Berlin: Postcard Fun #1

Have been in Berlin for only a few days but already it is feeling like home.  Thought I'd share with you a few postcards to give you a flavour of the city which is a bit like Mexico City (old and gritty), a bit like Montreal (street art and murals) and a bit like Austin (graffiti).  

Hope you enjoy.....

Liking the   flowmarkets   where locals rent tables at their nearby "  platz  " aka plaza, park, playground and sell stuff.  It is a bit garage sale, a bit flea market.  Good vibe; this guy is getting right into it. 

Liking the flowmarkets where locals rent tables at their nearby "platz" aka plaza, park, playground and sell stuff.  It is a bit garage sale, a bit flea market.  Good vibe; this guy is getting right into it. 

It is hard to take a photograph and not get some graffiti in it. This cropped stained-glass like   image   was on the window of a gym at night.

It is hard to take a photograph and not get some graffiti in it. This cropped stained-glass like image was on the window of a gym at night.

Graffiti meets poster art, meets street art on this building.

Graffiti meets poster art, meets street art on this building.

This clever work of art is on the retaining wall of one of the canals. Love the way it uses the reflection in the water to enhance the image.

This clever work of art is on the retaining wall of one of the canals. Love the way it uses the reflection in the water to enhance the image.

I am curious to know why this piece of street art is on this very ordinary apartment block. 

I am curious to know why this piece of street art is on this very ordinary apartment block. 

I am a sucker for a steeple...

I am a sucker for a steeple...

Mom this one is for you....

Mom this one is for you....

A lone balcony with a great view of the street life.

A lone balcony with a great view of the street life.

Berlin's iconic garbage cans with their lovely urban patinas?

Berlin's iconic garbage cans with their lovely urban patinas?

The playgrounds in Berlin are all old school.  Loved this banana slide. So did this Dad....this was his third time going down.

The playgrounds in Berlin are all old school.  Loved this banana slide. So did this Dad....this was his third time going down.

I told you the playgrounds were old school.  These look like huge spinning tops.   

I told you the playgrounds were old school.  These look like huge spinning tops.  

Found an amazing warehouse of vintage industrial artifacts and other fun things like this piece of playground equipment in an old nightclub building.  It was very cool. 

Found an amazing warehouse of vintage industrial artifacts and other fun things like this piece of playground equipment in an old nightclub building.  It was very cool. 

Every picture tells a story....wonder what the story is here...

Every picture tells a story....wonder what the story is here...

Evening reflections....

Evening reflections....

Loved this chair...if it had a cushion I am sure we would have found a way to get it home.

Loved this chair...if it had a cushion I am sure we would have found a way to get it home.

This vintage sofa looks like it has been ravaged by urban wolves.

This vintage sofa looks like it has been ravaged by urban wolves.

Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Calgary = Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver or Seattle

For decades Canadian cities have stood-in for American cities in movies. That soon may be true for tourists too. 

Recently, MetroNews published a piece looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities given the turmoil south of the border these days.

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Walk at noon hour is packed with people strolling the pedestrian mall. It is lined with shops, restaurants, vendors and patios.  (photo credit: Jeff Trost)

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Walk at noon hour is packed with people strolling the pedestrian mall. It is lined with shops, restaurants, vendors and patios.  (photo credit: Jeff Trost)

The Core shopping centre links Calgary's historic Hudson Bay department store with the flagship Holt Renfew fashion center.

The Core shopping centre links Calgary's historic Hudson Bay department store with the flagship Holt Renfew fashion center.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones i.e. if you want to go to San Francisco go to Vancouver. If you are thinking Chicago, think Toronto. If thinking Washington Ottawa would be a good alternative. And Quebec City is Canada’s equivalent to New Orleans while Halifax is our Boston. 

However, given my travel experience, I thought I’d share my suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead

You never know what you might encounter on Calgary's the River Walk in East Village. 

You never know what you might encounter on Calgary's the River Walk in East Village. 

Yes, Calgary has funky salvage yards (Ramsay) and flea markets (Hillhurst) for the urban scavenger. 

