Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Leaving No Stone Unturned in the Canadian Rockies, Part 3


Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
The second Sunday of May is when much of the world celebrates Mother’s Day. Whether moms were heroes to their kids or not, most children do a lot for their mothers on that special day. I always say, despite what I did, they always made me feel special on Mother's Day. When Bill and I became full-time travelers in 2009, my three daughters Trisha, Claudine and April changed their gifts-giving from jewelry, apparel, or accessories to experiences like fine dining, activities, tours, and cruises. In 2016, it was a Weekend Getaway to the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Bill joined in and took care of all my memorable meals.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise in the middle of spring
On Saturday, May 7, he drove me to Lake Louise, that postcard-pretty place about thirty minutes from Banff, two hours from the home of my second daughter Claudine, whose kids I was babysitting for a few months. I had been there twice before, the first time without Bill. On the second visit, it was the height of summer and the glacier running down into the water was thin. While canoeing around the lake, I expressed much disappointment to Bill, blaming global warming. How wrong I was! It was the height of summer. It was just not the right time to be there.

from bottom left, clockwise: Pre-Mother's Day lunch & dinner, Mother's Day lunch & dinner, and post-Mother's Day breakfast
This time, in late spring, the glacier was still in its full glory and, though we could not canoe around the lake because the water was just starting to thaw, the sight was impressive. After many photo ops from many angles, Bill led me to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, that famous hotel with a commanding view of the lovely sight. He had reserved a table with a huge picture window looking out to the perfect scene for a pre-Mother’s Day lunch I will never forget.

Banff

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, clockwise from top right: our room, the view, and the pool
outdoor heated pool


After lunch, we proceeded to Banff where my daughters booked us for the night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a large castle-like building for which the chain is noted. Built in 1888, this historic hotel from the time of railway tourism is today a Banff emblem. It is set off on its own in a wooded area, appearing like a dream as we wound up the road on the hill. Our well-appointed room at the floor just below the top looks out to lovely views, including the Bow River tumbling over a cliff-like rise.


The staff at Lake Louise told us to check out the pool area. And so we did. It exceeded our expectations! An Olympic-sized pool enchants you inside, including the secluded hot tub at one end and elegant chaise lounge chairs all around. But almost everyone was in the pool outdoors. It is heated and has magnificent views of the Bow Valley mountains. I could have stayed there forever, but Bill pulled me away. He had reservations for my pre-Mother’s Day dinner with more spectacular views at the Rundle Lounge. 
Me and my grizzlies, downtown Banff
The next morning we just walked around the town of Banff, having been to the city and national park before. We simply savored the crispness and coolness of the air bathed by the brightness of the sun. There is magic in shopping and strolling among stores and streets surrounded by towering mountains. Then Bill took me to a Mother’s Day brunch at an Irish Pub where Bill could have his shepherd’s pie while I had my first taste of Yorkshire pudding with bits of delicious roast beef inside.

Holiday Inn at Canmore
Canmore

After checking out from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, we moved to Holiday Inn in Canmore, the town near the southeast boundary of the Banff National Park. Since the city was chosen to host the Nordic events of the 1988 Winter Olympics, tourism has flourished. The population is now over 12,000. We had not been there before so we shopped and strolled at a more leisurely pace. It has the small town feel but the same magic from the ever-present snow-capped mountains. Downtown Banff is bigger and has more establishments, but its population is smaller at less than 9,000.

Canmore: clockwise from top left: the mountains, the Head,
the original Hotel, and bubbles in a garden
At a small park on a river bank, a humongous head half-buried in the ground took my fancy. The Canmore Hotel sits on the main street as it has for over 100 years, making it one of the most distinguishable landmarks in the city. I was also fascinated by a garden that perpetually produced soap bubbles. Then Bill chose Santa Lucia Trattoria, a small Italian restaurant that sits about 40 people, for my Mother’s Day dinner. The next morning, we had a post-Mother’s Day breakfast at the famous Rocky Mountain Bagel Company downtown that had dozens of bagel varieties.

The girls and Bill outdid themselves in 2016! As I said, despite the neglect they suffered as I became more of a father than a mother as a single parent, focused on my career, they have always made me feel special on Mother's Day. It was not only a great break from babysitting but a Mother’s Weekend Getaway I will forever treasure. I wonder how they could top this in 2017?