As some of you may or may not know, I have been trying to get to Canada since 2016 and each time I have tried to get to Toronto.
The first time was in April of 2016 and I couldn’t get there because of illness. I then left it until May of 2020 to go there and, of course, I couldn’t because of Covid. I then rescheduled for March of 2021 and Covid was still gracing us with her presence and the flight was cancelled. I then tried for October of 2021, Covid still had other ideas. I was getting frustrated that I would never get there. I decided for one last time to book for march 2022.
This time I decided against Toronto (because she obviously didn’t want me there) and tried for Calgary – I have a childhood friend that lives there with her husband and kids. I decided that if it didn’t go ahead that Canada didn’t want me to visit and I would just sack it off. Due to this, I never really looked at anything to do fully expecting the flights would be cancelled and I didn’t want to get myself excited for no reason.
I told my friends that I would only believe I am in Canada once I had been there for a few days. The time was getting closer and closer to visiting and there was no sign of the flights being cancelled (woohoo). I received an email from WestJet (think long haul Ryanair) a few days before the flight was due to take off and I fully expected it to be a cancellation. To my surprise, it was a reminder that the trip was getting closer. Could this actually be going ahead? Could it? Is it? I was still sceptical about it dear readers.
The day came to head down to Gatwick for the flight. Peterborough now has a direct link with Gatwick Airport and it takes about 2.5 hours. I was leaving East Croydon (and 30 minutes from Gatwick Airport) when I got an email from WestJet – I was fully expecting a cancellation of the flight. It was just an email to say the flight was a couple of hours late (thankfully). I breathed a massive sigh of relief and got to Gatwick and headed to the terminal. It seemed like a forever walk as the South Terminal was closed and only the North Terminal was operating.
I got to the check-in desks and had my documents checked and sat for about 30 minutes and had something to drink and then went to find some food and sit close to the gate.
I will add that going through security here was time-consuming and not so fun. My bag was selected for additional screening because I had some Cadbury Highlights hot chocolate for Jennie and I was told I should have taken it out of my bag. Oh well, you live and learn.
The time came to head to the gate and board ready for the 9-hour flight. I forgot how gruelling long haul flying is. This was exacerbated by the fact I had just finished a 12 hour night shift and only had time to shower and get ready before needing to leave.
The flight was pretty uneventful and I slept for about half of it. I was in an aisle seat so couldn’t really get much sleep and a kid was climbing the seat in front of me and making noise and talking and touching me.
The flight had an interesting twist which I’ll mention in a second. We landed and then got off and I stopped for a few minutes so I could open my case to pull the handle up (I had so much in there as I didn’t have checked bags) and wheel it properly.
I got to the border and had to go through some electronic system to show my documents and get my pass to get across the border (I’m sad I didn’t get a stamp). Once I had done that, I had to speak with a border guard to advise of my reasons for coming to Canada and what I was going to do. Once I had done this, he sent me on my way and then I was stopped by another agent who asked the same questions. I was again sent on my way and finally got to the exit and had to hand my slip in before I went out of the airport.
Once I was out, I got a cool text from O2 to say that I could use 120 minutes/120 texts/unlimited data each day I was there. That saved me some money. Yay.
I looked to see how I was going to get from the airport to the hostel and there was a bus that went right to downtown and a block (I know, I don’t even know how we would measure that here) away from the hostel. I checked in and had some major issues with my card and it wasn’t allowing me to pay. I had to turn on an old fashioned way of paying in Canada. I know. Once this was done, I was shown to the room and put my stuff down and went in search of food and Root Beer (whatever Ken, it’s delicious!!!) and then had a look around. I saw these +15 signs everywhere but not a clue what they were about (more on that for later in the post). I headed back to the hostel and started to chill. There was me and 2 other guys in the room and this new guy came in. He was from Germany.
Remember the twist: well here it is (and it took us a day to realise this). Wolf (pronounced Vulf) is his name and we got to chatting about his journey from Hamburg to Calgary. He went via Dublin and then to Gatwick. It didn’t click that there was only one flight per day from Gatwick to Calgary. The next day we realised we were on the same flight from Gatwick to Calgary. We wondered why I had gotten there quicker. He was there on a working visa which is what had taken up so much of his time at the airport. It also transpires that I was in seat 17F and he in 20E (3 rows apart – I know, right). He remembers seeing the kid in the seat in front of me causing trouble.
