benedict. No regrets.

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Post breakfast, we hit the road to go check out the Ancient Forest / Chun T’oh Whudujut Park, the only inland rainforest in North America! It was awe-inspiring. Not only is it universally accessible with its recently installed boardwalk stretching deep within the forest, it is also incredibly humbling being surrounded by such enormous old growth trees. The tall cedars are up to 2000 years old. That is mind blowing! Especially when you come across one that has fallen and you’re able to see the extensive root system. It is magnificent. This was easily my favourite part of the trip.

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After that journey, it was feeding time again! Our last meal in Prince George was in another establishment that had caught fire at one point but survived! The Copper Pig BBQ House is exactly what you would imagine with a name like that. Lots of tasty bbq meats and giant mason jars full of fresh fruit flavoured lemonade. I particularly liked their mashed potatoes that had a hint of grainy mustard in them.

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Before heading back to Edmonton, we had to pay a visit to Mr PG, that handsome wood man at the side of the road. A product of a visionary in the 1960s, Mr PG has had a prominent role in the civic pride of this city. Before he was a permanent structure at this location, he had the pleasure of riding on a float for their May Day Parade. He’s been added to my list of favourite kitschy landmarks which includes the Happy Rock in Gladstone. That 27 foot tall log man is a tall drink of water for sure.

What a jam packed trip of food, fun, and friends that was! Many thanks to Central Mountain Air and Tourism Prince George for having me out to Take on PG and see what the interior of BC is all about!

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ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Fernie

ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Fernie

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Nestled in the Elk Valley is Fernie, the mountain town I wish I grew up in. It’s both gorgeous in scenery but it’s also situated in close proximity to a smattering of day trip options. It’s the best of all worlds when it comes to a mountain town in British Columbia.

Both times I’ve been in town, I’ve stayed at the Fernie Stanford Resort – a stones throw away from the Alpine Resort. Not only is their location top notch, the hotel itself is an oasis. Their amenities make you not want to leave the property between their spa, Evoke, a large indoor pool, and the Tandoor Grill Indian restaurant, there’s many reasons to stay and relax.

Keep scrolling for my favourite Fernie haunts:

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ACCOMMODATIONS
FERNIE STANFORD RESORT

My sister and I had such a great time last year when we stayed at the Fernie Stanford Resort last year that returning this year was like coming home. (Read about that stay here).

The first time, we were in the main hotel, but what I didn’t realize was that the resort offers a townhouse option for those traveling with many guests for a weekend of skiing, hiking, or all of the above.

I must say, it felt pretty decadent in a 5 bedroom townhouse with only two guests. Best. Game. Of. Hide. And. Seek. EVER. Plus having the option of a full kitchen to make meals in was delightful… not to mention the massive Jacuzzi tub and two (TWO!) gas fireplaces! It was the perfect combination of cozy but spacious.

The view itself deserves it’s own write up. All the townhouses face the river and an awe-inspiring mountainscape. Sitting out on the balcony with a hot chocolate watching the river flow was a relaxing zen moment you can only have in the mountains.

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FOOD

BREAKFASTBIG BANG BAGELS

What better way to start the day off than with a delicious breakfast sandwich housed in a freshly baked bagel? They make them from scratch and there is a smorgasbord of options to choose from including Pumpkin Seed, Jalapeno + Cheese, Pesto Spinach, and many, many more. See the full menu here.

COFFEELOAF

I spend a considerable amount of time seeking out the best London Fog’s in each town I visit – it’s a habit I won’t soon be breaking. Loaf makes a exceptional London Fog… not to mention if you’re looking for a second breakfast, their Eggs Benedict is a real delight. Plus, their storefront overlooks main street for your people watching pleasures. Full menu here.

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DINNER – YAMAGOYA SUSHI

Some of the best sushi I’ve had in Canada was from Yamagoya. The place was PACKED on the Friday night and rightfully so. All of the fish was so fresh, the tuna sashimi melts in your mouth, and the cocktails were a delight; I had the sake margarita. Full menu here.