Yes, Calgary has funky salvage yards (Ramsay) and flea markets (Hillhurst) for the urban scavenger. 

One measure of a cool city is how fun are their window displays. 

One measure of a cool city is how fun are their window displays. 

When in Calgary, shop where Cher shops when she is in town. 

When in Calgary, shop where Cher shops when she is in town. 

Calgary 

If you are considering a trip to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver or Seattle might want to consider Calgary (you could add in Dallas and Houston, but that seems too obvious).  Politics aside, dollar-wise, a Canadian destination makes good sense.

Like Austin, Calgary’s vibrant City Centre with has lots of shops, café and restaurants and funky urban streets. While Austin’s outdoor playground is Ladybird Lake, Calgary’s is its two pristine rivers that form the hub for its 700+km of pathways and 5,200 parks. Yes, bring your bike, as this year will see the completion of the 138 km Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, a multi-use pathway that circles the city. Walking, running or cycling along the Bow River through downtown is the quintessential Calgary experience. 

Calgarians love to get out and enjoy their 325 days of sunshine. Downtown's Calatrava Peace Bridge is a popular spot. 

Calgarians love to get out and enjoy their 325 days of sunshine. Downtown's Calatrava Peace Bridge is a popular spot. 

Calgary's Elbow River is a popular padding, rafting and swimming spot.  

Calgary's Elbow River is a popular padding, rafting and swimming spot. 

Further along the Elbow River locals enjoy the grass beach at Stanley Park. 

Further along the Elbow River locals enjoy the grass beach at Stanley Park. 

St. Patrick's Island Park is Calgary newest urban playground.

St. Patrick's Island Park is Calgary newest urban playground.

Hipsters vs GABEsters

While Austin and Portland are known for its known for their hipster hang-outs, Calgary is a mecca for GABEsters (young geologists, accountants, bankers, brokers and engineers) who love to play just as hard as they work. You will want to check out places like Bridgeland’s Cannibales - barbershop, cocktail bar, sandwich shop. 

Link: Calgary & Austin: Sister Cities?

Even in the winter, Calgary's GABEsters like chill-out 17th Avenue's patios.  This photo was taken in mid-March at the Ship & Anchor which is perhaps the heart of Calgary's hipster community. 

Even in the winter, Calgary's GABEsters like chill-out 17th Avenue's patios.  This photo was taken in mid-March at the Ship & Anchor which is perhaps the heart of Calgary's hipster community. 

Calgary has one of the largest cosplay festivals in Canada, including a fun parade through the streets of downtown. 

Calgary has one of the largest cosplay festivals in Canada, including a fun parade through the streets of downtown. 

Music Cities

While both Austin and Nashville boast world-class music scenes, Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a very interesting music city.  The new mega National Music Centre museum is a must-see – one of the world’s largest collection of keyboard instruments including Elton John’s piano. for anyone interested in the history of Canadian Music.  Calgary’s boasts two lively Saturday afternoon blues jams- one at Mikey’s Juke Joint and one at Blues Can – both happen at 3 pm. Plan your visit properly you can attend Ironwood’s Big Band brunch. (Learn more about Calgary’s Big Band scene)

Link: Calgary: A Big Band Haven

Calgary’s year-round music festival includes Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, X-fest, Country Thunder, Calgary International Folk Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival, One Love Music Festival (Western Canada’s largest hip-hop festival), ReggaeFest, and Honens International Piano Competition just to name a few.  

Plan carefully and you won’t be disappointed.

Calgary is home to dozens of live music venues along its Music Mile. 

Calgary is home to dozens of live music venues along its Music Mile. 

Calgary's International Folk Festival on Prince's Island lets you get up close and personal with the performers. 

Calgary's International Folk Festival on Prince's Island lets you get up close and personal with the performers. 

Calgary International Folk Festival's Main Stage on the lovely Prince's Island. 

Calgary International Folk Festival's Main Stage on the lovely Prince's Island. 

Urban Villages

While Portland is the darling of many urban planners, Calgary actually has as much or more to offer when it comes to quirky urban villages. While Portland its Pearl District, Calgary has Kensington, Mission, Bridgeland, Inglewood, 17th Ave and the Beltline (perhaps the hipster capital of North America?). 

