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Hello From The Canadian Rockies - Part 18 - Our Celebrity Breakfast At The Twin Gables B&b

Bed and breakfast travel is one of our favourite ways of discovering new places and the historic Twin Gables B&B is a real treat. It is a 4.5 star-rated bed and breakfast, located in the upscale Mount Royal neighbourhood in Calgary, which is about 25 minutes away by foot from downtown, and the restaurant area on 4th Street takes just a 10 minute to walk to. It was the perfect location for our Sneak Peek at Calgary and after a good night’s rest after our feast at Il Giardino’s...

Alberta, Alberta travel, Lake Louise, Banff, Canada travel

Bed and breakfast travel is one of our favourite ways of discovering new places and the historic Twin Gables B&B is a real treat. It is a 4.5 star-rated bed and breakfast, located in the upscale Mount Royal neighbourhood in Calgary, which is about 25 minutes away by foot from downtown, and the restaurant area on 4th Street takes just a 10 minute to walk to. It was the perfect location for our Sneak Peek at Calgary and after a good night’s rest after our feast at Il Giardino’s last night, we enjoyed the comforts of our Mount Royal Suite, complete with its own sitting area, a private bathroom, an in-suite jacuzzi, a fireplace and a laptop computer with high-speed Internet access.

Well, a good portion of the B&B experience is the breakfasting experience and boy, were we in for a treat. We were just waiting to sit down for our morning meal in the historic parlor, when the two other B&B guests came down the stairs: a good-looking couple about our age was about to join us for breakfast.

I thought the face of the young man looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. My husband, on the other hand, recognized him right away: Michael Damian , a.k.a. “Danny Romalotti” from the famous “The Young and The Restless” daytime television show.

I did some research on our famous breakfast companions and was rather astounded at their achievements. Not only did Michael star in the #1-rated daytime drama (with an audience of over 100 million around the world), he is also enjoying great success in music and theatre. He captured the starring role in Andrew Lloyd Webbers "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" which became the highest grossing revival in L.A. history. He then continued his success in New York, breaking box office records on Broadway. Michael has also released 5 albums and has had 8 top 40 hits and earned a BMI Songwriting Award. Recently Michael has moved into directing, writing and producing movies and music videos.

Mike’s wife Janeen (formerly Janeen Best) is a celebrity in her own right: she is a former Solid Gold dancer and her film credits include Basic Instinct, Bugsy, Earth Girls Are Easy, Footloose and many more. Her television credits include Solid Gold, the Academy Awards, American Music Awards, Grammy Awards, the Young and the Restless, Matlock, Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Johhny Carson, the Dukes of Hazard and many more. So, it finally dawned on me that we were indeed surrounded by stars.

Well, after I got over this initial surprise, the breakfast was excellent, we started off with a yoghurt with fresh fruits, followed by beautiful home-made blueberry scones. The main course was a delicious Western omelette with green peppers, onions and mushrooms. The meal was delicious and we had a great conversation with our famous breakfast companions.

Mike and Janeen shared with us that they were in town to scout out a location for their upcoming movie project and they were staying at the Twin Gables for a few days. They mentioned that they launched a movie production company called Riviera Films a few years ago, and that they enjoy a great collaboration writing, producing and directing movies. Their latest project “Hot Tamale” was recently completed and will be premiering shortly at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

For a moment it felt a bit strange, sharing the breakfast table with real celebrities, but Mike and Janeen were so natural and down-to-earth, it was like sitting down with a regular couple from next door. There was not even a hint of snobbishness or arrogance here and all four of us had a delightful conversation.

For me it was very interesting because I myself have been making a transition into the creative / media field with my website, so it was very informative for me to listen to Mike and Janeen share their own stories of moving from acting in front in front of the camera to stepping behind the camera into directing and producing movie projects, a field where they had to prove themselves all over again. We also shared lots of laughs and parted, wishing each other good luck for our respective projects. Our encounter goes to show you that some of the stereotypes that we associate with celebrities often don't apply and that fame doesn't automatically inflate people's egos. It was a real delight meeting Michael and Janeen, two successful, creative and down-to-earth people.

After breakfast I wanted to sit down a little with Deirdre and Henry Brost, the owners of the Twin Gables, to find out more about the background of this historic home and how it came to be this special bed and breakfast. Deirdre explained that in 1909 there was a big boom in Calgary and CP Rail owned all the land in the neighbourhood and decided to sell it off in lots. American investors wanted to call it American Hills, but CPR’s founder would not allow that. He decided to name the area Mount Royal, in keeping with making it the most exclusive area in Calgary.

