They had me on the word road trip, the Tourism Board of Alberta, Canada. I love to change destinations every 2 or 3 days not knowing what will be up next. What about the hotel, how soft the sheets or how healthy the breakfast? Which brand(s) in the spa or where to get the best beetroot salad? I know, I know, luxury travel is my middle name.
Our Canadian road trip takes us via Calgary and Edmonton city to the – much-anticipated – Canadian Rocky Mountains during Indian Summer in late September. Oh my, the colours. The province of Alberta has both, wild life (will we see bears?) and natural beauty as well as lively cities brimming with music, bike lanes and culture.
Cities first! Part one of my Canadian Trip is all about where to sleep and eat in Calgary & Edmonton. What to see and/or do besides picking the right club for the right distance? Yeah, you guessed it right. Part two will definitely involve some Rocky Mountain golf…
Hotel Le Germain, downtown luxury in Calgary
First stop is downtown Calgary, only 30 minutes from the airport. Hotel Le Germain is our home for 2 nights and has a French luxury touch to it.
It’s all about high-end details. Even the standard rooms are large and have a minimalistic modern interior with Artemide lamps, lambswool bedcover, extreme soft and crisp bed linen (you know, I am a sucker for that. The material used here is eco-friendly cotton/bamboo mix), Nespresso machine, organic herbal teas (yeah), Tivoli audio and a large workstation to set up office. Like that. Need that.
The hotel is a state-of-the-art complex with a laid back atmosphere and fully outfitted with eco-friendly technologies. Shops and restaurants are just a few steps from the front door. Why only 2 nights?
The bathroom at Hotel Le Germain Calgary
The very large – the larger, the better – bathroom has a walk-in rain shower with a glass partition that lets in abundant natural light so you can look out on the city without being seen. I hope.
Lots of shelf space – we women want that! – , large sink, enough mirrors to see yourself everywhere and last, but certainly not least, Molton Brown amenities.
Towels and bathrobes are also made of a mix of bamboo and cotton, soft and white. This space is a perfect setting for some home-spa-ing. Chic and impeccable style, the female touch of Mme. Germain herself who owns this Canadian hotel chain.
New! Nama-stay yoga videos
Wherever I am, my day starts with a sun salutation series, Surya Namaskar. Sometimes I use a large hotel towel (mea culpa) as yoga mat.
Not here! Le Germain Hotels just launched 4 online yoga videos that fits every travellers zen need. A yoga mat – collab with Canadian yoga wear brand Lululemon – is available in every Le Germain or Arts hotel to practice yoga in the privacy of your room.
We had the chance to join the press launch together with the Canadian luxury press where a private session by Calgary yogateacher Virginie Duval was on the agenda. On the top -spa – floor of the hotel. Yoga with a view.
New luxury is to be able to enjoy time for ourselves, to be able to focus, even for just a few minutes, on our own well-being. These 4 practice videos are an easy help to do this. Namasté!
How to get around (& what to see) in Calgary
Well, that’s easy. The same way as in Amsterdam: by bike. The city of Calgary is very bike friendly. Make sure you have the Calgary by Bike map in your pocket with over a 100 must-see places & things to do.
Rent your bikes online from Nomad Bike Rentals and have them delivered to the hotel. No hassle and the sizing and equipment staff brings over several sizes to guarantee the best fit. When you’re done, leave them at the hotel and Nomad will come and pick them up.
I loved biking around and fully indulge the Indian Summer vibes – and stunning colours – to get to know the city.
We made a short stop for lunch at Charbar, a go-to place in an old mattress warehouse along the Bow river where a restaurant (see below, where to eat), deli and cafe enhance each other.
Next stop is Lululemon store on 4th street (between 17th – 18th av.) for some yoga gear inspiration, from there to Amaranth health food store also on 4th. A real vegan and organic heaven. Oh, how I love foreign health stores.
To end our exercise / sightseeing tour at the Calgary Tower, just opposite the hotel. A 360º observation deck on 1226 metres above sea-level. With glass floors above the street for the best view. A slightly scary experience, that’s an understatement. But hey, anything for a good photo.
Where to eat in Calgary
Veggies first, that’s my quest when checking out a new city. Delighted to learn that also Calgary is caught by the healthy food virus, from farm to plate. Or New Nordic American style, as they say here. This is my Calgary Restaurant top 3:
- Blink – around the corner from Le Germain, all dishes are created with ingredients from local organic suppliers. Do I need to say more?
- Charcut & Charbar urban rustic cuisines by (Top Chef Canada finalist) chef Connie deSousa & John Jackson, next to the Le Germain lobby. Quality of ocean, prairies and local gardens on your plate.
- Ten Foot Henry – hanging plants, open kitchen and a vegetable-focused menu. Where you will not only find deliciously roasted carrots (see pic bottom left) or kale tempura but also yakitori chicken and some meat dishes.
“The idea here is that we bridge the gap between what you want to eat and what you should be eating,”
__Chef Stephen Smee of TFH
Where to luxury shop in Calgary?
If you’re looking for an one-stop-chic-luxury-shop check out Holt Renfrew department store on 8th ave/4st. An enormous white, minimalistic space with marble floors. Designer everything, tout Paris in one department store. Staff is very service minded and fashionable dressed. A luxury museum!
