Well folks, we made it to Calgary in two pieces, albeit totally exhausted and hungry for something other than salted pretzels. Saying goodbye to everyone was tough but we'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us on the road to this big adventure.
We flew out of London Gatwick on a nine hour direct flight, which felt more like eighteen hours if we're being honest. We'd opted for extra legroom seats which helped, but we were too full of excitement and nervousness to even think about sleep. Nothing mattered once we started the descent into Calgary, at sunset no less, with a beautiful view of the city and the Rocky Mountains on the horizon.
Once we cleared passport control we found our way to the immigration office where we waited in line to have our visas officially approved. We'd received our Port of Entry (POE) letters back in January 2018, but you aren't legally allowed to work until you've presented your documents at the border and been given your permit. Everything went smoothly and soon enough we were walking through the doors to find our friend Shiv waiting for us with the best welcome we could have wished for.
We're staying in a rented apartment in Downtown for our first week in Calgary, so we headed there to drop off our bags before going out for a bite to eat at El Furniture Warehouse on Stephen Avenue. The food was so cheap, only $5.95 a plate, so we washed our dinner down with cocktails to celebrate our arrival. By the end of the meal our bed was calling our names so we turned in for the night, with the aim to get a good nights sleep.
Tuesday morning marked the beginning of our first full day in Calgary. We'd seen that there was a Tim Horton's on the ground floor of the apartment building so we went down to pick up some breakfast before bringing it back to the comfort of our rented living room and planned our day ahead.
First up, acquiring our SIN (Social Insurance Number) from the Government of Canada building. In order to work, get healthcare and pay taxes you need to have a valid SIN for your stay in Canada, so this was a big deal. Despite the long queue, we were issued our numbers on the dot and bundled up in our coats once more to cross the next job off the list.
Next, we had to open our bank accounts. Shiv had recommended her bank, CIBC, as well as her own financial advisor, so we were able to set up a meeting from the UK, which took a lot of stress off us when we arrived. The CIBC branch we used was on the ground floor of the Bow Building, the second tallest skyscraper in Calgary and named for its curved structure and views of the nearby Bow River. Outside the building sits a giant head, more formally known as the Wonderland Sculpture by Jaume Plensa. It's a beautiful piece of art, standing out against the sleek exterior of the Bow Building, representing the humanity which surrounds us.
Our financial advisor Jing was so helpful. After adding us to the system, she set us up with separate checking accounts and a joint account for our rent, bills and savings on the newcomer plan, which meant all of our transactions are fee free for the first year. Everything was so straightforward. She answered all of our questions with ease and made us feel really comfortable with the bank we had chosen. We left the bank with new debit cards in hand, ready to do some exploring!
Following our dinner the night before, we thought we would head over to Stephen Avenue to see what was going on in that area, taking a stroll past bars and shops. All too soon our hunger got the better of us so we headed back to El Furniture Warehouse for a bite to eat. We knew the food was good and the prices were affordable, plus the music was right up our street, so two meals in a row at the same place didn't phase us. After all, we've got two years to try all the other eating establishments in Calgary!
Two beers, and a delicious lunch later we decided to head over the river to Crescent Heights to try and get a view of the city. Nikki had spent some time researching the best views of Calgary from all angles for her photography interest, and Crescent Heights seemed best placed to give a great view of the city skyline, with the river flowing underneath.
Well, it would have been a great view had it not been for the insane fog that descended halfway through the day. We crossed the Centre Street Bridge and trekked up a flight of wooden steps to see.......nothing. At least the steps got our heart rates up! It looks like we'll have to wait for a clear day in a couple of weeks and then we'll reattempt the photo.
After our SIN and bank accounts, we had one more grown up job to do before we could relax. Apartment viewings! The week before we left the UK we booked some viewings for apartments around the city and we got to see our first taste of real estate within Calgary on Tuesday evening. Both places were under budget and seemed great, but with more viewings for the rest of the week, we're keeping our options open. We're going on a city hopping vacation next week, so we'd like to have an apartment secured before we go, but as we're going to be here for two years we want to make sure we pick somewhere we really love.
The snow had started to fall by the time we left our second viewing and so we decided to head home. We cooked some spaghetti in the apartment and settled in for the night, reveling in our achievements of the day and feeling optimistic for the rest of the week. Tomorrow marks three years since we met, and so we're celebrating with tickets to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, a showcase of the year's best outdoor and mountain films from around the world. This is an event we actually attend back in the UK every year, so it's exciting to get to witness these films close to where the festival originates.
Our first 24 hours in Calgary have been jam packed with errands, exploring and Tim Horton's coffee, so stay tuned to see what the rest of the week brings!