LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA – Swiss efficiency. Alberta hospitality.
That’s a tough combination to beat when it comes to a hotel. But the Post Hotel and Spa also offers a location in one of the most stunning places on the planet, the oh-so-lovely Lake Louise. Which probably accounts for all those ooh-la-la reviews on Trip Advisor and similar websites.
The hotel is cozy and bright and looks very much like a Swiss chalet in a forested glade of quiet, majestic trees, with wonderful views of the amazing Rockies. The staff welcomes you the second you exit your car, and when you leave you can expect to be offered a couple of bottles of water for the road. The lobby isn’t palatial but looks out on a stretch of garden and grass that’s turned into a stunning and serene skating pad in winter.
There’s also a pretty lobby bar that has comfortable sofas and an enormous fireplace under a mounted moose head.
The rooms are nice without being in-your-face luxurious. You’re in a wilderness setting, after all, not downtown Calgary or New York. So you can expect muted colours and rustic furniture and a fireplace. I wouldn’t have minded a fancier coffee maker but mine did the job. They had Aveda bath products and a big tub, at least in my room, which was decorated with deep green tiles and had fabulous water pressure. They’d placed a lovely Amaryllis flower next to the bath, and the sea salts had a small sea shell you could use to scoop them into the water.
The views out to the neighboring cabins are particularly wonderful in winter, with acres of snow parked on the peaked roofs and packed onto thick branches of fragrant evergreens like in a Norman Rockwell painting.
It’s one of only two Relais and Chateaux properties in Alberta, the other being the Kensington Riverside Inn in Calgary.
There’s a marvellous pool with deep blue tiles and a steam room and a large hot tub. The spa is fantastic, with a water wall with grey stone and an exposed stone wall and fireplace. The tea offerings included creme au caramel rooibos tea, organic hot chocolate, and Indian spiced chai. They also had fruit and cucumber or lemon lime water to sip while I listened to soothing classical music in a room with comfy leather chairs and lit candles.
I had a choice of four treatments and opted for the Mediterranean over Indian, Arabian or Oriental owing to the nice citrus smell. They mixed ingredients with a volcanic scrub and gave me a thorough going over, thankfully skipping the sensitive bits I didn’t want to have scraped with bits of rock. They then applied a masque with basil, pumpkin and tomato that would’ve made a pretty decent salad dressing and wrapped me up in a Ziploc bag. Okay, it was a tight, thermal blanket to bake me nice and medium-rare. Then I had a 90 minute Thai massage where I was gently prodded and massaged with herbs wrapped in a soft cloth. The word “blissful” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I think it took me 20 minutes to mumble a word of thanks, but it might’ve been 20 hours.
This being a hotel run by a pair of brothers from Europe, there’s a strong emphasis on great food. I had a good fondue meal my first night, with tender, local beef and a huge array of sauces, including mustard curry, yogurt, spiced butter, bordelaise and more). The accompanying frites were the very model of what crispy, thin fries should be. Scrumptious and sensational.
There was a great dessert with a wafer surrounded by raspberry coulis, and the wine list and wine servers were exceptional. The fondue room is quite pretty; rustic but elegant, and there was a piano player at the bar playing the standards.
The next night my meal was nothing short of spectacular, starting with ridiculously creamy carrot soup that was thick and rich and carrot-y, with herbs and Greek yogurt.
My server, who was absolutely wonderful, explained that the cooks in the kitchen were from Switzerland.
“They learn to cook soup,” he told me. He then paused for effect. “And they all get A’s.”
My main course was a healthy serving of Quebec veal medallions with porcini mushrooms and spinach pasta with porcini mushroom sauce. It was one of those tender meat dishes where you just whisper the word “fork” and it cuts itself.
They’re got something like 2,400 wines on their wine list and some 25,000 bottles in the cellar, said George Schwarz, who runs the Post Hotel with his brother, Andre.
As great as my dinner was, breakfast on my last day was enough to make me cry. They served up a Swiss potato rosti with melted gruyere cheese in a cast iron skillet with smoked bacon. Oh, my.
They also passed the Jim Byers test for breakfast jams, with four types plus marmalade. This, you might think, is silly. But I consistently judge a hotel breakfast on the quality and variety of the jam. If you get Kraft plastic containers, the breakfast stinks. It’s almost always strawberry jam and orange marmalade and peanut butter. Pfftttt, as they say in France.
If you get small jars of, say, Hero jam from Switzerland or even something from North America, and there are two or three kinds of jam, it’s pretty good. But when you get four or five kinds and they spoon it into small bowls and you don’t see the manufacturer’s name and there’s a nice variety, you KNOW you’re in a good restaurant. And the Post Hotel and Spa has a very fine restaurant.
There’s a casual pub on site as well; perfect for winding down over a burger and a beer after a day of skiing or hiking. Or one of those vigorous massages….
One of the truly great hotels in Canada. And one of the best anywhere in the world.