No Need to “Rough it” in the Rockies

Finding Luxury in the Canadian Rockies pin
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The Canadian Rocky Mountains should be on any travel bucket list. Blue glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, and an abundance of wildlife stretch across five national parks. The Rockies truly are that beautiful, and you’ll find Instagram-worthy vistas around every corner!

While visiting the area you can experience a whole range of activities, during all four seasons, and for all ages and skill levels. But the best part of visiting the Rockies is getting to enjoy true luxury and relaxation in such a breath-taking natural setting. 

Banff

One of the most popular parks, Banff is about a two-hour drive from Calgary and makes an excellent home-base for a week in the Rockies.

Enjoy the view of huge snow-capped mountains and lush evergreen forest when you hikethe Canadian Rockies

Banff offers some of the best hiking trails (leading to awe-inspiring views), beautiful forests, and waterfalls.

[Photo Credit: Chris Rees via Unsplash]

You can paddle on the Bow River or Lake Minnewanka in your kayak, canoe, or stand-up-paddle board. Go stargazing, take a boat cruise, or a gondola ride up to a spectacular panoramic observation deck, cafe, and restaurant.

after climbing up the rock face you can sit back an enjoy the stunning view of the Canadian Rockies

Whether you enjoy an easy stroll, a round of golf with a mountainous backdrop or scaling the side of a cliff, Banff has adventures for all levels.

[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]

And when you return from your outdoor adventures each evening? Kick off your boots, enjoy a hot soak and a gourmet meal in the “Castle of the Rockies”: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.  Built in 1888 and modeled after a Scottish Castle, the Banff Springs Hotel is a destination in itself that combines luxury and history!

the Banff Springs Hotel of the Canadian Rockies in summer
[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]
a bed with a view at the Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies

Under the eaves of this impressive building, you’ll have picture-perfect views when you wake up in your luxurious bed.  Head out for an easy morning hike to the roaring waterfalls. Return to Banff for your choice from dozens of restaurants, each with delicious, locally inspired menus.

[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]

Take the rest of the day to relax in their spa, or head to the concierge to look through their 26-page activities book! End your day chilling out on their front terrace, with the light cutting across the crevices of the huge mountains and dancing across the tops of the trees as you breathe the wonderfully fresh, crisp mountain air. 

Lake Louise

an areal view of Chateau Lake Louise Hotel and it's stunningly blue lake in the Canadian Rockies
[Photo Credit: Wenhao Ji via Unsplash]

If a lake view is more your idea of bliss, we recommend heading a bit further north to Lake Louise. And what better way to enjoy the lake than with a view from your balcony? The luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a grand hotel situated right on the lake. It has been a luxury vacation destination since its opening in the 1890’s. Paddle on the stunning blue waters surrounded by mountain peaks or go ice skating in the winter!

a horse-drawn sliegh ride set in the white fluffy snow, towering mountains and evergreen forest of the Canadian Rockies

In winter, you can also enjoy dog sled tours, sleigh rides, and skiing in the quintessential winter wonderland. Soft fluffy snow, evergreen trees, and hot chocolate by the fire waiting for you when you return.

[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]

horseback riding along the lake with a beautiful mountainous backdrop in the Canadian Rockies

Summer and Fall at Lake Louise are equally enticing. You can enjoy a variety of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding alongside the lake, and white water rafting.

[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]

Wherever you look, amazing views and pampering service await your stay at Lake Louise. Staying here at the Fairmont saves you the hassle of trying to find lake-side parking, or even worse, having to park a few miles away!

a dining room table with a view of the stunning blue waters and huge snow-capped mountains at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies

Their many restaurants offer table-side views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The interior is elegant and polished, calm and inviting. Picnic on the dock, or enjoy a glass of wine on the expansive verandas that the Fairmont offers.

This is taking your classic lake vacation to the next level of scenery and luxury.

[Photo Credit: Fairmont Hotels]

Getting There

While flying into Victoria or Calgary and renting a car to drive yourself up to the Rockies is always an option, one of the best ways to get to the Canadian Rockies is to take the train! Any of the two or three-day routes from Victoria into the mountains are the perfect way to fully enjoy the views and learn about the local wildlife without having to worry about car rentals or traffic.

the Rocky Mountaineer train winding its way next to a blue lake in the Canadian Rockies
[Photo Credit: Rocky Mountaineer]

The Rocky Mountaineer offers 360-degree views on your journey through lush forests, over deep river gorges, through mountain tunnels, and alongside blue lakes. You can travel from Victoria to Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper (with a stop or two along the way), then stay a few days in the destination before flying home. Or, consider making it a round-trip train extravaganza!

the interior of the Rocky Mountaineer train with domed glass giving passengers a 360 degree view of the Canadian Rockies

Any seat on the Rocky Mountaineer has stunning views, overhead windows, and access to an outdoor viewing platform. Splurging a little extra for their Goldleaf seats will give you complete 360-degree rounded domes so you don’t miss a thing. Both levels (silver and gold) have hosts to answers questions, tell you stories about the landscape, and point out the wildlife. 

