Rocky Mountaineer – GoldLeaf Service – Vancouver to Banff

The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train in Canada that visits the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Approaching Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer Train in GoldLeaf

This was my second time onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, the first time I travelled in their SilverLeaf service, you can read about that journey here.

The Rocky Mountaineer departs from their own station in downtown Vancouver. I was travelling on Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” which travels from Vancouver to Banff with an overnight stop in Kamloops. The Rocky Mountaineer only travels during the daytime hours, you don’t sleep on the train. This way you have optimal viewing of the Rocky Mountains and any wildlife along your journey.

Me in front of the Rocky Mountaineer Engine before our journey

The night before we were set to depart we made our way to their Guest Services Centre which was at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver to check in and do our complementary and required antigen Covid tests. This was a very quick process and we had our negative results within fifteen minutes. We also heard the bad news that the rail tracks were still closed due to the wildfires near Lytton and we were given an updated schedule for our first day from Vancouver to Kamloops by bus.

The next morning I was dropped off at the Rocky Mountaineer station, where we dropped off our luggage and took a shuttle to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for an included breakfast before we boarded our buses to Kamloops in our respective rail car groups. Our Rocky Mountaineer hosts were on board our bus, pointing out a few of the “points of interest” long the way. We stopped at the Britton Creek Rest Stop on the Coquihalla Highway and we were provided with a snack bag containing some refreshments before continuing on to Kamloops.

Once in Kamloops we enjoyed an included lunch and checked into our hotel which was the Delta by Marriott Kamloops. The hotel was recently renovated, the rooms were quite nice and the bed was very comfortable.

Room at the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Kamloops

The Rocky Mountaineer includes luggage service, which means when you arrive to your hotel your luggage is waiting for you in your room and you leave your luggage in your room at your mid point hotel for them to take it to your next stop along your journey. Luggage travels by transport truck between hotels, it doesn’t come on the train. When packing your carry on for the train, keep in mind that there is no “overhead compartment” to store bags, so anything you bring on board will typically be by your feet. It’s very wise to make sure that anything of importance is kept with you (medications, electronics, etc) in case your luggage is delayed.

We were shuttled from our hotel to Rocky Mountaineer’s rail yard to board our train to Banff at 6:10am. You board your bus based on your rail car number so your bus lines up with your rail car that you’ll be travelling in.

Boarding our Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Rail Car in the Kamloops Rail Yard

The Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf rail car features on the lower level an outdoor viewing vestibule, a dining area, two washrooms and business class style seating in the domed area up above. The seats are fully automated and each guest has their own controls for heat, recline, lumbar support and leg rests. The seat also features power outlets to charge devices and a tray table.

Business Class Style Seating in the Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf Train Car

In the “Welcome Aboard” package you will find a drinks menu, gratuity envelope for service recognition, souvenir catalogue, The “RM” Magazine and the “Mile Post”, which is a great guide you can follow along using the rail markers along your journey.

Welcome Aboard Package

Soon after boarding and a safety briefing we on our way! We were in the first seating for breakfast, so we went downstairs to the dining area of our train car. We started with a fresh smoothie and a croissant, followed by the Eggs Benedict. The food on board Rocky Mountaineer is so good.

Breakfast Menu in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Eggs Benedict in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

There can be some delays and stops along the way as you wait for trains to pass as Rocky Mountaineer has limited priority on the tracks. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoor vestibule, see the workings of the trains and rail yards up close.

The washrooms on board the train are kept immaculate and are well appointed. In the GoldLeaf railcars there are two washrooms on the main level with one being accessible.

It’s also so nice to see so many people waving to the train as it passes by, you can’t help but to wave back! You pass by one woman’s home in particular in Canoe, who religiously waves at each Rocky Mountaineer train that passes by. Because of this she was actually invited onboard herself and Rocky Mountaineer had arranged for hosts to go to her home, waving to her on the train as they passed by her home.

Waving at the Rocky Mountaineer as it passes by

Our journey took us along the shores of Shuswap Lake and one of our first tunnels on our trip.

The dining area on our GoldLeaf car was very comfortable and was setup with partitions for proper social distancing. You were seated with your travelling party only or you could dine with others if you wished. The culinary team were fantastic and did an amazing job of all the meals and snacks onboard. The menus onboard feature local ingredients and they can cater to many different dietary restrictions.

GoldLeaf dining area on the Rocky Mountaineer
Culinary team and galley on the GoldLeaf train car

The Rocky Mountaineer beverage selections feature some great local wines from the Okanagan Valley, along with local craft beers and ciders.

GoldLeaf Drinks Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer

Passing by some of the historical landmarks is what makes this journey by train so unique. Craigellachie is an important landmark along these rails as it’s where “The Last Spike” was driven in, to join the eastern and western railways together. The actual spot is marked by a stone pyramid marker and some of the original rails still remain.

Crossing over the Columbia River, we entered into Revelstoke. I actually used to live here and saw the Rocky Mountaineer passing through all the time. I always knew I would be on that train one day and I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced this journey now twice. As we left Revelstoke it was time for lunch! We started off with some bread, marinated olives, mushrooms and a delicious red pepper dip. For lunch I had the steak, that was served with a chimichurri sauce, broccolini, potatoes and carrots. I also tried the herb risotto which was lovely. Dessert was a trio of chocolate which I enjoyed with a coffee and Baileys.

GoldLeaf Lunch Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer
Alberta Striploin Steak for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Braised Leek and Herb Risotto for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Coffee with Baileys and a “Trio of Chocolate” for Dessert in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

Crossing over the Stoney Creek Trestle we had an amazing view of the waterfall. In 1885 this trestle was originally built out of wood and was the highest timber bridge ever built. It was rebuilt in 1894 using steel and is 82 metres (or 270 feet) high above the ravine below and the trestle is 148 metres (or 486 feet) in length. Make sure you take in these views from the outdoor vestibule.

Waterfall at the Stoney Creek Trestle

Just before we got to Golden the skies started to break from the smoke that we had for most of our journey up to this point. We made our way up the Kicking Horse Canyon along the Kicking Horse Creek which offered some amazing photo and video opportunities to catch the engines up ahead.

Rocky Mountaineer Train entering a tunnel

This part of the Trans Canada Highway was known as one of the most deadliest because of the grade, sheer drops and being only two lanes with blind switchbacks. They straightened out a portion of it by building a large bridge which was completed in 2007, which is the same height as the Stoney Creek Trestle to give you some context of how high that trestle was that we crossed over earlier.

Rocky Mountaineer Going Under the Trans Canada Highway

At this point of the journey we have now entered the National Parks with this one being Yoho National Park. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and where having the complete domed GoldLeaf car has it’s benefits.

Travelling Through The Rocky Mountains on the Rocky Mountaineer in GoldLeaf

After passing through Field, we travel through the historic Spiral Tunnels, once we’ve exited the tunnel you can see where we entered the tunnel down below.

It was then time for our last snack of the trip, a wine and cheese pairing with a wine from Naramata Bench near Penticton (I chose the Laughing Stock Vineyards Pinot Gris).

Wine and Cheese Pairing in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

The views as we neared Banff are so picturesque. The mountains and the bright blue waters were just stunning.

Gena and Rob who were our hosts did an amazing job highlighting the historical landmarks, telling us some great stories and doing everything they could to make our journey a memorable one. It was definitely a difficult good bye, everyone teared up when Rob teared up at the end.

Our Amazing Hosts Saying Their “Good Byes” at the End of Our Journey

The Rocky Mountaineer truly is an unforgettable journey and one I suggest everyone puts on their bucket list.

My journey continues as I stayed at the iconic “Castle in the Rockies”, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel after I disembarked the Rocky Mountaineer in Banff. Stay tuned for my Banff Travel Guide and Travel Vlog coming soon!

Safe Travels,

Ariane

As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor my clients receive added benefits when booking vacations such as the Rocky Mountaineer through me. I’d love to work with you as your travel advisor, to contact me for more information click here.

Please watch my YouTube video I filmed highlighting my experience in Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service, it brings this blog post and review to life. You can watch it here:

Whale Watching in Vancouver with Prince of Whales

If you ever find yourself visiting Vancouver, Canada, I really recommend to do a whale watching tour.

A whale watching tour a great way to see the city of Vancouver from the water, explore the waters and the marine life just off the coast. Prince of Whales Whale Watching apparently has a 95% success rate in seeing whales on your tour and even offer a “Sighting Guarantee”. This means if for some reason you don’t see whales on your tour, you’ll be able to keep going back until you do!

Orca Whales surfacing during our whale watching tour with Prince of Whales Whale Watching

Check In:

I experienced this whale watching tour during the pandemic, which strict Covid protocols were put into place and enforced. I felt very safe and even took my 85 year old Grandmother along with me. You are currently required to wear masks for the entire duration of the tour (even if you are outside on the decks). Social distancing is also maintained onboard.

It is strongly recommended that you arrive and check in for your whale watching tour at least 30 minutes prior to your tour time. This is to make sure that you are present for the initial briefing and sign the release form if you weren’t able to online beforehand.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in Vancouver is located on beautiful Granville Island. I highly suggest making a day trip out of your stay on Granville Island, either grabbing some snacks and exploring the Granville Public Market before or after your whale watching tour. We made sure we grabbed some Lee’s Donuts for the trip!

Make sure you grab some snacks at the world famous Granville Island Public Market

The Equipment:

Prince of Whales Whale Watching tours in Vancouver use catamarans that seat 95 people, however they are equipped with many more seats than that for optimal comfort for indoor and outdoor viewing. During the pandemic they are not running at full capacity and are currently running at only half capacity, around 50 guests maximum. On our tour there were only 37 people.

Onboard Experience:

Onboard Prince of Whales catamaran ships, you’ll find a comfortable indoor seating area (some seats have tables which is perfect to enjoy your picnic lunch or snacks) with a snack bar (they were serving complementary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and bottled water) and plenty of outdoor seating areas, including right on the bow (at the front of the ship). They also provided sea life colouring pages and crayons for kids I noticed, which was a great touch to keep kids occupied as we sailed out to where the whales were reported to have been seen. There were also two, very clean bathrooms onboard available for use. Make sure you check out my YouTube video for images of the ship and the onboard experience!

On our whale watching tour we had four naturalists and a photographer who were very knowledgeable. Guides made their rounds to everyone and had personal chats about what we were on the search for during our tour. They also had lots of different visuals to explain what we were looking for, how to identify whales, a map of our area to point out our location and did a great job educating all ages on our local marine life here in the Vancouver area. They even had a map that they were updating live with what we had seen and the locations we saw them in the Straight of Georgia which is also known as the Salish Sea.

The guides also had some stories of how some of the whales got their names, I’ll never forget how “Stanley” got his. Let’s hope one day he returns to the Burrard Inlet to give the Canucks a shot at winning the Stanley Cup haha! The guides take photos of the whales and use markings on their tails and backs to identify which whales we are viewing with their catalog of images.

Overall Whale Watching Tour Experience:

Both my Grandmother and I had an amazing time. We saw two pods of Orca Whales, Harbour Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. The first pod we were able to get very close as they surfaced near the ship, the captain turned off the engines and it was just amazing to see them and hear their breath as they surfaced. The second pod or Killer Whales we saw were living up to their name. They were on the hunt. They were actively thrashing around, jumping out of the water and aggressively diving.

