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My big expedition to Georgia is only a few weeks away, but I was craving a mountain adventure last month and hopped on a plane back to Montana, then onward via car to Alberta, Canada. This is one of the most beautiful places I've seen in all my travels, and the majority of my time was spent in Banff National Park. In this region, you are surrounded by majestic landscapes, pristine turquoise waters and cool forest breezes. I'll write about the natural landscapes in a separate post, but today I want to speak about portion sizes in Canadian restaurants and lodging in Banff.

America is known as the land of gluttony on many levels, and this includes our food. Yes, our portions are huge but I think in Banff they were even larger! I could not believe it actually, the huge piles of food thrown on plates at all restaurants. I traveled with my young cousin who is a hockey player and consumes excessive calories at each setting. Here is his breakfast one morning - something known as "cowboy grits." Grits are a type of crushed cornmeal, not sure if they are popular in Russia, but I do not like the texture or taste. This breakfast costs around 9 Canadian dollars.

1. French toast covered in raspberry syrup and topped with whipped cream. Such sweet delicacies are common in the USA also, as people often put all types of fruit jams on top of pancakes or various types of toast. Btw, a skinny, 20 year old girl consumed this entire plate.

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2. Lunch for me - sweet pulled pork quesadilla with some type of Cajun coleslaw. This is shredded cabbage, often mixed with carrots and some type of dressing or mayo. In this case, it was very spicy and I don't like mayo at all, so I didn't eat it. Sour cream on the side, we eat this with almost all Mexican food and this cuisine is popular in both the USA and Canada. This dish cost 12 Canadian dollars.

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3.  Here is a Canadian national treasure - something called "poutine." It's fries covered in a thick brown gravy and cheese curds. I cannot eat this mess, but my cousin who formerly lived in Canada constantly craves this dish. You can find it in almost all restaurants in Banff, even McDonalds. :)

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4. At the hotel restaurant, they bring you complimentary bread and yogurt for breakfast. Very nice touch, and similar to American restaurants which frequently provide free bread, pretzels or chips before the meal. I have not noticed anything free in Russian restaurants, but I can't say I've eaten at a lot of them, and especially not upscale eateries.

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5. If you plan on visiting Banff or Alberta during the summer season, it is necessary to book hotels or lodging in advance. We didn't know our exact route or dates of arrival, and there were almost no choices left near the park when we arrived. So, we stayed in a very expensive and fancy lodge called "Moose Hotel and Suites" - the price was around 380 Canadian dollars/per night, but it was really luxurious and cozy. :) Each room had a balcony, plus a separate living area, with fireplace and couch. Room service delivered tasty tiramisu each evening, delightful surprise.

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6. As an American, I'm used to very large hotel rooms, with big, comfy beds. I remember when I first started traveling in Europe, I was shocked at the tiny beds, and could hardly imagine how some grown men fit on them. The same in most hotels I've stayed at in Russia - totally uncomfortable beds, with cramped living quarters in the hotel room. Canada - the style of rooms is similar to the U.S., and overall I noticed almost no difference between Canadian and American cultures. I'm not speaking about government, healthcare, etc. - but the way people interact in society, and service levels. In Canada, very open and friendly people and excellent service. Btw, in both America and Canada, there are so many pillows on a bed meant for one or two people! Why? :))

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7. My companion in the room! :)) Very strange decorations in my view, and a bit discomforting to look over in the middle of the night and have the shadow of this huge beast hanging over me.

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8. The Moose Hotel and Suites is located in downtown Banff, right in the heart of everything. It opened this year, and is one of the newer lodging choices. Everything is pristine, very organized and workers are friendly, efficient and go out of their way to help guests. In this area, you will meet almost no Canadians working in restaurants, hotels or at tourist sites. Almost all of the workers are Australians, living in Canada and working through some type of exchange/work visa program offered by the Canadian government. There is something unusual about this place. In the middle of the hotel sits a little cottage. This is a historical designation, which can't be destroyed under Canadian law, thus the builders were required to lift it out during construction of the hotel and return it back to its position at the end of construction. So, there it sits - right in the middle of everything.

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9. Overall, Canada is superb. I've only visited the Yukon Territory and Alberta, but impressions are so high and positive that it is necessary to return. Banff National Park is well-maintained and, just like the Americans, Canadians value and treasure their national parks, making them accessible, keeping them clean and honoring them as a pride of the nation - and also a huge money maker through tourism. I'll tell you more about these glorious mountains and the park in a separate post.

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I know I have some readers living in Canada, and perhaps a lot of you have visited the country. Did you notice significant differences between Canadian and American cultures? For me, they seemed totally the same for the most part. All photos from this journey were taken on the iPhone. Sorry, I was too lazy to drag the big camera around my neck when hiking and wandering in the mountains by foot.

Other posts from Canada

Glimpse into the Yukon Territory
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