[Photo Credit: Rocky Mountaineer]

The Rocky Mountaineer doesn’t travel at night so you won’t miss a single moment of the beautiful scenery. Instead, included in your trip, are stays in lovely hotels along the way. Taking the train ensures luxury throughout the journey — not just at the final destination. 


You shouldn’t have to choose between incredible outdoorsy experiences and luxurious relaxation. The Rocky Mountains offer the best of all worlds, bringing luxury into your journey, your stay, and your surroundings. While we can’t yet travel to Canada from the US (due to current COVID restrictions) advance planning for a bucket list trip like this is always recommended!

Let us know if you were inspired by this post when you plan with us and we can offer special perks at both of the Fairmont properties — such as extended check in/out hours, a room upgrade if available; $100 CAD food and beverage credit (Banff) OR a professional portrait taken during stay with souvenir photo frame (Lake Louise)! We’re excited to help plan your ‘escape’ to the Canadian Rockies!

A true “gem” on the Riviera Maya

Paige and David were celebrating their 10th anniversary and — with three small children at home — they really needed someplace they could relax and unwind. When they described their ideal all-inclusive resort as small, non-touristy, authentic and with great food, the Blue Diamond Riviera Maya jumped to the top of the list.

Hi Ann,

We are delighted to provide a review of our trip to Mexico.  Our experience was so ideal we can’t imagine how it could even have been improved.

panorama of a boardwalk with palm trees and beach in the background on the Mexican Riviera

As you know, for this trip we were looking for a quiet, unhurried escape from our busy lives as parents of little children.  Blue Diamond was absolutely perfect.  We were greeted at the entry with cold juice and truffles while we waited to check in.  Because we arrived in the morning, our room wasn’t quite ready, so the bellboy took us by golf cart to the oceanfront restaurant where we had an incredible made-to order lunch brought to us by kind, personable staff we’d continue to see all week.  Here are the features we most loved about Blue Diamond:

  • The size.  Blue Diamond has about 125 suites, so even at full capacity not too many guests are around.  The resort itself is not large, but its design makes every part feel uncrowded, quiet, and serene.  The pool and beach areas are not expansive, but the spaces are comfortable and welcoming.
  • The design.  The resort is built into a jungle with a long, winding stone boardwalk providing one route from the lobby to the beach.  Rooms are tucked off to the side of the boardwalk all along the way.  Suites overlook either a cenote, which boasts native crocodiles, or a laguna. No ocean views except for the fanciest suites, but we didn’t mind as we actually didn’t spend a ton of time lounging in our room.  The style is simple, calm, and elegant – no faux-thatched roofing or bright Mexican decor – it looks classic and minimalist, while still being very comfortable.
  • The service. One of our favorite things about the resort is that we got to know the staff throughout the week because we saw the same people working in their areas.  Almost daily we had the same breakfast and lunch waiter (Pedro), the same dinner waiter (Juan David), and the same pool waiter (Jorge).  We also worked with one concierge and enjoyed getting to know the water sports director throughout the week.  It was really enjoyable to chat with the same staff throughout the week and to be remembered by them.  As the week progressed the staff knew how we like our coffee, whether to bring lime for our water, the answer to ‘more champagne?’ is always yes, and that we love sailing even when it’s windy.

two shots of tequila on a cribbage board by the pool in the Mexican Riviera

  • The extra touches. We loved having bicycles to ride from our room down to the beachfront and back; we also were offered rides in the patrolling golf carts anytime we were walking.  The concierge was extremely helpful when we told him we couldn’t sleep at night because our room was too warm – we eventually problem-solved this with a few extra fans in our room, and for our troubles they brought us chocolate covered strawberries and champagne one evening.  Alex, the water sports director, took us sailing a couple times and connected us with the parasailing crew.  We tried out the temezcal, the Mayan ritual sauna, which was an amazing experience.  They also had wine tasting and cocktail making classes and a free snorkeling trip in a group of only four guests, so it was personally guided by Alex.  We loved playing ping pong next to the beach, and whenever we asked for cocktails they were unfamiliar with, they spent quite a bit of time looking up the recipe and trying to capture what we had in mind.
  • The food. One of the things that appealed to us about Blue Diamond was that all the food is cooked to order so we would not be eating any buffet meals.  We were not disappointed by the quality of the meals!  The only limiting factor was that we got full too fast.  Our favorite meal was usually lunch because we loved their sushi offerings and their seafood soup.  We were also lucky to get seats at the Friday night barbecue, which they only do occasionally, where we enjoyed grilled scallops, lobster tail, crab, salmon, and more delicious seafood I can’t even remember.  Breakfast for us was usually an omelet, fresh fruit juice, and a side of smoked salmon – not to mention the roving tray of pastries.  And dinner was always delicious – steak and seafood were our top choices, and we always started with an order of the steamed mussels.  I could go on and on about the food ….  Another draw for us was that the restaurants do not require reservations, and we never had to wait for a table.  I loved the freedom to eat whenever the mood struck!
  • The room. We loved the comfortable king bed, the huge closet, the double shower, and the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Everything was beautiful, wonderfully cleaned by housekeeping each day, and so serene.

