Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In Banff

While I would love Aaron were he in any profession, I've discovered that there's a big advantage to marrying a mathematician. He has to go to math conferences in all sorts of interesting places, and I get to go along. So we're in Banff, and he's spending his days locked up in a room studying math, while I'm out enjoying the town.

We got in Sunday evening, and settled in to the Banff Centre. It was established in the 1930s as a gathering place for artists to come and work, but somewhere along the line they added a little compound for mathematicians, tucked way back into a corner - the Banff International Research Station.

So we're in our little corner, but we get to use the rest of the Banff Centre. There are great recreational facilities, and the artists and musicians who gather here put on all sorts of programs. (No knitters. I've been checking. Perhaps we need to propose some sort of knitters' gathering here.) And it's beautiful. This is the view we get on our way to the dining hall, where the mathematicans share space with artists, a jazz musicians' seminar, and an international conference on pig reproduction. The last group isn't as fun as it sounds - I haven't seen a single one of them wearing a pig nose.

We did just a little walking through the woods, before discovering that the advice about getting used to the altitude probably should be taken seriously - as should the advice about reading a map and knowing where one is going. So we turned back pretty quickly - but not before I saw these. I think they're some sort of wild orchid.

We're told there's all sorts of wildlife in the Banff National Park. So far we've only spotted one mule deer, and a whole bunch of these guys. They're Columbian ground squirrels, one of the five kinds of squirrels that live around Banff.

So this is an educational trip, as I'm learning about the wildlife. I'm learning that they take some things very seriously here because of the wildlife - like garbage. There are no regular garbage bins in town, just these things - constructed of heavy steel, and closing with a latched door. They try very hard to keep the animals from being fed by humans, and most people seem to cooperate with the effort.

Mostly, however, this is a pleasure trip. How could it not be, when the main street looks like this?

To provide some knitting content, I'll mention that I touched Qiviut (called Quiviuk here) yesterday. Notice that I said "touched," not "bought." At $79 a ball, I'll have to think long and hard about how badly I want to buy yarn. But the nice people at Jacques Cartier clothing were happy to show me around the store, and let me enjoy visiting the yarn, and the clerk gave me a pamphlet about qiviuk. They have some other exotic yarns as well - some even more expensive!

The biggest downside to this trip is that we're living on a mountain - a small mountain, but a mountain. This means that the trip back to the Banff Centre is all uphill - up fairly steep hills. So I've learned the hard way to stop wandering around town before I'm completely tired - because I know I'll be completely tired by the time I get back to our room. I'm sure sooner or later the benefits of crisp mountain air will kick in, and I won't feel tired at all.