A trip to Banff National Park (day 1)

About three years ago, I participated in a workshop at CSCW on “Revisiting Online Trust.” When the workshop ended, we left with plans to work on a special edition of a journal, but that didn’t happen. What did happen, though, was that I was thoroughly impressed with the venue, the Fairmont Banff Springs, and its setting, Banff, and thought it would be great to come back some day, with my family.

Time passed.

This year, we discovered that the IBM Silicon Valley Lab, where Diane works, would be closed for an extra day to do some major power work, so that she had a four-day weekend. And IBM Yorktown, where I get my VPN connection for the Mac, would also be closed for the long weekend, while they did major power work, too. We tossed around a few ideas, and eventually settled on a trip to Banff, which had the extra advantage of renewing our United miles for another 18 months.

We left on Thursday, arriving at SFO with plenty of time for a leisurely lunch and trip through the
Wright at Home: Modern Lifestyle Design” exhibit before boarding our Air Canada flight to Calgary. Calgary was suffering from very strong winds, but we had a pretty smooth flight — however, flights had stacked up and we had to wait about 45 minutes in the line at the Canada Border Services Agency. On the other hand, our luggage was waiting for us as soon as we’d been cleared, and Customs itself took the usual 12 seconds.

Hertz slowed us down again — the first car they gave us was almost too filthy to drive (those strong winds had brought a dust storm), and then it turned out that it had been smoked in, so I swapped it for a Toyota Matrix (nice car, but I wish Hertz had sprung for the cargo cover so we would have been able to stop without all of our stuff being exposed) and we set out for Banff.

Most of the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta is a four-lane divided highway — except, of course, for the section in Calgary, which is a busy urban street with badly synchronized traffic lights (it reminded me of Stevens Creek Boulevard, in fact). But eventually, we left Calgary behind and headed to Banff at 110 km/h (or so).

We’d chosen The Fox Hotel & Suites based on reviews from Frommer’s and TripAdvisor; it was pricey (but everything in Banff is pricey), but very comfortable, especially after we moved to a room that didn’t face Banff Avenue. The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the central business district; they offer complimentary bus passes, but we didn’t feel the need to take them up on that. The hotel’s restaurant was a Chili’s — we don’t eat there at home, and didn’t see any reason to do it in Banff, either, so we set forth for dinner, planning to go downtown. But we didn’t get there; instead, we stopped at The Meatball and had a pleasant dinner (and a very pleasant bottle of wine) — then we walked the rest of the way into town, looked around, and headed back to the hotel.