Banff Springs Hotel in August 2009
Banff Springs Hotel is 1929
On Thursday we left Jasper, took the amazing Icefields Parkway back down to Banff National Park. After a few scenic stops, and a quick stop in the town of Lake Louise for a late lunch at our favorite bakery, we continued towards the town of Banff, and the most spectacular hotel in the world - the historic Banff Springs.
We arrived at the Banff Springs right at 4:00 for our two day stay, we wanted to enjoy every moment we had there. Out of sheer luck we got upgraded from a mountain view room (views of pine trees) to a canyon view room which offers views of several peaks, the outdoor patios and the impressive Bow River!
E and I have stayed in some nice hotels before (usually we stay on the cheap), but this was easily the nicest hotel we've ever stayed in. The service was awesome, the room was much larger than expected and all the furnishings, decorations, wall art, etc. were top notch.
Our room was not huge, but a lot bigger than expected. We loved it!
And our little bathroom. Please don't mind the partial reflection of yours truly.
So, a historic side note - The Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 and rebuilt after a fire in the 1920s. The entire building is made of beautiful stone and is very reminiscent of a castle. The hotel was first built by the railroads trying to encourage travelers along the rail lines, an subsequently, at the hotel itself. From the very beginning, the hotel was a success.
The old fashioned castle-like style the hotel was built in meant it was prefect for E and I to explore. Promptly after checking out our room and the beautiful view from our window, we grabbed our cameras, a map of the hotel, and explored everywhere. This hotel was huge! Ballroom after ballroom, historical space one after another. Circular steep staircases, stone floors, and lots of areas that the lights were turned off, but E and I checked out anyway.
There was one hallway, called the Spanish Walk, that was so Harry Potter-esk, it was a long hallway lit with only dim lights. Even in the middle of the day the Spanish Walk was dark and mysterious. Each time E and I walked down it, we could jokingly cast silly Harry Potter spells at each other, or tried to scare each other.
Other areas of the castle (everyone there refers to the hotel as a castle) reminded us a lot of Resident Evil, a haunted mansion game E and I love where you have to solve mysteries. In one hallway in the hotel we saw a clock missing its hands. We kept saying we needed to find the hands to advance in the game. All in all, it was a really fun time.
Grand Staircase leading out of the main lobby.
This is the Spanish Walk, doesn't it remind you of Hogwarts? It became a lot creeper when the sun went down and we explored it around midnight.
1. One of the winding stone staircases
2. The neat lights in the lobby
3. Canada Pacific Railroad logo on the outside of the hotel
4. Portion of the hotel, so neat!
This is a lobby in one of the dozens of woman's bathrooms! Only in nice hotels do you get a huge lobby and a beautiful historic stained glass in the bathroom.
Beautiful ballroom. One of the most historically significant locations in the hotel.
1. Another stone stairway. Maybe it leads to the Charms classroom?
2. Sun room where tea used to be served in the 1920s. Now you can rent it for weddings.
Another big beautiful ballroom, all decorated almost 100 years ago. So impressive.
At one point I went up to the top floor and tried to get as high as I could in one of the historic towers. I took this photo out of one of the windows near the top!
That night we went to one of the smallest on site restaurants the hotel offers - Grapes. This wine bar, that also has a menu, only has seven tables and is located in the hotel's historic writing room. E and I ordered fondue, which is something we'd been seeing everywhere on menus, but waited for the Banff Springs to order. I also asked for a virgin cocktail of some sort, and the waitress brought out the most fabulous cucumber pomegranate mojito that I've ever had! She said the chefs press the cucumber juice fresh for each drink, I'm not sure if that is true, but it was divine.
The fondue was also out of this world! E and I talked about the flavor combination and thick cheesy goodness for the rest of the trip. The fondue was served in a big earthen pot placed on a heating element. A big basket of cubed bread and a tray of veggies accompanied it. After we had devoured the huge pot of cheese, we thought briefly about ordering the chocolate fondue for dessert, but decided against it. E said if he ate any more he "might blow."
The next day we had the entire day to spend at the hotel, and as some of you remember, we were planning on getting a day pass to the Willow Stream Spa. We woke early and had a quick breakfast, then went quickly to the spa. I was totally wishing I could have afforded to get a treatment there (the massages started at $250!), but was quite excited about the day pass, nonetheless.
Inside the spa everything was just as fancy. The locker rooms were large and comfortable. Soft robes, slippers and lockers were provided. There was a big cozy solarium with views of the canyon below, where guests could have coffee, tea, cookies, fruit, or other tasty snacks. Down the winding staircase there were the treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and an eucalyptus inhalation room - plus, what we had been waiting for! This room! A large warm mineral bath (with fancy European minerals) and three waterfall tubs behind. We were instructed to first get into the waterfall tubs, starting with the hottest and moving to the coolest, and then move to the mineral bath.
E and I did as suggested, starting in the hottest waterfall tub and letting the waterfall fall over our neck and shoulders. Then we moved to the medium temperate waterfall tub, and finally to the cool one (which felt downright cold after being in the medium water!). Finally we moved to the mineral pool where we put our heads under water and listened to the underwater music playing. Again, E and I talked about Harry Potter, this room totally reminded us of the Prefect's Bathroom. Even the underwater music added to the effect.
Outside there was a hot tub and lounge chairs for spa guests. The weather was, again, perfect, so after warming up in the hot tub or mineral pool, we cooled off in the fresh mountain air on a lounge chair. E and I spent the entire day going from one pool to anther, relaxing, talking, and reading by the big windows in the solarium.
E enjoys the view from the lounge chairs on the patio of the spa.
The mineral pool inside and E in the background soaking in the hottest waterfall pool.
1. View again, I could never get tired of looking at wonderful historic buildings.
2. One of the waterfall pools. So relaxing.
E enjoying a cold glass of cucumber mint water in the solarium, in a big overstuffed chair.
1. Amazing view from the solarium, this was almost the same view from our hotel room!
2. Me, floating in the mineral pool and enjoying the underwater music.
Around 2:30 we dried off and joined the hotel's historian on a "tour of the castle". This awesome tour of all the public places really showed off the amazing history this building has. We learned that in the Riverview Lounge, the huge windows had been made in Checkoslovakia, loaded on a steam ship, transferred to a train, all before arriving at the Banff Springs 120 years ago.
That evening E and I decided to go back into the town of Banff and enjoy dinner at a fantastic restaurant we had enjoyed earlier in the week. We sat outside and watched the changing light on Rundle Peak, and enjoyed yet another fantastic dinner.
Once back at the hotel, we checked back into the Willow Stream Spa and spent the rest of the evening enjoying the almost empty facility.
The next morning we had a great buffet breakfast in the hotel before finally packing up, and saying goodbye to the Banff Springs. We had had a wonderful time.
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