POSTCARDS FROM JESSICA
To: Those Looking For A White Christmas
From: The Castle In The Rockies, Banff Canada
Having lived most of my life in Florida, I can tell you that I have been dreaming about a White Christmas for quite some time. There is just something about 85° and palm trees that doesn’t hit quite right that time of year…So when I began thinking about where in the world would provide me with endless snow and holiday cheer, Canada was one of the first places that came to mind.
And when it came to actually “packing my bags” I set out to fit 10 days worth of winter gear into one carry on bag. Let me tell you this was no easy feat! But, it can be done! If you need these kinds of tips, I’m your girl. I know exactly what you need to pack to stay warm for your winter holiday in Canada.
Your Road Map:
Canada is the second largest country after Russia and stretches across 3.8 million square miles. The experience you may have on one side of the country can be completely different than the other. And of course, I wanted to experience both! So I set out to first visit one of the most charming towns in Eastern Canada, Quebec City, before hopping (or in this case flying) over to visit the majestic snowy mountains of Banff, in Western Canada.
Old Quebec City:
Old Quebec City has to be the most charming place to be during the holidays. Known as being a little slice of Europe in North America, you feel as if you have just been transported overseas to a quaint town in France. And with everyone speaking French it feels that much more authentic! But don’t worry because English is also widely spoken! Which was good because my college French was slightly rusty.
Old Quebec was founded by the French back in 1608. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980’s and according to UNESCO, it is the only North American city to have preserved its surrounding protective wall and ramparts. So, not only is it charming but it also has historical significance.
Quebec City is about 160 miles northeast of Montreal–above the Maine border. It’s located on the St. Lawrence River and the old town is divided into two parts–the upper part where the famed Chateau Frontenac castle (also a hotel!) is located on the cliff, and the lower part, which sits below the cliff and is accessible via stairs, streets, or a funicular. It’s the lower part, Quartier Petit Champlain, that looks straight out of a holiday postcard!
I highly recommend staying at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Not only is its location ideal for all there is to see and do in Quebec City, but the hotel itself is filled with history, was beautifully decorated for the holidays, and offered exemplary service.
Travel Pro Tip: Let us book you in a Fairmont Gold Level Room. Being on the gold level offered us a private check in, private lounge with complimentary drinks, snacks, breakfast, and a room on one of the highest floors of the hotel (we might even be able to get you upgraded to a suite like we were!)
When visiting Quebec City during the holidays there are several things you should not miss! Walking the Quartier Petit Champlain (both during the day and at night) offers holiday nostalgia to the max! You feel as if you are walking the cobblestoned streets of Strasbourg France. All of the storefronts are decorated with garland, holly, and lights. There has never been a place that feels more like “Christmas.”
If you are feeling adventurous, right next to the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac they have the Toboggan Slide au 1884. Zooming down at speeds of up to 50 mph was quite the rush! Make sure to hang on to your hat! But most importantly, do not miss the Marché de Noël, Quebec City’s German Christmas Market. With its colorful lights and traditional wooden kiosks it offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Here you can truly experience the festive and warm atmosphere of the major European Christmas markets right in Old Quebec City.
On the other side of the continent, amidst the majestic Canadian Rockies, sits a picturesque alpine town in the Province of Alberta nestled in the pristine wilderness of a UNESCO World Heritage National Park. Banff has easily become one of the world’s premier destinations not only for its stunning views but also for its plethora of activities in all seasons.
I highly recommend staying at the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This “Castle in the Rockies” offers everything from cozy rooms tucked away in quiet corners of the castle to opulent suites with sweeping mountain views. The castle is undergoing major renovations to its accommodations and we were able to stay in one of their newly renovated larger mountain view rooms. There is nothing like waking up in the colder mornings to a hot cup of coffee in bed while staring out at the snow-capped mountain ranges. Le sigh…
During the holiday season, the hotel is completely decked out in festive holiday decor. In one of the grand halls you can find a giant Christmas tree towering over two stories high! The hotel lovingly refers to their holiday events as “Christmas at the Castle.” You can truly get into the holiday spirit with their Christmas Concert Series, memorable holiday dining events, festive holiday arts & crafts and gingerbread house decorating for the kids. There were even Christmas Carolers singing through the halls!
While the castle offers much to do within its walls, don’t miss the chance to wander out and explore the great outdoors! Just make sure to layer up! In December the temperatures can drop into the negatives! One activity you absolutely will not want to miss is a drive up the Trans-Canada Highway to Lake Louise. This scenic drive is truly breathtaking.
Lake Louise is actually one of the most photographed sites in Canada and quite possibly the world. During the summer you can find boats gliding along calm turquoise waters stunningly framed by majestic snow capped peaks. But in the winter, when the glacial lake freezes over, you can find the largest nature made ice-rink! Sitting at the base of the lake is Château Lake Louise, another Fairmont property, where skates are available for rental. Gliding along the ice without handle bars was quite the challenge but there is no ice rink in the world that could offer those fantastic views!
Another once in a lifetime truly unforgettable experience was dog sledding in Canmore just south of Banff. They offer both self-driven and instructor-driven sled options, making this a great option for all ages. Being a dog lover with my very own husky at home, I think I enjoyed interacting with the dogs just as much as the exhilarating ride through the bow valley! Afterwards, we were able to snuggle up by a fire with some hot cider to warm up.
If Canada is not on your list yet, I personally think that a visit there should be your present next holiday season! And why not begin planning early? Create new traditions on a holiday escape to one of the most enchanting old cities in Quebec or to the most breathtaking winter wonderland in Alberta. Or if you’re like me and cannot make up your mind, visit both!
And if there is one thing I can guarantee, it’s that you will no longer be dreaming of a White Christmas…
Wishing You Safe Travels,