"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Castle and The Park

The Castle on a Stormy Day
 I'm just back from a very calming trip that captured something of Canada but also provided such a rest for us.   Nerves worn to a mere thread?  Working eighty hours a week and near a complete mental collapse?  Have I got The Hols for you!
The vacation combined the best of both worlds: five nights in Ottawa with dinners out, art, shopping and stellar service at Fairmont Chateau Laurier followed by eight nights at the beautiful Bartlett Lodge in Ontario's Algonquin Park.

The Chateau Laurier was a huge surprise to both of us.  It is now officially our favourite hotel in the world.  The service was outstanding and the food marvellous, we had a dinner in every hotel restaurant and all were perfect.  Room service breakfast was equally luxurious and delicious.  There is the most gorgeous swimming pool surrounded by marble and giant copper heating lamps, just tucked in the basement near the health club.  I swam laps there every morning ( you can see "my" swimming pool right here).
We gave our car over to the valet at arrival and didn't see it for the next five nights.  The hotel is just next to the gorgeous Canadian Parliament buildings and ideally located for walking the prettiest parts of our capital city.

 The famous photographer Yousuf Karsh lived at the hotel for sixteen years and in fact had his studio there for part of that time.  A collection of his photographs are scattered throughout the hotel, like this one of Einstein, casually displayed above a writing desk just outside the cocktail bar (which makes the best Kir Royale anywhere, take my word for it).

The hotel is filled with many beautiful antiques and stunning details not to be found in the modern world.  We really felt as though we had stepped back in time and found ourselves quite interested in the history of the hotel, you can read a bit about that right here.
Every doorknob is monogrammed in the hotel.
This was our bathroom knob!
 Our room was huge with a lovely sitting area (perfect for MrBP who had some work to do in the mornings), a large bathroom and a spectacular view of those Parliament buildings.  It was so quiet and peaceful and we slept so well which doesn't always happen in a large hotel.

Fully rested we embarked on the next chapter of our trip....
My Tory Burch frocks served me well at the Castle and in the Park.
I wore one each day with a Brora cardigan and some ballet flats: super easy.
 We arrived by boat at Bartlett Lodge, unpacked our things into a large cabin and then hit the dock to commence relaxing.
Our swim dock.
Many a glass of wine graced the arm of this chair. 

The light was magical at all times of the day.

 We both love to hike and canoe and these activities took up several hours each day.  We made a study of the trees and were just simply conscious of breathing in the oxygenated air.
One of many hiking paths.

Happy on the trail.
Notice my hideous MBT shoes!
Roots linen sweater and camp socks.
 We spent loads of time listening to this brook.
 While in the canoe I took about 400 pictures of trees...
 and a couple hundred pictures of sparkly water.
 We spent hours and hours just sitting in the screened-in porch in our cabin.  I read decorating magazines and MrBP did crossword puzzles.
The view from our screened-in porch.
 Bartlett Lodge is only accessible by water, and the rules in Algonquin Park preserve the natural feel... for example large boats and jet-skis are strictly forbidden.  This results in peace and quiet, a place to slow down and simply be immersed in the natural world.
One of the seating areas at the lodge.

There are lovely gardens, including a large one for the kitchen.
 The kitchen produces a five-course meal nightly and the food was absolutely delicious.  We brought our own wine and were served by an enthusiastic and professional staff.

There is a hiking trail at the lodge with a tour of some of the special trees.
A very tall tree indeed.  
 We had a little friend, "Chippie", who managed to sneak into our cabin at night to steal our cocktail crackers!
Chippie, or maybe a friend of his.
 I had to take a photo of this poster in the dining room... each time I looked at it I couldn't help but think "how true".  Really we felt restored and healthy after our time in the Park, a national treasure here in Canada.  You can read more about our beloved park right here.
I hope you've all been well and happy yourselves!
xoxDani

46 comments:

  1. I am so happy you loved the Laurier - I love it too and we had a lovely vacation there a few years ago - it is a great location to hit all the museums, the canal, the byward market, the parliament buildings, shopping. You would love the Omni Parker House in Boston, too - has the same old world vibe of the Laurier or the Frontenac! So glad you had fun! and the pool - I LOVED the pool!