“Stanley” a popular male Killer Whale
Orca Whales are very social creatures, here are two with their noses out of the sea and one on its side with the fin showing
Such a great day, viewing the Orcas with the snow capped North Shore mountains in the distance

I highly suggest this whale watching tour if you’re visiting Vancouver as a day tour before or after your Alaska cruise, or even if you’re a local looking to do something special.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures also has a location in Victoria, so if you’re visiting Victoria on a cruise you can book a whale watching tour there as well.

If you’re interested in seeing the experience, I created a YouTube video (going to be released on Sunday, May 30th) on my whale watching experience with Prince of Whales.

Disclaimer: I did receive this experience as a gift from Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in partnership with Tourism Vancouver. I was not required to write a blog post, YouTube video, social media posts or give a positive review in return. This is my own positive experience that I wanted to highlight. As always, all thoughts, opinions and images are my own. I only team up with products and brands that I love and think you’ll like as well! Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Wanderlust Journey.

Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been named as one of Condé Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021!

I’m unbelievably honoured to be awarded and included in this prestigious list of amazing travel professionals for 2021. Travel Specialists are selected by Condé Nast Traveler’s editors based on travel industry knowledge, specialization, travel experience and excellence in customer service.

With 2020 being such a challenging year, especially for the travel industry, receiving this award has renewed my excitement and enthusiasm for what’s to come. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Those within the travel industry who have persevered and are continuing to keep in touch with their clients will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.

My inclusion in this elite list has filled me with a great sense of pride and gratitude. I chose to work in travel because I truly believe in the philosophy that you should always do what you love and love what you do. I love to travel and I’m passionate about helping people plan amazing vacations where they can create incredible memories by experiencing unique destinations and cultures.

If you would like to read my Travel Specialist profile feature for the Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021, please click here (http://www.cntraveler.com/contributor/ariane-henry).

If you would like to work with me as your travel advisor, I’d love to connect. Please click here to fill out my contact form to become one of my valued clients.

What is Clubhouse and How to Use It For Your Business

You’ve probably heard of this new app called Clubhouse. Many people have their own opinions on if Clubhouse is just a fad or if it’s even going to stick around. There are people who love it and there are people who hate it. I’ll tell you why I’m a fan of Clubhouse, how to use the app effectively if you’re new and how you can promote yourself and your business effectively on it.

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a voice sharing platform, currently available only on iPhones and is invite only. Think of it as a live podcasting platform or a Zoom conference without the video. The rooms are not recorded and cannot be played “on demand”, so if you miss out on a chat, it does have that level of FOMO. That can be dangerous as time spent on the app can be quite high. That being said, I love working with the radio or podcasts on in the background, so instead I’ve been listening in to Clubhouse since having access to the app.

What your dashboard or “hallway” on Clubhouse looks like. Upcoming rooms that might be of interest to you are listed up top, current rooms that are open are listed below.

How Can I Get an Invite to Clubhouse?

If you are looking to get an invite to the app, don’t hesitate to download the app and get on the “waitlist”. You might have a contact who is on Clubhouse who has extra invites available and they will get a notification that you are looking for an invite. You can also see who on social media you follow is very active on Clubhouse and sometimes they will let you know when they have extra invites to give away. Invites do need to be sent through text message, so make sure you are providing your correct phone number with whomever is sending you the invite.

Activating Your Invite and Your Clubhouse Profile

Once you’ve received your Clubhouse invite, you’ll need to choose your Clubhouse name. Please use your real name and not your brand or business name. Clubhouse is really trying to emphasize this and it is a more personal app as you’ll find in due time. Once you’re signed up, you will need to connect your Instagram and/or your Twitter accounts. This is really important to connect the accounts that you’re active on (and are public accounts) as there is no messaging through Clubhouse. People will want to connect with you and the way Clubhouse encourages people to connect is through DM’s through your social media that is linked. After you choose your photo, you’ll notice for the first week that you have a “party” emoji on your photo, this means you are brand new to Clubhouse. Most good moderators of rooms will help make you feel extra welcome and ease any nerves you might have when speaking on stage.

Writing a Clubhouse Profile

The first sentence of your Clubhouse bio is what people will see beside your name as a “quick description” about who you are. Keep in mind that some moderators are now reading your first sentence of your profile when introducing you to speak. It’s important to have a descriptive bio on who you are and what you do. This helps people determine if they want to follow you, or how they can connect with you. It’s also your opportunity to let people know about your brand or business and what you offer. Links aren’t clickable in Clubhouse profiles, so make sure that you have specific links that people can click in your Instagram bio, etc.

What my Clubhouse Profile looks like.
The bottom portion on my Clubhouse Bio which shows who “invited” me, my link to Instagram where people can connect with me and the non-clickable links to my website and email. It also shows publicly which “clubs” I am part of at the bottom. You can click the Clubs and join them if they are also of interest to you. Again, this is how rooms show up on your main “waiting room” area, by following clubs and people that are interesting to you.

Tuning into a Room on Clubhouse

One of the biggest questions I get is “How do I find rooms on Clubhouse?”. When you sign up, you are given the opportunity to add your “interests”. This gives you a good starter on a selection of rooms. But how you really see rooms is based on who you follow. For instance, I follow many rooms that are travel based (obviously). So I follow an amazing club on Clubhouse called “Girls Love Travel”. Once I “joined” the club, I could see all the rooms that were hosted under that club. When I like what someone says in a certain room, I’ll follow the speaker. If it’s someone that has great advice or adds a lot to a room, I’ll hit the “bell” and select “always” to get notified on when they speak on a stage. As you follow clubs and people, you’ll notice that your main “waiting room” gets tailored to your interests.

Once you click the bell, you can select “Always” to always be notified when this specific person starts a room or talks in a room.

When you finally select a room that you’d like to tune into, don’t worry, you’re on mute automatically when you enter the room. It’s only when you would like to go up on stage that you need to make sure you’re muted when not speaking. If you would like to add to a conversation or if you have a question for the panel, you’ll see a little hand on the bottom right. When you press the hand, you’ve let the moderators know that you would like to come on stage to speak. You’ll have to wait until one of the moderators approve you. Once on stage, make sure you mute your microphone immediately. The hand will disappear once you’re on stage and that is where your microphone to mute and unmute will appear.

When you’re finished listening to a room, you can hit the “peace sign” and leave the room.

This is the view of what it looks like if you’re a speaker in a room, you’ll see where the microphone is to mute/unmute yourself, someone with a “party hat” who is new and the grey ring around the speaker. Also the peace sign where you can leave the chat. The green “stars” lets you know those are the moderators of the room.

Speaking on Clubhouse – Best Practices

When speaking on Clubhouse, these are some of my tips:

  • Clubhouse is used by the hearing impaired and they use transcription services. To help them differentiate who is speaking, please always start with “This is Ariane (your name here) speaking” then go into what you have to say or ask your question to the panelists. Then always end with “This is Ariane (your name) and I’m finished speaking”. 
  • Please keep it on topic and avoid too much self promotion. It’s very disruptive when someone goes off topic or if someone is constantly mentioning their “freebie” available in their Instagram link. Clubhouse is a great way to promote yourself and your business, but know when to promote yourself and when it’s too much.
  • Get involved. It can be very scary at first to get involved into a conversation, but once you do it a few times the nerves go away. Most rooms are very welcoming and friendly. If you do come across any hostility, you can report people for trolling. Clubhouse has a no tolerance for negativity towards others, so please report trolls. You can report someone by clicking on their profile, then click the three dots. You be able to submit a report from there.
  • When you see the speakers microphones flashing, it’s like a virtual applause. You’ll see this when speakers agree with what is being said, etc. You do need to be on stage to “applaud”, just by tapping your mute button quickly on and off.
  • PTR – If you’re a moderator or even someone in the room, it’s always good to do a PTR (pull to refresh) after each speaker. If you are in a room speaking, you can quickly change your profile photos by holding your profile image. This is a great way to feature images on a certain topic you’re speaking about and telling people to PTR for the update on your image (example of this is I changed my profile picture during a travel chat on the Amalfi Coast to some of my favourite spots and restaurants, adds another level of engagement). Obviously Clubhouse is not a visual app, however this is a workaround that most speakers use.
  • Pinging people into a room. When using the + sign to add people into a room, please don’t invite everyone off your list, but a select few who you know might enjoy what the room is about.
  • Be mindful of the time you spend on Clubhouse. It can be a time waster if you’re not careful (this is one of the biggest complaints I see). I’m very intentional with the time I spend on Clubhouse, again I love podcasts and talk shows, so this is a replacement for the times that I would listen to those platforms.

How to Use Clubhouse for Business

Clubhouse has been a game changer for me personally when it comes to my business. It’s an amazing platform to network and make genuine connections with others who share your passions and who are potential clients.

Organic growth on Clubhouse also equates to organic growth on your social media platforms including Instagram, as people are encouraged to reach out to you there (again there is no messaging within Clubhouse). I’ve been able to network and connect with people who are amazing at social media, business, other travellers, etc and get tips on how to grow my own business and blog, streamline things further and implement some great ideas. I’ve also secured brand deals and new business consulting clients already through Clubhouse.

Remember to always take things you hear with a grain of salt, but there are some people who are experts in their fields who do spend time on Clubhouse in an “education space”. I think that is how you can really leverage and grow your own business organically on Clubhouse, if you have niched down properly within your business and you know your audience, it’s a great way to be found in rooms by potential clients if you speak as “an expert” in your niche. Once you start moderating rooms, listeners do tend to follow the moderators more, which means people will read your profile to find out more about you, so it does give you and your business more exposure. So don’t hesitate to start hosting rooms and speak to your niche market.

To further leverage being a thought leader in your industry or niche, you can also start your own Club now on Clubhouse. To start a Club on Clubhouse, scroll to the bottom of your profile where you see the clubs you belong to listed. At the end of the list you should see a “+” sign. Click this and enter your club information! That’s it!

When you click “start a room” this pop up appears where you can choose to open a “open room” (meaning anyone can join the room), a closed room (you invite who you want in the room) or open a room under a specific “Club”.

I hope you found this guide helpful. As Clubhouse adds updates and new features, I will update this guide as well. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me by clicking here, or if you wanted to connect with me on Clubhouse my username is @arianehenry.

Happy chatting!

Ariane

My Travel Guide to Whistler, Canada

I’m honestly so lucky to live within a two and a half hour drive of such a world class destination in Canada. Whistler, British Columbia is pretty well a second home to me. I spend so much time here year round that it was about time for me to write an in-depth travel guide to a place I love so much.

I’m sharing all my favourite things to do and see, where to stay and where I enjoy eating out in this travel guide to Whistler, Canada. Whether you’re looking to ski or mountain bike Whistler Blackcomb in the Winter or Summer seasons, viewing nearby waterfalls, taking a leisurely stroll through the heart of Whistler Village, there is something for everyone here in Whistler.

