Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

An honest review

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a dreamy, castle-like structure tucked into the Canadian Rockies on the shores of some of the bluest glacier water you have ever seen.  It’s a place I’ve dreamed of since I was 16, when dear friends of mine traveled there and returned home bearing photographic evidence (before blogs and Facebook existed- oye!).

Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park and is a little over 2 hours from Calgary International Airport.  We rented a car at the airport and first visited Emerald Lake Lodge, then traveled south to Lake Louise.

While Brian parked the car, I headed into the lobby to get our room keys and take a few photos.  Because I’m very mature and refined, the stairway reminded me of the movie Titanic.  Haha. #jackandroseforlife.  No, really, it is a grand staircase.  Stately royal blue carpet says, “this place is fancy” while mounted elk and moose heads say, “but we’re in the mountains, eh.”

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sorry a little blurry- selfie stick woes

The Chateau felt stuffy, but down-to-earth (oxymoron, I know!).  Even though we consider ourselves “travelers on a budget” we didn’t feel as though we didn’t fit in. The staff is overly friendly and accommodating AND there are people visiting from all over the world, so lots of different styles and tastes.  The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also an outdoor playground in the sense of all the hiking trails, ski trails, and the like, so even though the decor in the resort is very upscale, most people are just dressed for the weather!

Room

The room was adequate. Even though we *ahem* stayed for free, I thought the room was a little small for the nightly rate of $669 Canadian.  When we ordered room service (twice!  also free!), they could hardly even get the table around our bed, and one of us had to sit on the bed to eat it.  Only one chair would fit.  #firstworldproblems

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Teeny tiny bathroom. Shower was to your left.

The bed was super comfy though, and the complimentary robes and slippers were a plus.  There was also a small fridge in the room- just down the road in Lake Louise Village there are a few shops so if you wanted to save money on snacks and drink this could be helpful.

Location

The hotel‘s location right on the shore of Lake Louise can not be beat!  You’re less than a 5 minute walk from your room to kayak and canoe rentals, hiking trails, and more.  Unfortunately we hit Lake Louise right as winter hit Alberta, so we did not partake in any of the guided hikes or activities (mostly because we weren’t packed for snowshoeing, dangit)!

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Dining:

We enjoyed dinner at the Lakeview Lounge on our first evening.  This business casual dining option is great for the scenery AND the people watching (Hey you, people on their phones when you’re at one of the most beautiful places on earth, I’m talking about YOU.  GRRrrr).  The prices are mid-range.

As I mentioned before, we enjoyed the in-room dining for breakfast and appetizers and ate two rounds of poutine.  Have you had poutine?  Your taste buds will thank you, but your gall bladder will not.  I digress.

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Overall

As much as I dreamed of this place, I wasn’t as awestruck by the resort as I was by Emerald Lake Lodge.  While the views and the service are excellent, it felt like really any major worldwide resort.  However, we did find a big perk in those extra amenities like room service, that allowed us just to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the hustle of family life.  We didn’t expect the weather to leave us wanting just to unwind, but sometimes those big resort treasures are worth the extra cost.

What do you think?  Have you been to Lake Louise?  Stayed at a Fairmont Resort?  Eaten poutine?

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*This is not a sponsored post*

Travel Hacking the Canadian Rockies

A four-night, four-star trip for next-to-nothing.

I’ve been so eager to tell you how we took second-honeymoon style trip to the Canadian Rockies for pennies on the dollar.  We started travel hacking about 2 years ago and using points and miles has definitely helped with our travel game.

After booking our trip to Australia last year, I had a bunch of American Airlines miles left.   Reading Bryce’s blog about how to use the Fairmont VISA gave me an idea- I’d been dreaming of staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise since I was a teenager- travel hacking the hotel was the ticket!

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First, I booked our flight from CMH -> Calgary using 75,000 AA miles.  Here’s what I would have paid using the same flights but paying cash.

