Newest Review: ... as well as a National Park pass and as the day is beautifully sunny, we are off to Banff. Banff is a major centre for tourism in the Can... more
Banff and Banff Springs Hotel
Banff National Park (Canada)
Member Name: sarajackson
Banff National Park (Canada)
Date: 03/09/02, updated on 06/11/04 (614 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful Location, Great drive between Jasper and Banff, Brilliant Springs Hotel
Disadvantages: Relatively tourist orientated
I have visited Banff National Park on two occasions in the past few years, and it is a trip I highly recommend. Get yourself a hire car from Edmonton or Calgary and do the trip between Jasper and Banff - it is fantastic. Both parks have plenty to do, and is really an independent traveller's dream. Banff National Park is possibly the more tourist friendly of the two, Banff town actually being quite large compared to Jasper which is fairly compact. In Banff National Park, is the famous Lake Louise with nearly as famous Chateau Hotel (please see my review of that). This is picture postcard perfect, and as such suffers from hoards and hoards of tourists, most of them in large coaches. It is much more pleasant in the evening, when most of the coaches have gone. Turquoise blue lakes abound, and many offer hiking trails for relatively short and easy hikes, as well as perfect picnic spots. Moraine Lake near Lake Louise also gets its fair share of coach parties, who all seem to make the pilgrimage to the top of a rough viewpoint, but the view is pretty nice. Nearer Banff is Lake Minnewanka which is a long lake and always seems slightly less frequented. There are loads of photo opportunities everywhere, and sometimes it is nice to go for a drive somewhere and just stop off at the various lakes, waterfalls and viewpoints. The popular way to get great views of Banff is to take the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain, but for a different view drive to the Norquay Parking Lot which looks right down on the Town. Banff Town in the summer is very busy, and the main Banff Avenue has touristy shops as well as a surprising number of upmarket outlets. A little way out of Banff Town Centre you will find Banff Springs, a Baronial Castle style of hotel first opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. It was for years owned by the hotel division of the same company, which recently became known as Fairmont Hotels. It is a striking hotel, in a lovely location, and from
the hotel it is a semi-strenuous walk to the Upper Hot Springs which is a nice trio to take, even if you don't partake when you get there - just the smell is enough! I wrote a review for another website last year of the Banf Springs Hotel, which I'll copy below.
I first visited Banff Springs in 1997, and from then always considered it one of my two favourite hotels (along with the Royal York), because of the atmosphere and because we were made to feel very welcome. I looked forward to going back last July, and although it's still up there in my top ten, there were a few things to burst the bubble. When we arrived we drove to the back of the hotel to unload our bags, only to find that the old entrance was no longer there - silly us! The large extension at the front was now the main entrance, and because we could not see any valet parking attendants anywhere, we drove to the garage and dropped the car off, and walked to check in. The new stone of the extension does stand out rather, and hopefully in a few years time will have blended in to the older parts. The new reception area is grand, like you would expect from a grand hotel, with lots of marble, grey stone walls, crested carpets and gothic style chandeliers. A large staircase ascends from the middle of the lobby between the rows of check in desks.
We checked in, commenting that this was the last of eight Fairmont Hotel on our vacation. We waited quite a few minutes to check in, and it transpired that the check in clerk had arranged for us to have an upgraded room. We were pleased, but I must admit, I felt a bit jealous of the single businessman checking in next to us, who had been upgraded to the Honeymoon Suite.
Our room, on one of the higher floors, had character and although on first impressions seemed quite large, the small windows and sloping walls could have become quite claustrophobic in time, especially as one of the blinds could not be rai
sed. The wallpaper was quite old fashioned and beige, but the bedspreads and curtains were quite cheery in a cream, pink and light blue pattern. It was what you would describe as a very individual room, totally unlike the carbon copy rooms so often found in modern hotels. Although the hotel as it stands now has been here for decades, the amenities in the hotel in general and the rooms are what you would expect of a good 4 star hotel. All rooms have hairdryers, minibars, iron and board, TV's with bill viewing options, and are equipped with good quality furniture.
The public areas of Banff Springs take your breath away. Just wandering around the maze of corridors, and getting a little bit lost is part of its charm. There must be very few places that have this type of unique atmosphere - it is a happy and enchanted place. Set amongst all the history, there are modern touches - a very good spa, a wealth of eating options, shops and all modern amenities.
The first evening we walked into Banff town to Giorgios (recommended). This is another benefit of Banff Springs - it is far enough out of the town to be tranquil, but near enough for a fifteen minute walk to the action. The next evening, our last night in Canada, we had hoped to dine in the Italian restaurant on site, but this was taken over by a private function. One of the upstairs bars was closed for renovation and the Grapes Wine Bar was too. It was too late to catch the shuttle bus to the Golf Clubhouse (not that the menu was that appealing). We tried the Rundle Lounge and was told that they would not be serving food that evening because of the function next door. We were getting worried that we would not be able to find anything, and it was getting too late to get a reservation at a restaurant in Banff; and we wanted to spend our last night at the hotel anyway. We asked the dining concierge about where to get a light meal, and he was aghast that the Rundle Lounge was serving drinks and
not food, because of their licensing laws. He said the only place to go was the Waldhaus Pub, which we did. First impressions weren't good, as we descended into the deserted pub. We asked if they served food, and when we saw that they did, went outside to find a table. There were no clean tables, only one out on its own near the door, which we had no choice but to sit at. The bar staff seemed unconcerned. A few minutes later a table was vacated and we went to sit at it, to the disgust of the bar tender who told us off for sitting at a dirty table. We ordered our meal, standard bar fare, and tolerated the abrupt attitude of the bar tender for as long as we could. The view was admittedly great from the terrace, with chipmunks scuttling round by our feet.
The Banff Springs is a great hotel, and hopefully the problems we had with the restaurants, were only temporary - we had no problems like this last time. I would still go back now the renovations are finished, and hope for a better experience. I think you stay here to be part of the history of Banff - if it were not for the CP railway, none of the tourists would be here at all, and so Banff Springs is an integral part of the town. Not to stay here would be a real shame.
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