This Sunday, September 20th is Rediscover Nature Day! As school revs up and life becomes more structured, we all need to be reminded to stay connected with nature. Our challenge for you is to get outside for at least an hour with your family on Sunday
I really need to keep track. I think this may be my 12th Fairmont. Not sure, but I know I love the brand and I’m always in for a treat. Highlight of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Bermuda? The bronze statue of the man loitering on the bench in the entryway. I caught a very hip gentleman cozying up to him while talking on his mobile. Isn’t it great to have an arm around you?
The freshly renovated rooms were pristine, as are all Fairmont properties. There were baths in many rooms (highly appreciated for the kids) and 24 hr room service with a great kids’ menu. The new upgrades to technical amenities and wifi was perfect for savvy business people as well as our tech-crazy kids!
The new 1609 Bar and Restaurant, overlooking Hamilton Harbour is sleek and inviting. It is in fact Bermuda’s only open-air dining experience. I’m hoping that after their extensive renovation is completed, the famed grand piano will still be played during afternoon tea which will resume in April 2015.
Though you do not have direct access to a beach, the infinity pool and marina area are wonderful. A 5 minute walk from the ferry and downtown Hamilton, there are chi-chi juice shops and bars (Harry’s) along the way.
The BMW bikes for loan make the experience even more worthwhile for families. Just don’t forget the Bermuda shorts and pink shirts.
Entering its 100th year, the Palliser is an icon – how I wish the figures framed on the walls could share their secrets!
We arrived during the holiday season and my son’s eyes bugged out at the stunning lobby displays. Then he saw the hand-painted cows used to fundraise for Ronald MacDonald House Charities, which UrbanMommies supports wholeheartedly. Moo-ing (of course) ensued and he was desperate to bid on a cow in the silent auction.
Opening the door to the room he exclaimed, “Now THIS is a good hotel room!” He then proceeded to jump on the bed and approved of the bounce. As a Fairmont President’s Club member, complimentary sneakers and workout gear in my size are automatically delivered to the room. One less thing to pack and worry about. Oh – and internet is complimentary as well.
The highlight of the whole experience was the gold floor lounge. At the top of the hotel, it mixed tradition with new cuisine and comfort. The hors d’oeuvres in the evening were not only kid-friendly, but delicious and healthy. My son was able to mix his favourite concoction of juices (in a wine glass) and grinned at the stunning view as snow fell in the heart of the city.
My favourite memory was teaching him how to play cribbage on an antique brass and wood board. After an successful outing to the Glenbow Museum directly across the street (they had exhibits on rocks and gems as well as military uniforms from all era which thrilled both of us!) we came back to the hotel and my son made a beeline for the cribbage board. We will forever be joined in cribbage and I will smile and think of that night every time I think of the Palliser.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was not compensated for this review though we received a lovely welcome basket in our room. As always, our opinions are our own.
Few parents can afford a luxury vehicle. But ‘luxury’ means just that. Extra bells and whistles. Budget-friendly vehicles can also offer plenty of what families require. Moms and Dads want to give their kids the best possible advantages: space for gear, groceries and backpacks. Safety. Comfort and great fuel economy. Chevrolet is always thinking of parents and the Trax is one of the best new vehicles for budget-conscious families out there right now. Build on the chassey of the Cruz with an extended wheel base, General Motors was able to keep costs to a bare minimum with this crossover. I had the good fortunte to get a huge shot of national pride when I went on a Canadian adventure with the Chevrolet Trax in Ottawa and Montebello.
The exterior lines and smoothness of the drive were phenomenal, and it was able to carry a ton of stuff. We drove the vehicles just before the holidays in Ottawa and Montebello, Quebec. It was a great test of the Trax, as we whizzed on smooth Ottawa roads and stopped and started a ton in front of the Parliament Buildings and then proceeded to test the off-roading capabilities as we made our way into the wilderness of Montebello Quebec. I’ve never actually been to Ottawa without getting phenomenally lost. But on no other occasion did I have my secret weapon: Onstar. (Finger touches nose).
In conjunction with the Ottawa United Way we delivered trunk loads full of food, toys and diapers to needy families in the Ottawa area. It’s incredible how many thousands of people per day use these homes for meals and also to ‘shop’ for their family. Shelved are stocked with donations of powdered milk, peanut butter, canned goods and pasta and the family is allocated a weekly amount of food. There are (sometimes) even gluten-free options. If they are lucky. For a complete list of homes such as these you can go to UnitedWay.ca.
