It rises above the snow-dusted treetops like one thing from a fairytale. What appears to be a fort, with a mess of towers poking up above the forest. Behind, the backdrop of a spectacular mountain vary.
We could possibly be in Europe. Arguably, we needs to be in Europe to expertise a vista like this. Perhaps Germany, the place you’d discover Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the fort in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Or Britain, the place dozens of castles nonetheless dot the countryside, in some circumstances nonetheless occupied by the the Aristocracy.
But we’re a great distance from Europe. And that is no fort.
This is Canada and the constructing earlier than me is among the nation’s most iconic lodges — the Fairmont Banff Springs.
It’s origins date again to the late Eighteen Eighties, when American William Van Horne was appointed because the Canadian Pacific Railway normal supervisor, charged with constructing a railway line the world over’s second-largest nation.
After reaching the Rocky Mountains in 1883, Van Horne noticed the chance for tourism within the magnificence and pure scorching springs of the area and had the railway firm construct grand lodges to draw guests. His imaginative and prescient grew to become a actuality in 1888, when Banff Springs opened.
It was an ideal success and over the subsequent 25 years, the resort expanded to accommodate extra visitors. The railway constructed a second resort within the area — the Chateau Lake Louise.
While the latter arguably affords a extra stunning location, sitting on the financial institution of its namesake lake, for my cash Banff Springs is the extra stunning of the 2 buildings.
In 1926 a hearth burnt down the north wing of the resort, however by 1928 it had been restored and expanded once more, launching a golden period for the resort when rich guests would keep for intervals of two or three months (at nice expense).
The resort closed throughout World War II as tourism fell away, however reopened in 1945. It remained open for a lot of the pandemic,
The resort was rebranded as a Fairmont in 2001, following the merger between Canadian Pacific Hotels and America’s Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. In 2016, Fairmont itself was acquired by France’s Accor.
After its gradual progress over 100 years, at this time Banff Springs is an imposing presence, regardless of being dwarfed by the mountains behind it.
Its principal entrance opens into a comfy entryway, with the bigger foyer off to the correct and the concierge to the left. Straight forward, it is a brief stroll to the lifts.
Charming, quaint components survive. There’s a see-through mail chute by the lifts, which nonetheless works (I can attest to this, because the postcard I drop down makes its solution to my grandmother again in Australia).
The rear terrace, overlooking a spectacular valley in the direction of Mount Rundle, is the form of place you may anticipate to see Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant sitting out on, having fun with a pre-dinner drink (certainly, the previous famously stayed right here within the ’50s in the course of the filming of River of No Return with Robert Mitchum).
In the space, a herd of untamed elk make their means down the valley, finally getting into the grounds of the resort itself.
There are eight eating places and different eating areas inside the resort, starting from pub-favourite consolation meals to tremendous eating. I spend one lengthy night at Grapes Charcuterie, which options an excellent choice of meats and cheeses, even when I do not partake within the matching wines (I do not drink wine).
There are so many eating choices, so many bars and so many nooks and crannies to discover throughout the property that it is laborious to depart.
Nevertheless, there are different highlights in Banff to see. It’s late winter and temperatures are freezing, so there’s loads of snow on the encompassing peaks.
It’s laborious to depart, however there are different highlights to see on this mountain city. I’m not a skier, however that does not imply I can not profit from of a slope — I take the Banff Gondola to the highest of Sulphur Mountain for lunch. The spectacular views amid a transparent blue sky make me overlook in regards to the crisp air.
I later discover Johnston Canyon — probably the most in style points of interest within the nationwide park. Frozen strong, I don cleats to stroll alongside the river’s slippery floor, supplied by Discover Banff Tours. Our information takes alongside the canyon to the higher falls, the place the water has frozen to create a large, icy curtain 40 metres excessive.
It’s chilly, regardless of my heavy responsibility winter clothes, so I resolve it is time to expertise the attraction that introduced Banff Springs to the eye of vacationers within the first place — the springs themselves.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are a brief taxi journey uphill from the resort, sitting greater than 1500 metres above sea stage. First found in 1883 in the course of the building of the railway, the springs are one in every of 9 on this a part of Sulphur Mountain, however the one one nonetheless open to the general public.
I alter into my bathers, take a vigorous stroll by the freezing open air and ease into the big, heat pool. Aside from the pleasure of having fun with the nice and cozy waters, the outside bathtub affords spectacular views over Banff. Shortly after I settle in, snow begins to fall.
It’s a magical expertise and makes me realise simply why this area has been drawing guests for nearly 150 years.
The author stayed as a visitor of Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.
Air Canada has continuous flights from Sydney to Vancouver thrice every week (each day from May 2022) with connections to Calgary (about 90 minutes from Banff). It will resume Brisbane-Vancouver flights from July, although is but to set a date for restarting Melbourne-Vancouver. See aircanada.com Qantas additionally flies Sydney-Vancouver continuous thrice every week. qantas.com.au
Flight Centre and Travel Associates supply quite a lot of vacation packages for Banff National Park. See flightcentre.com.au/offers/canada and travelassociates.com/luxury-canadian-rockies-aurora-borealis