About 30 Americans slipped quietly into Calgary Thursday, then headed by bus for Kananaskis Country to plan for the G-8 summit.
They were shocked by the weather, since most had come from Washington, D.C., where the temperature was 20 C when they left.
A 50-degree shift is a jolt, even for the tough security and intelligence types.
The officials are here on serious business, but along the way they got sideswiped by the scenery and ended up sounding like any other tourists.
"The preliminary consensus is 'Wow!' " said Steven Kelly, deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Ottawa, the second-ranked diplomat after the ambassador.
"The people here are extremely impressed," Kelly said. "I'm standing here at this window in the Lodge, and the view is absolutely spectacular.
"The sky is brilliantly clear. It couldn't be better. It's so dramatic."
On the way to Kananaskis Village a coyote crossed the highway. The group saw deer as well.
Combined with the weather, those everyday sightings made the locale "exotic" to American eyes, Kelly said.
Calgarians would describe it as damned cold; and Kananaskis, although glorious, is our familiar backyard.
But if they want to see us as exotic, hey, we've been called worse.
The Americans are the latest of four national delegations to visit Calgary with profiles so low as to be invisible.
The Germans, Italians and Japanese have already sent "pre-advance teams" to plan their leaders' visits.
Soon there will be visits from the French, British and Russians, as well as groups from the European Commission and European Union.
Based on their findings, big decisions will be made, like the arrangements for U.S. President George W. Bush.
Will he sleep in Calgary, Kananaskis or the northern U.S.? The Americans will make that call soon, but don't expect an announcement with road maps.
Kelly said, whatever the plans, American confidence in Canadian security arrangements is rock solid.
"As someone who lives in Ottawa and benefited from the absolutely great assistance the RCMP provided since Sept. 11 and before, I'm totally confident that RCMP will do a fantastic job," he said. "I was in Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas. The RCMP were fantastic there under very trying circumstances. We're confident it will be every bit as good here."
Mayor Dave Bronconnier has been meeting many of the delegates as they pass through. He met the Italians on the last day of the Salt Lake City Olympics, when the Winter Games were handed over to Turin, Italy.
They were thrilled to be in another Olympic city on that day. And some of the Japanese had been here for Calgary's Games in 1988, during the planning for their own Nagano Games.
"They were fascinated to see the changes in the city," the mayor said.
Among these visitors are many people you would not want to annoy on June 26 or 27. But for now, despite the seriousness of their job, they're tourists, too.
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