Back in 1890, Cornelius Van Horne, the general manager for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, had a vision. When the original Lake Louise hotel, a one-story log cabin, was constructed on the eastern shore of Lake Louise, Mr. Van Horne imagined a hotel for the “outdoor adventurer and alpinist”. The first hotel contained a central area that served as dining room, office, bar and gathering place, a kitchen and two small bedrooms, fronted by large windows facing the lake and a verandah. The original ‘Chalet Lake Louise’ welcomed visitors from different dining stations along the railway line as well as day visitors from its elegant sister, the Banff Springs Hotel. Only 50 guests registered at the chalet in 1890 but by 1912, 50,000 guests had already spent the night here.
Through two early fires and four architects, the original small summer cabin would evolve to become today's Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, parts of which date back as far as 1911. Of course, the concept was to lure wealthy travelers into taking trains and heading west for adventure. By the time trains were displaced by automobiles and planes, the hotel had become famous enough that it could survive without the railroad.
This is the main lobby of Chateau Lake Louise. Make special note of the window at the far end of the hallway in the middle of the photo… More on this later!
Surprisingly, at least to me, the hotel was originally built to operate only in summer. Finally, in 1982 the hotel was winterized and it and now offers all of the usual ski resort activities during the winter months. In addition to downhill and cross country skiing, ice skating on the frozen lake and snowboarding, there are sleigh rides, ice sculpture contests and snowshoe excursions as well as ice fishing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice climbing.
We are not cold weather people…so we were very happy to visit Lake Louise on a beautiful summer day! In warm weather, visitors can take advantage of a variety of hiking trails around the lake. Some of these trails are also open to mountain biking and horseback riding, and the surrounding mountains offer opportunities for rock climbing. Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities during summer, and a boat launch and rental facility are maintained on the north-eastern shore.
Laurie liked the idea and image of this harpist playing music in the lobby area. There is no doubt that this is a classy and luxurious property!
As such, one never knows who one might see when visiting this hotel… Western Canada is frequently referred to as ''Hollywood North”. Early movies shot in Lake Louise include 1928’s ''Eternal Love'' starring John Barrymore, 1942’s ''Springtime in the Rockies'' with Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda and then in 1944, ''Son of Lassie.'' Literally hundreds of stars have come to Chateau Lake Louise for filming or vacationing, including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Christopher Reeve, Angie Dickinson…as well as many current celebrities whose identities are not revealed by the hotel.
Back in 1912, the British Prince of Wales, (King Edward VIII, who abdicated), stayed at the Chateau. Many other ‘royals’ have also stayed her, including Prince Rainier of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, as well as King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan.
The grounds of Chateau Lake Louise were a riot of color and beauty during our visit… The grounds are extremely well kept, despite the boorish behavior we observed on the part of some visitors! (Climbing around in the flower beds to get photos of each other…)
The American Automobile Association gives the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise 4 Diamonds. As the first photo demonstrates, the hotel is big and it has 554 rooms! For more information about the hotel and its amenities, you can go to http://www.fairmont.com/lake-louise/.
Lake Louise, named the ‘Lake of the Little Fishes’ by the Stoney Natoka First Nations/Native American people, is a glacial lake within Banff National Park. The lake is a little over 3 miles west of the town of Lake Louise and the Trans-Canada Highway. The lake is named after the Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the Marquess of Lorne…who was the Governor General, (the Queen’s representative), for Canada from 1878 to 1883.
Yes…we finally asked someone to take our photo! We posed on the shore of Lake Louise just a short distance from the Chateau. FYI…The Chateau Lake Louise is the only hotel on the lake. The emerald color of the water comes from rock flour or silt that is carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake. The lake was much smaller than we’d expected with a surface area of only about 1/3 of a square mile.
In the summer of 1882, young Thomas Wilson became the first white man to see Lake Louise. He was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway, packing supplies and equipment for construction crews for Kicking Horse Pass. One night, while camped with a group of Stoney Indians, he heard the rumble of avalanches. Using his limited vocabulary of native words and some sign language, Wilson learned that the noise was coming from the ''snow mountains above the lake of little fishes.'' The next day, 2 Native guides took Wilson to the lake on horseback. He originally named it Emerald Lake as he was captivated by the ''blue and green water'' of this gem beneath the glacier.
Well…for the ‘foodies’ who’ve been waiting for lunch…we’re finally getting to that all important portion of the blog. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has no less than 7 different dining options for visitors and guests. They are the Fairview Dining Room, Lago ~ An Italian Restaurant, Walliser Stube, Poppy Brasserie, Glacier Saloon, Chateau Deli and the Lakeview Lounge. This is the bar in the Lakeview Lounge.
This dining choice offers terrific views of the lake and mountains, it’s open for lunch, whereas other options were not…and, on a comparable basis, it’s ‘relatively’ affordable.
If you read what I wrote under the 2nd photo, you may remember that I pointed out the window at the end of the hallway in the center of that photo. This view is from our table in the Lakeview Lounge across the restaurant and back up the same hallway.