In summary, I would highly recommend Blue Diamond for anyone seeking a peaceful, restorative vacation.  It has a few evenings of entertainment, but is not a resort for those looking to mingle, dance, and party.  This is a great couples resort, an excellent place to escape from hurried life and to be pampered.  We would return in a heartbeat!  Thank you so much for helping us find Blue Diamond.

Thanks,

Paige

Paris is always a good idea

Longtime clients Linda, Fred, Marcia and Bill had a fabulous trip planned to Paris and London … and then the Paris and Brussels terror attacks made them question their plans. We talked about the pros/cons of postponing their “escape”, and I am so glad that they decided to forge ahead. As you can see, they had an amazing time!

Hi Ann — another fantastic trip!

Paris was fabulous. The hotel staff (Hotel Edouard 7) was extremely helpful in giving us restaurant suggestions and reservations.  Hop on hop tour off was about 3 blocks from the hotel, and the Champs-Elysee was within walking distance, along with shopping and Notre Dame.  We used the bus for 3 days  — we were very late arriving on the first day (plane delayed for 3 hours) so by the time we got on the bus they gave us an additional day.  Ate in some great restaurants  — Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower,  the boat cruise was fabulous, lot of cafes –  the food everywhere was wonderful.  The last night we ate in a traditional small French restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower suggested by the hotel, and  it was awesome. Bill and Marcia had not seen the Eiffel Tower at night when the lights blink, so when we got out of the restaurant we were just in time to see the light. Then we went to the Champs-Elysee for chocolate crepes (MMMM!!!)

view of a street in paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe A old car on the streets of Paris

Another great place was the Capucine Café on Rue de Capucine. We had fabulous onion soup and good wine too!

In case you weren’t aware the lights on the Eiffel Tower blink for 5 minutes starting at 9 pm ( the first night was 10 pm) it is an awesome sight to see. If you want any more specifics of the trip would be happy to provide them for you. The guide at the Louvre was unbelievable; he was so knowledgeable in history and art, and with a great sense of humor.  He was amazing. For us the half day tour in Versailles was enough, and was very beautiful.

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night

FYI  — for the boat cruise we dressed up but there were people in jeans sneakers and shorts – we were happy to dress up though. It made it more special and it just seemed appropriate. Our Parisian haircuts were a very interesting and fun experience (we did not come out with punk pink haircuts)

two couples on a boat cruise in Paris

There was a lot of security around – military and police walking the streets and also around the attractions – security was evident at all attractions, with bag checks and some metal detectors.  At first it was a little unsettling, but then it was somewhat reassuring that they were around.  The only place I felt a little uncomfortable was the Eiffel Tower.  There were just so many people around and the security walking around seemed to be more focused.

The Chunnel was a nice trip – but a little confusing finding our way in the train station as the signs were not always pointing you in the right direction.  We decided on the Tube after we got to London because of the marathon – we found our way just fine, however it was not an easy trek with 4 suitcases and 4 carry-ons and no escalators up and down.  The stairs were a real task.

Again, the hotel (St Ermins) was perfectly situated, a 5 minute walk from Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.  We rode the London Eye, took a boat down the Thames ( hop on hop off) again found some great pubs and ended our London trip with a traditional pub for fish and chips.  We ate at a great steakhouse called Hawksmoor in Langley. It was amazing — highly recommend it.
Big Ben in London The Tower Bridge in London  The London Eye Royal Guards in London
Our transfers were always there on time and waiting for us. Unfortunately the weather was not as cooperative.  It was very cold the entire time in London (had so many layers I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy).  It even snowed in London on our last day.  The first few days in Paris were beautiful but the last day got cold there as well.
Thank you again for another fabulous vacation with wonderful memories.

Linda

Girls’ Weekend in San Juan

Girls’ Weekend in San Juan (January, 2016)

I can’t remember exactly when the tradition started, but for the last 10-15 years my sisters and I have planned an annual “Girls Weekend” where we take our mom on a little getaway so that the four of us can spend some time away from work, kids, husbands, etc. Over the years, it has evolved from a simple road trip to New Hampshire, Newport, or Maine into something a little more elaborate. This year we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico!