Skiing Whistler Blackcomb – Blackcomb Glacier

Whistler is located about one and a half hours north of Vancouver and was really put on the international stage in 2010 when it hosted the Winter Olympics with Vancouver. Since then, Whistler has become a place that’s on quite a few die-hard skiers bucket lists, sees many international visitors each year, yet still has the true Canadian feeling at it’s core (even though in 2016 the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort was purchased by Vail Resorts out of Colorado). 2020 was obviously quite different with the pandemic, however most businesses have been able to adapt and still offer amazing experiences to domestic travellers.

Olympic Podium at the top of the Whistler Gondola on Whistler Blackcomb

Where to Stay in Whistler

There are so many great places to stay in Whistler. The following are some of my favourite hotels based on service and amenities offered to make your stay in Whistler so memorable.

Four Seasons Whistler (luxury accommodations) – This is one of my favourite hotels to stay at in Whistler. It’s an amazing resort and the service is what you expect from the Four Seasons brand. Rooms are very well appointed and each room features a sitting area with fireplace, perfect for a cozy glass of wine after a day on the slopes. They offer amazing included activities year round including daily complementary wine tastings, local cultural tours, and a “vintage camper” serving snow cones in the summer and s’mores fireside in the winter.

Four Seasons Whistler - Four Seasons Resort at Whistler
Deluxe Room at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler

Fairmont Chateau Whistler (luxury accommodations) – This is another of my favourite hotels to stay at and has probably my favourite outdoor pool in Whistler. Located slope side on Blackcomb Mountain, which means it has perfect ski in/ski out location in the winter or hiking access in the summer. The Fairmont Whistler offers amazing included amenities, dining experiences and has been awarded many awards in recent years. Check out my full review on the Fairmont Chateau Whistler here.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel Pool Area
Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Outdoor Pool

Westin Resort and Spa Whistler (luxury accommodations) – The reason I love the Westin Whistler is it’s slope side location on Whistler Mountain and it’s hotel rooms. Each hotel room here features a full kitchenette (yes, a stove, microwave, fridge/freezer, oven and dishwasher) and a fireplace, which makes this hotel amazing for long stays in Whistler and family getaways. Check out my full review on the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler here.

Westin Resort and Spa Whistler

Nita Lake Lodge (luxury accommodations) – Located on Nita Lake, about eight minutes south of the main Whistler Village or adjacent to the Whistler Creekside area, this is another amazing hotel to consider if you’re looking to book a Whistler getaway. I highly suggest a visit to the spa here, even if you’re not staying here, they offer some great spa day packages.

Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside (luxury accommodations) – One of two Pan Pacific hotels located in Whistler, however this one is located slope side on Whistler Mountain as it’s name suggests. It’s a great location and the outdoor pool overlooks the bottom run where the “Fire and Ice” show in the winter takes place and the main Crankworx events happen in the summer.

Pangea Pod Hotel (budget accommodations) – A really neat concept pod style hotel in the heart of Whistler Village. They have a great “community” style vibe and I love visiting here for their “Happy Hour” in their “Living Room” which also features a rooftop patio.

Things to Do in Whistler

Whistler offers amazing things to do year round. Speaking with so many clients and people on Instagram, I’m constantly surprised when people tell me they only think of Whistler as a place to only visit in the winter. Yes, Whistler Blackcomb offers some amazing skiing in the winter, however there are so many things to do in Whistler during the spring, summer and fall months.

Walking Village Stroll in Whistler in the Fall

Whistler Blackcomb (Winter & Summer) – Obviously why most people come to Whistler is the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. It’s constantly named one of the best resorts in North America and depending which magazine you read, one of the best in the world. I love skiing Whistler Blackcomb as it offers such varied terrain. It’s made up of two mountains, side by side (Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain) and are connected near the top by the engineering feat of the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which has been a game changer in the way you can experience both mountains for skiing and hiking. There are some incredible runs in the winter and some hidden gems (think ice caves you can explore on the Blackcomb Glacier, and for kids, magic castles on Blackcomb and tree forts on Whistler). There is so much terrain to cover over the two mountains, you can’t possibly do it in one day (there have been locals who challenge to get every chair/lift on Whistler Blackcomb in one day, however most don’t succeed haha). In the summer, the hiking and mountain views are incredible (hiking through alpine meadows and “snow walls” are always a highlight).

Peak 2 Peak Gondola at Whistler Blackcomb - Peak to Peak Gondola for Summer Sightseeing
Peak 2 Peak Gondola on Whistler Blackcomb
Walking through the metres high snow walls in the Summer are always so interesting on Whistler Mountain
Alpine Meadows on Whistler Mountain in the Summer
Blackcomb Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain
You’ll find friendly Whiskey Jacks over near 7th Heaven on Blackcomb and the Symphony and Harmony Bowls on Whistler
View of Black Tusk and Whistler Mountain in the background, photo taken on top of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb

Blackcomb Ice Cave (Winter) – If you’re looking for a special and unique place to check out, don’t miss the Whistler Ice Cave or better known as the Blackcomb Ice Cave located in the Blackcomb Bowl on the Blackcomb Glacier. How to find the Blackcomb Ice Cave, you’ll obviously need to be on Blackcomb Mountain of the Whistler Blackcomb Resort. Ride the Glacier Chair up Blackcomb Mountain. Then take the Showcase T-Bar to the top. Hike up the marked pathway when you get off the T-Bar. Once at the top, ski into the Blackcomb Bowl. The ice cave is on the right of the run and down once the bowl starts to narrow (it’s marked as “out of bounds” with the orange rope and markers, this is another hint of where to find the cave, please make note as it is out of bounds you are visiting the ice cave at your own risk). It’s a great place to check out when you visit Whistler!

Blackcomb Ice Cave - Whistler Ice Caves
Views from inside the Blackcomb Ice Cave.
Blackcomb Ice Cave - Whistler Ice Caves
View of the Blackcomb Ice Cave on the Blackcomb Glacier

Scandinave Spa (Year Round) – If you’re looking for a place to really relax and unwind in Whistler, Scandinave Spa is for you. Access to the spa can either be packaged with a massage, or it can be purchased alone. The spa area is a quiet zone (no talking or cell phones) which makes for an amazing relaxing experience. They have various hot pools, cold plunge pools, saunas, steam rooms and yoga and relaxation rooms. Most hotels can arrange pick up and drop off service to the spa, talk to your hotel’s concierge for more information.

Vallea Lumina (Winter & Summer) – A fun, lighted, multi-media experience through the woods at night. The story changes between the winter and summer months and the lighting effects are fantastic. It’s a great activity for families, especially around Christmas.

The Adventure Group (Winter & Summer) – They offer great activities in summer and winter such as zip lining, R2R tours, white water rafting, snowshoeing, snowmobiling tours, and much more. I’ve done most of the activities they offer, I have to say their service and their guides are amazing! I’ve always enjoyed any activity I’ve done with them.

Snowmobiling with The Adventure Group in Whistler
SuperFly Ziplines part of The Adventure Group in Whistler
R2R Tour with The Adventure Group Whistler

Whistler Olympic Park (Winter & Summer) – Located before Whistler on Callaghan Road, it’s known for where the cross country ski and ski jump events took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now, it’s a great park to visit for hiking and sightseeing in the summer and groomed cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Admission to the park is charged by the car full, so it’s a great value for families.

Golf (Summer) – Whistler offers three world class golf courses, all offering amazing mountain views from the greens. All courses offer pro-shops, restaurants and rentals (clubs and carts).

Brewery and Spirits Tours (Year Round) – Whistler now has two breweries (Whistler Brewing Company and Coast Mountain Brewing) and a craft distillery called Montis Distilling (they distill vodka, gin and other spirits). They are all located in the Function area of Whistler and offer tours and tastings. Whistler Brewing Company is one of my personal favourites, definitely try the Chestnut Ale that they brew, it’s so delicious!

Tasting flight of beers at the Whistler Brewing Company

Audain Art Museum (Year Round) – A great place to wander on a rainy day or during the new “wine walks” that are now happening in Whistler. Featuring nearly 200 works of art, this museum features local British Columbia coastal artists. From collections of Northwest Coast First Nations masks to works from Emily Carr, they’ve done an incredible job on their permanent exhibits. The building itself is a work of art and a place not to miss the next time you visit Whistler.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Year Round) – I highly recommend visiting this Indigenous Cultural Centre if you haven’t already. They offer guided walks through the centre (usually starts with a welcome song) and during the summer months a guided forest walk, on the “Salish Stroll”, learning about the local flora and fauna that makes this area and eco-system so unique. They also have a cafe, gallery and gift shop.

Forged Axe Throwing (Year Round) – Looking for a fun activity for you and a group of friends? Forged Axe Throwing is so much fun and could even be a great team building activity as part of a corporate event or retreat in Whistler. You can book out the venue for private groups or book online to reserve your hour of throwing during their normal business hours.

Top Free Things to Do in Whistler

Train Wreck Trail – I actually wrote a blog post just for the Train Wreck hike, this is one of my favourite things to do in Whistler! Check out my in-depth guide on visiting Train Wreck here. Located just outside of Whistler, this is a great, easy walk that includes a well-built suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River along the way to the Train Wreck. Such a great free activity in the Whistler area!

Suspension Bridge on the way to Train Wreck
Train Wreck, Whistler

Lost Lake – The Valley Trail system (a 46 km trail system (no cars), that spans most of the Whistler area) around Lost Lake are great for walking, running or biking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter. There is also access to the lake for swimming with a beach and picnic area near the south east end of the lake.

Walking along Lost Lake Trail in the early Fall

Alexander Falls – A beautiful waterfall found near the end of Callaghan Road before you get to Whistler (same road to get to the Whistler Olympic Park). There are also some good hiking trails in this area.

Alexander Falls near Whistler, Canada

Brandywine Falls – On the way to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) you’ll come across the Brandywine Provincial Park. It’s a great stop to stretch your legs before you get into Whistler. Again, there are some hiking trails that does start in this area and from the final viewing platform, there are some amazing views of the valley and Black Tusk.

Brandywine Falls near Whistler, British Columbia
View of the valley at Brandywine Provincial Park near Whistler, Canada

Whistler Farmers Market – A great market to visit in the Summer. Every Sunday from 11:00am to 4:00pm (these were the 2020 season hours) between June and October in the Upper Village of Whistler you’ll find the local market. It’s a great way to support local businesses from the Sea to Sky region including Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

Places to Eat in Whistler

These are my personal favourite restaurants and places to eat in Whistler. As I mentioned before, I live so close to Whistler and have spent so much time in the village over the years (basically my second home), I’ve tried many of the restaurants, bars and pubs. These restaurants are listed in no particular order.

Pricing guide: $ – $10 or under average per entree, $$ – $10 to 30 average per entree, $$$ – $30+ per average entree

Bearfoot Bistro ($$$) – One of my favourite restaurants in Whistler, dinners at Barefoot Bistro have always been absolutely delicious. The menu changes seasonally, always featuring a mix of local and top of the line ingredients from around the world. For an extra special experience, book the Chef’s Table featuring a curated five-course tasting menu. In the Cellar (quite impressive to see), they offer packages where you can pick and sabre your own bottle of Champagne or “chill out” in the Ketel One Ice Room and try two premium vodkas while wearing parkas. They also have a great seasonal “Happy Hour” as well at the Champagne Bar. Again, highly recommend Bearfoot Bistro for an exquisite meal in Whistler.

Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, British Columbia

Rimrock Cafe ($$$) – Another exquisite, long standing restaurant in Whistler. Located in the Creekside area of Whistler, Rimrock Cafe is another amazing place to eat. Open for dinner only, menu features an incredible lobster bisque, tender filet minion, delicious seared scallops and an extensive wine list. The setting of Rimrock Cafe is quite cozy, with a beautiful fireplace which sets the mood.

Red Door Bistro ($$$) – This intimate restaurant can be quite hard to get into, but if you are lucky enough to make a reservation far enough in advance, it’s so worth it. Food served here is done with a French flair and also caters to Vegan and Gluten Free diets.

Wild Wood Cafe ($) – Located in the Function area of Whistler, this is the place to grab a cup of coffee and an eggs benny that won’t break the bank. Very “local” and down to earth cafe, food is good for the price for sure!

The Mexican Corner ($$) – My favourite Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico, no joke. The food here is authentic, portion sizes are decent and so good. My favourites here are the fresh guacamole, enchiladas verdes and the tacos. The margaritas here are also so delicious and refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

Dinner at The Mexican Corner in Whistler, BC

Basalt Wine & Salumeria ($$) – Again one of my favourite restaurants here in Whistler. The menu here is also very seasonal, offers amazing charcuterie, great “apres ski” aka “happy hour” specials (Charcuterie and spritz! With so many flavours of spritz’s, including my favourite made with Limoncello) and an extensive wine list featuring many local BC wines. On the weekends they offer a delicious brunch, again changes seasonally.

Dinner at Basalt Wine & Salumeria in Whistler, Canada

Il Caminetto ($$$) – A delicious Italian restaurant on the Village Stroll. Even walking by this restaurant before they open you can smell the freshly baked bread and see them making the fresh pasta in the window. Food here definitely takes me back to Italy.

El Furniture Warehouse ($) – If you’re looking for no frills, cheap eats, El Furny is your place. All food items are $5.95, yup that’s right, all food is $5.95. My fav here is the Union Street Noodle Salad (unfortunately I haven’t seen it on the menu since the pandemic, as apparently they are running a smaller menu).

Union Street Chicken Salad at El Furniture Warehouse in Whistler

Sidecut (Four Seasons Whistler) ($$$) – An amazing steakhouse in the Four Seasons Whistler Resort (proper restaurant is currently under construction and will re-open in December 2020, currently serving on the heated/covered patio). Food is seasonal, simple and the best that they can source. They’ve also recently introduced a “happy hour” with some great bites and cocktails.

The Wildflower (Fairmont Chateau Whistler) ($$) – A must for brunch when visiting Whistler. Typically they offer an amazing traditional brunch (buffet style breakfast with made to order items including an omelet station and carving station), however due to Covid-19 they are currently only offering an a la carte menu at the time of this travel guide being released. My go to breakfast here is usually the Eggs Benedict, it’s so delicious!

Breakfast at The Wildflower at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Portobello (Fairmont Chateau Whistler) ($$) – Portobello is a great dine in or grab and go option even if you’re not staying at the Fairmont Whistler. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have some great offerings including; delicious gourmet donuts (they change everyday and usually sell out before lunch, so get there early for the best selections), carving station (try the mac and cheese, it’s so yummy!), full bar with local brews on tap, a cafe (all the espresso drinks you could ever need to fuel your day) then take your meal, treat or beverage outside to relax by a fire pit.

Relax by the fire pits at Portobello at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Bar Oso ($$) – A great place for small bites, charcuterie and wine. I’ll sometimes pop in here with friends before dinner, or even if we just want something light instead of a proper dinner. Atmosphere feels like an intimate wine bar you would find in Europe, a definite gem in Whistler.

Hunter Gather ($$) – A locals spot for craft beer on tap and locally made food. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Highly recommend the pulled pork eggs benny and the chicken and waffles for breakfast, for lunch try the kahlua pulled pork sandwich (reminded me of Hawai’i).

Elements Urban Tapas & Wine Bar ($$) – Again, a great place for brunch, really delicious breakfast offerings which cater to many dietary needs/restrictions. I’ve eaten dinner here once and it was also really good, portions are really decent sized.

Peaked Pies ($) – A popular Aussie treat, the savoury pies can be eaten in or taken out, served with (or without) mushy peas. So delicious on a cold day, after skiing.

Pizzeria Antico ($$) – A delicious pizzeria, close to what you’ll get in Italy. Tuesdays have been “beer and pizza night”, a special with any one of their pizzas and a beer on tap (they have 18 beers on tap) for $15!

Crepe Montagne ($) – I typically get the treat of a Nutella Crepe here once every so often, fresh and delicious. They also offer savoury crepes too!

The Living Room (Pangea Pod Hotel) ($$) – A great place for Happy Hour, cocktails, flatbreads and nibbles on the rooftop patio overlooking Whistler Village.

Peak Donuts (inside Fresh St. Market) ($) – Stop into the market for these amazing gourmet donuts made fresh everyday. Flavours vary day to day, arrive before 11:00am for the best selection.

Gourmet Donuts from Peak Donuts in Fresh St. Market in Whistler, BC
Views of Symphony Bowl in the Summer on Whistler Mountain

Whistler Insider Tips and Tricks

I honestly find the best time to visit Whistler is in the “off seasons” April through June and September through November. Most hotels have great rates and restaurants offer amazing valued “tasting menus” (usually a 3 or 4 course menu between $29 and $49 per person). Most of the tourists have gone, and you’ll feel a more “locals vibe”. My absolute favourite time to visit is the Fall. Leaves change colour and the cozy vibes are amazing to sit in front of a fireplace in your hotel room with a glass of wine after a hike.

Best place to park in Whistler? Look for “Day Lots 4 or 5” (Day Lots 1, 2 & 3 are more money for parking and not much further of a walk to make the difference to be honest). Parking at Day Lots 4 & 5 in the high seasons (July 1st to September 15th and December 15th to April 15th) it’s $5.00 for the day and free after 5pm. In the low seasons, it’s free parking. It’s also free parking overnight from April 1st to October 31st, so if you’re looking to save on hotel parking fees this is a great option, just be sure to move your vehicle here once every 24 hours. There is also overnight parking available at the Whistler Convention Centre or the Whistler Library for $5.00 (between 5pm to 10am) or $15.00 for 24 hours, these parking lots are also underground, so perfect in the winter months. In the winter months if I’m up skiing Whistler Blackcomb for the day, I’ll park up on Blackcomb in Day Lots 6, 7 or 8. These lots are also free parking and is easy access to the Excalibur and Blackcomb Gondolas. There is also free parking at “Creekside”, the area of Whistler you’ll come upon first if you’re coming up from Vancouver, keep in mind that there is no easy access to the proper Whistler Village from Creekside.

When hiking or enjoying Whistler Village, please be a responsible human. We share these areas with wildlife including bears, so if you’re hiking, what ever you bring in, please pack it out. If you’re around Whistler Village, use the “bear safe” garbage disposal cans. If you can’t figure out how to open it, ask someone or move on until you can dispose of something safely. This goes for food scraps and fruit. Don’t just toss it into the bush. A fed bear around here is unfortunately a dead bear. Just something that I’m really passionate about, so again please be a responsible human when visiting Whistler and the backcountry areas.

I hope you found this travel guide to Whistler, Canada helpful. As I visit Whistler again and again, I’ll keep this up to date with my favourite recommendations and photos.

If you have any questions about Whistler, British Columbia, or if you’re looking for help planning your next trip to Whistler, I’d love to help. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a travel agent who specializes in luxury travel and I’m a proud travel agent member of Virtuoso. Click here to contact me on how we can work together.

Safe Travels!

Ariane

If you’re interested in watching my YouTube Videos on Whistler, here are the videos:

My experience with Ziptrek Eco Tours and my stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, you can view it here:

Here is my video of Brandywine Falls and Train Wreck Trail, followed by dinner at The Mexican Corner Restaurant:

My YouTube vlog highlighting my experience with TAG Whistler on their RZR Tour and my stay for my birthday at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler:


View from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

How to Find the Ice Cave on Blackcomb Mountain

Fairmont Chateau Whistler – Hotel Review

Updated: July 2021

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of my favourite hotels to stay at whilst visiting Whistler, Canada. It’s perfect location, slope side on Blackcomb Mountain (Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort) is so convenient for both Summer and Winter activities.

The service you receive at the Fairmont Whistler is also impeccable and very unassuming, everyone is so friendly. It feels like a relaxing lodge from the moment you walk in. Even the scent they use inside smells of the woods and sets the mood for your getaway.

When you arrive to the Whistler Fairmont by car, the valet staff at the front door greet you and help with your bags and deliver them to your room for you. In the winter they take your skis to the storage area for you as well. They offer both self park and valet services for your vehicle.

Hotel Rooms:

The hotel rooms at the Fairmont Whistler are really well appointed and were updated (bathrooms were fully renovated) a couple years ago, however they still have the traditional decor that they are famous for. The Fairmont Gold Rooms and Suites have just been completely renovated and look amazing, more on that soon. Every room features either a very comfortable king size bed or two queens (depending on room booked), Le Labo bath amenities, mini bar (extra charges), coffee and tea making station (Keurig coffee machine (some rooms on the “Gold” floor have Nespresso machines and a hot water kettle), fluffy robes and slippers, in room safe, umbrellas (for use during your stay) and informational magazines on Whistler. I would definitely recommend the rooms that face the mountain (and overlook the pool) as it’s a gorgeous view, well worth the upgrade. This hotel also has a smoke-free policy.

King Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
2 Queen Bed Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Fairmont One Bedroom Valley View Suite

If you’re looking for a bit more room for a family or just for a romantic getaway, I highly suggest booking one of the One Bedroom Valley View Suites. It features two bathrooms, a living room with dining area and fireplace, the bedroom has either two queen beds or one king. The bathroom off the bedroom features a double sink, a jacuzzi bathtub and a separate large shower with rainfall showerhead.

Fairmont One Bedroom Valley View Suite
Fairmont One Bedroom Valley View Suite
Fairmont One Bedroom Valley View Suite
Fairmont One Bedroom Valley View Suite

The bath amenities as I mentioned are Le Labo, the Fairmont Hotels here in Canada use the Rose 31 formulation which smells heavenly.

With Covid-19, there was also a “stay healthy kit” provided on the desk with antibacterial wipes, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Also due to the pandemic, the tea and coffee was in a “kit” and is packed up for each guest.

Fairmont Gold Experience:

If you ever get the chance to experience one of their Fairmont Gold rooms, the added amenities you receive are awesome. These newly renovated rooms and suites are amazing. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing it quite a few times myself and you can upgrade upon check in if they have availability. The rooms are larger, bright and feature fireplaces. Gold rooms also have “essential oil capsules” for your shower. When you stay in a Fairmont Gold room or suite, you have access to the newly redesigned Fairmont Gold Lounge. It offers a concierge service that is dedicated to the Fairmont Gold guests, an included breakfast (similar to what they serve in The Wildflower downstairs), included appetizers in the afternoon, honour bar, dessert service in the evening and coffee and tea available throughout the day (the coffee/espresso machine is so worth it, especially for that afternoon pick-me-up). Please note however these offerings might have changed due recently due to Covid-19, so check with the Fairmont’s website for up to date Fairmont Gold Lounge offerings.

