In search of the elusive 'White Christmas', this year the banker and I travelled to the Canadian Rockies, where snow is pretty much guaranteed. So is icy cold, and with temperatures as low as -27 degrees, it's certainly the coldest I have ever been. Still that didn't stop us getting around, driving through the beautiful Banff national park up to a frozen yet still picturesque Lake Louise.
Although best known as a skiing resort, Banff also has a great range of shops. Although we didn't stumble across any antique or vintage stores, we did manage to find a couple of great galleries.
The first we encountered across was the Willock & Sax Gallery, on Bear Street. They specialise in Canadian art, with a strong focus on artists from Alberta. The gallery is light and bright, acting as the perfect foil for the displays of studio ceramics and glass, photographs, prints and paintings. They also stock a superb range of Inuit sculpture and prints by notable artists such as Kenoujak Ashevak, Kananginak Pootoogook and Mary Pudlat. I was particularly taken by a central display of carved soapstone polar bears, shown above.
With my luggage already tightly packed for a wedding in Saskatchewan just after Boxing Day, souvenirs had to be small. I opted for a small ceramic wall dish hand-printed with a bear by noted Canadian ceramicist John Chalke. At only 20 Canadian dollars (about £12) it was certainly at the affordable end of his work - as to whether it'll be a collectable of the future, let's see! Whatever, I am delighted with it.
Inuit carved Polar bear sculptures were also on display in the second gallery we found, which was just down the road. Canada House also specialises in Canadian art, ranging from carvings to studio glass to paintings and prints. Price tags tended to be a little higher than the previous gallery, and the quality was again excellent.
A wonderful day of wandering was finished off watching the sun set over the Rockies from the rejuvenating warmth of the Banff Upper Hot Springs, and their 1930s outdoor pool and bath house. The steam and silky, sulpherous water felt fabulous after the drying cold, but the most surprising side was the fact that whilst my body was very warm, my exposed head was freezing. Quite literally in fact, as stiff icy spikes formed in my wet hair!