Janet, tell us about Calgary. What you love the most about it and how does it feel to grow up there?
Calgary is, and forever will be, associated with home. I grew up in the suburbs where my adolescent years were almost idyllic as it gets; bike riding to the park in the summertime, skating and tobogganing in the winter. When I became a young adult I, like so many others, had an itch to get out and try something new. I wound up across the country in Halifax, N.S, for half of my University undergrad degree, and then moved to Edmonton to finish it up. After Edmonton, I moved back home. For the past years I’ve gotten to know Calgary in a different light – as an adult – and it’s been pretty eye opening! Calgary has come a long way in a few short years, and the explosions of restaurants, shopping, and events have happily surprised me. Many people from Calgary like to say that there is nothing to do here, but that simply isn’t true. On the contrary, there is always something to do…sometimes you just need to look for it.
What places do you frequently visit in Calgary?
I live in the Beltline District, which is adjacent to the downtown core of Calgary where there are tons of restaurants and trendy shops. 17th Avenue (also known to the locals as ‘The Red Mile’ during hockey season) is always great to walk down in the evening because there is so much ‘buzz’ going on. In the summer, nothing beats sitting on one of the many patios on 17th Ave. The Ship & Anchor is a laid-back, friendly, and unpretentious pub that is always packed when the weather turns warm.
The Inglewood neighborhood has had a serious moment in Calgary for a few years now and there always seems to be some new trendy thing popping up. I love going to Plant – it’s a big store with tons of greenery and odds and ends to make your own terrarium (and they have really cute shop dogs!) Stephen Ave is smack in the middle of downtown and there is always something to see as you stroll down (and is great for picture taking).
How is it different from other Canadian cities?
I think Calgary is setting itself up to be different than other Canadian cities primarily through our sense of community. Calgary is big on networking and there are always a ton of events from cupcake making to wine tastings to live shows featuring local bands that encourage people to meet one another. I’ve noticed a rise in influences from different cities as well like New York and L.A. Calgary isn’t afraid to welcome big-city trends in fashion, food, and fitness even though relatively speaking we are a small city in the prairies.
What are the totally must visit spots?
Shiki Menya in Bridgeland has the best ramen in the city, hands down. They are only open for lunch, and there is always a lineup, but it’s so worth it when you finally get in. Go hungry!
The Simmons Building in East Village has Phil & Sebastian coffee, The Sidewalk Citizen Bakery (Calgarians go nuts for this bakery) and the lovely Argentina-influenced Charbar restaurant with one of the best rooftop patios in the city.
In the summer, city dwellers love to float down the river to cool off. One of my favourite places in the city is Fair’s Fair used bookstore. They have four locations in Calgary and they have an insane collection of books in every genre. Lastly, Native Tongues Mexican restaurant in the beltline area is relatively new and already is an absolute must go-to place in Calgary. Funny enough, one of their best menu items is the Hamburguesa al Carbon, served with these really light and crispy homemade chips. If you’re not too full after the meal order a Dona, which is a homemade glazed doughnut made in house. It’s the best.
On traveldo.se, we often talk about “different kind of traveler.” What kind of traveler would love Calgary?
I think Calgary has had a reputation of being full of conservative old people who made their money back in the 90’s working in oil and gas, and so many younger travelers are put off by that because they think that’s what Calgary is all about, and it’s boring. In reality, Calgary has made huge strides in shedding that mentality and so I think travelers in their 20s and 30s would really enjoy the city now. Of course I can’t talk about Calgary without talking about The Calgary Stampede. There is something for everyone at the Stampede, both in the grounds and all over the city, and not everything is geared towards cowboys and line dancing. The Stampede has grown into this group mentality of relaxing and partying together for 10 days of fun. My favourite part of the Stampede is the free pancake breakfasts that go on every morning all over the place. We also love our outdoor activities and with the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in our backyard, Calgary is a great place for travelers who enjoy camping, hiking, and skiing.
How did you get into photography?
I kind of fell into photography, as most photographers do. When I was young, I would go to the library, sign out a bunch of fashion magazines, and sit in my room and rip out the ads and editorial pages that I liked (sssh!) I then collected them in this big binder and sometimes would just take them out and look at them. It fed something in me to do this, but I never really knew why or what that meant. After I graduated university I was given a DSLR for a gift and it promptly sat in my closet gaining dust until just a few years ago, when I pulled it out and began taking photos of my boyfriend who was very encouraging. I then began to photograph my sisters and slowly asking friends if I could take their photo. Street photography became a growing interest, as well as travel photography. I went to London in 2014 by myself and my favourite part of the whole trip was taking photos of anything and everything. There’s something about knowing that you got ‘the shot’ so exhilarating and when I share them on social media and others respond well it’s the best feeling. I love when my work evokes inspiration and feelings in others.
Lastly, tell us how your city inspires you?
Calgary is inspiring because it’s in a state of change. New additions in the culinary and fashion scenes are popping up all over the place, and people are becoming more and more authentic in their own self-expression and you can see it just walking down the street. I have always loved cities with a rich bohemian feel, and I think Calgary is slowly becoming that way. We still love our beef and oil and gas, but I think this underground subculture of artists is really coming into the light and it’s exciting.
Janet Davie is a Calgary born and raised photographer and traveler. As a local, we asked her to share an insight of the city. We are constantly looking for cool new destinations so we were interested in what she had to say. Janet loves being a tourist in her own city and enjoys the relaxed lifestyle of a small town where the sense of community is very strong. Read her interview to see how the city has been evolving and what are the total must-visit spots.