I was number 1 in line when this restaurant opened for lunch. I waited about 45 minutes to ensure that we got the only table at that window in the second photo. It was well worth the wait!
Here was our view from our table in the Lakeview Lounge as we sat down for our lunch… Not too shabby!
To view the menus for all 7 restaurants at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can go to http://www.fairmont.com/lake-louise/dining/.
As lunch progressed, they opened the patio below us for lunch and drinks… The picture really doesn’t do justice to the number of tourists and guests strolling around the grounds of the Chateau Lake Louise. We did observe that English seemed to be the language only spoken by a minority of visitors around the hotel…
OK, onto the food… Let me preface these comments by saying that if one is anywhere in Lake Louise looking for a ‘deal’ on a meal…good luck! Of course, the chateau is ‘the’ premier spot, but for us, as we’re unlikely to return to this area, this upscale lunch was a one-time experience.
We started out with a couple of Moosehead Lagers… ($7.00 each) Moosehead is Canada’s oldest brewery and we occasionally bought it when we lived in Chicago. It seemed to be an appropriate beverage to start out our lunch in the Canadian Rockies. To learn more about the Moosehead brand, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moosehead_Brewery.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Dips and Spreads Platter. ($15.00) It consisted of baba ghanoush, garlic hummus and smoked tomato tomàquet with focaccia points, tortilla shards and slices of baguette. The platter was very good and we didn’t leave a trace behind by the time we finished!
Another interesting appetizer offering was the Rocky Mountain Antipasto Platter. ($28.00) It consisted of locally air dried bison, smoked duck, venison salami, wild boar paté, grilled artichokes, pickled beets, roasted peppers, olives and Grizzly Gouda with sliced baguette and ciabatta.
So…I jumped out there and for my lunch I ordered something I’d never had before. This is the Warm Bison Reuben Sandwich. ($21.00) This is corned bison, with local Gouda and smoked paprika mustard sauce on a marbled rye bread. It was accompanied by a very fine bowl of Tomato Bisque soup.
I have to tell you that this wasn’t my favorite sandwich ever… It was way too rich…almost sweet to my taste buds. Still, I’m glad that I ordered it as I now can say that I had a Bison Reuben…
Just FYI…Here is another luncheon sandwich option in the Lakeview Lounge. How about the Open Faced Alberta Flank Steak Naan? ($24.00) This is shaved beef flank steak, mushroom jam, roasted bell peppers, grilled red onion, jalapeño aioli and balsamic tossed arugula on Naan flat bread.
Laurie’s favorite food is Lobster… Consequently, since we were splurging anyway, she ordered the Atlantic Lobster and Baby Shrimp Croissant for lunch. ($24.00) The lobster and shrimp salad was topped with grilled asparagus, pea shoots and lemon-parsley mayonnaise and, as with my lunch, it was accompanied by a bowl of the tomato bisque soup. The croissant was excellent and Laurie really enjoyed her lunch!
FYI… We would never order a hamburger in Canada as by law, hamburger meat must be cooked to well done, (so they’re like a hockey puck), and we like ours medium rare. The Lakeview Lounge offers a burger…but it’s not your basic burger! The Lakeview Beef Burger, ($20.00), is topped with peppered bacon, applewood smoked cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, portabella mushrooms, truffle aïoli, ripe tomato and greens.
With the tax and tip, this little luncheon trip into ‘luxury land’ dining totaled $91.00… The good news is that we had our parking ticket for the Chateau’s garage validated and parking was free!
While I was waiting in line for our special table in the Lakeview Lounge, Laurie was shopping/browsing through a couple of the upscale stores. That’s where she met Marcus, the Chateau’s “Director of Pet Relations”. A four-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, Marcus, has become the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's most famous staff member! Marcus loves taking naps in the hotel's lobby, where tourists lavish him with attention…but he wanders around the hotel as well…and based on his solid build, he gets quite a few snacks from staff and visitors alike!
Marcus has lived at the hotel for more than two years, moving in after he failed to graduate from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. "Unfortunately, Marcus didn't pass the final test," a hotel spokesperson told CBC Calgary. "He's just a little too friendly. He likes to give kisses and play fetch and all those kinds of things — not really what you look for in a Seeing Eye dog."
According to the hotel, Marcus is part of Fairmont's Canine Ambassadors Program, which allows "travelers missing their own furry friend or looking for a companion while taking a walk to bring along the resident Fairmont dog for extra security and the comfort of home."
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise welcomes your pet with their ‘Furry Friends Pet Package’. All pets staying at the hotel are greeted in their room with a customized welcome letter from an actual Director of Pet Relations. (Yes, there is such a position on the staff!) In addition, your pet is provided with a luxurious dog bed, food and water bowl, the latest issue of ‘The Bark’ magazine, freshly baked dog biscuit, and an information sheet on pet activities. The price is $35.00 (Canadian) per night. Dogs must not be left unattended in the guest rooms.
Just click on any of the photographs to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to share this little touch of luxury!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave