Neighborhood watch: Inglewood, Calgary

Inglewood street scene.

A little neighborhood adjacent to downtown, Inglewood has emerged over the last several years as one of Calgary’s most dynamic ‘hoods. Inglewood is the oldest neighborhood in a city full of new builds financed by oil revenue. Happily, the neighborhood carefully safeguards its buildings, and the façades of Ninth Avenue SE, its main strip, are in no danger of being smashed by a wrecking ball. Inglewood’s old-fashioned core is a world apart from Calgary’s go-go downtown skyline.

Inglewood is also an important neighborhood in Calgary’s cultural calculus. It is home to the Calgary Sunfest and the Calgary Fringe Festival, and sits adjacent to the Calgary Stampede, the enormous rodeo and exhibition that takes place every July. It’s also close to the Calgary Zoo and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Inglewood’s contemporary retail profile is a fascinating tangle of old-school antiques stores, new upscale home furnishings shops, and quirky outlier businesses. The area has gentrified slowly and unevenly. Many locals cite the most recent oil boom and the migration of street prostitution away from the ‘hood as essential to Inglewood’s more recent transformations.

Inglewood is home to Rouge (1240 Eighth Avenue SE), which came in at Number 60 this year in the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants List. That I did not have time to have lunch at Rouge on Wednesday will haunt me for quite some time. Rouge ranked higher than any other Canadian restaurant on the 2010 Best Restaurants List.

There are other culinary delights in Inglewood. There’s the simple, organic-minded WilderNest Dream Café (1209 Ninth Avenue SE), which serves delicious breakfasts of farm fresh eggs and drip coffee delivered in little French presses. There’s also Choklat (1327A Ninth Avenue), which does a thrilling trade in chocolate and other cocoa products. The one-stop shop does everything in house, from bean to final product. The caramel and chocolate shortbread is ridiculous, as is its line of exquisite chocolate bars.

There are anarchists in Calgary, too.
Savour (1331 Ninth Avenue SE) is a lovingly curated kitchenware and food shop, opened in 2008. The kitchenware products are all of very high quality, with a handful of whimsical objects, though the shop really sets itself apart with its carefully selected edibles. The food selection prioritizes Canadian provenance, and includes a line of Alberta-based Brassica mustards.

Moonstone Creation (1416 Ninth Avenue SE) is a lovely Native art gallery and gift shop, with a range of art and practical objects created in an in-house workshop as well as by artists in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon Territory, and the US. Like many of the fresher shops in the neighborhood, Moonstone Creation is a recent addition to the Ninth Avenue scene. It opened in 2009.

Inglewood’s old-school antiques legacy can be sighted at Inglewood Antiques (1221B Ninth Avenue SE), with its eclectic hodgepodge of classic decorative items, pop culture objects, and fresh, dried, and silk flowers. Inglewood Antiques, founded in 1987, sources much of its inventory from individual sellers.

Across the street there’s Circa (1226A Ninth Avenue SE), a top-notch art glass shop with vintage and contemporary offerings. Opened in 2004 by Brian Imeson, it contains mostly European mid-century glassware, originating in the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, and Belgium, among other places. Whether or not the astounding price tags are within your budget, this is a great place to engage in home furnishing fantasies.

Lastly, Pro Line Shooters II (1426 Ninth Avenue) is a gun shop and barbershop. Such an enterprise might appear in the abstract to be out of place on a street increasingly lined with stylish shops, yet Pro Line Shooters feels as though it fully belongs on funky Ninth Avenue. During my recent visit, the resident barber had his hands full.

Accommodations tip: Inglewood Bed & Breakfast, 1006 Eighth Avenue SE. A grand Victorian replica of house sits just a block from Inglewood’s main artery. Rooms are spic-and-span, the owners are chattily personable, and the décor is comfy with a bit of Mitteleuropa flair. On this last count, it may be no surprise that co-proprietor Helmut Schoderbock hails from Austria.

Read the entire road trip series here.

Some media support for this visit was provided by Travel Alberta. All opinions belong to the author.

The great Canadian prairie road trip: Calgary-Saskatoon-Regina-Winnipeg

This road trip had its genesis in idle travel fantasy chat, as so many journeys do. A few months ago my friend Melissa and I discussed how much we wanted to do a road trip together over the summer, and we cranked out a number of ambitious itineraries. The craziest of all involved Melissa driving 18 hours by herself from Colorado to Alberta to pick me up prior to an eastward run across Canada. Perhaps it’s best, all things considered, that this particular itinerary did not work out.

Time and other constraints meant that we had to curtail our ambition just a bit. We settled on a four-night Calgary-Winnipeg itinerary, with stops in Drumheller, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Regina, Brandon, and Portage La Prairie, a distance of 1486 kilometers or 912 miles.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast, cowboy. It turns out to be difficult to orchestrate a Canadian prairie road trip with a rental car. One-way car rentals are scarce in Canada. In fact, we were unable to find a single car rental company that would let us pick a car up in Calgary and drive it to Winnipeg.

After exhausting online booking site options, I turned to Twitter. The ever-generous travel writer Eva Holland suggested we take a look at Rent-A-Wreck. We did, and were disappointed to discover that the outfit doesn’t operate in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The rather less literally helpful Grant Martin suggested that we purchase the PaceSaver Plus III Electric Scooter that he so kindly found on Craigslist.