Denver has its popular 16th Street Mall, while Calgary has Stephen Avenue Walk that is lined with shops, restaurants and patios.  It is home to the historic Hudson Bay store (Canada’s iconic department store), the Core shopping centre, a flagship Holt Renfrew store and the Glenbow Museum.

Like Denver, Calgary’s City Centre is also home to 100+ public artworks; they are literally everywhere – from parks to plazas, from pathways to office lobbies. 

Link: Calgary vs Denver: Two Thriving City Centres

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" sculpture of a young girl's head allows you to walk inside and see Calgary's urban landscape from a unique perspective.

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" sculpture of a young girl's head allows you to walk inside and see Calgary's urban landscape from a unique perspective.

Calgary is home to several street artists.  

Calgary is home to several street artists. 

Calgary's City Centre is full of lovely public art, parks and plazas each with their own character and charm. 

Calgary's City Centre is full of lovely public art, parks and plazas each with their own character and charm. 

We like to put the PUBLIC into our public art. 

We like to put the PUBLIC into our public art. 

Our Tower Is Taller

If you like Seattle for its tower, the Calgary Tower is taller.  If you like Seattle for MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture), Calgary has the aforementioned National Music Centre, which by the way was designed by a Portland architect. Heritage Posters and Music if you are into collectables or Recordland if into vinyl.

If you like coffee and café culture, Calgary is a hidden gem with a number of local roasteries and independent cafes. Maybe start with Monogram Coffee, co-founder Benjamin Put placed third in the World Barista Championship (2016 and 2015).

You will also want to check out Phil & Sebastians in the Simmons Building in East Village.

Purple Perk has been a popular coffee house in Mission for years.

Purple Perk has been a popular coffee house in Mission for years.

Cafe Beano is popular with both the artists and GABEsters.

Cafe Beano is popular with both the artists and GABEsters.

The Oak Tree's patio is a popular chill spot in Kensington Village.

The Oak Tree's patio is a popular chill spot in Kensington Village.

Food Fun

Calgary like Seattle, Portland and Austin is becoming a culinary destination with the several of the best new Canadian restaurants opening over the past 10 years. 

In fact, Chef Jinhee Lee recently won the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championship. And not only is the food good but so are the settings – Calgary Tower with a revolving restaurant offers up spectacular, city, prairie and mountain views with fine dining.

Or you can dine in the 100+ year Deane House downtown or the majestic Bow Valley Ranch in Fish Creek Park (one of the largest urban parks in the world.)  River Café on an island downtown in the middle of the Bow River offer some of the best Rocky Mountain cuisine anywhere.

Link: Calgary: Eat Like A Local

10 restaurants, 7 courses and 280 people enjoy dinner on Stephen Avenue's really really really long table. 

10 restaurants, 7 courses and 280 people enjoy dinner on Stephen Avenue's really really really long table. 

A typical lunch on Stephen Avenue Walk

A typical lunch on Stephen Avenue Walk

Best & Biggest Parks

Yes Calgary also boasts some of the best and biggest parks in North America including one of the world’s largest public skateboard parks. 

And the Calgary Zoo located on a downtown island in the Bow River (one of the best fly fishing rivers in the world) is simply bucolic.

On Sunday our fishermen like to get dressed-up.  

On Sunday our fishermen like to get dressed-up.  

The Eau Claire Promenade is a strollers paradise. 

The Eau Claire Promenade is a strollers paradise. 

It is also home to some amazing used bookstores, one of North America's largest performing arts centers and one of Canada's largest history/art museums - Enough said? 

Link: Tourism Calgary

Last Word

Stay tuned… the next blog will look at how visits to Canadian cities like Winnipeg and Edmonton compare to Chicago and New Orleans.

Editor's Note: All of the photos in this blog were taken within 3 km of downtown. 

If you like this blog, you will like:

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Calgary: Off The Beaten Path

Calgary: The GABEster Capital of North America

 

 

Everyday Tourist: Postcards From 2016

I am not sure why but I have always loved postcards.  I have spent the past few weeks looking at all the photos I have taken in 2016 to see which ones might make good postcards.  