DRINKS & LATE NIGHT BITES – NEVADOS

For all the mescal deliciousness you can handle with a side of tacos and great atmosphere, head to Nevados. Here’s the link to their site but it’s been under construction foreverrrrrr…. it is not a reflection of the quality of this establishment. Trust me it’s fantastic.

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TO DO

EVOKE SPA – FERNIE STANFORD RESORT

Take some time for yourself and book a relaxing treatment at the Evoke Spa conveniently located within the Fernie Stanford Resort. I went for the Sacred Nature Face Treatment which left my skin feeling nurtured and fresh. I am absolutely enamored with the product line they use, Comfort Zone’s Sacred Nature, an Italian skincare company devoted to organic ingredients and is biocertified. The whole spa smelled like their Tranquility Candle (floral, sweet orange, and cedarwood!) Absolute heaven.  See full spa menu here.

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FRANK SLIDE

Don’t let this charming name fool you, Frank Slide is the remmenats of a tragic rockslide on the town of Frank in 1903. According to Wikipedia, 90 million tons of limestone rock slid down Turtle Mountain in 100 seconds completely covering the east side of Frank. It is quite astounding to drive by from the highway looking up but I suggest walking the trails through the limestone. We were surprised by some very curious deer while strolling.

Drive time from Fernie: 1 hour east

LUSSIER HOT SPRINGS

This is an undeveloped natural hotspring on the side of a river in Whiteswan Provincial Park. There’s a bumpy logging road that takes you right to the springs (there’s decent signage) and a well worn walking path to get down there. It will likely be quite busy, especially in the summertime.

Drive time from Fernie: 2 hours north

WHITEFISH, MONTANA

This adorable little town with its picturesque houses is home to a ski resort, Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival. HOW CUTE DOES THAT SOUND? We mostly drove around looking at houses and getting a slice of classic pizza. I will definitely be going back to explore more in the future.

Drive time from Fernie: Whitefish 2 hours south (with boarder crossing!)

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From my experience, Fernie is a year round place to visit. In the summer they have hiking and derby days, in the winter there’s skiing of course, but during the in between seasons, it’s a quiet place to relax and enjoy the town at a glacial pace.

Big thanks to the Fernie Stanford Resort for having us on our weekend stay!

photographs – Sandy Karpetz / Jesse Sand

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ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Vancouver

ON THE ROAD | A Weekend in Vancouver

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I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am completely reckless and irresponsible when it comes to compiling travel pieces… (remember that time I went to Japan and have yet to post ANYTHING about it? It’s coming… I swear.) In my mind, it always seems daunting sifting through the plethora of shots to use for a travel diary. I am one snap happy traveler and editing that down can be pain.

With that said, back in October I flew to Vancouver to meet up with my best friend Cecily for her birthday and finally meet her glamorous and lovely grandma. The goal of the trip was to hike, relax, and consume an excessive amount of sushi and lattes as possible. In my opinion, we succeeded in all facets, especially in the hike department. I was barely able to walk once Cecily was done with me.

Read on for a few places we couldn’t get enough of.

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THE CHIEF

This was the first serious hike I’ve ever gone on. Any other “hike” I’ve been on was a glorified walk compared to The Chief. As I panted trying to carry my body up the severe incline, dreadlocked men ran past us in converse and shorts, skipping steps, no jackets, no water bottles. This certainly wasn’t their first rodeo, but it sure was mine.

It’s graded as an “intermediate hike” but once you get to the peaks, there are CHAINS to help you climb the rest of the way. Since we went in October, which is considered off-season in Squamish, it was extremely slippery. Plus I was convinced every one on the trail was there to murder us courtesy of the tails I’ve listened to on the My Favorite Murder podcast.

According to my iPhone health tracker, we walked 14,211 steps, 9.03 km, and climbed 145 floors on that hike.

I can vouch that this is not a trail for a beginner unless you’re overzealous but make sure to stretch A LOT afterwards which I did not do. If this isn’t your bag, you can still experience the area in a much less strenuous way on the Sea to Sky Gondola.