After picking up reindeer-knitted hats and mitts for my boys at Byward Market, the Parliament Buildings were next on the agenda. At night the buildings glow with white snowflake projections. The fire burned bright at the entrance on this frigid day. On the official tour, I saw the gothic arches decked with holiday lights, and we sat in the viewing gallery overlooking the House of Commons. I studied political science at Queen’s University and participated in a few model parliaments myself, but I must admit that I was pretty surprised at the lack of bodies in the House. You could have turned it into a bowling alley. We left and I realized there was a very boisterous cocktail reception happening which explains the lack of parliamentary participation. Of course I got in trouble for trying to peek over the barrier in order to see who was there. Bad girl. I was completely overwhelmed with pride at our democratic Canadian heritage, though, and felt compelled to explore other nations. (Incidentally I found out while inside our Parliament who would be accompanying me to Liberia as a parent ambassador with Right to Play. I can’t wait to represent Canada.)
As if I wasn’t already feeling the true extent of my Canadian heritage, we drove to Montebello, Quebec. The Fairmont Chateau Montebello is the largest log cabin in the world and has been frequented by Margaret Thatcher, George Bush and Stephen Harper. And also Harry S. Truman, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. And me. But who’s keeping tabs really? The outside chill, hexagonal rotunda, indoor fires, resident Golden Retriever and oversized Muskoka chair provided such a shot of Canadiana I almost expected to find a beaver in my bathtub.
The following day we drove to Fairmont’s other property – the Kenauk. Fairmont Kenauk at Le Chateau Montebello is one of North America’s largest and longest-established private fish and game reserves, with more than 70 lakes within its borders. It employs its own biologists to ensure preservation of the spectacular resources, and naturalists are available for guided exploration of the property.
The car handled beautifully on the bumpy and icy roads. Even when we all had to stop suddenly to pick up the ‘Toro Magazine GoPro’ that had fallen off the outside of their Trax. Awesome footage, BTW.
At the Fairmont Kenauk we had a choice of activity. All of us but one wanted to learn the art of sporting clays, and the other opted for a hike. The rest of us timidly handled the broken down shotguns with racing hearts.
Our guide went through safety rules, use and aim. We mounted the trap shooting stand where a clay pigeon fired from underneath. The 5 stations were crowded as we all tried to blast the orange clay disks apart. Many just wanted to hit one. And most did. As much as I won’t allow my kids to use guns and reprimand them when they point a finger and say ‘bang’, it was clear to see the skill required to excel at the sport.
What I liked about the Chevrolet Trax:
1. Appearance: An Suv look
2. Mirrors with lights
3. 1.4 turbo engine but fuel economy of small car
4. The Chassey is built off same platfrom of small sonic platform which makes it less expensive to build
5. Av hookups allow bluetooth syncronicity of your smartphone music and phonebook
6. The Frame is high strength steel which takes mass out and again makes it lighter, cheaper and easier to handle
7. The seats all fold flat
8. 10 airbags
9. 4 cupholders in centre
10. Solid feel to drive
If I got a wood-beamed room at Montebello for a yearly vacation and went through a clay sporting course, I would be one very happy (James Bond) woman. But only if I were driving a vehicle like the Trax, which is not currently sold in the USA. It would be a full Canadian adventure. The vehicle would have space, be great on gas and handle the winter roads. And maybe hold a few toboggans, a toque and a Hudson’s Bay Blanket. Just for the Canadian continuity.
I have a bit of a thing about castles. Princess complex? Perhaps… but there is nothing quite like skiing down Blackcomb mountain as the Fairmont Chateau Whistler comes into sight. All week before we departed for Whistler Blackcomb the kids announced to every person they saw that we were staying at a castle. And it was. And I felt like a princess in a resplendent building while the whole family – kids especially – were treated with boundless respect.
Picture it. A gentle snowfall and sparkly white lights on the trees. We pull up the majestic circular driveway and the valets are waiting. They were so friendly that we couldn’t get the kids out of the car – there were very serious discussions happening around Star Wars Lego. The kids are ecstatic. They have a thing about riding on the luggage carts and giggling as I remind them that they are not suitcases. Maybe when they grow up.
Checking in we were given reusable bags that say ‘I’m a Fairmont Kid!’ . The treats inside not only occupied the boys, but the colouring book was all about bears and provided a fabulous learning opportunity as well. (Thankfully I didn’t run into a bear as I hiked Spanky’s Ladder.)
There is something old-world and artistic about Fairmont properties. I have stayed at at least 8, and in my view, they are cutting-edge in terms of being kid-friendly. Normally the term means tacky plastic stuff and flashing lights. Looking around, there is art everywhere – stone valise sculptures, intricate and modern floral arrangements, architectural flourishes and iron crows on the banisters. The kids were chirping at them. Yes, every time we walked by.