Getting to know Edmonton. By heli.
Next stop is Edmonton. A – quite boring, make sure to bring water and organic vegan bars if you can’t handle fast food, like moi – 3-hour straight drive North on highway 2, brings you to the ‘other city’ in the province of Alberta. Edmonton, the capital.
Our first acquaintance with the city is a very special one: from a bird’s eye view perspective. My first heli ride!
A cup of herbal tea in the Executive Flight Centre VIP lounge – where the rich ‘n famous arrive and depart – pilot/owner Wes escorts us to the Lima Fox Mike India. Dark blue and shiny. Oh my, my first time ever and now I want this every day…
After safety instructions and a headsets (roger) we ascended vertical and swayed toward the North Saskatchewan River with destination city. What I noticed most besides the Edmonton skyline were the numerous (60!) golf course along the riverbanks. It is clear we have to come back for some Riverbanks Golf.
To fly over the city, see the stadion and suburbs was a true exciting experience. Wes even landed on a small sandbank in the river to show us up close how clear the water is. Amazing. We want more. Edmonton Regional Helicopters, tnx so much for this one-of-a-kind experience.
Where to sleep in Edmonton: Metterra Hotel
Skip downtown and stay in the midst of Edmonton’s most walkable and trendiest neighbourhood: Whyte Avenue. From here you have beautiful – Indian Summer – views of the skyline on the other side of North Saskatchewan River.
Metterra is a boutique style hotel where accessible luxury is key. Friendly staff and comfortable rooms with yoga mat (yes!), charge port power station, working desk, bathrobe and – in case you feel the need – an iron + board. There’s a daily wine/cheese tasting on 2nd floor and complementary bikes to explore the city. As in Calgary, biking is the way to get around.
I love to find Earth water in the room. Earth Group is a Canadian social enterprise – founded in Edmonton – that exists entirely to provide, food, water and education to children globally. All profits are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to fund school meal programmes.
Where to eat in Edmonton
We dined in different area’s and enjoyed some special healthy food! So much to choose from, these are my 3 favourite Edmonton places:
- Uccellino – Opened 6 months ago, this modern trattoria serves pure, simple food. Inspired by the cuisine of central and southern Italy. It’s the newest restaurant from Chef Daniel Costa who also owns chic Corso 32 and urban Bar Bricco. All on Jasper Avenue.
- Ampersand & 27 – lunch time in Old Strathacona neighbourhood, a few steps from Metterra Hotel. A mishmash of familiar and faraway flavours made with traditional and trendsetting ingredients. This place is deeply committed to the region and its people. Or as they put it: we’re from Edmonton and for Edmonton.
Make sure to try the Forest Floor Flat Bread. Foraged Mushrooms, House Made Ricotta, Truffle & Arugula.
- Fairmont Hotel – for high tea. Standing high on the river bank, this classic old-world luxury hotel is one of the oldest – since 1915 – buildings of the city of Edmonton. A true landmark and perfect location for Sunday brunch or late afternoon high tea.
What to do, shop and/or see in Edmonton, Alberta
Do walk around the trendy neighborhoods of Whyte and Old Strathcona. The city’s celebrated arts and cultural community makes its home here. You’ll not only find unique local boutiques in historic buildings, one-of-a-kind art galleries, vintage stores and music shops (vintage Fender, anyone?) but also hip ‘n healthy restaurants and café’s. Some not always visible from the outside, just walk in to see what’s up inside. You might be surprised!
When leaving the Mettera Hotel, turn right on 82 Ave NW – also known as Whyte Ave. – and keep walking. These are my five favorite stores, besides the like of Aveda and Lululemon, along the sidewalk:
- Davis Tea on no. 10546
Tea anyone? No limits on tea choices here.
- Freshii on no. 10512
For that much-needed green juice, super food soup or oaxaca bowl.
- Wild Prairie on no. 10746
Love this store! All natural, eco friendly soap products. Shampoo in a bar and bodylotion in a stick.
- Kent of Inglewood on no. 10816
If you need a men’s gift (or if you are a men) this is The Store. From beard oil to badger hair shaving brushes and handmade axes.
- The Silk Road on no. 10818
Never seen so many spices lined up together. Specialist in spices and herbs from around the world.
Still thinking about that vintage Fender? Avenue Guitars on no. 10550 is your go-to shop. They ship worldwide.
Another great outdoors option – apart from biking, like in Calgary – will be a canoe trip on the North Saskatchewan River. Unfortunately we had a sudden change of weather so we had to cancel our planned 2-hour boating trip with Edmonton Canoe. What we missed out on is supposed to be quite a quintessential Canadian experience. A canoe trip along one of Edmonton’s many rivers. Escape the city’s urban bounds and discover the world from below.
The luxury edge about this trip is that it is one way only. A car is waiting to bring to back to your starting point. No going up against the stream. Have to come back for this one.
So far part one, and this is the short version… Part two of our Canadian roadtrip is all about the Rocky Mountains.
This stay was an international journalists trip organised by Alberta Tourism Board. I was there by invitation on behalf of Chapter Fifty and Talkies Magazine and did not pay for any of the above-mentioned activities. Words, photos and opinions are my own.