My 40th Birthday

I was supposed to be in Disneyland for my 40th birthday, hugging princesses and eating decadent snack food…but then COVID-19 hit.

We understood the need to stay home but it was still a shock to the system. Our family had to plan for years to make it a possibility and then I had to tell the kids we couldn’t go! (But still, first world problems, I know).

Plus, I was having unexpected difficulty with the thought of turning 40 years old. When you can say, “I’m in my thirties”, it still feels you are closer to your twenties and that “first half” of life. Forty years old feels like a turning point- you’re on the second half of your life, closer to fifty than twenty, and supposedly you have things figured out by then, right?

Solara Resort and Spa
So…this is 40.

I have been glued to the news, carefully taking into consideration the advice of experts from the World Health Organization and doctors on the front lines of the disease. The news specials on CTV and the articles from Globe and Mail help me feel informed and more in control, since I am armed with the current information.

At the time of my birthday, in March, the experts encouraged you to try and support local restaurants and hotel chains, so we planned an extravagant hotel stay. Josh picked high end hotels in Canmore, Alberta and let me choose the one I wanted. I chose Solara Resort and Spa.

The view from our Solara room.

Thank goodness I chose one on the edge of town with a huge room! By the time we went for my birthday; more social distancing was encouraged, restaurants were closing down rather than entertaining fewer diners, and local businesses and busy hikes were closing as well. People were still allowed to go to hotels and on hikes, so we didn’t cancel our last hurrah.

One of the views on our hike. It just stopped snowing.

I wouldn’t travel now, at all, but at the time it still seemed a safe possibility, so we went. Here’s how we did it safely:

When we got to Canmore, we were on the edge of town, and not downtown. Our car stayed in a parkade, parked several spots from the next vehicle. Josh stayed two meters from the front desk, checked in, and got the key. We didn’t see anyone in the hallway and went into our room safely, washing our hands as soon as we entered! The “room” was actually a condo! The hotel must rent it out for the owner. I have never smelled or seen a cleaner space. At 1000 square feet, the condo is bigger than our 850 square foot townhouse: it had two bedrooms, two full baths, two wine fridges and microwaves, hallways, fully stocked kitchen and large living room. The bedrooms and living room had electric fireplaces- yep, that’s 3 fireplaces!

The kid’s room!

I was only half-joking that it would be the perfect place to self-isolate, if you needed to! Josh paid extra to get a mountain view and it was STUNNING.

The second balcony had this view.

We didn’t go into town at all. We brought breakfast food and cooked it on the stove in the condo. Josh went to get food at the beginning of the trip for our lunch, but as we watched the cases of COVID-19 escalate over the course of one day, we opted for contactless delivery for our other meals after that.

Aware that Banff was closed and that the main hiking trails would be potentially packed- dangerous for us and unfair to locals- my family was careful in picking a less popular Winter-Spring trail just outside of Canmore.

Misty Grotto Canyon Trail before a brief snowfall.

Choosing Grotto Canyon Trail was a good choice as the snow made it a bit less accessible and we barely ran into other hikers. Since we had our snowshoes, we were set.

The hike was beautiful and restorative. I almost felt that life could go back to normal, sooner rather than later! (Who knows, but it was nice to feel like that for a moment).

Our contactless delivery that night was Italian from Santa Lucia Trattoria, one of the few restaurants still open and offering delivery. It was the most delicious gluten-free pasta I have ever had. I will dream of that meal. Jokingly, I said to Josh that it was so comforting, I wanted to dive into the meal and live there.

Penne Sambuca is my new fave meal.

The rest of our stay we chilled out in the hotel room: watching tv, playing board games, having long bubble baths, eating leftovers, and reading. It was a nice break before our voluntary self-isolation and careful social distancing. (I don’t know about you, but I’m taking guidelines seriously and only leaving to grocery shop and get essentials!)

Once it was time to check out, the situation had become so dire that we did a completely contactless sign out. Since guidelines had changed from 2 ft distance between people to 6 ft between people, we were told to phone down to the front desk rather than coming down. We sanitized our key and left it on the counter before leaving. Weird times but glad I was able to have a little bit of celebration before it got as bad as it did.

I made the kids each an Olaf, and we brought them on the hike. Here’s one of them, enjoying the snow. (haha).

Now, the country is seriously considering shutting down every shop that doesn’t provide an essential service, Canmore has declared a state-of-emergency, and I wash my hands for 30 seconds, 100 times a day. I was lucky that things hadn’t progressed that far before I had a chance to have a weekend to relax and restore my soul a bit.

One last visit to the world that exists beyond my house.

P.S. (I wouldn’t have gone if things were the way they are now! I’m not reckless. Stay safe out there and let’s flatten the curve together.)

How are things where you are?

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