Western Canada: Post Hotel

Continued from Arriving in Banff National Park

In Banff National Park, we were especially excited about our digs, the elegant, red-roofed Post Hotel in Lake Louise.

On this May 2008 trip, we went against our usual grain and stayed four-star all the way; that year, the Post had been reviewed by Travel & Leisure Magazine as the #1 hotel in Canada.

Can’t tell you if it’s the best in the whole country…but it was pretty darn wonderful.

One caveat:  The best photos of the Post are taken from the back of the polished log cabin hotel, which is snuggled beside a rushing river, surrounded by a few choice Rockies.  But just know that the front of the hotel is banked against a big rectangular parking lot, which brings its elegance (temporarily) to a halt.

That said, the flower displays, deep carpets, staggering wine list, inventive menus, always-empty indoor hot tub, and cozy, friendly spa sure do take the edge off regular life back home.  So, I’m almost sorry for mentioning the whole parking lot thing.

The river side, though, is the star attraction here. We were fortunate to have snagged a quiet, Preferred side B-class room in the back, but even there we had no view save that of a more expensive, stand-alone riverside cabin.

I’d say, regardless of which side you’re able to get, book a room on the second floor; this way you can either look out over the river or past the asphalt to the pine trees, spectacular white mountains, and now and again, a colorful train going by.

Almost everyone who works at the Post (or in this area, for that matter) is from somewhere else, ranging from relatively nearby eastern Canada to Australia to Slovakia.  Almost everyone said they’d come to see a year’s worth of seasons in Banff, and few had yet travelled outside the park.

But not everyone here is a flash in the pan.

The cheerful bar pianistSteve Hall, who plays everything from Broadway to soft hits of the 70s with great passion, was celebrating the start of his 20th summer playing for the Post.  One evening, we settled in by the fireplace in the piano room (shown here from outside at still-light 9pm), just to hear Steve transition from Phantom of the Opera to a medley of Frank Sinatra favorites, covering all the musical bases from white to Caucasian.

While at the Post we bucked the hotel’s restaurant tradition by sharing mains and appetizers, and went for half-bottles of wine.  We were the only people eating this way; the Post is owned by two Swiss brothers and attracts a heavily European clientele, used to lingering over endless meals.  But, with so much to see outside, we wanted to avoid eating ourselves into a coma.

A few meal highlights, though, were bison loin with little carb-y pillows of pumpkin and potato (with apologies to the huge buffalo head in the lobby), a huge appetizer portion of saffron risottothe Post Burger with caramelized onion, and a Dungeness crab omelette with asparagus (the precious vegetable is in season in Western Canada for only a month between May and June).

If, like us, you’re crying for vegetables by day two, you can ask them to prepare a simple butter lettuce salad or a big, pretty plate of whatever farmer’s market veggies they happen to have that day.

Wines from Canada are oddly sparse here, and there are none by the glass save a delicious ice wine; designed for dessert, its tiny, golden grapes are picked by moonlight in the dead of winter to retain optimum sweetness.

At breakfast, the Post’s coffee is just so-so, but at lunch, their iced tea is minty and perfect.

Continued in Lake Louise


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