by Diana in Travel Life in Spring 2018
In the spirit of indulgence, book a luxury experience on your next getaway
People often equate luxury with expense. And, of course, “high end” can also mean big dollars. But it doesn’t have to. The five Canadian experiences highlighted here are about pampering, but they are also about adventure, fine food, good wine and wilderness: you can’t put a price on the outdoors. High-end hotels now often organize luxury experiences as exclusive packages for their guests—they recognize that a visitor’s experience is not simply what they find inside the hotel, but what they discover outside its doors. And that doesn’t always mean an organized package: most hotel concierges will offer invaluable tips about tours, restaurants and special happenings in the region. The experiences described here are ones some people choose as part of their bucket list, or for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary gift. They reflect a growing trend toward people seeking experiences over “things.” Memories don’t ever disappear.
A WINE FLIGHT TO
Uncork Niagara is the first in a series of “Exquisite Experiences” that The
Adelaide Hotel Toronto* is offering to its guests. The six-hour tour to Niagara-on-the-Lake begins with a limo ride from the hotel to Billy Bishop Airport and then a 15-minute flight (actually we did it in just under 14) on FlyGTA Airlines to Niagara Falls. On a typical visit, your chauffeur will whisk you away to the award-winning Two Sisters Vineyard to tour the winery and stroll through the vineyards—and possibly pick some grapes, depending on the season. You will then do some barrel tasting, likely with senior sommelier Dieter Unruh, followed by a three-course lunch at the Two Sisters restaurant, Kitchen76. The experience culminates at the neighbouring Peller Estates, where you will don a parka to enter their 10Below Icewine Lounge for some ice wine and ice martinis.
* The Adelaide will be relaunched as Canada’s first St. Regis Hotel in late 2018, following a brand-focused enhancement program. There, the tradition of the Exquisite Experiences will continue.
ICEBERG ADVENTURES ON FOGO
This destination combines all the elements I long for. It’s on a remote island,in a setting that is wild and unkempt, and with accommodations that are luxurious and architecturally beautiful. Fogo Island is located off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, in an area referred to as “Iceberg Alley.” It is here in the North Atlantic, between Greenland and Newfoundland, that icebergs traverse,and where you can experience a half-day iceberg voyage as part of the Fogo Island Inn’s Escape to Iceberg Alley (fogoislandinn.ca), which is offered from June 1 to July 15. Although wildlife is unpredictable, expect to spot plenty of seabirds, including puffins—one of the largest colonies lives in nearby Little Fogo Islands.
When you return to dry land, retreat to the award-winning property that boasts 29 suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and a fourth-floor rooftop deck with wood-fired saunas and two outdoor hot tubs. In the evening, enjoy iceberg cocktails at the bar and some mighty fine food: superstar chef Jonathan Gushue arrived as executive chef in February.
As well as enjoying the inn, all guests are connected with a community host for half a day to explore the island with a local. Or, if the cost of the inn is prohibitive (an overnight with meals can cost about $1,875 based on double occupancy), you can also stay at a B&B on the island and explore the community that way. Check out Tilting Harbour (tiltingharbourbnb.ca), an authentic saltbox home and guesthouse, or Quintal House Heritage Guest House.
FOOD, CHAMPAGNE, AND HOT TUBS IN MONTREAL
Montreal is a foodie’s paradise and a classy, romantic city that has a funky way of combining casual-chic with elegance. Spend a weekend at the new luxurious Le Mount Stephen Hotel and enjoy a bevvie—or what is referred to as a “proper brekkie”—at their Bar George. Or, stay at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal and experience the hotel’s elaborate high tea. If you want
to explore more of the city’s local food scene, take a Local Montreal Tour of the Mile End or Old Montreal food scene.
For restaurant choices, try a meal at the casino’s L’Atelier with renowned chef Joel Robuchon, or at the Laurie Raphael restaurant in the Hôtel Le Germain. In between, take in some relaxation and a four-hands massage at Bota Bota, a Scandinavian spa that floats. (It’s on a boat moored at the foot of McGill Street in Old Montreal.) Then, to round out your day, stop by at La Champagnerie, a champagne bar in Old Montreal where you can saber your own bottle, with help, and enjoy a seafood platter.
A HELI-WINE OR ADVENTURE TOUR IN THE OKANAGAN, B.C.
Okanagan Mountain Helicopters Ltd. offers hili-wine touring packages, as well as adventure tours, where ziplining or treetop trekking is part of the package.
The wine tours include VIP visits to two or three wineries in the Okanagan: the helicopter will land right on-site, where you’ll be met, usually by the owner or winemaker, for an exclusive tasting. Flights in between wineries take you over some extraordinary landscapes with views of the famous Kettle Valley Railway Trestles, Gallagher’s Canyon, Knox Mountain, various lakes and Mount Boucherie, depending on which tour you choose. The heli-wine tours begin and end in Penticton, Vernon or Kelowna, while adventure tours depart from the local Kelowna or Vernon airport, from Sparking Hill Resort & Spa or from the ziplining site itself.
FINDING ROMANCE OFF OR ON THE GRID IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERTA
Although Skoki Lodge is more rustic than luxe, I figure that any setting that is good enough for the Royal Family would be good enough for me. So I was intrigued to hear about William and Kate’s honeymoon at the back country Skoki Lodge, located just northeast of the village of Lake Louise. Although the royal couple were flown in by helicopter, as was a flush toilet (though I doubt on the same flight), anyone else would be required to ski, snowshoe or hike the 11 kilometres into the lodge, and to use an outhouse while they are there.
But isn’t there something luxurious about a rustic escape where there is no cell phone reception (much less electricity or running water)? Here, you are living off the grid, but still have access to delicious home cooked meals, the option of an interpretive guide to take you out on the trails, and a warm duvet to cozy under at night.
If you’re not convinced and more traditional luxury is what you are after, stay at the Post Hotel, in the nearby town of Lake Louise. It’s a Relaix & Château property, with a stellar wine cellar. While you’re in the Rockies, you can also visit the Kananaskis Nordic Spa (knordicspa.com), about an hour’s drive away. You can discover Nordic culture the Canadian way: red tartan robes replace the traditional snowy white ones, and campfire-type settings within the spa are set up for casual chatting, unlike the no speaking rule of many Nordic spas.