We even looked into the possibility of renting a U-Haul, rejecting that option because it was too expensive. Thinking that there might have been some secret I’d missed, I even checked in with the very helpful logistics team at Travel Alberta. Again, no dice.

Disaster! How would we ever consummate our Canadian prairie road trip?
Fairly easily, as it turns out. Once we started scrambling everything fell into place quickly. We found a one-way Winnipeg-bound car rental originating in Saskatoon. And then we found a cheap one-way fare on WestJet between Calgary and Saskatoon. (A silver lining was already emerging, as I’ve wanted to fly WestJet for some time.)

Cutting out the first day on the road means that we’ll miss some beautiful territory across Alberta and Saskatchewan, Drumheller in particular. In place of that first day on the road, we’ll spend a morning exploring Calgary and a long afternoon and evening in Saskatoon. With the replacement of Calgary by Saskatoon as the point of our road trip’s origination, our road trip will shrink to 873 km, or 542 miles. Here’s the itinerary breakdown. Day 1: Nighttime arrival in Calgary. Day 2: Calgary and Saskatoon. Day 3: Saskatoon to Regina by way of Moose Jaw by car. Day 4: Regina to Winnipeg by way of Brandon and Portage La Prairie by car.

In addition to my posts here, I’ll be tweeting about my Canadian prairie road trip with the hashtag #cdnprairieroadtrip for the next few days. Our road trip will deliver me to Winnipeg, where I’ll spend the following five nights reacquainting myself with the Manitoban metropolis.

Read the entire road trip series here.

Some media support for this road trip was provided by Travel Alberta and Tourism Saskatchewan. All opinions belong to the author.

(Image: Flickr / Space Ritual)

The top 50 cities for quality of life

If you don’t live in Vienna, you might consider moving there.

A new survey lists the top 50 cities for quality of life and Vienna comes out as number one. The survey, conducted by Mercer, a human resources consultancy firm, looked at criteria such as infrastructure, economy, housing, recreation, personal and press freedom, and education. Vienna certainly scores high in all that, plus it has historic neighborhoods and cool clocks. It’s just a shame the Toilet Bar had to change its decor.

The top ten cities are:


European cities dominate the top fifty. No U.S. city shows up until number 31 (Honolulu) followed by San Francisco (32), Boston (37), Chicago and Washington (tied at 45), New York City (49) and Seattle coming in surprisingly low at 50. Canada did much better with Vancouver at number 4, Ottawa at 14, Toronto at 16, Montreal at 21, and Calgary at 28.

Mercer actually surveyed 221 cities, with Baghdad scoring dead last. Go figure. They also listed the most eco-friendly cities, with Calgary taking the top spot.

Image of Cafe Central, Vienna courtesy Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of the Day (03.13.10)

Whimsy. People don’t talk about whimsy much when discussing travel. They talk about philosophy, introspection, packing lists and logistics. They talk about food and hotels and TSA horror stories and airport experiences. Lost in all of that is whimsy. Gadling loves all that other nonsense, but we also appreciate coy smiles, inside jokes and creativity. So, when I came across this photo by Flickr user borderfilms (Doug), I immediately knew that it deserved to be featured as our Photo of the Day.

I have no clue whether this is the result of a clever use of Photoshop or a cheeky photo op created by a sprightly packer, but I don’t really care (well, if it’s Photoshopped, I’ll be mildly disappointed). What’s important is that it’s not your traditional travel photo. It’s not a cliché road trip moment with a traveler giving a thumbs up in front of a sign. It’s original. It’s unique. It’s whimsical. And we need more whimsy in our lives.

Update: The picture is real. It’s part of a set by Doug Murray called Adventures of Hula Girl. Check it out here.

Are you part of the whimsical minority who finds (or creates) whimsy wherever you go? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

How one minute can cost you $530 at Calgary International Airport

Calgary International AirportLast Friday at Calgary International Airport (right), 22-year-old Florida student Samantha Hydes learned a new lesson: Northwest Airlines is a bunch of jerks Be on time.

Hydes arrived at 7:01 AM for her 8:00 AM flight home to Tallahassee and was unceremoniously denied. She had driven in from Banff. Guess she should have driven just a hair faster, not paused so long at stop signs, and walked faster from the car to the check-in.

Northwest Airlines does “recommend” that travelers arrive two hours in advance of international flights, but Hydes said there was no mention of the one-hour rule which left her stranded. The Northwest Airlines attendant told her the computer had “closed for booking.”

According to the Calgary Sun: “She eventually booked a flight departing five hours later with Delta Airlines, Northwest’s corporate cousin, shelling out $530 above the $750 round-trip fare she’d already paid. Of that sum, $150 was for a flight change fee, said Hydes.”

Okay. She was late. But not very. And nobody told her there was a one-hour rule. Airports do need time to process their passengers, especially international ones, so definitely take your airlines “recommendations” seriously.

As for Northwest Airlines in this particular case? We think that’s lame. We are suspicious that the gate attendant stood there typing “asdfjkl;” into the computer while the 7:00 turned to 7:01.

Check out these other stories from the airport checkpoint!