I’ve never been much of a mall rat—fighting the crowds and being force-fed an auditory diet of Jingle Bells drives me almost as batty as the Clark Griswold character from Christmas Vacation. On the other hand, I’ve always enjoyed the open air shopping experience. I like the kiss of crisp air on my cheeks as I browse between boutiques filled with original gift ideas—I can almost smell the chestnuts roasting.
For years a good friend in south Calgary has been telling me about the shops in Willow Park Village (WPV)—Check-M8 Shoes, Meez Cuisine and Catering, and Pipestone Travel Store (she’s a shoe lover, foodie and a diehard traveller). And finally, I had a great incentive to check out Calgary’s outdoor answer to the mall—$300 worth in Willow Park Village gift certificates. The plan: Meet my WPV-savvy friend at Sushi Ginza for lunch, and then get a jump on Christmas shopping.
The village’s holiday decorations had just gone up, lending the walkable centre a festive air. Freed from the confines of the mall and its chain stores, I had great expectations of finding a one-of-a-kind present at Willow Park’s more than 60 retailers (that include kitchen, home, fashion, beauty and leisure items), for everyone on my list—Mom, hubby and kids.
I, too, love shoes, and couldn’t resist popping in first to Check-M8 to try on the latest fall boots from Ecco, Pikolinos and London Fly; well-made and stylish footwear. I had to force myself to walk out wearing the same shoes I’d walked in with. Rule No. 1 of Christmas shopping: Do not shop for yourself! (My friend doesn’t abide by the same rules, and she left with a darling pair of red Rieker ankle boots.)
At Meez I found a Gurgle Pot, which is a funky fish-shaped water pitcher, for my mom, plus a bunch of great holiday housewarming gift ideas including exotic spices and tins of shortbread cookies. I even scored a bottle of Canadian Cranberry Syrup that will come in handy when I’m shaking up holiday cocktails.
“You can shop for food, or for the foodie in your life,” said store manager Jannine Woods.
There were more foodie finds at The Compleat Cook, from a stainless steel cocktail shaker to gorgeous Le Creuset pots in a rainbow of colour options. I filed away some ideas, such as a London Pottery teapot for my tea-loving husband, and we walked on to Pipestone.
The long-time travel outfitter specializes in dressing globetrotters for tropical climes, and I found the perfect vacay shirt for my better half—a lightweight ExOfficio button-up with just a touch of “Aloha.” My friend also spied darling Li’l Lewis Explorers travel neck pillows (in the shape of lions and monkeys!) for my school-age children, but I decided they would play with them as stuffed animals rather than use them for airplane rest, so I kept looking. Rule No. 2 of Christmas shopping: Stick to a list so you won’t be swayed by impulse gifts, no matter their “Awww!” factor.
Finally, at Stephanie’s Kids, I found the cutest shirt for my daughter—a bright, long-sleeved Desigual number (who new the Spanish retailer made kids clothes?). We also ogled the ridiculously darling Canada Goose children’s coats and the Burberry for babies onesies; sadly, out of our price range.
Then, because I found something for (almost) everyone on my list—and followed all of my rules—I circled back to Check-M8 to treat myself to an early Christmas gift. Rule No. 3 of Christmas shopping: If there’s money left over, shop for yourself last.
The successful afternoon called out for a celebratory cocktail from Caesars, but it was getting late, and this shopper doesn’t mind having a reason to return to Willow Park Village.
Give the gift of shopping
Simplify the countdown to Christmas by giving those on your list a Willow Park Village gift certificate, good at any WPV retailer (excluding Willow Park Wines & Spirits). Pick them up at the main administration office, which is next door to Country Pleasures (403-215-0320).