If this were a book, I’d do a whole chapter on the concierges. If their smiles and jaunty ski sweaters weren’t enough I have decided that they are the demi-Gods of helpfulness. Ian especially. My hero. He charges my Blackberry (often) and when my colleague lost his corporate visa card (it wasn’t me honest), Ian called every place this man had been the night before. He then phoned Visa to cancel it. Demi Gods. I told you.
One of my favourite things about the rooms were the preppy cableknit blankets on the beds. The fridge in the room is kept empty – a great help to parents who bring along snacks. Kid-friendly extends to rooms as well. I had no idea that if parents want a connecting room for the kids, the second room is half price. The tiny bathrobes were certainly a highlight for the boys. They breezed through the lobby en route to the hottub and were excited to find a little warming hut to hang them in order to ensure they remain dry. Oh – and while you’re in the spa, ask for Wilma. She offers private swimming lessons for adults and little ones. So they’ll soon be able to ski AND swim circles around you. Great. (If you opt for free-floating the Fairmont supplies lifejackets too).
Whistler has cache. But there is only one bar in the entire place that exudes the alpine mystique. The Mallard Lounge. A semi-circle bar, sledding for kids on the hill in back (they provide sleds), live music, domed ceilings, classic cocktails… And kids are allowed (even at the bar) until 9pm. Bartender extraordinaire Adam loves to serve kids Egyptian Lemonade – muddled with mint and raspberries. A sparkling apple drink is served in a martini glass. See? Kids are sophisticated too. And the Chateau knows it.
They’re pretty cool with pets as well. Dogs are part of the family, after all. Jennifer Tice, the Public Relations Manager, showed me a picture of 2 puppies that she snapped with her iPhone. She explained that these ‘hotel guests’ make so many people smile as they trot throughout the lobby, and the dogs assist in bringing people together and creating a social atmosphere throughout the hotel. They have that down. Sitting areas, tables, and sofas. The lobby was always buzzing with activity and a great vibe.
I had the honour to visit the Wildflower Restaurant on 2 occasions. Chef Vincent Stufano not only creates incredible dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients, but also features a ‘lifestyle cuisine plus’ menu with options in the following categories: heart healthy, diabetes, vegan, raw, macrobiotic, and gluten free. Double wow. The restaurant also has a ‘sea to sky menu to go’. For the road. Just don’t get pulled over like we did on the way up. (Hopefully your lox and bagel doesn’t give energy to your accelerator foot..)
Dinner was amazing. It was just adults (thank you Nannies on Call). Before we dined I ordered room service for the kids their meals come with drink and dessert. Not only is there a kids’ menu, but when I asked for milk, They questioned: “plain, chocolate or strawberry?” Seriously? Then I learned that in December Fairmont created a new healthy eating menu just for the kids!
“Fairmont Chefs ensure these pint-sized offerings reflect the same basic principals as Lifestyle Cuisine and address the nutritional guidelines established for children by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Proactive steps include swapping out refined flour for whole wheat, incorporating fruits and vegetables into recipes to help meet the recommended daily fiber allowance, and employing alternative cooking methods to help ensure healthier choices are made available to young diners. “
On our final morning I took the boys to the Wildflower for breakfast. Kids eat free. Wow. And when they entered? They were each given an etch-a-sketch. Our waiter told them it was an old-fashioned iPad. I laughed hard. (The boys looked at me with puzzlement as they touched the screen). As we left each child was given a cookie as big as my head. ‘for the road’.
In all? I have a new go-to place when I ski. After my weekend, the family is closer, the kids feel special, we made a ton of memories, and Ian the concierge is my new best friend.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided accomodation at the Chateau in order to write this piece, and as always all opinions are our own.
Heading to the car with luggage, 2 screaming toddlers and wearing a ducky backpack (that quacks), I wasn’t too sure about the whole vacation-in-my-own-city. Pulling up to the stunning Fairmont Pacific Rim, though, things improved quickly. We were greeted with juice boxes, and the doorman remembered the kids (by name) from the time we had come to Oru for lunch. (Orange chopsticks and the best kids menu ever keep us coming back).
I was recently introduced to the concept of Educational Trips for kids. Mommy or Daddy takes a child away for the weekend, and they get one-on-one time and learn together. What better place than Victoria, at the Fairmont Empress Hotel? I am very much an old Canadian. I appreciate modern, boutique hotels too, but there is nothing quite like the luxury of the old Canadian Pacific chain. Sometimes wallpaper, high ceilings, antiques and superb service are just necessary. On a recent stay at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, I was reminded why I seek out these fabulous hotels, and what educational opportunities are available in every day life if you take the time to look for them.
Bobbi Kay from Vancouver’s Boneta is at it again with her unbelievable mocktails. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or just want to cut back a bit, here is a stunner.