The house itself was built between 1910 and 1912 by a lawyer, a certain Mr. Milliken, who had come to Calgary from Toronto. Due to the economic crisis following the 1929 stock market crash he lost the house to the bank in 1931 and a certain Wellington Walker, an entrepreneur also from Toronto, bought it in 1932 for $10,500. He was involved in the coal and cattle business and owned several sign shops. In 1965, at 91 years of age, he willed the house to his caregiver who turned it into a lodging house after his death. After she passed away in 1972 it remained a rooming house and slowly started to fall in disrepair.

The house’s previous owners, Marge and Tsak Rogers, are local artists who produce highly sought after paintings and they started renovating the house from top to bottom in 1976. In 25 years they gutted it and completely renovated all three floors. Henry & Deirdre bought the house about 4 years ago after they had already owned a bed and breakfast in the suburbs of Calgary. Deirdre wanted to move into the center of town where there would be demand for tourist accommodation all year round. It was a big step for both of them, and the taxes in the city proper were a significant increase in costs, but Deirdre loves the location. She said that this is the house she has always dreamed of owning.

Henry & Deirdre’s story of how they opened their B&B is rather amazing in itself: They took possession on a Saturday and their friends helped them move. On Sunday they unpacked their 3-bedroom house, on Monday the B&B inspector came, and Monday afternoon they were open for business. Sure enough that Monday evening they had their first guest.

They filled me in on a whole litany of renovation adventures: they added bathrooms to two of the three guest bedrooms. A big surprise hit them when they found out they had to rewire the whole house, but Henry, an expert electrician himself, rewired the house by leaving the walls and the historic wallpaper intact and installing wires from the floors above. They installed extra plugs, extra telephone wires and high-speed Internet access all throughout the house.

Another adventure befell them when their sewer pipe collapsed: they had several guests in the house when the clay pipe leading away from the house broke and a rather unpleasant liquid started backing up into the house. They had to get a work crew in with a back hoe and many thousands of dollars later they had not only a new sewer pipe, but also a new driveway and parking lot.

They also had to redo the chimney, and while they were at it they had to remove a family of squirrels. The chimney's mortar had deteriorated and they had to redo the joints between the bricks. From 2004 to 2005 the house was completely repainted and holes behind the eavestroughs were fixed: it took 72 packets of silicon to fill in the cracks. Then they handwashed and painted the house. And all this had to be scheduled while the B&B was hosting a wide variety of guests. Both Deirdre and Henry say that owning an old house is like a moneypit, but they both love the house. Henry, always with a smile on his face, did virtually all the renovations and says he enjoyed them all. They even redid the entire garden, not surprising considering that Deirdre is an avid gardener.

Deirdre runs the bed and breakfast full-time while Henry helps her as much as he can, considering he is working full-time as an electrician. Deirdre said she had to train him not to snatch strips of bacon away from her B&B guests on his way to work. With a boyish smile on his face Henry says he has learned the rules of the house in the meantime and no longer grabs tasty morsels from the guests' breakfast.

With all the renovations, Deirdre and Henry tried to preserve the outstanding architectural features of the house. The dining room has not changed at all, the wallpaper, furnishings and hand-moulded cornices are original to the house. The room also features a built-in mahogany china system. To this day, Twin Gables has a functional “maid call system” with bells to call the household help on every floor.

The parlour features a wall surround wallpaper with scenes of Hyde Park in London. Deirdre believes the wallpaper dates back to either the first or second owner. The first owner, Mr. Milliken, was friends with the Prince of Wales, who is said to have been here at the Twin Gables.

The living room and parlour feature original light fixtures with a copy of the original Edison lightbulbs. Certainly not the brightest lighting, but truly historic. The previous owners got the house designated as a provincially registered “historic resource” in 1984 because of the house’s historic arts and crafts style.

Twin Gables’s overseas guests mostly come from England, Scotland, Ireland as well as Germany and Holland. Of course they also see a lot of Ontarians, British Columbians and travelers from the United States. Off-season they get a lot of ”urban romantics’” who are local Calgary residents, just trying to get away for a weekend of pampering and romance. They also see their fair share of business travellers, particularly during the week. Many of the travellers are teachers, doctors and lawyers, but they have even hosted NASA rocket scientists.

Overall they have had a really positive experience with their bed and breakfast and they have hardly ever had “the guests from hell”. The only thing that bugs them is when guests don’t come downstairs on time for breakfast or when they don’t show up at all. Freshly made breakfasts don't taste that great a half hour later and Deirdre works hard to make sure her food tastes just right. She commented that she has truly found her niche in life and strives to deliver the best possible service. "Ï am here to serve”, she says, and Henry agrees, nodding with his characteristic smile.

