During the summer, if my husband suggests we go away for the weekend, I know there’s likely a cycling event attached to the offer.
This doesn’t really bother me. He’s passionate about cycling, which provides me with the male equivalent of happy wife, happy life. And these cycling events have happened in places that provide great getaways from our Edmonton routine – Calgary, Banff, Penticton and, the newest addition to the circuit, Canmore.
I’ve accompanied hubbie to enough cycling events to know that, while we’ll enjoy some time together, I’ll need things to do on my own. Weekend-long cycling events can feature as many as four different types of competitions: long distance road races; single rider time trials; hill climbs; and criteriums, where riders go round and round on a closed course.
While I enjoy being a spectator at criteriums – they’re short and fast with just the right mix of excitement and danger- I no longer get up at the crack of dawn to see my guy cross the finish line at a time trial, or stand by the side of the road to see him go by once or twice during a road race. I also need ways to amuse myself when he’s waiting to pick up his race package at the start of the weekend or napping in the afternoon between events.
For the cycling widow- or any other woman spending time on her own – Canmore is gold. Located 81 km west of Calgary, near Banff National Park, it’s got Banff’s mountain charm without its crowds. Its shops and cafes are more likely to be independently owned so the merchandise and food are more interesting. It’s totally walkable, which is important to a cycling widow whose partner has likely driven himself and his bike to the start line in the vehicle they arrived in together.
The Three Sisters will keep you company in Canmore
Here are seven of my favorite places in Canmore to play while my cyclist’s away.
1) Alpenrose Market and Gifts: The place that stocks what I never knew I needed before I saw it. Provencal linens, tiny tabletop Adirondack chairs, cool umbrellas, nifty candles. I like the airy, uncluttered feel of this shop – they haven’t made the mistake of trying to jam too much stuff onto their shelves. The back of the store is stocked with imported food and snacks so I can imagine I’m at a cycling event in Europe.
2) Charisma Collections: Shopping at this women’s wear store renews my faith in customer service. The staff is interested in helping me find what I’m looking for, knows the stock, and is happy to find me a different size so I don’t have to leave the fitting half dressed to find it myself. As a result, I frequently walk away with a delightful addition to my wardrobe.
3) Cafe Books– When our jobs and lives get stressful, my husband and I talk about selling everything and opening a bookstore. If this one ever went on the market, I’d snap it up. No wonder Chatelaine magazine named it one of the 11 dreamiest bookstores in Canada to get lost in. It maintains just the right balance between well-stocked and cluttered with new books at the front, used at the back, and literary kitsch and gifts in between. The Chapter 2 Cafe in the rear of the store features traditional British fare (how often do you see beans on toast on a menu?), and serves tea in Royal Albert cups. On a sunny summer day, you can eat outside. On a pouring rain afternoon, cozy up inside with a book.
4) Tapas Restaurant: While you’re walking around downtown Canmore, book a table for dinner with your cyclist at this off-the-beaten track, Spanish restaurant. On a warm evening, you’ll be serenaded on the outdoor deck by a Latin guitarist as you sip sangria and sample patatas bravas, merguez sausage, stuffed dates, and other delectable small plates.
Carrots with ginger, maple, and goat cheese
5)Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk: After a little shopping and a little eating, you might be ready to leave the strolling Main Street tourists behind for a closer walk with nature. Amble beside the gurgling creek, listen to the bird chorus, and be glad there are still places in the world where the water’s so clear you can see the multicolored stones glistening in the sun-dappled creek bed.
6) Studio 604: The boardwalk takes you almost to the door of Pat Sullivan’s gallery. I love places where you can see artists at work and chat to them about their craft. Pat’s gorgeous paintings and silver jewelry are on display for browsing and purchase- and she’s a darn nice person to talk with as well.
7) Miner’s Lamp Pub: Later in the afternoon, you might feel the need for something stronger than tea in a Royal Albert cup. Head over to the pub in the Georgetown Inn for a pint and a snack before dinner. It’s got a friendly neighborhood vibe without feeling like a bar and you can sit outside at a picnic table or in by the fireplace.
While you’re there, check out the Inn’s room availability for a romantic Canmore weekend when winter has arrived in the Rockies, the cycling season is over, and the only time trial you and your cyclist need to think about is how long you can linger together in your in-room, two-person jet tub.