    I love the look of the lodge! what a place!!! I could happily spend a week there! and your little squirrel is so cute I am surprised you didn't bring him home as he has such good taste in cocktail crackers... BTW - we have finished St. Germain bottle #1 and have moved on to #2... Has been the drink of the summer of 2013!

    Just what the doctor ordered after a busy summer and an equally busy fall! I am in serious need of a good cleaning inside and out and am looking forward to people going back to school!

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  2. Wendy it was definitely what the doctor ordered. What a rest, and as you know MrBP is going into 100 hour workweeks this fall... it was so great to see him relaxed and NOT working.
    Isn't the pool magnificent? I'm not even the best swimmer but I loved doing laps each morning.
    You would find the lodge a magical place! Yes Chippie was very funny but after the first night MrBP found the spot where he was sneaking in and stuck a piece of kindling in it... that put an end to the Chippie Shenanigans!

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  3. Welcome back Dani, we missed you! It looks like you have a perfect vacation, both places look beautiful and I am so glad you could de-stress. You look so youthful and happy in your picture, seeing it made me smile this morning :)

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    1. Hi ajc, thanks so much. You would love Ottawa and Algonquin, if I can ever get you up here to Canada they are a must-see! I hope you are well and settling into your new job. :)

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  4. Welcome back, Dani! I am glad to hear you had such a wonderful vacation. It looks so peaceful and serene! You look beautiful.

    I was lucky enough to stay at the Chateau Laurier several years ago for a professional training session. The training session wasn't much fun but the food was fabulous.

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    1. Louise thanks! The Chateau must have been a highlight even if the conference wasn't the best. I lived in Ottawa for 3 years as a poor student and never set foot inside the place... making it all that much more delightful a surprise.
      I hope you are well and enjoying the last bit of August.

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  5. wow...While the Fairmont looks lovely my heart went out to the Bartlett Lodge - I like it when it's hard to access ( I am such a fashion travel victim that way) and I have a revived love of lakes so that is right up my valley. Oxygenated air by trees is, in the words of Rachel Zoe, everything. You are glowing in the picture and looks like your vacation has worked its magic. PS I had to get rid of my MBT's because it was causing me all sorts of back issues!

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    1. Hi Naomi, this is interesting because my lower back has been in pain and I blamed the paddling, but maybe it was the hiking in those hideous shoes! Aren't they so ugly. I think I'll stop wearing them and see if my back pain clears up, thanks for the tip.
      You would love Algonquin Park it is truly a national treasure. Canada has many beautiful natural areas but the Park is special, and easily accessible from both Toronto and Ottawa.

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    2. You should check out your gait with a trusted physio - MBT's are hit or miss. It either sorts you out or messes you up. Those shoes used to be a conversation starter but probably cuz I walked weirdly when I wore them like was rocking back and forth!

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    3. Naomi good idea, I do have a rolling type walk anyway as my hips are quite bendy. So I walk weirdly already. I bet they are super wrong for me!

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  6. Oh my gosh how beautiful! All of it.

    The sparkly water is so calming. Studies show that natural patterns of motion, like leaves in the wind, waves, and yes, sparkles, calm human beings right down.

    Sigh. Wonderful.

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    1. LPC the experience put us into a trance-like peaceful state so I believe it! I have to get caught up with you, I hope you are well and that all has gone beautifully for you this summer!

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    2. Oh my gosh Lisa I just saw your wedding photos how wonderful. You are stunningly gorgeous and it looks like it was a perfect day.

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  7. Those benches look like the perfect spot to relax. Welcome back from your vacation!

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    1. Thanks Merry Wife! Relaxing was the thing, and staring at the water of course.

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  8. Wow, what an incredible place, it's heavenly just looking at it, it must have been wonderful to have bathed in its restful glow every day - that swim dock - gasping.

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    1. Tabs the light is wonderful isn't it. You would love love Algonquin, Canada is next for you!!