All guest rooms are equipped with their own private bathrooms, telephone, and individual laptops with high speed access. Each room has a personal fridge and a coffee maker, and our suite had a wonderful Jacuzzi tub with a great view of the Calgary skyline.

Deirdre and Henry's dedication to delivering a great B&B experience definitely shows.

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/calgary_twin_gables.htm

 

Hello From The Canadian Rockies - Part 26 - A Final Walk Through Calgary

Our last couple of hours before our departure had arrived. We had left Banff at about 9:30 am and got into Calgary just shortly before 11, parked our car just east of downtown and set off on foot on our final walk to explore a bit more of downtown Calgary.

The first place we passed by was Calgary City Hall, a classic sandstone building, located right opposite the Olympic Plaza. Originally constructed for the medal ceremonies for the 1988 Olympics, Olympic Plaza has become ...

Alberta, Alberta travel, Lake Louise, Banff, Canada travel

Our last couple of hours before our departure had arrived. We had left Banff at about 9:30 am and got into Calgary just shortly before 11, parked our car just east of downtown and set off on foot on our final walk to explore a bit more of downtown Calgary.

The first place we passed by was Calgary City Hall, a classic sandstone building, located right opposite the Olympic Plaza. Originally constructed for the medal ceremonies for the 1988 Olympics, Olympic Plaza has become a centre of activities in downtown Calgary and many festivals are held here. During the Calgary Stampede every year pancake breakfasts are served at Olympic Plaza. During the winter it serves as a skating rink.

The Telus Convention Centre is adjacent to the Olympic Plaza, and the Art Gallery of Calgary as well as the Glenbow Museum are right around the corner. The south-west corner of the Olympic Plaza holds the “Famous Five” sculptures commemorating 5 famous women activists who changed Canada, celebrating that women had become persons. A copy of this sculpture is located on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

From there we continued on to the Stephen Avenue Walk. Named after the first Canadian Pacific Railway president, Lord George Mount Stephen, it was officially declared a Canadian Historic site in 2002.Calgary experienced a huge boom in the early 1900s and as a result wealthy merchants built a variety of prestigious sandstone buildings that housed shops, saloons and restaurants. Today the entire street is a pedestrian area and surrounded by six major shopping centres, a variety of boutiques and galleries. In the summer it is the location of live performances, festivals, musical and artistic events.

One of Calgary’s unique features is its system of interconnected elevated walkways that connect shopping areas in numerous high-rise office towers downtown. They are called “+15s”, referring to the fact that originally these walkways had to be at least 15 feet above the streets that they were traversing.

The most visually stunning elevated walkway is the Royal Canadian Pacific Pavillion that is suspended above the street below. This particular facility is not accessible to the general public. Calgary’s +15s are the world largest enclosed elevated walkway system, they span 18 km and consist of 58 bridges that connect over 100 offices, retail and other buildings in downtown Calgary.

We decided to check out this walkway system that connects all the main buildings flanking the Stephen Avenue Walk including buildings such as the Calgary Eaton Centre, TD Square, Bankers Hall, The Bay and the Scotia Centre.

Right in the TD Square you can find a tropical refuge from city life called “Devonian Gardens”. This is one of the world’s largest indoor parks and includes waterfalls, tropical plants and flowers, a secluded woodland setting, water fountains, humongous goldfish, water turtles and many other delights. It is a wonderful place to relax, it’s open from 9 am to 9 pm every day and admission is free. On this cold winter day we enjoyed this tropical sanctuary and Calgarians and tourist alike appreciated the enclosed indoor spaces that Calgary has to offer.

One of the corridors leading to a +15 walkway contains a collection of historic posters of the Calgary Stampede, dating all the way back to the early 20th century. It was interesting to see graphic design and the visual representation of the Stampede evolve through almost 100 years.

Well, our departure time was getting closer, and we had to leave and take our rental car back and hop onto the plane back to Toronto. But our sneak peak at Calgary and our entire week in Banff had given us a great opportunity to explore Western Canadian history and hospitality. I am sure we’ll be back…..

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/calgary_final_walk.htm

 

Hello From The Canadian Rockies: Skiing In Lake Louise

Lake Louise strikes you for two reasons: the absolutely stunning scenery that surrounds it, and its huge size. Lake Louise is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in Canada's first National Park. It has more than 4200 skiable acres (1700 hectares), which makes it one of the largest ski areas in all of North America. What's nice about Lake Louise, it offers all sorts of terrain, from bunny hills and easy green runs, to manageable blue runs and more difficult single and ...

