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Canada’s Fairer at the Fairmont

Lake Louise:a Legendary Lady

Chateau Lake Louise is a crown jewel in the Fairmont collection. Built more than a century ago for mountain climbers, this alpine icon draws a visit from almost every group that goes to the Canadian Rockies. Its veranda and huge lawn look out on Lake Louise and directly into Victoria Glacier. Mountaineering expeditions from this site are memorialized with wonderful old photography and biographies both in the resort and around the lake.

We arrived in time for a late lunch on the patio off the dining room. The sun was bright and warm, and the patio was buzzing. I had a curry chicken dish that was my favorite lunch of the week, and we both had a celebratory beer.

“Most groups don’t stay at Chateau Lake Louise,” said Warren, “but they all want to go there, if only for an hour or so. Room rates there are more than most tour companies can pay, unless they’re running a very high-end trip.”

Kim and I had a list for Lake Louise. We wanted to hike up to Lake Agnes Teahouse and have morning tea and scones. We wanted to do a canoe trip out on the lake, and we wanted to have a meal in one of the hotel’s notable restaurants.

The hike was glorious. Going up involves about two miles of steady climbing, so we stopped a few times along the way to have a drink of water and enjoy the view. At the top, the teahouse was serving dozens of hikers and walkers.

The international tea menu is impressive. Kim had an Indian tea, and I ordered one from England. The setting is magnificent and is made all the better by the effort it takes to walk up there. College students work summers and stay in nearby lodging for a week or so before hiking down for a shot of civilization.

That evening, we had a wonderful meal at the hotel’s Walliser Stube restaurant. Stylish but not stuffy, this Swiss restaurant anchors one corner of the hotel’s lakefront. Kim had the Alberta lake trout, and I had wiener schnitzel.

Banff: a Friendly Fortress

Our drive from Lake Louise to Banff was the shortest of the trip. We took our time and were there in an hour or so. If its staff were not so gracious, the Fairmont Banff Springs could be intimidating.

Built more than 125 years ago by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the Banff Springs is a massive mountain fortress perched high above the Bow River. It has nearly 800 rooms, and we were placed in a golfers’ wing quite a way from the main hotel. Perhaps they knew I had a tee time.

This was our last stop, and we relaxed a bit. We spent a day browsing the shops in downtown Banff. I played the golf course with two pilots from Switzerland. We bought some local art in one of the shops in the hotel and had dinner at its Samurai Sushi Bar.

  At the Banff Springs, we lived by one rule:  Whenever we ran out of things to do, we’d grab a table on their alpine patio, sit facing the Bow River valley and toast our good fortune.

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