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Instead, here’s what I paid:  75k miles + $123.60 in taxes and fees

Savings on flights:  $1,232.40

You can accrue AA Advantage miles by signing up for 2 Platinum Select Citi AAdvantage cards- if you got the business card and the personal card, you’d immediately have enough miles.  More info HERE.

Our first night of the trip was at Emerald Lake Lodge (review).  Not only was the place exquisite, it’s very pricey.  One night was $329 CAD + taxes.  Our bill at check out for one night + dinner in the lounge and breakfast in the dining room was a whopping $497.89 CAD!

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Before we left home, the Barclaycard Arrival + was offering a sign-up bonus for 50,000 miles after spending $3k in the first 3 months.  We used the card for all of our expenses on the trip, plus  all of our personal expenses and my husband’s business expenses.  After less than 2 months, we hit the minimum spend on this card- giving us 50k points/ $500 in travel credit.

The charge at Emerald Lake Lodge converted to $375.82.  See how I erased the purchase below:

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Showing we hit the minimum spend and all the points we accrued.
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You can only erase purchases that cost over $100 each. These are the options Barclay gave me.

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So for 2 nights and 2 great meals: FREE

A savings of $375.82

Next we spent 2 nights at the aforementioned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  This travel hack involved signing up for the Fairmont Visa Signature Card.  We applied for this card over a year ago in order to have time to earn the miles and have open availability for the resort.  This card also requires spending $3000 in the first 3 months, but with that comes a bonus of 2 FREE nights!

After achieving the minimum spend I called Fairmont and booked the two nights at the Chateau Lake Louise (you must book directly with Fairmont resorts to use your free nights).  The resort quoted me a resort fee of $13/night, but I wasn’t charged it at checkout.

Here’s what our nights would have cost without credits:

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$669 CAD is currently $501 USD per night!!  Just having this credit card saved us $1002!

Earning Premier Status also gives you breakfast and dining credits at the resorts.  We were able to use 2 of these at check-out. The parking was $30/night.  Here’s our first bill from the resort and then a second one showing what we paid after the credits were applied:

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We had horrible weather while at Lake Louise (our mountain view room became a fog-view room), so we really just enjoyed the resort and the room service (YES!).  Our bill at check-out (after Fairmont dining credits) was $163.12 CAD.  This came to $123.13 USD and we were able to erase the entire stay using the Barclay points.

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Total cost of 2 nights at the Fairmont + Dining if paid for out of pocket and without credits:  $1002 + $216 USD ($288.12 CAD) = $1218

Total spent for 2 nights at Fairmont + gluttony and room service after HACKS = ZERO

The last night of our trip was in Banff.  I had prepaid for the hotel through AAA.  In hindsight, I could have also booked the hotel with the option to pay at check-out and used the Barclay points to cover it.  However, it was the least expensive option by quite a bit- we stayed at the Banff Aspen Lodge for $133 USD.  The room and amenities were just fine, but I would recommend this more for budget travelers or families.

Total for air and 4 nights before Travel Hacking: $3082.82

Total for air and 4 nights after Travel Hacking: $256.60

Savings: $2,826.22

Bam!!  The Canadian Rockies was one of the most magical places we’ve ever visited.  I think I’ve covered everything, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’m not the final authority on all things travel hacking- I recommend reading 10xtravel.com for more info!  I love them so much, I wrote a blog for them!

Have you done any travel hacking?  Maybe you’ve been the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe you cry, too, when you see a dream come true?

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** I’m undeniably one of the world’s biggest haters of debt.  We only use these credit cards with the premise that the uses are already budgeted for and the cards are paid off EVERY month.  I don’t recommend using a credit card if you lack self-control.  My husband is also self-employed so we can easily hit the minimum spends just by charging his gas and other work expenses along with our household expenses.  More HERE.  End sermon. **

 


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The Icefields Parkway drive within an hour of Lake Louise

In researching our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I knew that the Icefields Parkway was something we had to cross off of our list.  However, we were short on time, so we knew we couldn’t travel too far from our base in Lake Louise- so these sites on the Icefields Parkway drive are all within an hour of Lake Louise.