Canada, rockies, skiing, Calgary, Whitehorn, Lake Louis

Lake Louise strikes you for two reasons: the absolutely stunning scenery that surrounds it, and its huge size. Lake Louise is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in Canada's first National Park. It has more than 4200 skiable acres (1700 hectares), which makes it one of the largest ski areas in all of North America. What's nice about Lake Louise, it offers all sorts of terrain, from bunny hills and easy green runs, to manageable blue runs and more difficult single and double-black diamond runs.

The terrain is nicely divided into 25% beginner runs, 45% intermediate and 30% for advanced skiers, so there is truly something for everyone. For us who most enjoy blue and single-black diamond runs, Lake Louise was heaven since it offered such a huge selection.

Naturally, such a large area needs to be serviced by a highly efficient lift system, and Lake Louise offers Summit Platter t-bar (which whisks you up to summit area of Mount Whitehorn which clocks in with an altitude of 8,765 feet (2,675 m). There are 7 chairlifts, most of them high-speed, and the Top of the World Chairlift actually holds 6 passengers, this was the first time we saw a 6-passenger chairlift. Our favourite of course was the Grizzly Express Gondola which is more than 2900 m long (over 9500 feet) and in just about 10 minutes takes you up a vertical of more than 2400 feet (736 m). In our skiing experience (essentially East Coast skiing up until now), this was the highest vertical that we ever transcended in the shortest amount of time.

Naturally, Lake Louise Ski Area is a well-known stop on the World Cup Circuit: it hosts the Winterstart Men's & Ladies World Cup Downhill & Super-G Races. Since 1991 Lake Louise has become the traditional venue for the year’s first Women’s Speed event. We partook of the World Cup spirit by "racing" down the Men's and Women's Downhill Slopes. The steepness of this slopes is astounding, and it is hard to imagine that ski racers actually go down these mountains straight, searching for speed, without making a turn. These two runs, the Men's and Ladies' downhill actually became my favourite runs and they were quite doable (although I didn't go straight down), especially since they were perfectly groomed.

We had a chance to go skiing twice: yesterday and today (after my exciting dog-sledding advanture) , and fortunately for us, today was a perfect winter day with crystal blue skies. The view at Lake Louise on a clear simply knocks your socks off. This mountain panorama is something else. Right when you come out of the gondola you are looking straight at a rugged mountain range whose center is highlighted by a frozen Lake Louise nestled into the Victoria Glacier.

For those who get hungry on the mountain, Lake Louise has a wide variety of choices: The Lodge of the Ten Peaks is located at the base of the gondola, and the place where I enjoyed another nourishing poutine (yes, I do feel guilty...) and a very tasty cream of asparagus. It holds a variety of eating, shopping and pub facilities. Temple Lodge is located in the valley between the Powderbowls and the Larch Area and Whitehorn Lodge is located half way up the south side of the mountain at 6750 ft (2057 m).

Lake Louise has 3 main ski areas: the Front Side or South Face which offers 1100 skiable acres. This area offers a variety of green, blue and single black diamond runs and is quite skiable for intermediate / advanced skiers. The grooming was great and we skied down some smooth mountain slopes, many of them quite steep, but nevertheless very skiable.

Our favourite runs were coming down from the Gondola and taking the Top of the World Express 6-Pack Express where you get to ski above the treeline and since you are on the edge of the mountain you get to see down into the gentler south side and the much more treacherous north side of the mountain.

The "Powderbowls" are located on the north side of the mountain and they are primarily intended for expert skiers. Most of the runs on the north side are single and double black diamond runs. The steepness and the moguls were quite intimidating for us, but nevertheless we found some green and blue runs to get us down safely. Riding up the Ptarmigan Quad Chair it's an awesome sight to watch some of the expert level skiers and how they manage this terrain so skillfully. I have a feeling we'll be sticking to blue and single black diamond runs for the foreseeable future.

Across the Powderbowls is another ski area called the "Larch Area" which offers a vertical drop of about 1230 feet (375 m). This area features mostly green and blue runs, although some of the blue runs (especially a run called the "Wolverine") had some pretty pronounced bumps built into them too. Runs like the Larch and Larch Poma are wide expansive trails with excellent grooming where you can really enjoy gliding down the mountain at pretty high speeds.

For the last hour and a half of our skiing today we made our way back to the South Side, taking the older Ptarmigan Quad back up to the top station of the Gondola. We made it up to the Top of the World a few more times and just couldn't get over the view.

I made sure at 3:50 pm today that I got another run in to the Top of the World and I really took my time going down.




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