Newly Renovated Fairmont Gold Rooms – Love the new design, light and luxurious
The new, totally resigned Fairmont Gold Lounge
The new, totally resigned Fairmont Gold Lounge
Essential Oil Shower Capsules in the Fairmont Gold Rooms
Views from a Mountain View Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Dining:

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler has some amazing dining experiences on-property and near by. Even if I’m not staying at the hotel, I tend to come to either The Mallard Lounge (especially if it’s “Fairmont Fridays” in the winter) or Portobello for their gourmet donuts and “carving station”.

The Wildflower:

A great option for breakfast in the morning. Typically they offer an amazing traditional brunch (buffet style breakfast with made to order items including an omelet station and carving station), however due to Covid-19 they are currently only offering an a la carte menu at the time of this travel guide being released. My go to breakfast here is usually the Eggs Benedict, it’s so delicious! They also have an amazing dinner menu. During my most recent stay, The Wildflower at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler was offering a 3 Course Dinner Menu (starter, main course and dessert) for $49.00.

A La Carte Breakfast at The Wildflower in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Bison Carpaccio to start, part of The Wildflower’s $49 – 3 Course Tasting Menu
Chicken Breast for my main course, part of The Wildflower’s $49 – 3 Course Tasting Menu
Carrot Cake for dessert, part of The Wildflower’s $49 – 3 Course Tasting Menu

The Grill Room:

Located within The Wildflower (at the back of the restaurant in it’s own elevated section) this is as it’s named, the steakhouse at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The Grill Room is only open for dinner and features an amazing menu. They use many locally sourced ingredients and are a participant in the “Ocean wise” program. The Grill Room offers a great, intimate atmosphere perfect for a special dinner for two, or even some fun (think sabring a bottle of Champagne) if you’re visiting Whistler with a group of friends. You won’t leave disappointed. I’ve had a few amazing meals here. However, unfortunately due to Covid-19 they have temporarily closed The Grill Room (I’ll update this post once it’s been reopened).

The Mallard Lounge:

I usually have a “night cap” at the Mallard Lounge in the Fairmont Whistler. It’s a relaxed lounge atmosphere but with that touch of class. Hand-crafted cocktails, great food, wood burning fireplaces, comfy chairs, live music on select evenings, what more could you ask for? They also have a heated patio area with the “fire pit tables” which is also a nice touch for cooler evenings. In the winter months they also have their version of “Happy Hour” but they call it “Fairmont Fridays”. During Fairmont Fridays they offer free nibbles along with some great drink specials. My favourite drink to order here is an “Empress 1908 Gin and Tonic”. Also, the nachos are really good and a massive portion.

Empress 1908 Gin and Tonic

Portobello:

Portobello is a great dine in or grab and go option even if you’re not staying at the Fairmont Whistler. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have some great offerings including; delicious gourmet donuts (they change everyday and usually sell out before lunch, so get there early for the best selections), carving station (try the mac and cheese, it’s so yummy!), full bar with local brews on tap, a cafe (all the espresso drinks you could ever need to fuel your day) then take your meal, treat or beverage outside to relax by a fire pit.

Try the gourmet donuts at Portobello at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Outdoor, relaxed seating at Portobello at Fairmont Chateau Whistler

The Woodlands Rooftop:

Typically this is the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s garden rooftop event space (for weddings, corporate events, yoga retreats and more), during this past Summer in 2020 (due to event cancellations because of Covid-19) they offered an amazing range of safe, socially distanced, pop up restaurant experiences. From a Summer BBQ series to Oktoberfest, be sure to ask the concierge if they are hosting any pop up restaurant events during your stay.

The Clubhouse:

Located at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, The Clubhouse is another great dining option in Whistler, although not attached to the hotel. In the summer months, it is open for lunch and dinner. Dinner during the winter months however, this is transformed into “The Chalet”, a fondue dining experience, again something I highly recommend. They also offer a complementary car service to the Golf Club for dining reservations.

Snow Globes at Fairmont Chateau Whistler:

This new experience introduced this past Winter 2021 season looks incredible! Each dome is themed with a partner (this winter’s sponsors were Fever-Tree, Stella Artois, Blasted Church Vineyards and Roche Wines). Each dome can accommodate six guests and features a “5 Course Dining Experience”.

Snow Globes at Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Amenities at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler:

The amenities at this world-class resort are amazing. This hotel truly does cater to everyone and any age. From the health club, yoga and included activities such as local guided walks, there’s something for everyone. Please note, amenities can change without notice, so it’s always good to check the Fairmont Whistler’s website for the most up to date information (however I do try to keep this as up to date as possible). Also, check the “daily newsletter” which you can pick up at the concierge desk or you’ll have it delivered to your room every morning of your stay for all the activities, dining hours, etc that the Fairmont Chateau Whistler offers.

Health Club and Pools:

Probably my favourite pool in Whistler. They’ve recently upgraded the deck chairs and furniture this summer (2020) and it’s got a great vibe. It offers a large indoor/outdoor heated pool, an outdoor dedicated lap/activity pool (they offer AquaFit classes on certain days), three hot tub/whirlpools (one is always reserved as “Adults Only”), in the winter months they also add two barrel style cedar saunas and a fire pit. There is also full bar service available which is so nice year round. Either a glass of Prosecco after a hike in the summer poolside or even a Bailey’s and Coffee in the winter, the poolside menu is pretty decent for its offerings. Inside in the Health Club, you’ll find an additional whirlpool/hot tub, a fixed sauna year round and both change rooms (men and women) features its own eucalyptus steam room. The gym is also located in this area with lots of top of the line cardio equipment (they even have Peleton bikes), TRX and weights and also offers an area for stretching. You will also find a few flavoured waters, tea and coffee station inside the Health Club as well.

Tea and Coffee Station in the Health Club
Water Station at the Health Club
The pools at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Health Club

Also, even if you can’t check into your room, or if you need to check out (check out time currently is at 11:00am), you can still book access to the Health Club and Pool. They have great change rooms with lockers, so it makes it easy to relax and not need to rush.

If you are someone who does work out, but you don’t necessarily want to pack your gym outfit (or you just forgot one), you can sign up for Fairmont’s Fit Gear program. When you have the information filled out in your Accor profile (your size for clothing and shoes), they will have a t-shirt, capris for women (shorts for men), a pair of socks and shoes delivered to your room. It’s an awesome program and I take advantage of it frequently.

Fairmont’s Fit Gear Kit that you will find in your room upon arrival

Yoga:

They also offer included yoga classes in their yoga room, usually classes are twice a day (they used to have a morning stretch class and an afternoon restorative class, however on my last visit this was changed to two morning classes). Check the “daily newsletter” which you can pick up at the concierge desk or you’ll have it delivered to your room every morning of your stay.

Village Shuttle/Car Service:

They offer a free village shuttle with four different stops throughout Whistler Village (a foot saver if you wanted to wear a nice pair of heels to dinner). They also have a few Fairmont Whistler BMW’s that they can also help get you to the Golf Clubhouse, or to dinner reservations if you do miss the shuttle (based on availability). Shuttle usually runs between 7am and 10pm.

“Whistler Experience Guide”:

Again, check the “daily newsletter” for all the daily offerings, however this is where the Whistler Fairmont is a step above most hotels in Whistler. They offer some amazing included activities that are also very family friendly. From a guided Lost Lake Hiking experience, a guided Whistler Museum walk, visiting Brandywine Falls, biking around Green Lake and even a guided walk to Train Wreck. The activities available do change daily, also obviously are based on the time of year and weather permitting.

My version of a “steamy morning” at the Whistler Fairmont – Pool Deck in the Winter Feature “Barrel Saunas”

Winter:

Located within walking distance of the new Blackcomb Gondola on Blackcomb Mountain (part of the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort), Fairmont Chateau Whistler offers a great ski in/out accessibility and an included Ski Valet service with your stay (they usually also provide much needed hot chocolate after a long day skiing the slopes at the tent in the afternoon).

Summer:

Again, being so close to the Blackcomb Gondola, Fairmont Whistler’s accessibility to the mountain for sightseeing and hiking is perfect. The “Whistler Experience Guide” also offers guided tours of Whistler Blackcomb (however you do need to purchase your own day pass or have a summer pass, it’s not included in the tour).

Golf:

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club is located nearby and is a 18-hole Audubon-certified course. It’s so beautiful and welcomes all levels to play. The Clubhouse is a great place for a meal and has a full pro shop available as well.

In Conclusion:

I just wanted to end this hotel review by saying that this guide is not sponsored by Fairmont Chateau Whistler in any way. This is just my honest review and opinion of a hotel that I frequently visit personally in Whistler, British Columbia and that I love. It’s definitely one of my top two favourite hotels in Whistler to stay at and it feels like a second home to me. Again, I can’t say enough about the service, everyone is so friendly and truly wants to make your stay special and unique.

If you are looking to book your next “staycation” in Whistler, I’d love to help you out! As I am a Virtuoso Travel Advisor Member, my clients receive additional benefits when booking through me. These benefits range from upgrades on arrival (subject to availability), daily full breakfast for two (per room, served in the restaurant), a welcome amenity, $100 USD equivalent Food and Beverage credit to be used during your stay, early check-in/late check-out (subject to availability) and complementary Wi-Fi.

Please contact me for more details to book your next vacation or getaway to Whistler or please reach out if you have any further questions about staying at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

If you’re looking at what to do or where to eat in Whistler, you can read my Whistler Travel Guide here.

Safe Travels!

Ariane

Westin Resort and Spa Whistler – Hotel Review

The Westin Resort and Spa Whistler is a beautiful, family friendly hotel in Whistler, Canada. It was even named one of the Best Resorts in Canada by Conde Nast Traveler in 2019. It’s located slope side on Whistler Mountain (Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort) which is so convenient for both Summer and Winter activities.

I personally have been staying at this hotel for quite a few years now and the two features that this hotel has that I absolutely love is a full kitchenette and fireplace in every room. So if you’re a family looking for a great hotel for your next Whistler vacation, I highly suggest looking into the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler.

Hotel Rooms:

The hotel rooms at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler are really well furnished and rooms were fully renovated within the last year to two years. Every room features a full kitchenette with stainless steel Whirlpool appliances. Yes, a fridge with a freezer, oven, microwave, stovetop and dishwasher in every hotel room. Some rooms even have in-suite laundry (or laundry facilities can be found on every floor).

Rooms have very comfortable Westin branded “Heavenly Beds”, either a queen or king size bed or two queens (depending on room booked), fireplace, Westin bath amenities, coffee and tea making in the kitchenette (coffee machine (with Starbucks coffee) and hot water kettle with Tazo teas), robes and slippers and an in room safe. This hotel also has a smoke-free policy.

2 Queen Room at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler
2 Queen Room Bathroom at the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler
Kitchenettes in every hotel room at the Westin Whistler
1 Bedroom Suite at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler
1 Bedroom Suite – Sitting Room and Dining Area at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler

I love sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee or a glass or wine after a long hike or a day skiing on Whistler Blackcomb.

Some of the hotel rooms also feature a small balcony, which is perfect for morning coffee and enjoying the fresh mountain air.

Dining:

The Westin Resort and Spa Whistler has some great dining choices on-property and especially near by, as it’s located in the heart of Whistler Village.

Grill & Vine:

A great option for breakfast in the morning. Typically they offer a buffet style breakfast, however due to Covid-19 they are currently only offering an a la carte menu at the time of this travel guide being released. Dinner here is casual and very focused on west coast cuisine. Some of my personal favourites are the Beef Tenderloin and the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, highly recommend. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, Grill & Vine at this time is temporarily closed for dinner service.

FireRock Lounge:

FireRock typically has awesome daily drink specials. One of my favs here are the Avocado Fries served with a sriracha mayo, so delicious. In the summer they have a huge patio which gets the late afternoon/evening sun and in the winter the inside fireplace is a cozy place to enjoy apres ski.

The Grill & Vine Grab and Go:

It’s as it’s named, a grab & go with yogurts, cookies, muffins, sandwiches and other snacks. They also serve Starbucks Coffee (though not an official Starbucks). It’s great to grab something early in the morning or a few items for a packed lunch for your hike or bike ride. With Covid-19, they are offering a more limited menu here than normal as well.

Main Lobby of the Westin Resort and Spa

Amenities at The Westin Resort & Spa Whistler:

The amenities at this hotel are great and family friendly. Please note, amenities can change without notice, so it’s always good to check the Westin Whistler’s website for the most up to date information (however I do try to keep this as up to date as possible).

Pool Area at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler

Westin Workout (Gym) and Pools:

It offers a large indoor/outdoor heated pool and two hot tub/whirlpools (one is inside). Inside in the wellness centre, you’ll find a sauna and both change rooms (men and women) features its own eucalyptus steam room. The gym is also located in this area with really good quality cardio equipment, weights and also offers an area for stretching. Usually you will also find a water station inside the wellness centre as well, however due to Covid-19, I noticed this was removed for the time being. You can ask for a bottle of water and they will provide one to you at no charge. They also limited the amount of time and number of people using the wellness centre and pool areas, I go into a deeper explanation later in this guide.

Outdoor Pool Area of the Westin Whistler
Outdoor Pool and Hot Tub at the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler

Winter:

Located within walking distance of the Whistler Gondola on Whistler Mountain (Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort) and easy access to Excalibur Gondola (to Blackcomb Mountain), the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler offers an included Ski Valet service with your stay. If you are a family coming to Whistler to ski, the Westin Whistler is very convenient as Whistler Kids (Whistler Blackcomb’s Kids Club) runs some of the kids programs from one of the rooms in the Westin Whistler’s Convention Centre.

Summer:

Again, being so close to the Whistler Gondola and Fitzsimmons Express Chairlift, Westin Whistler’s accessibility to Whistler Blackcomb for downhill mountain biking, sightseeing and hiking is perfect.

Current Covid-19 Protocols:

There are a few new protocols in place due to Covid-19. This information is correct at time of posting this guide, however please be sure to adhere to the information on their website as this information can change. Also, please only travel if it’s still advised/safe to do so.

I did also stay after the Covid-19 protocols were in place, the following is based on my most recent experience. Once you arrive at the hotel, you are strongly encouraged to wear a mask upon entry to the hotel, if you don’t have one, the Valet at the door will provide you with one (masks are required in public places at time of posting of this guide) and you check in at the reception desks with full plexiglass barriers installed in the lobby.

Reception desks have full plexiglass barriers installed
Masks are required to be worn inside the Westin Whistler

Due to social distancing, they do have a restriction on the number of guests in the pool area, so there is a current allowance of one hour for the pool and a maximum of 25 guests. I did visit the hotel mid-week, so I was able to stay longer than the hour as they didn’t reach the 25 person limit. I was also able to use the wellness centre multiple time in the day without any issues (again, this might differ if you were to visit on a weekend, this was just my experience).

Elevators at the Whistler Westin have social distancing stickers on the floor and a very convenient hand sanitizing on the wall inside

Check in is at 4:00pm right now due to extra deep cleaning protocols between guests (they don’t have a resting time between guest stays as they use an electrostatic spray during cleaning), I was still able to check in at 11:00am and my room was ready (again, my stay was mid-week), which I was able to drop my luggage and get settled into my room. Also, even if you can’t check into your room, or if you need to check out (check out time currently is at 10:00am), you can still access the wellness centre and pool. They have great change rooms with lockers, so it makes it easy to relax and not need to rush.

In Conclusion:

I just wanted to end this hotel review by saying that this guide is just my honest review and opinion of a hotel that I frequently visit personally in Whistler, British Columbia and I always enjoy my stay. I’m a member of Marriott’s Bonvoy rewards program, so I do stay here a couple times per year to help with retaining my status. It’s definitely one of my top three favourite hotels in Whistler to stay at.

I hope you enjoyed this review, if you’re looking to book a getaway to Whistler or if you have any questions at all about the Whistler Westin please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Also, check out my full Travel Guide to Whistler here.

Safe Travels!

Ariane

Train Wreck Trail – Whistler, Canada

One of my favourite walks in the Whistler area and free activities to do is the Train Wreck Trail. Many people call this the “Train Wreck Hike” but it’s really just an easy walk in. It’s also easy enough to push a stroller in if needed. It is a packed trail with a few mild inclines. The walk should take you between 10-20 minutes each way depending how fast you walk (with small children it takes about 20 minutes, we walked it with my 85 year old Grandmother in about that time frame). This takes you to the wreckage of a train crash which took place in 1956.

It’s a pretty cool place to visit as it’s a “authorized graffiti zone” by the Municipality of Whistler, you can check out and climb the abandoned train cars (at your own risk), make your own art if you so choose and enjoy the new suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River (which is beautiful and free!).

It is getting a lot busier, many people are now hearing about it, especially with more people this year sticking close to home. I remember visiting here a couple years ago for the first time and having it to myself for a good hour. If you are going in the summer, I would suggest going before 10:00am to avoid the crowds, however if you don’t mind a few people around you (especially if you’re checking it out by yourself), early afternoon is a good time too and you can still get a photo by yourself on the suspension bridge with a bit more patience than early morning.

How to Get There

From Vancouver, once you start to approach Whistler you’ll come to an area called Function Junction (the very first traffic light as you approach Whistler), you’ll turn off the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) to the right onto Cheakamus Lake Road. Follow the road across the river and it will be the first road on the right after the bridge (you’ll actually see a sign for Train Wreck Trail and the BMX Park). Keep following this road under the power lines and you’ll see the parking lot for the Train Wreck Trail along the left side of the road.

If you’re coming from Whistler, you’ll be turning left onto Cheakamus Lake Road and following the same steps.

Here is a google map for reference:

The Train Wreck Trail

As I mentioned before, it’s an easy trail and a great walk for the whole family. Once you’ve parked your car in the Train Wreck Parking Lot, head across the road where you’ll find the trailhead just past a logging/dirt road to the right.

Train Wreck Suspension Bridge

One of my favourite highlights of this walk it the beautiful suspension bridge right before the train wreck. There is a lovely bench to sit and relax and take in the views of the rushing Cheakamus River below.

Train Wreck

I love to visit train wreck in Whistler, British Columbia because it’s a unique art installation that changes pretty well each time I’ve visited. It’s a beautiful walk and I personally enjoy visiting quite early in the morning as I have the entire wreck to myself for a bit of time. It is walkable at anytime of the year, however in the winter snowshoes are recommended if there is a lot of snow (again, a fun activity with no cost!).

Remember to pack out whatever you brought in with you! There are no garbage cans available, so please be responsible when using any of our beautiful trails in British Columbia. Also, be bear aware, Whistler is obviously a community surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush forests and we do share these forests with other animals. I personally have not seen a bear on the trail to train wreck, however it is bear country.

Happy travels and enjoy exploring Train Wreck! xoxo

Ariane

PS… Check out my YouTube Video on Brandywine Falls and Train Wreck Trail here:

How Covid-19 Has Changed Travel Forever

So many of us who work in the travel industry could have never predicted what was going to happen this year. The Covid-19 pandemic really turned 2020 into a nightmare for anyone with travel plans, let alone anyone who runs, manages or works for a company in the travel industry.

Personally, I had four large trips in 2020 cancelled and a couple even in 2021 that I’ve had to postpone, along with numerous trips that my clients obviously have had to postpone/cancel as well.

That being said, having some extra time off of my day job has given me time to re-evaluate my short term and long term goals, focus on the other part of my business that I love, being creative and creating new content. I’ve taken some “continuing education” courses, attended some great “virtual conferences” for content creators and started working on launching a travel YouTube channel (more on this coming very soon!). So for me this pandemic was a blessing in disguise so I could focus on really launching this content creation side of my Wanderlust Journey business and still have a steady income. But back to the topic at hand…

In my opinion as a travel professional, Covid-19 has changed the travel industry forever, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I released a two-part podcast episode on this topic, but figured I’d also write this blog post as things have progressed even since those episodes were released.

The Travel Industry Will Bounce Back

The travel industry overall is resilient. We’ve seen the downturn from September 11th (which saw many airlines go bankrupt shortly afterwards), the recession of 2008 and other global events which have impacted travel. That being said, the travel industry was definitely hit the hardest it’s ever been by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time we’ve seen any company related to travel (airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tours, etc) have to shut down temporarily for such an extended period of time.

Yes, there are always ebbs and flows when it comes to the travel industry. Travel is a luxury item for many households, so in an economic downturn it’s not surprising that the travel industry takes a tumble. Many people are still either off work, unemployed or have just recently returned to work, and are now trying to get caught up financially.

However, with Covid-19, people and families were stuck inside and in many countries were forced to quarantine themselves to help “flatten the curve”. Because of this, people are looking forward to getting out and exploring once again. People also value their vacation time, whether that’s reconnecting with family members or recharging after a stressful year. With my own clients, in the past couple years I’ve been seeing the trend of clients wanting a more “experiential” vacation over just going to a location for a mindless holiday. People are more interested in making memories over collecting things. Most people only have two weeks vacation per year, so they want to make the most of it. These trends alone really led to the travel industry making a comeback in the upcoming months.

Domestic travel (either within your own country or in a cluster, if say you live in Europe), has re-opened again in recent weeks. The numbers are positive so far with people booking local trips and looking to re-book vacations that were cancelled this year and move them to 2021 and/or 2022. If everything stays on the upward market trend and there is no resurgence of Covid-19, International travel in my opinion will “cautiously” start up again this Fall. That being said, most travel related businesses have obviously suffered severely this year. In the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe, etc), our “Summer season” from May to September has been a write off essentially to any hope of re-opening to International travellers. So I do encourage you to “be a tourist in your own town/region”. Support businesses locally to you who normally rely on tourism. This how we can all support our local tourism businesses so they can bounce back to welcome the world next year and for years to come.