The Icefields Parkway is an iconic drive, maybe lesser-known to Americans than California’s Highway 1 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but lacking nothing in jaw-dropping views.

Icefields Parkway is also known as highway 93 and it begins just north of Lake Louise.  The parkway itself is free, but you do need to have your National Parks Pass for admission.  We paid $80 CAD for a 4-day pass to the parks.  You can take the Icefields Parkway all the way to Jasper, AB but our short getaway just didn’t allow us the time we needed to do this.

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The road is well-maintained and has numerous pull-over spots.

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They were obviously out of neutral colors at the rental counter.

The first place I knew I wanted to see was Bow Lake.

For the best view, don’t pull over at the lookout- but look for the signs for the Num Ti-Jah Lodge.  The Lodge was not open while we were there (it appeared to be under renovation), but you can still park there and walk right up to the lake.

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If it would have been a little warmer, I’d been happy to sit on this bridge with a good book.  The reflections in the lake are gorgeous, if you can get past the tour bus crowds arriving every so often! 🙂

Just a little more north of Bow Lake is Peyto Lake.  This is the stop I’d been waiting for, as the photographic image I’d placed in my mind begged me to see it in person.  The electric blue water against the snow-draped mountains is a highlight for travelers from all over the world (trust me, you’ll see all the tourists even on a snowy day)!

Those not arriving by bus have to park about 1/4 mile from the viewing platform and walk up the hill (err, mountain).  The walk is well-paved but it is steep.  This is where Mr YT and I determined that we were either dealing with some altitude-related struggles OR we really needed to hit the treadmill when we got home — the answer is probably both!

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Thinking this view alone was worth the hike- not realizing what I was about to see.

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From Peyto Lake, we returned south towards Lake Louise.  We really wanted to get settled in at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise before dark so we could have a look around the property.  I’m so glad we did because we had about zero visibility the next two days!

So friends, you don’t have to have an entire day to enjoy some spectacular Canadian Rockies views.  I’d easily do this drive again!

Read more about our Canadian Rockies adventure HERE & HERE.  Interested in Travel Hacking a trip to Canada?- CHECK THIS OUT.


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Have you been to the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe the US Rockies?  Where can I find blue water as bright as this?!

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**This post may contain affiliate links**

Emerald Lake Lodge – A romantic getaway in the Canadian Rockies

I asked my dear, well-traveled friend where SHE would stay in the Canadian Rockies, “Oh, you must stay at Emerald Lake Lodge!”  Her suggestion was golden- I’m SO thankful for her advice.

Emerald Lake Lodge is a romantic getaway nestled in the Canadian Rockies.  It is located between the stately mountains of Yoho National Park, just outside of Field, British Columbia.  The drive from Calgary airport took about 2 hours. There is no parking at the lodge, overnight guests have to take a shuttle that is over 1/2 mile from the lodges.

The resort is a cluster of cabins, along with the main lodge and other outbuildings.  I haven’t felt so far away from civility since visiting the Australian Outback in my teens.  Emerald Lake Lodge is just the place to get away from the cares and affairs of day-to-day life!

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This bridge allows you to enter the peninsula where the lodge and cabins are. The cabin pictured is Cilantro, the upscale dining option.

Room

Our room was a king bed lake view.  I was a little nervous after reading some of the reviews online, but overall I was quite happy with the room.  The king bed was comfortable and the bedding was luxe.  The in-room wood-burning fireplace was romantic.  The lake view balcony would have been much better served in warmer weather, but added to the value.  We talked about how if we were here in summer we’d probably just sit on the deck all day.  There are no TVs or wifi in the room.  (The room also had ear plugs in it’s amenity kit so YOU CAN IMAGINE WHAT YOU WILL). 😉

Emerald Lake Lodge- Romantic Getaway

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Yes, the outside of the cottages and some of the landscaping and decking could have been improved (which is what you’ll find lots of on TripAdvisor).  Absolutely.  However, I’d say your paying for the seclusion and service- not perfection.  The weather here is harsh (we experienced some of that),  so I can see why the cabins don’t look perfect.