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SUSHI MAIN

We ate here more than once. It was conveniently located up the block from 49th Parallel, the sashimi was incredible, and there was this cute teal car parked around the corner that I fell in love with. I think I’ve made a great case for it.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH PARK

There’s a mountain view, there’s a biodome, there’s luscious trees everywhere! This park truly has it all as well as Cecily looking gazelle-like in her Bree Layne choker. If you want more of a taste of the park here’s another post.

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SHOPPING

Cecily and I stumbled into a minimalist’s dream while walking down Main St; the shop was called Umeboshi. I’m a slave to Japan so we made the trek out to Richmond to visit my favourite Japanese dollar store: Daiso. Are you looking for cute stationery or perhaps some Japanese confections? This is the store for you.

We also checked out the Broom Company on Granville Island which was spectacular. Do you want to see someone construct an old timey broom right before your eyes? Then hoof it on down to the island.

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On the left we have some hard evidence of my snap happy ways. This video was taken at the beginning of our first hike, when I was still chipper and my legs worked.
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COFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

The first cafe we hit up on the trip was right before the treacherous hike we went on. The Greenhorn Cafe, located downtown in a maze of one way streets, was open early for breakfast and lattes which we indulged in both.

49th Parallel & Lucky’s Doughnuts – we were repeat offenders here mostly because of their handmade organic almond milk which is Sandy and Cecily’s greatest pleasure of all. Their excellent doughnut selection is second to the almond milk but I’m always glad to pair a baked good with a latte. I’m not a monster after all.

Matchstick – if the minimal decor wasn’t enough to draw you in in the first place, the smell of incredible coffee and the taste of their lattes is enough to keep you returning many times as we did; all weekend.

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DAY TRIP

Both Cecily and I had never been to Whistler and we figured this was the perfect opportunity to change this. To be fair, we didn’t see *Whistler* proper because the Scandinave Spa was calling. Hopping from hot sauna’s to polar dip pools nearly killed me. My body wasn’t nearly as mobile as usual since the hike. I also discovered I have a hard time with keeping silent for that long, everyone should try it!

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Mini adventures with Cecily are one of my favourite things to do. It was so fortunate we were even able to make that happen twice last year. Hopefully 2017 will magically throw another opportunity our way.

Photographs – Cecily + Sandy

ON THE ROAD | Best Autumn Weekend in Calgary

ON THE ROAD | Best Autumn Weekend in Calgary

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On a crisp Saturday morning two weeks ago, I picked up my two pals Simon and Mathyou and we headed down to Calgary for an unforgettable weekend. We drove down highway 2 under an overcast sky with a sunny break in the clouds looming in the distance miraculously over top Calgary. What luck!

I’ve been to Calgary many times over the years but it has either been for a family function or a work related event which never lent a lot of time to fully experience the city. This weekend was all about indulging in the best that our neighbours down south had to offer and thanks to Tourism Calgary, we checked off many place on our to-do lists.

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Can confirm the dog watching in this area is noteworthy. We ran into this cutie almost immediately upon our arrival.

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DAY ONE

We went straight to 17th Ave – known for its boutique shopping, good coffee, and eclectic mix of restaurants. Our first stop in town was Ollia for a macaron and tea tasting. They offer both sweet and savory macarons as well as new spins on classic drinks: vanilla or chocolate London Fogs and a maple chai!

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SHOPPING

After our tasting, we headed down 17th Ave to check out the boutique shopping. We didn’t walk far before we were drawn into the vortex of Reids Stationers – a stationery lover’s mecca. They have everything: journals, greeting cards, pug themed everything, small gifts, party supplies… the list goes on. They even had unicorn highball glasses which Mathyou went home with.

LUNCH

At this point in the day, we were ready for a proper meal (the drive down was fueled by road coffees and energy drinks – we didn’t even stop at the Donut Mill!). We decided to keep it close and check out Clive Burger. Perhaps Japan did it to me, but I love a good food mascot with a face and they have a full roster of animated food friends. The weather was so mild, we were able to enjoy our meal outside while people watching (bonus: many people had dogs).

