I'm a city girl at heart. If I'm not within five minutes of wireless access, espresso, crowds of multi-cultural people and retail, I become jittery. I moved from a city of 8 million (London) to a city of 1 (Calgary). It still feels relatively small to me. To not have to bend and twist to make my way through lots of people on the high street. To have people I've never met say hello. To get on a bus and not be forced to stand way too close to a total stranger.
But, I do love to escape the city momentarily. I like passing through small towns and neighbourhoods. I like the openness of the countryside and the quiet of the mountains. And part of the reason we came to Calgary was the mountains, or Banff to be more precise - an hour by car from our house.
The drive to Banff is like leaving all of one's chaos behind. As the mountains draw near, I begin to breathe the air and feel the tranquility. Everything about it feels like vacation to me. So even if it's only for a weekend or a day, it's still a holiday.
But like I say, I'm a city girl. And after a day or two of being in the mountains, I'm itchy to get back.
This morning was day 4 of the Staycation, and we drove out to Canmore - a delightful little mountain town on the way to Banff. Canmore is one of those picture perfect places you visit for a day and which appear so idyllic you can hardly believe people really live there.
After yesterday's tantrum episodes, followed by an evening of whining on Facebook and commiserating with friends on the phone, we felt better and more optimistic about coping with public outings, tantrums or no. Plus, last night I read a useful article in Parents magazine, which as if by fate had been delivered to the house earlier that day.
The first thing we did in Canmore was head to the tourist information place to ask for help. The woman in the office gave me a map and described in great detail how to get to a picnic spot only five minutes away. The picnic site led to a 30-minute walk along the river, perfect for kids, she noted. Hurray!
Five minutes later we were heading for the river when J asked me "So where did she say to go next?"
I pulled out the map and studied it.
Here's the thing: I am bad at understanding directions. Not bad, in fact - horrific. Like, there's a possibility I could get lost coming home from the grocery store. That horrific.
"I think she said to go left here." I said, trying to sound confident and convincing.
"Err, no I think we carry on straight up this road here." J assured me, pointing to a road on the map headed in an entirely different direction to the one I had suggested.
I decided to go with his suggestion, though not admitting he might be correct.
We walked along a cul-de-sac with lovely houses. I protested that this was definitely not the right way because clearly there was no path, and no signs ANYWHERE!
And then we come to a small clearing and a path. Weird.
At the end of the path was a gravel trail, running alongside the river. J started along it but I stood dead thrusting my finger at the map indignantly.
"Hold on! This isn't right!" I squawked. "We've come the wrong way! Look! It says right here on the map that there's a picnic bench and people fishing! Right here! A PICTURE OF A BENCH AND A FISH. But they're not here!"
"We probably just need to walk a little further." Was J's calm response. "Just because there's a picture of a bench and a fish doesn't mean they're right on THIS spot."
"No, no! It should be RIGHT HERE!" I insisted nearly making a hole in the map with my finger.
J turned and continued with the double stroller. I trailed after him, muttering loudly about things not being where they should be.
"You don't know where you're going!" I blurted, suddenly afraid that we were headed out into the remote woods, further and further away from civilization and Starbucks, where a deranged farmer would be waiting for us with his axe.
J kept walking. I kept following, still ranting a high-pitched grumble.
About a minute later we found the picnic benches. J said nothing, because he has developed a certain patience when it comes to my lack of navigational ability and my tendency to become hysterical when lost.
And then we sat and ate lunch enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings.
I never did see that giant fish flying through the air either... weird.