My Canada Adventures (10/10/19 – 10/15/19)
It still seems a little crazy to me that I lived in Wisconsin for 23 years and never made a trip up to Canada. Because living in Florida is hot, and in October it is STILL in the 90’s…I decided for vacation I wanted to go somewhere COLD. I love the mountains and had never been to Canada, so I went on an adventure to see the Canadian Rockies.
We left for Calgary at 6am. We flew with United and our connection was in Denver. Denver was experiencing a lot of snow, which I was so happy to see, and luckily our plane made it to the airport right before they froze all incoming flights. I also got to experience the joys of United Club for the first time – I felt so fancy! Our second plane to Calgary was slightly delayed, but fortunately we still made it to Canada before 2pm.
After speedily making it through customs, we picked up a cute red Nissan Rogue rental car through Enterprise at the Calgary airport. After getting very excited about being able to see our breath because it was so cold, we headed to our hotel, Hotel Arts Kensington. The Hotel was fairly small but very beautiful. The room had a fireplace and a waterfall shower! They also offered parking underground which was very convenient with having a rental car.
By the time we checked into our room we were starving. We had missed lunch but most places weren’t opening for dinner until 5pm. We decided to go for a stroll outside the hotel and found a little place close by called Wine Bar Kensington. Everyone was extremely friendly and the best part was that when we arrived the charcuterie boards were half price and so was the wine! You heard me right…HALF OFF BOTTLES OF WINE!
After a bottle of wine and a charcuterie board with ginger dried beef, popcorn, pickles, olives, roasted walnuts, hickory sticks, piave cheese, honey, apple butter, and whole grain mustard…we ventured out to find a place for dinner. We were anxious to try the Alberta beef as it is what the area is really known for, so we went to a place called Modern Steak for dinner.
All I can say about dinner is WOW. Everything was delicious and the atmosphere inside the restaurant was classy and cozy. We split another bottle of Canadian wine (which was also half off – America REALLY needs to get with this “half off bottle of wine” thing) and ordered the Filet trio which was a sample of Traditional, Grass-fed, and Wagyu beef. It also came with two sides so we split some loaded mashed potatoes and asparagus. For dessert we had the baked Alaska and it tasted as fun as it looked. This concluded our evening as we were both exhausted from a full day of travel.
In the morning, we decided to find a breakfast spot and then explore Calgary a little more. Breakfast was at Blue Star Diner as I had heard via Pinterest that they had an amazing breakfast burrito. The burrito did not disappoint – I ate every bite and was stuffed!
After breakfast we went back to the hotel to pack and went for a walk around town. We visited some small shops and went to The Big Cheese for lunch to try some Poutine. I ate so much for breakfast that I could barely eat any poutine, but it was fabulous. They had a huge menu with tons of different poutine varieties. I wish I would have had an extra stomach to try more! We also stopped at Crossroads Market which was a big warehouse that was half flea market and half farmers market.
Overall, Calgary was fun to explore (especially the half off bottles of wine) but looking back I think I would have rather spent an extra day in Banff or at Lake Louise. I wish we would have only spent half of a day here, but it was convenient that everything we did was close to our hotel.
On our second day we were off to Banff! I could hardly wait to see the mountains and get away from city life. It was about an hour and a half drive from Calgary to Banff – and it was quite interesting listening to the GPS because all directions were in kilometers.
It was a beautiful drive through the mountains and we were excited when we arrived at our second hotel, Fox Hotel & Suites. We were originally going to stay at the Rim Rock which is gorgeous, but we decided we wanted to be close to the main drag where all the shops and restaurants are and I’m so glad we changed our mind. It was a really neat two level room with an incredible view and it was within walking distance to almost everywhere we went. They also had a complementary bus that shuttled you from different parts of the main drag so we didn’t have to drive while staying there at all!
Dinner was what I was looking forward to the most. Our first night we booked reservations at Sky Bistro which is an upscale restaurant at the top of Sulphur Mountain. The only way to get up to the restaurant was to take the gondola. I was slightly terrified, but the view was well worth it.
We booked the gondola package for Sky Bistro which included the trip up & down the gondola and an appetizer and entree at the restaurant. It was probably one of the fanciest restaurants I’ve ever dined at. This midwest girl likes things like burgers and mozzarella sticks so when the appetizers were things like duck wings and tartare I must admit I was intimidated.
I ended up getting the halibut cheek & prawns as my appetizer, the chicken with succotash and roasted potatoes as my entree, and a chocolate pate for dessert. Everything was SO GOOD – even the fish cheek (who knew?!). I also had a Moscow Mule with torched rosemary and a “Barely” Russian with dessert. Watching the sunset behind the mountains from the dinner table was something I will never forget. This place is definitely a must if you visit Banff. It was one of the highlights of the trip and by far, my favorite meal.
Our second day in Banff was a bit more relaxing. We spent the day out exploring the town and all of the little shops. We ate breakfast at Wild Flour Bakery and enjoyed wandering around the town. Everything in Banff was so nice and well maintained. Although it was touristy, it just felt so comfortable. One of the perks of our hotel was also this amazing “cave” like hot tub and sauna area. It was a nice day to get some drinks at different local places and just enjoy vacation.
Our last morning in Banff we woke up and went to Tooloulou’s which is a cajun style restaurant. It was very small inside and I’m so glad we arrived early because a huge line was forming at the door. I knew I couldn’t leave Canada without trying an Eggs Benedict so I got one with pork belly and cajun hollandaise. It wasn’t very spicy like I thought it would be so I smothered it in Louisiana hot sauce (they had a whole wall of sauces to choose from) and mmm delicious!
Lake Louise, Alberta
I couldn’t believe how fast vacation was going…we were already headed to our last destination – Lake Louise. I had never heard of Lake Louise before this trip, and all I can say is the pictures don’t do it justice (and that is saying something when you consider the pictures). The drive to get to the lake was beautiful enough and luckily we avoided all avalanches.
We rented cleats to attach to our shoes from the little town shopping area and we hiked around the lake. They have a tea shop you can hike to (which unfortunately was closed when we went) and also horses you can ride around! Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I tried to take it all in because it all just felt so surreal.
After our hike around the lake we decided to have lunch with some drinks and dessert at the Fairmont which is the super expensive hotel on the lake. The beignets with maple, caramel, and chocolate sauces and boozy hot chocolate were the highlight of the meal in my eyes, but we just got to hang out for a while in the warmth and enjoy some football on TV.
We wanted to go off the grid for a few days so we decided to stay in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere for the last two nights. It was called Baker Creek Resort and there was no cell service, no TV’s in the cabin, and very spotty satellite WiFi. We stayed in cabin #12 and played a lot of board games with the real wood fire going. It was magical and everything I needed from this vacation!
There was a restaurant on the property where we ate dinner both nights, they had a community conference center which had a bunch of games you could take to your room, and also a small gift shop with some souvenirs and food items. Had we known that there really wasn’t breakfast/lunch options we would have stopped at a grocery store on the way since we had a full kitchen, but we just ate a lot of snacks before we’d go to dinner (and we made real s’mores on the fire!)
And just like that the trip was over. We got up early on our last day to check out and drive back to Calgary to catch our flight. We got a gorgeous view of the sunrise as we drove away from Lake Louise. For a quick breakfast we stopped at Tim Hortons which is like Canadian Dunkin’ Donuts. Luckily we arrived at the Calgary Airport extra early because it was a 75 minute wait through security. Our flights went well, we enjoyed the Maple Leaf Lounge complementary snacks and beverages, and even upgraded ourselves to first class on the way home…you know, to finish the vacation in style! (aka drain the rest of my bank account)