Literary City Guide | Calgary, Alberta, Canada


I think this is the greatest and best country in all the world, with its great sunlit spaces and its long, long roads, and best of all the roads that are not made yet, and the stories that no one has told because they are too busy living them.
— Nellie McClung, Canadian suffragette and author

Tour Guide: Amanda Connolly

Amanda Connolly

Amanda is a journalist and author living in Calgary after having moved from Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. Having lived across the country, she is a firm believer that Canada is the most beautiful place on earth – but still loves to travel. Amanda loves tea and has a fondness for bookshops with cozy nooks and crannies in which to curl up. She blogs at Piece of This Mind, and follow her on Twitter here.  Click here to visit Amanda on Twitter. (Photos by Amanda Connolly)

Q&A

Relationship to Calgary: I was born in Alberta but moved away as a child. Now, I’m back to write about the stories that matter to Calgarians for Canada’s public broadcaster.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Stephen Chbosky and J.K. Rowling.

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Jamie Oliver

Writing soundtrack: Canadian indie/folk (Matthew Barber, The Current Swell, Steve Maloney). Also Passenger and Jackopierce, but they aren’t Canadian.

Pen or Pencil: Pen. I like being able to look back at mistakes or changes rather than erase them forever.

Coffee or Tea: Tea. Very strong Irish breakfast tea with milk.

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback, because they’re less heavy for travelling. I’m not a fan of e-readers. 


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Shelf Life Books. This is my favourite local bookshop and it just happens to sit beside a lovely park where you can sit in warmer weather to read your new purchase while enjoying a nibble from one of the food trucks usually parked nearby. It’s flooded with sunlight and has lots of little nooks and corners. Every book you’ll see here is hand-picked and there’s usually only one or two in stock at any time. Plus, the staff are wonderfully helpful and there is a cute stationary section and another section highlighting local authors.    

Fair’s Fair. Located in Inglewood, this is my go-to for used books. I stop in for the incredible selection of history and non-fiction books – everything from medieval Europe to political biographies, plus every other genre and category you can think of! 

LIBRARIES

Memorial Park Public Library. Its doors first opened in 1912, and is Alberta's oldest public library.  

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Word Fest. This annual festival draws an incredible selection of literary writers from around the world and offers a fascinating collection of workshops and lectures in October.

Calgary Public Library Writer’s Nook. This initiative doesn’t so much do readings as it offers wonderful writing workshops across a variety of genres and for all levels of writers. 

Pages on Kensington and Shelf Life Books. Both of these bookstores bring in a great range of local authors and poets to do readings and talk about their experiences with publishing. Visit Pages here and Shelf Life here.

OTHER FINDS

Loft 112. A funky new centre for the city’s writing community to work and share their experiences with the craft and publishing. They’re also going to be starting a new writer-in-residence program in the near future so that will be exciting to see!

Prince’s Island Park. This island located in the heart of downtown Calgary makes for a lovely place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are plenty of benches and meadow areas in which to write, or you can head down to the water and sit on the rocks by the river. There’s also a restaurant in case you get hungry (it is fairly expensive though!) and in summer, the park plays host to the incredible Calgary Folk Music Festival.


If you look for a long while from here, you are seized with a fancy that all the earth is rolling towards the west, and there is nothing beyond the Rockies; they end the world and meet the sky.
— Moira O'Neill, poet and writer

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar. This rustic coffee joint is right in the heart of Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood, with a lovely patio and an awesome selection of craft beers. They make a kick-ass cappuccino and have lovely scones, which is perfect as the neighbourhood is a half-hour walk from downtown Calgary or a quick bus ride. There’s also a river pathway you could use to ride your bike into the neighbourhood but it’s closed from damage during last June’s flood.

Analog on 17th Avenue. The seats inside fill up quickly but during the warmer months you can usually find a table on the sidewalk outside. These guys know espresso and make a wonderful traditional cappuccino.

Phil & Sebastian. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, this is the place for you. The beans are carefully chosen and roasted, and baristas train for months before starting work here.

Higher Ground. These guys have the best muffins in town and while the espresso isn’t always outstanding, the tea and regular coffee menu is wonderful and you can come in for wine or beer in the evenings. 

A PROPER MEAL

Without Papers Pizza. This funky, sit-down joint makes wonderful thin-crust pizza with all kinds of cool toppings. In summer, they use a little moped to drop off deliveries but all year-round play a selection of silent Disney movies from a projector onto the wall. With lots of sunshine and comfy, high-backed leather booths, this is a great place to pop in for lunch while wandering the streets of Inglewood.

The Naaco Truck. Calgary has an incredible food truck scene, with just about every cuisine available on street corners during the summer months. This truck is my favourite, and offers a really playful, tasty spin on Indian food with naan-bread tacos. For a sweet treat, try the s’moresa – it’s like a s’more in a samosa! 

Anejo. Mexican food gets a sophisticated, urban twist at this Mission restaurant. It has the largest selection of tequila in North America and an outstanding cocktail list featuring classic cocktails reinvented with tequila. The guacamole is made tableside and is incredible. Try it with three of their wild mushroom tacos (the salsa verde here is delicious!) and a strawberry rhubarb margarita. Or be bold and try a tequila sampler, where you can choose several to taste.

Una Pizza + Wine. This tiny pizza place on 17th Avenue is a bit more upscale than Without Papers and has the benefit of being walking distance from downtown. It tends towards meat-eaters but there are several delicious vegetarian pizzas, and wonderful appetizers. To start, get the roasted broccoli with walnut vinaigrette and pecorino romano and then try their classic margherita pizza and a nice glass of vino.

Maurya. Hands down the best traditional Indian food in the city. Order out or eat in – this family-owned restaurant has great service and even better vegetable pakora. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here.

TREATS

La Boulangerie. For the best croissants in Calgary.

Yann Haute Patisserie. For delicious macarons and French pastries.

Amato Gelato. For – you guessed it - gelato.


Amanda's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: Looking out over the Bow River from the Peace Bridge or a secluded corner of Prince’s Island Park.

2. Favorite place to write: At home. I’m too easily distracted to write somewhere with noise and bustle.

3. Favorite museum: The Glenbow

4. Favorite coffee shop: Café Gravity 

5. Favorite thing about Calgary: Albertans are some of the most kind, generous people you’ll meet and I’m continually blown away by the sense of community in Calgary, especially in the aftermath of 2013’s flood.