CALGARY -- Dining on bruschetta, Mista salad and a trio of pasta, former U.S. president George W. Bush charmed staff and patrons at a Kensington restaurant last night.
Bush touched down in the city yesterday ahead of a speaking engagement today organized by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
"It was incredible," said Osteria de Medici waiter George Morrison, 40, who served the former commander in chief at the popular Italian eatery on 10 St. N.W.
"He was a gentleman, funny and a down-to-Earth kind of guy. We even got some pictures with him."
Chris Chapman, 24, was enjoying dinner with his mom, Suzanna, when Bush suddenly walked in.
"I was sitting in the corner and looked up and saw him walk by," he said. "I tried pointing him out to my mom but she didn't get to see him."
Bush wasn't the only high-profile guest there last night, said Chapman, as Calgary Flames forward Olli Jokinen happened to walk in minutes before.
"I saw (Jokinen) first and thought that was pretty cool then George Bush comes walking in," he said.
Wearing a dress shirt, slacks and long coat, Bush was greeted by customs officers on the tarmac at Calgary International Airport just after 6 p.m. before being ushered to dinner in a Cadillac limousine.
Members of Bush's security detail were seen at the Hyatt Regency hotel ahead of his arrival yesterday afternoon, as were members of the Calgary Police Service dog unit.
Today's speech marks Bush's first public remarks since leaving the White House in January with one of the lowest approval ratings in U.S. history.
Bush is expected to address a crowd of 1,500 at the Telus Convention Centre, remarking on his eight years in the Oval Office.
But not everyone is welcoming the former most powerful man in the world. Members of the group Lawyers Against the War labelled Bush a war criminal for his actions in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as the alleged torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and wrote to Canadian government officials demanding his entry into Canada by barred.
Tickets to today's invite-only event reportedly sold for $400 each and members of the media have been barred from hearing Bush's comments.
Not a bad evening. You go out for some Italian food, enjoy yourself, see a hockey player, and oh yeah, you get to be in the same room as the GREATEST LIVING HUMAN BEING.
Not a bad evening at all.