SJU 2

We left New York VERY early on a frosty Thursday morning in January, and landed in sunny San Juan about noon. From the airport, it was a quick cab ride to our nearby hotel – the Intercontinental San Juan, in Isla Verde.  Because we had arrived before check-in time, we had some lunch and sat by the pool until we were able to get into our rooms. We had booked two oceanfront rooms, and we had beautiful views over the pool to the Caribbean beyond. The rooms were spacious, though in need of some updating, but we didn’t plan to spend much time indoors, so that wasn’t really a concern. The resort has a nice pool area, plenty of lounge chairs by the pool/beach, and an assortment of dining options, from a casual toes-in-the-sand lunch spot, to a Ruth Chris steakhouse. The location was very convenient to the airport (about 10 minutes away), and the beach was lovely, but I think if we had to do it over again we’d stay in the Condado area, which has more shops/restaurants within walking distance.

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That evening we enjoyed a cocktail at the hotel before hopping in a cab to Condado (about a 15-minute ride) where we had made dinner reservations at Oceano. We sat outside, just steps from the water, and enjoyed sangria and Puerto Rican specialties including fresh seafood and delicious mofongo. It was a perfect start to our weekend!

SJU 4

On the way back to the hotel, we asked the taxi driver for his favorite breakfast place, and he recommended the Bistro Café, which he said was “just down the street” from our hotel, so we made plans to walk there in the morning. The walk turned out to be a little longer – and sweatier – than we had anticipated, but it was more than worth it! We were the only non-locals in the place, and our friendly, patient waiter took the time to translate and explain every mouth-watering item on the menu (including about a dozen specials). We enjoyed some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, along with waffles, eggs, fruit and more. The owner stopped by our table to chat with us, and they seemed genuinely pleased that we had stumbled in. I would go back there in a minute!

The rest of the day was spent lazing by the pool, reading, swimming, and walking on the beach. There was a lot of seaweed, so we didn’t swim in the ocean, but the beach itself was wide and walkable, and remarkably uncrowded.

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I had made plans to catch up with my college roommate (who is from San Juan) that evening, so we met her for cocktails at our hotel and then she and I headed out to La Placita, which is apparently where all the “cool kids” go on Friday night 🙂 This pedestrian-only area near Condado is an open-air farmers’ market during the day, but on certain nights of the week it morphs into a night spot with carts selling cocktails and cigars. It reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with all the people walking around with open containers of alcohol, but everyone was dressed up for a night out (because it’s Puerto Rico) and the music wafting out of the bars and restaurants was Latin, rather than jazz. It was very cool!

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We had a cocktail in the plaza and then headed upstairs to have dinner at Asere Cubano Kitchen and Bar. The restaurant has a really cool “speakeasy” vibe, and we enjoyed Ropa Viejo, tuna tartare, and other small plates, and then ended the evening with one last cuba libre on the second-floor verandah overlooking La Placita.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at our hotel and headed into Old San Juan for the day. It’s about a 25-minute cab ride from Isla Verde. We had the taxi driver drop us off in the main square, and then we just wandered. There are shops, galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and two historic forts — El Morro (Castillo San Felipe del Morro) and San Cristobal (Castillo de San Cristobal).  We explored El Morro (more than worth the small admission charge), and watched families fly kites on the huge grassy field outside the fort. Nearby, we sipped Pina Coladas at (supposedly) the bar where they were invented. We spied on two weddings at a gorgeous old church. We bought souvenirs at a local gallery. And then we ended the day with delicious tapas and wine at El Picoteo restaurant at the gorgeous El Convento hotel. NOTE: If you are headed to San Juan and don’t want/need to be at the beach, I highly recommend El Convento.

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Sunday was our last day, but we had an evening flight, so we checked out and stored our bags at the hotel while we did a guided tour to El Yunque rainforest.  We had booked it spur-of-the-moment through the hotel tour desk, so we did not have a chance to research the different available tour guides and companies. Our guide turned out to be terrible, so I would not make that mistake again (Pro tip: book in advance, and do some research first, LOL) but El Yunque itself was interesting, and I would still recommend it as a nice excursion out of the city. We saw waterfalls and mountains, we climbed a lookout tower for views over the countryside to the ocean beyond, and we stopped for some questionable roadside snacks. Other available tours to El Yunque do some hiking, ziplining, and swimming, so I think I’d try one of those next time.

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view of the lush green mountains of the El Yunque Rainforest in San Juan

When we got back to the hotel, we had some time to sit by the pool before using their hospitality room to get cleaned up and changed. We enjoyed one last cocktail on the terrace, and then took a cab back to the airport for our flight. We were back in New York just after midnight, and are already planning next year’s trip 🙂

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)