Cruise Lines Have to Make Conscious Changes

The cruising industry (other than airlines) was the hardest hit. Thousands of sailings cancelled, not to mention the bad press that came from a couple sailings when Covid-19 emerged on the global scene. It’s shaken the confidence of even the most avid cruiser. That being said, the cruise industry as a whole has taken steps to win back the trust of the consumer, but it needs to stay that way long after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personally, I think cruising now is probably the safest it ever has been in cruising’s history. Cleaning will be more frequent in public spaces, more a deep clean during cabin turnarounds between guests, forced hand washing/sanitising when entering dining rooms (some cruise lines already were doing a great job at this), newer and updated air filtration systems, enhanced screenings at check in and reducing guest capacity on ships are just some of the ways cruise lines are making changes for the good.

Most cruise lines have introduced “Peace of Mind” policies , which allow people to cancel 48 hours prior to sailing, if for some reason you don’t feel comfortable sailing or if you’re ill (each cruise line is different, check each cruise lines terms and conditions carefully). This actually brings me to my next point:

You Won’t Be Allowed to Travel Going Forward If You’re Sick

For the foreseeable future anyways. Again, personally, I’m all for this. With most airlines also promising “safe flying protocols”, which include upgraded air filtration systems and more disinfection between flights in airplane cabins, planes should be less “germy” than they’ve been in the past.

If you show up for your flight and you’re sick, you can pretty well guarantee that you will be denied boarding. That goes beyond boarding a flight though. You can be denied boarding your cruise ship, joining your group tour and even checking into a hotel. The travel industry is not taking anymore chances right now when it comes to further losses, especially bad press. This is also where you need to make sure that you have sufficient travel insurance going forward, if you can’t board a plane or your cruise ship, you need to make sure you’re covered to get all your money back for your vacation.

Flight and Vacation Prices: Going Up or Down After Covid-19?

To begin with, there will be some very attractive offers to get consumers travelling again. I’ve seen crazy deals already on flights and cruises. I’ve booked hotels in Whistler for unheard of rates in past years. That won’t last for long unfortunately.

There are also travel sectors that will be in higher demand than before. This means you won’t be able to score a business class ticket for a fraction of what they once were. Yes, it is true that businesses have proven more meetings can now be held online and over video conferences, plus not to mention that larger corporations have suffered financially during this time and have cut travel budgets. But the fact remains that having your own “pod” in the business class cabin gives you more space for “social distancing”, which will be in high demand now, post-pandemic more than ever.

Costs of extra staff, time of turnover to clean and cleaning materials will eventually be “included” into the base fares you pay. This will mean that costs of flights, hotel rooms, cruises will go up, especially if they are not allowed to run at full capacity.

We are also going to see consumers make more of a conscious buying decision when it comes to flexibility. I think now gone are the days where most people will buy a 100% non refundable fare, hotel or package without thinking twice. People will pay more to have something refundable as a built in insurance so to speak. For example, hotels and airlines offer the best deals and rates as non refundable fares, but now I think we will see people opt for the refundable, more expensive priced options.

Consumers will also think twice about declining travel insurance. As a travel agent, I will say that travel insurance has been a huge help for my clients who have had trips cancel on them or they’ve had to cancel their trips due to Covid-19. Some suppliers were able to help limit losses by allowing my clients to re-book trips or offer attractive “future travel credits”.

Future Travel Credits Over Refunds

Okay, I’m going to say it. I’m all for travel companies issuing future travel credits over refunds.

Yes, it might be annoying to not have your “cash back”. But think of it this way. Most cruise lines were offering 110% to 140% future cruise credits (in addition to other perks) to clients who’s sailings were cancelled. Ummm, you can’t get that return at any bank for that investment.

83% of people who were asked in a recent poll actually said they would be re-booking the exact same trip they were forced to cancel in the next year, so why not take advantage of the perks that come along with the future travel credits being offered?

If you really didn’t want a future travel credit and want a refund, I hope you purchased travel insurance. Travel agents have always touted the benefits of travel insurance, this is one of the reasons why. Most travel insurers (this does depend on the insurer and policy purchased) are paying out claims where clients where just offered a future travel credit. Yes, there are some instances where you don’t know if you can travel again, or if the trip will even happen in the near future so a refund is preferred (believe me I get it, my trip to the British F1 Grand Prix was cancelled this year and not sure if that trip will be in my books again for a few years to come). Life happens, but that’s why you need insurance. You probably have car insurance, house insurance, etc so you should have travel insurance to protect the investment of your vacation costs.

That being said, I think consumers are actually now going to be making different buying decisions when it comes to all aspects of travel, especially with group travel.

Small Group Travel vs Larger Tours

I believe companies who offer small group tours and adventures are going to be in higher demand going forward. With most tour passenger counts with small group tour companies at a maximum capacity of between 12 and 18 people (again depending on the company and tour offered), this is going to give travellers the confidence they can socially distance themselves and still see a destination more intimately.

Small groups also lend better to those who want to make sure they can socially distance and have their own room option. If you think about it logistically, it makes more sense for a smaller group to take over local accommodations socially distanced than a larger group.

I’m a huge advocate of small group tours and have done a few myself, the lure of being in a group where you can truly see and experience a culture, place, etc without sometimes seeing other tourists is amazing! Smaller groups can really help you experience the true soul of a place, without being herded around like cattle and following a flag in a crowd. As I mentioned earlier, I think people are craving more experiential travel nowadays, where food and culture collide.

If the Second Wave Hits, Will Everything Just Shut Down Again?

The honest answer is that we don’t know and that it depends. If the travel industry has taken anything to heart (and the world in general), it’s that we can’t afford a total shut down again.

We need businesses to start opening again and stay open. This helps all of our economies and will make sure that we can start to get back to a new normal. Hopefully, with all the safety measures in place, we’ll be able to continue on with life, and if you are sick, please take heeded advice to stay at home.

Why Using a Travel Agent or Advisor Is Smart

Especially after the pandemic, travel agents are in the know of each travel provider’s policies and can help our clients navigate which vacation option is best for them. When you book your trips and vacations online yourself, your computer isn’t going to give you first hand knowledge of the area that hotel is located in that you just booked, local restaurant recommendations or even which sights are a must do. Your computer also doesn’t care if you need to cancel a couple days prior to departure because you’re sick or double check to make sure you have the correct (and sufficient) travel insurance to cover you. Booking with a human normally doesn’t cost more than booking with your computer, you’re just going to get better service and a customized experience. Plus, you’re helping support financially an actual person, not necessarily a massive corporation.

I am a travel agent and advisor who specializes in luxury travel and cruises and I love to help people plan and book amazing vacations. If you would like to work with me as your travel agent in the near future, please contact me and I can put you on my “client waitlist”.

Covid-19 Has Changed Travel Forever and That’s Okay

Being in the travel industry for over 8 years has taught me one thing (okay and life in general), change is good. It’s painful in the beginning, but it can be for the good. With all these new cleaning and social distancing procedures in place for airlines, airports, cruise ships, tour groups and hotels, we will see a healthier travelling environment overall. We need to make sure though that companies stay on top of these procedures and keep them going forward, not just until we think Covid-19 is over.

Looking forward to travelling again soon,

Ariane

PS – Did you enjoy reading this blog post? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

My Travel Guide to the Amalfi Coast, Italy

It’s no secret that Italy is one of my favourite destinations as I’ve got family connections to this country as well. I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast a couple times, and it’s a place I can see myself coming back to again and again, year after year. The Amalfi Coast is a place that I would love to eventually buy a property. The lemon groves amongst the terraced, villa lined mountainsides, to the bright and vibrant ceramics, to shimmering blues and aquas of the Mediterranean (actually the Tyrrhenian) Sea along the shorelines, it’s no wonder people flock here in droves. It’s honestly one of the most stunning coastlines in the world. 

The Amalfi Coast is made up of thirteen different towns, along 40 kilometres of coast and is located in the Campania region of Italy. The drive is both terrifying and unbelievably scenic, however I would recommend if you’ve never visited the Amalfi Coast before, I would either hire a driver or take the ferry system (ferries from Salerno, Naples and the Island of Capri make trips several times per day). The Amalfi Coast can be visited for the day from Naples quite easily, making it a popular cruise ship shore excursion paired with Pompeii and Sorrento (whilst Sorrento is not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, I did include it in this guide). Be prepared to hike, yes, hike. Some hotels and villas are reachable by car or golf cart, however some places are only reachable by staircases or narrow, steep walkways, so make sure you are choosing a location that suits your lifestyle.

For my next trip that I plan to the Amalfi Coast, I would hop around to a few different hotels personally, stay at a couple different properties to really take in the more quieter evenings out. Staying in one spot and exploring from there makes things easier for sure, but there are some stunning properties on the Amalfi Coast, so why not experience a few of them whilst you’re here. Some hotels offer amazing beach clubs and have stunning restaurants.

From Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, there are also some lesser known gems along this route that provide amazing dining experiences and more reasonable hotel options, whilst still enjoying the captivating beauty of this stunning place such as Praiano, Scala, Atrani, Minori, Maiori, Cetara and Vietri sul Mare. Whilst I’m not going to go in depth to each of these villages, I will add some personal recommendations on some of them.

Positano

Positano is the quintessential postcard village for the Amalfi Coast, everyone wants to come here and the prices reflect that. Known for it’s stunning and romantic views, lemons, great food, buildings clinging precariously to the cliffs and beautiful ceramics, Positano is always a highlight to visit on the Amalfi Coast. The narrow walkways through the center of town to the beach is lined with local shops (some with imported goods, others with local designers and crafts). Positano is easy to get to by car, public bus system or by ferry. The pebble beaches in the summer can be extremely busy with beach clubs taking up most of the open beach space (beach clubs are setups that you would rent specific beach chairs and umbrellas, by the hour, half day or full day, prices can range between €10 to €30. They also sometimes have drink/food service).

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Stay in Positano

Le Sirenuse (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Leading Hotels of the World, Le Sirenuse opened in 1951 and has been a much loved boutique hotel by many celebrities and anyone who has the opportunity to experience a stay here.

Hotel Palazzo Murat (luxury accommodations) – Whilst there are no quintessential “Positano views” from this hotel, the location within the heart of the village is amazing. It’s garden oasis-like setting is by far a true gem and a relaxing environment. This hotel was a historic summer residence of a king and the architecture is stunning.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Positano, Italy

Eden Roc Hotel (mid range/luxury accommodations) – This family run boutique hotel has gorgeous views and is a perfect size (25 rooms) for a romantic getaway.

Hotel Poseidon (mid range accommodations) – Another beautiful family run hotel with gorgeous views overlooking towards East. Rooms are simple, yet comfortable with warm and friendly service.

Villa Rosa (mid range accommodations) – A great budget friendly boutique hotel with stunning sea views. While this property doesn’t feature a pool, the rooms are clean and have a traditional Italian feel. Book a room with a terrace here for a fraction of the price then some of the other properties in Positano.

Overlooking Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Eat in Positano

Food along the Amalfi Coast is some of the best you will have. Being so close to some of the freshest ingredients such as real buffalo mozzarella (made locally, fresh daily within fifty kilometres), lemons, seafood and of course pasta. You can also pickup a lemon gelato (served in a frozen lemon) and just enjoy wandering the town. I’ve tried a few restaurants here in the short time I visited, here are some of my favourites:

Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle – Right on the beach, you can’t beat the views or the menu. Giada De Laurentiis has said this is the best spot for seafood in Positano. I sat here with a glass of local pinot grigio, enjoyed the bistro like atmosphere and had an amazing pizza capricciosa and “rigatoni al ragu napoletano” (rigatoni with pork rib sausage and meatballs in tomato sauce).

Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Da Bruno – Try the eggplant parmesan (an Amalfi Coast locals favourite) here. Also has some amazing seafood dishes from what I’ve been told by others.

Buca di Bacco – Again, located right on the beach, you can beat the location. The arancini was amazing!

La Cambusa – Another restaurant that comes highly recommended by locals and has a great beach location. Had a caprese salad here with a glass of wine and it was refreshing and delicious.

Il Tridente – Part of the Hotel Poseidon, this terraced garden restaurant has amazing views. Menu looked incredible with many seafood dishes and also offers vegan and vegetarian options.

Casa e Bottega – This is a true hidden gem. Such a cute, trendy restaurant in a beautiful setting. The smoothies here are refreshing, along with the lighter fare menu.

Casa e Bottega, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Da Vincenzo – Had the most stunning dessert here! Family run, this place is known for it’s seafood, but I stopped in for dessert (if you know me, I don’t eat seafood really). The panzerotti starter was also amazing. It’s no wonder this place is listed in the Michelin restaurant guide. They also have a really cute housewares store on location, pick up some beautiful tableware here.

Next2 – This is located about a 10 minute drive outside of Positano, however it’s such a romantic spot to have dinner and again comes highly recommended by locals.

C’era Una Volta – A great secret in what can be an overpriced village, this restaurant serves up amazing pizzas, pastas (you need to try the gnocchi here) and salads with the freshest ingredients.

Gelato served in a lemon with Positano in the background.

Other Positano Tips and Tricks

Near Positano, you can visit the Grotta dello Smeraldo. This is similar to the “Blue Grotto” on Capri, but the secret is that there are WAY less tourists. The water here is also a lot more calmer, you your chances of entering the grotto is a lot higher.

Want a gorgeous view of Positano? The best views of this stunning village are from the water. There are plenty of companies that rent boats with a driver either hourly, half day or full day. There are many companies down by the beach that offer this service. What better way to spend sunset than with a bottle of Prosecco and Positano views.

Views of Positano, Italy from a boat

You can also book yourself at the Ristorante Da Adolfo. This restaurant and beach club near Positano offers a more secluded atmosphere away from the busy beach of Positano. The “Da Adolfo” boat, with the can’t miss red fish on a mast, shuttles you to their private beach for the day. Food is really good, try the grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves.

Amalfi

The town that this stunning coastline was named after. Amalfi was also the birthplace of one of my favourite comfort-food pasta dishes, cannelloni. Amalfi is definitely one of the more busier towns, with many tour buses lining the parking lots by the harbour by noon, so the best time to visit Amalfi in my opinion is first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

Amalfi, Italy

Where to Stay in Amalfi

Hotel Santa Caterina (luxury accommodations) – Located just outside of Amalfi, this hotel is one of the most luxurious you’ll find along the Amalfi Coast. The rooms are stunning, featuring beautiful hand painted tiles and amazing balconies and terraces with unobstructed views to the sea. This hotel also features a private beach club and the dining options are also stunning with a Michelin-starred restaurant “Glicine”, which translates to “Wisteria” has an amazing menu. Another hotel I will gladly book a couple nights to enjoy the amenities and the views from the room.

NH Collection Convento Amalfi (luxury accommodation) – This transformed 13th century monastery is located perched above Amalfi, with specatular views. The next time I come to the Amalfi Coast, this is another strong contender for me to stay here for a couple nights. The infinity pool and beautiful gardens overlook the sea and the stunning bay.

Amalfi, Italy

Where to Eat in Amalfi

La Caravella – The first Michelin Star restaurant in the South of Italy and today one of the first restaurants in all of Italy to receive three. The atmosphere and cuisine here is outstanding. You need to try one of their tasting menus, this is non-negotiable. I was lucky enough to have tried their lunch, four course tasting menu and will treasure that meal for years to come. One of the best meals I’ve ever had hands down. I can’t wait to come back to Amalfi to eat here again.

La Caravella, Amalfi, Italy

Restaurant Al Mare – This restaurant on a perched terrace near the sea is a gem. The comfortable vibe and stunning views of this restaurant at the Hotel Santa Caterina are a must visit. The food is really good as well.

Dei Cappuccini – Part of the NH Collection Convento Amalfi, this restaurant has stunning views and delicious food with some of the ingredients in the meals sourced directly from Amalfi’s markets and from the hotel’s private garden.

Pasticceria Savoia – Amazing gelato and other bakery items such as cakes and pastries. Try the Campania delight Sfogliatella, or one of the ricotta cheese and pear pastries, or a “lemon delight” which is a soft sponge cake soaked with limoncello.

Shopping in Amalfi

Amalfi is where I typically buy my Limoncello and where I’ve purchased a few ceramics in the past. There is a family run Limoncello maker in the main square of Amalfi, near the base of the church’s steps. It’s called Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi, they offer samples of their Limoncello and other liquors including Limoncello Creme (La Creme Di Limone), Melon and Pistachio. I’ve also purchased a couple ceramics from here, including an olive oil pourer which I’ve used in my kitchen for the past 3 years (since my first visit to Amalfi).

Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi, cute store in Amalfi to buy Limoncello and gifts

Ravello

Ravello is one of those places that if you don’t visit the right spots, you’ll miss the charm of this stunning village perched high on the mountain overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Again, Ravello is a great place to find deals on ceramics, and the town is so quaint and much less busier than Amalfi or Positano.

Ravello, Italy

Where to Stay in Ravello

Belmond Hotel Caruso (luxury accommodations) – Belmond Hotels are probably one of my favourite hotel brands. The locations of most of their properties are intimate and bespoke. The location of this property is no different. It has stunning sweeping views of the Amalfi Coast. The infinity pool and gardens make this setting feel like an oasis from the hustle and bustle in Amalfi down the mountain below.

Belmond Villa Margherita (luxury accommodations) – For those who want an upgraded experience, this is a private villa which has access to all the amenities of the Belmond Hotel Caruso, a few blocks away.

What to See in Ravello

Something that is a bit of a secret is the Campania Artecard. This amazing pass gives you access to 80 cultural sights across Naples and the Campania Region (including the Amalfi Coast). You can use the Campania Artecard to get admission into Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. It’s well worth the investment.

Colourful ceramics in Ravello, Italy

Villa Rufolo – Built in the 13th century, Villa Rufolo is easy to get to from the main centre square of Ravello. It was extensively restored in the 19th century and the gardens were being restored last year (2019). Stunning to walk around and take in the amazing views from the terraces here.

Villa Cimbrone – Worth the walk, believe me. The gardens and views from this Villa are breathtaking. The “Terrazzo dell’infinito” or Terrace of Infinity, has the most stunning views you’ll find of the Amalfi Coast.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
“Terrazzo dell’infinito” or Terrace of Infinity, Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy

Minori

I stayed in Minori for five nights the last time I was here on the Amalfi Coast. It was a great quiet village to explore the coast and neighbouring villages. Up above Minori is Ravello, and can be reached by about a 45 minute walk up the mountain through the terraced lemon groves. If you’re a Jamie Oliver fan, one of his good friends, who Jamie learned everything Italian from, chef Gennaro Contaldo is from Minori. I found Minori to be a perfect place to relax, enjoy the much quieter beach and have some amazing food. Prices are much more “local” and you won’t find too many tourists here, which is a welcomed change.

Using the ferry systems from here is a bit less hectic and you’ll be able to find a good seat on the ferries as it’s before the ferries get too crowded with passengers from Amalfi and Positano, onwards to Capri or Sorrento.

Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Stay in Minori

Minori Palace Hotel (mid range accommodations) – This is where I stayed for five nights during my “Enchanting Southern Italy” tour with Blue Roads this past September 2019. It was a comfortable hotel within a 5 minute walk from the beach and across the street from one of the most delicious pastry shops. Breakfast included every morning was adequate and great selection.

Hotel Santa Lucia (mid range accommodations) – Traditional hotel rooms very close to the beach, about a four minute walk. Clean and comfortable.

Where to Eat in Minori

Giardiniello – Had the most stunning meal here. If you’re in Minori (or visiting the Amalfi Coast), this restaurant is a must visit. We sat out on the terrace and had a wonderful group dinner here. I had the stuffed zucchini flowers to start, followed by homemade N’dunderi alla minorese, a large pillowy soft gnocchi they make here in Minori with tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella. Mama mia!

Giardiniello Restaurant, Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Pasticceria Gambardella – The place to buy €1 calzones (fried, fresh made pizza pockets) to take to the beach or for a snack on the ferry and the most amazing desserts and pastries including rum babas and sfogliatellas.

Pasticceria Sal De Riso – Higher end desserts, really nice area to sit outside, have a coffee and watch local life in Minori.

What to Do in Minori

One of my favourite things to do in Minori (other than relax on the beach) was to take advantage of the “walk of the lemons” on Sentiero dei Limoni. It’s a beautiful hike through the alleyways, staircases then through the terraced lemon groves for some amazing sunrise views over Minori with Ravello perched high above.

“Walk of the Lemons” during sunrise over Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Sorrento

As I mentioned earlier, Sorrento is not part of the Amalfi Coast, however many people visit Sorrento on their way to the Amalfi Coast or on their way to Naples from the Amalfi Coast, so that’s why I’m including it into this guide.

Sorrento to me is similar to the Amalfi Coast, lemons, cliffs and the sea. Known for seafood and more amazing pasta, Sorrento is a beautiful place to visit and spend a night or two.

Sorrento, Italy

Where to Stay in Sorrento

Hotel Bellevue Syrene (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Relais & Chateaux brand, this hotel offers stunning accommodation overlooking the Bay of Naples. They have some fantastic stay packages, some which include meals at their amazing restaurant.

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Leading Hotels of the World, this landmark hotel is one you can’t miss, if you’ve arrived to Sorrento by boat. Perched precariously on the clifftop, with views of Mount Vesuvius, this luxury property pays homage to it’s traditional roots, which rooms are elegantly traditional.

Where to Eat in Sorrento

O’Parrucchiano – Whilst Cannelloni was invented in Amalfi, this is who perfected it and serves it in their Sorrento restaurant to this day. This very elegant setting of a restaurant also features a beautiful garden conservatory to also dine in and also in a stunning lemon garden. I came here for an amazing “early dinner”, of course had the cannelloni and enjoyed eating out in the lemon garden.

L’Antica Trattoria – I had an amazing set menu lunch here. I was greeted on this hot, September afternoon with a welcome glass of prosecco. Followed by an amazing four course meal, which I struggled to finish. The atmosphere is beautiful, service was attentive and had a great experience here overall. I’d come back here in a heartbeat.

L’Antica Trattoria, Sorrento, Italy

I hope you found this travel guide to the Amalfi Coast helpful. As I visit the Amalfi Coast again and again over the years, I’ll keep this up to date with my favourite recommendations.

If you have any questions about the Amalfi Coast, or if you’re looking for help planning your next trip to Positano, Amalfi or Sorrento, I’d love to help. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a travel agent who specializes in luxury travel and I’m a proud travel agent member of Virtuoso. Click here to contact me on how we can work together.

Ciao and Safe Travels! xoxo

Ariane

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