You really are a brainy lot, I have indeed spent three weeks of my Summer in Canada which is, of course, in North America so you all score full marks! And what an amazing country it turned out to be. Lovely, friendly, charming people with a great sense of humour and some of the most staggeringly beautiful scenery I have ever seen.
This week on my blog is Canada week so apologies in advance for all the blurb to follow but I really want to record my trip and that is, is it not, the very essence of what a blog is for? For anyone toying with the idea of Canada as a future holiday destination, I'll give some links along the way because we stayed in some wonderful places and saw some truly awesome sights.
Our journey began in Calgary, three lovely days chilling out with friends who relocated from Blighty ten years ago. Seeing their home and its surroundings didn't take us long to work out why, because they have the most amazing, outdoorsy lifestyle. I have to confess I saw nothing of Calgary the city because they live on the outskirts, right on the edge of a man-made lake with their own private dock, kayaks and a boat moored to the side. Their three children are the same ages as ours and they got on right from the very moment we got off the plane.
We all loved pootling about on the lake and the scenic cycle rides right from their door. But there was somewhere else that left a big impression on me and that was Heritage Park, Canada's largest living history museum, which tells the story of 'how the West was once' and has created an authentic setting to tell that tale. We took a short trip on a working steamboat and the children loved riding on the antique fairground attractions. Part of the huge Park is set up like a 1920s Canadian railway town but by far and away the best bit was the section devoted to the 1880s and life before the railway.
Here they have recreated a mid-west town by moving original period homes and stores from around Alberta, brick by brick, along with the wallpaper, carpets and flooring, furnishings and lighting too. These buildings have been bequeathed to the Park and really do give an idea of how life was at that time. Some of the buildings such as the dentist, hospital, money lender were locked and only visible through glass but most were open to the public.
There was a snooker hall, post office, church, even a synagogue and all of these were furnished with original fixtures, fittings and many artefacts besides. Then there were some that were working such as the blacksmiths forging tools, fresh cinnamon breads being brought out of antique ovens and sold to a queuing public at the bakery, the printers creating leaflets, an antiques shop open for business, ice cream parlour and gift shop selling repro gifts that made me feel I was on the set of 'Little House on the Prairie' - remember that? I completely fell in love with the textiles which provided so much inspiration.
I had a long conversation with one of the ladies working in the 'general stores' who told me the Park has its own costume department where they research fabrics and prints that would have been used at that time. The prints are then made up into bolts of fabric and in turn made into clothing using vintage patterns and given to the staff to wear. Fabric colours are matched to the individual employee so that everyone wears something that suits their colouring. She showed me the beautiful lacy petticoat that was underneath her heavy skirt, pointing out that despite the fact it will not be seen, the attention to detail is all there. Sadly the costume department is not open to the public .. what I would have given to have a nosy through that! If you are interested in repro prints, check out this etsy shop because it gives you a good idea of the prints around back then.
Now I can't bear anything cheesy and this sort of thing would normally make me cringe, however it was presented in such an interesting and tasteful way. The very knowledgeable staff were all dressed in costumes of the period and remained in character the whole time yet there was nothing naff about it whatsoever. I can't recommend this place highly enough.
It was a wrench leaving Calgary, particularly for my boy who forged such strong relationships that he wants to live there now, despite the fact those fabulous lake summers last only a matter of weeks and Calgary is knee-deep in snow with temperatures as low as -40C during the Winter.
But then we drove up into the Rockies and it was soon clear the excitement was not over!