February is all about love and relationships, so we decided to end the month with a confession: we’ve got a crush on you, Calgary. Even amongst the hubbub of daily life it’s important to stop and appreciate what a truly incredible city we live in, one that is buzzing with innovation, creativity and charm. We spent the day falling in love with Calgary all over again, visiting some of the spots that make our great city so special. From a sunrise run of the memorial stairs to some of the best damn ice cream we've ever had, Calgary is where it's at. Dear YYC: We love you.
#1: 7:43 a.m. The Memorial Stairs
The simultaneously dreaded yet celebrated workout for Calgary natives: the Memorial Stairs. Yes, your quads will be on fire. Yes, your heart will be working in overdrive. Yes, you will be dripping in sweat. But the view from the top? Well, it makes it all worth it. Catching the sun rise above the downtown skyline, reflecting a golden glow on Prince's Island Park and the Bow River, you’ve got the best seat in the house. Not to mention that there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst fellow stair-climbers. The encouraging smiles and “you can do it!”s you will receive along the way, plus the shared sense of accomplishment when you reach the top, are one of the many reasons why Calgarians rock and why we #lovethiscity.
#2: 8:55 a.m. Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
After those stairs, time for something yummy for breakfast. It’s minus ten on a Monday morning and there is a line-up outside Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. I anxiously wait, pressing my nose against the window, watching them pull out trays of fresh bacon jam croissants, the decadent smell of butter (for is there anything better?) wafting over me. As the bakery opens, I rush to request one of their sweet scones, fresh out of the oven. Their friendly staff informs me that the today’s flavour is pear, coconut, dark chocolate and sesame. I guess I can roll with that.
The folks at Sidewalk Citizen have mastered the crunchy-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside consistency that is characteristic of the perfect scone. With one bite you can taste the exceptional hand-crafted quality, and the kind of wholesomeness you can only get from using organic, local, non-GMO ingredients. Mmmmm. Next stop, I need some java.
#3: 9:30 a.m. Analog Coffee
Analog is famous for its trendy crowd, hard-to-find tables and intricate craftsmanship of some of the best coffee in the city. It’s the “It Girl” at the coffee shop table, so to speak. I snag a spot, place my order, and after appreciating the lovely cappuccino feather the barista has made for me, I take my first sip. Now the long line of people rapidly forming outside the door is starting to make sense. The milk is steamed to the perfect texture and the espresso is nutty, rich, chocolaty and smooth. You can just taste meticulous preparation and quality of the coffee. Analog is the place to see and be seen, where coffee connoisseurs and models-off-duty unite, and my new stop for the most decadent cappuccino in the city.
#5: 10:15 a.m. Ollia Tea and Macarons
Strolling up 17th Avenue, I stumble into Ollia Tea and Macarons, a pretty little shop that specializes in the delicate art of macaron making. I am immediately greeted with a charming “bonjour!” (so authentic, I love this place already) and am informed on the flavours du jour. My interest is peaked when David, the chef and owner, tells me about their blue cheese, pear and pecan macaron. Blue cheese in the morning? Why not! Expertly balanced with the addition of pear and pecan, my first savoury macaron experience was one for the books. Try one of their 2 ½ hour macaron workshops where you will go home with a loot of your own handmade Parisian delicacies. Now its time for a little retail therapy…
#4: 10:40 a.m. Kit and Ace
Also on 17th Avenue, from the founders of Lululemon, Kit and Ace has recently arrived on the Calgary fashion scene. The shop is contemporary, simple, chic and sophisticated, focused on making you both look and (literally) feel amazing. Kit and Ace specializes in classic, simple pieces made from their patented Technical Cashmere, which is durable enough to be machine washable yet delicate enough to maintain its luxurious feel. It’s a cashmiracle. Don’t let the name Lululemon fool you; this stuff is not for the gym. Their pieces are perfect for street wear, the office, or for a night out. Get Some.
#5: 11:25 a.m. Studio Revolution
Next up, I test out one of YYC’s workout hotspots: the famous surfboard workout at Studio Revolution. Walking into the studio for my very first SurfSet class, I was pretty confident in my surfing abilities. Sure, I had never surfed before, but I was positive that my dance and yoga experience had prepared me with the core strength I needed to sail through the class.
Ten minutes in, my surfboard is wobbling beneath me (I only fell off once though…okay twice) as I do squatting shoulder presses with a 20 lb. kettlebell. My heart is racing, sweat is dripping down my temples and it’s official: this is the most challenging workout I have ever done. But, the enthusiasm of the instructor, upbeat playlist and the support of my fellow surfer gals also makes it the most fun I’ve ever had a fitness class. The 45 minute class whizzed by as I paddled against the current using resistance bands and rode the waves with jump squats. A few more classes and I’ll be booking a trip to Hawaii. Hang loose, dude.
#6: 1:15 p.m. Boxwood
For my post-workout lunch, I visited one of my favourite YYC restaurants, one that specializes in the use of local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients: Boxwood. The casual little sister to the famed River Café, Boxwood is an intimate wooden house situated in Memorial Park, built around the same farm-to-table philosophy. As I step inside, I let the delectable scent of fresh bread and rotisserie chicken swirl around me, taking in the chalet-chic décor. After much deliberation over their creative, rustic menu, I settle on the Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Mac n’ Cheese made with Sylvan Star Gouda. When I see a golden, bubbling hot dish making its way to me ten minutes later, I know I made the right choice. It is everything I want from a Mac n’ Cheese and more: crunchy on top, ooey and gooey in the middle, indulgent and comforting. Now it’s time for some dessert…
#7: 2:30 p.m. Village Ice Cream
I scream for ice cream. Village Ice Cream, that is. You must be able to smell their handmade waffle cones from a mile away because it’s Monday afternoon in the middle of winter and the place is packed. People are pushing and shoving to get a taste of artfully crafted, creamy, dreamy heaven. Village uses as much local, seasonal and organic ingredients as possible to create their artisanal, small-batch ice cream. Some of the highlights include Cereal Milk, Cardamom, Girl Guides Mint and Toasted Coconut. For me, their Phil & Sebastian Coffee flavour is one of the most magical experiences my palate has ever had. I’ll take a double scoop, please.
#8: 3:00 p.m. The Livery
For my last stop, I pop into The Livery. The historic red barn in Inglewood has been transformed by the folks at Camp Brand Goods and Coutu Kitsch into the coziest, most charming shopping destination in the city. You may go for mountain-chic duds and one-of-a-kind jewellery, but before you know it, you’ve spent an hour playing with their two adorable dogs, heard a story about Les and Connor’s latest mountain adventure and watched Dorian design one of her drool-worthy body chains. The two local businesses have collaborated to create a space that feels like home and a place where Calgarians can go to find stylish, quality, functional goods that suit our city-to-ski-hill lifestyle.
Well Calgary, thanks for spending the day with me, it’s been swell. Until next time!