Dining-

The main lodge at Emerald Lake houses Kicking Horse Lounge and the Mount Burgess dining room.  After arrival, we had dinner in the Kicking Horse lounge.  The serving sizes were large and the food was tasty.  My husband had the bison burger and really enjoyed it.  There is a full bar service.Emerald Lake Lodge- Romantic Getaway

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A breakfast buffet takes place in the Mount Burgess dining room. It is not included in the cost.  We decided to just order our items off of the menu.

I did think things were a little pricey, BUT understanding the views and the serenity, you see why they can charge top dollar (think $4 for a cup of coffee!  We’re not in Ohio anymore, Toto).

There’s also Cilantro on the Lake, which was not open during our stay.   This is the building pictured above that was right on the lake.

Out and about-

There’s numerous hiking possibilities throughout the resort and Yoho National Park.  The Natural Bridge area is just a short drive away.  The grounds also have a fitness center and outdoor hot tub.  The view from the hot tub isn’t too shabby:

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In reality, if I could do my honeymoon over again (i.e. if I could have afforded this at age 20, lol), then this is where I would come.  Secluded.  Romantic.  Inspiring.  The fog made it a a little swoon-worthy.  Men, bring your lady here, she will LOVE YOU FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN.

Book it HERE.

xo

Emerald Lake Lodge- Romantic Getaway in the Canadian Rockies - hotel review

**This was not a sponsored post, but does contain affiliate links**

For more on the Canadian Rockies, check out the Icefields Parkway and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

 

Canadian Tulip Festival with Kids – Ottawa

Our family just got back visiting Ottawa, Canada and the Canadian Tulip Festival with our kids.  The tulips did not disappoint.  Ottawa has the largest festival of its kind and they showcase over 50 varieties of tulips.  The flowers are blooming all around town, but the main display is in Commissioners Park at Dows Lake.  The festival is the perfect time to visit Ottawa with kids

Below is my own display of the tulips- through photographs!  I’m still learning how to use my Nikon, but I think this is a nice representation of the different varieties on display!

Why Ottawa’s obsession with the tulip?  It goes back to the special relationship that the Canadians made with the Dutch during WWII.  The Princess of the Netherlands was kept in safety in Ottawa during the war and even had a child, Princess Margriet there.  Once Princess Juliana became queen, she sent the city of Ottawa tulips each year as a gift.  You can read more of the story here, but the commission now plants close to 1 million tulip bulbs annually!

These first two photos are from Parc Major’s Hill Park.  This is a beautiful park that overlooks the Rideau Canal locks and the National Gallery.

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Canadian Tulip Festival

The best photo I have of the tulips on Parliament Hill is this one with C.  They were appropriately colored red and white.
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This photo below was outside of the Library and Archives.  The kids weren’t impressed, they wanted to go in and check out a book.  Ha!
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As aforementioned, the main display is at Commissioner’s Park.  The park is a 10-minute drive from Ottawa, but the Festival provides a shuttle for $2/person.  The shuttle was a double-decker bus and it was definitely the highlight for 5-yr-old Jackson.  He squealed in delight the entire time!

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This photo is to show you the crowd at Dows Lake- but also to show you how funny it is to try to get a picture of the kids by themselves.

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We saw sooo many tulips, and we only made it through 1/3 or so of the park before the kids started getting tired.  Because we had to take the shuttle, my giant double  stroller wouldn’t fit on it, so we were outnumbered by littles and they had to walk a lot!  We plan to take the kids back to Ottawa when they are a little older to experience the Canadian Tulip Festival again!

Do you think you’d like to visit the Canadian Tulip Festival?  Have you been to any other flower festivals?  Or maybe you’re interested in Ottawa? 

We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott– very convenient location and tons of space for our family!

A Walking Tour of Ottawa with Kids – My post @ Suitcases and Sippycups

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For your continued reading:

Canadian Tulip Festival website

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