I know there was only 1 downtown hostel open in Calgary but with the number of rooms they had, what are the chances we’d be in the same one!?!? I’m of the opinion that people come into your life for a reason and, after chatting and sightseeing the city together for the few days we were there, the reason became clear on the last full day he had there. Every day is a school day. He helped make the trip that little bit more special and for that, I will be forever grateful. Always be open to chatting with new people as you never know what experiences you will miss out on.
Now for the irony of these flights. Gatwick to Calgary was direct. Calgary to Gatwick was not. I went from Calgary to a layover airport and from the layover airport to Gatwick. I enjoyed the break in between (even if it was 7 hours). You guessed it, the layover airport was TORONTO!!!. Canada and WestJet were trolling me. More on that later in the post.
Since I hadn’t looked at what there was to do in Calgary I had no set schedule and could do what I wanted. Wolf had to go and do some administration for his work permit and I was going to see my friend Jennie (whom I have known for at least 30 years). I hadn’t seen her in 22 years. Peterborough was the last time I had seen her.
I went for a wander around downtown. I decided since it was -12, I would wear a hoodie. I still wore shorts (of course I did) as my legs don’t get cold. It’s usually just my arms and hands that get cold. Today was no different. My legs were fine. I did get some weird looks from people as I was walking in shorts and a t-shirt and hoodie.
I took the tram (Calgarians call it a train. I maintain to this day that it is a tram and I won’t hear any more on that. The Europeans at the hostel called it a tram too) a few stops and got off and just walked around to see what the city had to offer. I usually get my souvenirs on the first day and today was no different. They didn’t open until 11:00 though and I had about an hour to wait after wandering around. I was in awe of the skyscrapers they had in the city. All different shapes, sizes, heights (you will see from the pictures). I was constantly looking upward and around to take in the shapes and sizes. I love seeing artwork on the street and Calgary had no shortage of that.
As I was wandering around, I had seen more of these +15 signs with arrows pointing into buildings and I had no idea what they were. More about that later.
I got my souvenirs and went to McDonald’s and got the biggest cup of Root Beer I could get. I love the stuff and drank so much of it today. I decided to head back to the hostel because (shock horror) I was getting cold and wanted to warm up before I met Jennie.
I got a message from Jennie to say that she was there and I went outside expecting that I probably wouldn’t recognise her after all these years – I was wrong. She was instantly recognisable. I was so so happy to see her. Whenever we had church activities back home in the north-east, we would usually hang out. It was like no time had passed at all and it was just like it had been a couple of days since I last saw her.
I told her beforehand that she could pick the place we eat since I knew nothing of Calgary. She took us to a desert place and I had some chicken and chips and root beer (obviously) and we swapped stories and chatted about what we had been up to. I could’ve chatted with her for the rest of the day but she had to get her kiddies from school. I still can’t believe she’s old enough to have kids that can drive. Where has the time gone?
We stopped by a Walmart and that was awesome too. I forgot how big they were. We also made plans to have dessert with hubby and the kids the next evening too. Hanging out with her also made the trip even more memorable. I told her that since Toronto had been cancelled so many times, I chose Calgary as I knew she was living there. I was so glad that I did choose Calgary.
Once I had gotten back to the hostel, I had a lie-down and then went up to the Bow River to see the Peace Bridge as I had read it was worth a visit. The reviews weren’t wrong. It was a cool-looking bridge. I decided that I would tell Wolf about it and see if he wanted to go once he had all his paperwork in order.
I went back to the hostel and it was around 8 (I think) that he came back and we decided to find somewhere for dinner. I wanted to take him to a burger place I had found but that was closed by that time. We decided to go to Subway by the hostel and sit in and have some food. He tried root beer for the first time and he said he liked it. We were kicked out of Subway as we had been there a while. I got another bottle of root beer and we headed back to the hostel. It was nice chatting about stuff and places we both have been. He was laughing at me attempting to pronounce German words and I was giving him English lessons.
All in all, today was a good day. Today was all about old friends and new friends.
Total steps: 13,163
Total miles: 6.2
Below are some pics from today
We got back to Gatwick in just 6 hours (we had a decent tailwind). I forgot how big Gatwick is. I am so used to flying from Stansted and that is a tiny airport.
I was so happy to be on the train back to Peterborough and even happier to be back in my room and to have a shower.
This was a trip of seeing an old friend and making a new friend.
It taught me to make the most of the time I have and to be open to new experiences and words of advice.
Thank you, Jennie. Thank you, Wolf. You helped make this trip even better!
Total steps: 91,330
Total miles: 44.1
You can view all of my Calgary pics here
You can view all of my Toronto pics here