I thought I'd try to choose one for each month, but that didn't work out as some months were better than others.  Then I thought maybe 16, given it was 2016 - so sixteen it is.  

These are not necessarily the best photos or the year, nor are they your typical postcards. I hope you find them insightful and intriguing. In many cases I have added a link to a blog that relates to the postcard if you would like more information or see more photos.

Happy Holidays and all the best in 2017!

If you have a chance to go to Buffalo, NY - GO!  We loved the early 20th century architecture, especially the mansions and Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin house.  But the highlight for me was the abandoned Grain Silos that you can tour.  I loved the way the City has used the facade to create a wonderful light show and inside they have allowed artists to create installations.  These paper gears that float at the top of one of the silos were created by Daniel Seiders, a landscape architect, for the City of the Night public art project in 2013. Link: Postcards From Buffalo The Bold

It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.    

It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.   

Austin was too much fun.  We went back to the HOPE Outdoor Gallery several times as was such a playful place where everybody seemed to have great time.  I even bought some cans of spray paint to add my signature to the Gallery. It brought back memories of Gleichen, Alberta in the early '80s when I organized the Street Art For Gleichen project.  Link: Austin's Weird and Wonderful Outdoor Gallery. 

Austin threw me a great birthday party last year.  Each year, on the first Sunday of March Austin's Zilker Park is the site of a huge kite festival.  In 2016, it just happen to take place on my birthday. Link: Austin Kite Festival: Cheap, Colourful, Chaotic & Crazy! 

Everybody loves a parade! While Caglary is probably best known for the Calgary Stampede Parade, the Parade of Wonders (POW) that takes place as part of Calgary Expo (cosplay) allows spectators to get up close and personal with the parade participants.  Link: Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo

In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see.  Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see. Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

It was a great spring for the garden in 2016. I had a lot of fun taking photos of the flowers. There is something primordial about this one that intrigues me. Link: Garden Flaneuring: Try it you might like it. 

2016 was the year of the playground for me.  I developed a whole new appreciation for the importance of playgrounds in community building.  We installed a new playground at the Grand Trunk Park across the street from our house and it is true "if you build it they will come." In the 20+ years we have lived in our house we have never seen so many kids at the playground. Link: The End Of The Grand Trunkers' Playground Envy!

While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does.   I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park.  Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does. I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park. Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

The Calgary International Folk Festival on Prince's Island in the middle of the Bow River on the edge of Calgary's skyscraper downtown is a special place.  This year I was able to sit just a few feet away from Canadian music legend Ian Tyson for what seemed like backyard concert. Link: Postcards from 2016 Calgary International Folk Festival

I love the interplay of architecture and sky in this image of the Art Gallery of Alberta, in Edmonton.  It was a tough decision on which 2016 architectural photo to include. Link: Calgary: Capturing The Art in ARchiTecture!

A trip to Kelowna BC was enlightening. Not only did we get to see the Kelowna Art Gallery's retrospective of John Hall's work, but we also got an appreciation for the wonderful transformation of their downtown and waterfront. I chose this painting as it reminded me of Mexico City (one of my best trips ever) and the Lucha Libre wrestlers. Link: John Hall: The Everyday Experience Bond

I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like   huge   pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get   Eyland   to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like huge pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get Eyland to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

Montreal was amazing - especially with their use of light both inside and outside.  This postcard captures the synergy of the coloured glass facade of the Palais des congres by Jean-Francis Cantin with The Constellation of Great Montrealers (the blue figure wall with name plates of individuals who have contributed to making Montreal a great city).  It was magical.

This is the Crew Collective & Cafe on a Sunday afternoon. What a great reuse of the 1928 former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. It is not just a cafe, but a co-working space, meeting and event space. The ceiling is spectacular and note how they have incorporated the teller windows into the new space.  Brillant!

2016 was the year of the Knox Walk, we enjoyed hours of fun exploring our immediate neighbourhood, always finding something new. I think it captures the essence of being both a flaneur and an everyday tourist. Link: Flaneuring Fun in Montreal!