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DINNER

After we powered through the day, we went back to the Fairmont Palliser to check in and take a much deserved nap. Around 7, we took a leisurely stroll to Anju, also on 17th – that avenue has everything! If you love Korean tapas and thoughtful cocktails, this is the place for you. I am still dreaming about their Spicy Scallop Sashimi and Oxtail Tortellini; everything we ate there was an absolute delight.

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Did you miss my Snapchat video from the weekend? No worries. Relive day one on the left.

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DAY TWO

BREAKFAST

We went to The Beltliner for breakfast which was another short walk from our hotel – apparently Calgary is more walkable than I had realized. I ordered a classic breakfast, a pretty standard fare however not at this joint! Their hashbrowns were triangularly cut, piled together, and looked like they were possibly deep fried. I was impressed to say the least, they knocked it out of the park.

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CALGARY TOWER

What is more classic Calgary then heading up their infamous tower? It was so clear out we could see all the way to the Rocky Mountains. I even made friends with a moose.

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LUNCH

What’s better than one breakfast? A second breakfast of course! This was our logic when we headed to Royal Brasserie to have Eggs Benedict. The interior felt so authentically French, it was as if we had been transported back to Paris. Their salmon Eggs Benedict and caesars are amazing. Forget lunch…. second breakfast is the way to go.

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THE CORE

Having had two breakfasts, we needed to get some walking in. Off to the CORE we went, Calgary’s downtown mall with such luxury retailers as Holt Renfrew and soon to be Simons. There are living walls throughout the centre which isn’t surprising since it’s home to the Devonian Gardens! I treated myself to my favourite Diptyque candles.

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EXTREME AIR PARK

I have always wanted to try out a trampoline park, some of my fondest childhood memories were from trampolining in the summer with a sprinkler underneath and Spice Girls on my CD player. Extreme Air Park was hilarious and amazing – we may have been the only adults there that were not accompanying children (perhaps because it was a Sunday afternoon?) which made it even more comical. Every so often the lights would dim, the music would get louder, and disco lighting would appear – it was a trampoline nightclub! Proceed with caution into the foam pit though, I struggled pretty hard to get out – it was totally worth it.

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DINNER

Having jumped around, we had earned our dinner big time. Sunday Supper at Model Milk is a set dinner menu that changes every week. It just so happened this particular Sunday was a Korean themed tapas meal as well – we were making a weekend of it! One of their cocktail specials was a Matcha Green Tea Gin Fizz. The Bo Saam Pork Shoulder lettuce wraps were unreal, but the dessert is what killed me: Cereal Milk Ice Cream Pie. I die.

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DAY THREE

BREAKFAST

Our hotel was an exceptional and integral part of our stay. Not only is the Fairmont Palliser close to everything, the actual suites were so comfortable. There’s nothing I love more than a king size bed all to myself – you can slowly rotate around it like the hands of a clock, always chasing the cold spot. Their spa area is top notch with cucumber water and a relaxing hot tub. Those were all wonderful, but the real test is the quality of room service; the Fairmont never disappoints in that department.

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SMITHBILT HATS

Down in Inglewood is a legendary hat company, Smithbilt, that was founded in 1919 and we were fortunate enough to get a full tour of their operations and be outfitted in their classic Calgary hat – which I proceeded to wear all day until it rained! They are still using the same tools from when they originally opened to create these hats! Unreal.

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LUNCH

Our final stop on this whirlwind tour of Calgary was Native Tongues Taqueria. Did we save the best for last? Hard to say, but it was a satisfying meal. I started with a Mezcalgarita and a horchata both of which are something to write home about. One of the real standouts for me was a grilled carrot appetizer, a dish we all agreed we would have never ordered on our own accord if it hadn’t been recommended to us, but one we absolutely loved. Also their mushroom tacos – incredible.

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Day three on snapchat –>

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Three days went by in a flash but it was enough time to see a large part of Calgary that I had missed while distracted by other engagements in the city. I cannot wait to have a reason to go back again…. even if the reason is just that I need another horchata stat!

Photographs – Sandy Karpetz / Mathyou Garrett / Simon Underwood

This post was sponsored by Tourism Calgary.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.