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  9. Thank you for the wonderful pictures ,Dani. I have wanted to take my family to Canada for ages. YOu have just given me one more avenue to explore- summer only for the park, I'm sure!

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    1. KnitYarns please come and visit us, you won't be disappointed. Yes Summer Only! The Lodge is open through October and then closes up for the winter. Though snowshoeing through Algonquin is something I've always wanted to do!

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  10. I want to go there! I feel relaxed just reading about your amazing vacation. I love older, stately hotels with those special touches and a lodge that serves a five-course meal is definitely my kind of outdoorsy place.

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    1. xoxo you would love this holiday, a great way to experience Ontario. Our youngest daughter was at summer camp in Algonquin for 2 weeks and so we decided to holiday the entire time, now we want to go back next year, so good for the mental health!
      I hope you are feeling well and getting some good dinners in yourself... I am so excited for you!

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  11. Yay, you're back!

    Sounds like you had a wonderfully restorative holiday.

    I stayed at Chateau Laurier once as a kid and it was pure magic. There is a photo of me sitting at one of the lovely little desks, writing. And I will never forget that pool!

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    1. Abby how marvellous is that pool? We're planning a family trip there either just before Christmas or in the spring. The Rascals need to see the Parliament Buildings in preparation for someday running Canada, ;), and they will love "The Castle".
      What a cute photo, do you mind if I copy that idea?

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    2. I actually remember being a little spooked by that pool, but in the satisfying kid way.

      Yes, of course you can copy the photo idea! I believe the one of me was taken surreptitiously by one of my parents, maybe you will have a similar opportunity :)

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  12. Welcome back, everything looks enchanting and sets a good case for visiting Ottawa. I love Fairmont hotels (their breakfast buffets are the best) and wish there are more of them in the US.

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    1. Marie I do think that Fairmont is a good management company, the service was amazing. 5*. We have several in Canada, I'd love to go to Lake Louise. Thanks for the welcome back!

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  13. Hi Dani, welcome back! Your holiday looks amazing, a perfect combination of city and country. I've also lived in Ottawa and never been inside the Chateau - we'll have to remedy that once we are back there next year. The Canadian tea menu looks particularly lovely.

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    1. Patricia the High Tea is very popular. We did not partake but we did go in one afternoon for a cocktail at the bar, they serve the tea in the same lounge (Zoe's). It looked excellent, plenty of servers and lots of white cloth and silver. Beautiful.
      Yes go to the Chateau! I can't believe I waited so long!

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  14. What a glorious time you had! Trust DaniBP to find out the best hotels and vacation spots! I agree with LPC that the movement of natural elements calm the human soul. My favourite spot at the cabin up north is the dock!

    I want monogramed doorknobs.

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    1. Dannie I also want the monogrammed doorknobs. I have never seen that before, I couldn't believe it!

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  15. Yay! You're back! Algonquin Park is so fabulous!! Great to see through your eyes...wanted to jump into the water. We are heading to Ottawa in February brrrr), and now know where to stay! Thank you for cluing me in. we stay at Fairmont hotels whenever possible...I always feel relaxed after my stays...well taken care of and ready to face the world anew.

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    1. Hi Rebecca, Ottawa will be cold so yes you'd better stay at the cozy Chateau Laurier! ;) It will be beautiful there too, and if you ice-skate you can hit the canal.
      Keep your eye on their site for specials, we booked our room at an excellent rate on a sale and the price for our stay was great.

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    2. Thanks for the tips, Dani...will do. And like any good Canuck...I do skate! Our winter sports keep us going and help banish SAD, don't they! Have a lovely weekend!

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  16. I love Chateau Laurier (and Ottawa)! Hubs and I went to the lounge the first time we were in Ottawa together (we stayed at the Lord Elgin just down the street), the lounge was beautiful and there was this jazz singer there, she took requests and sang everything from Fleetwood Mac (Dreams) to Toto (Africa!), only accompanying herself on the piano. I remember this couple got engaged next to us that night and we were the only ones on that side of the lounge, so we were the only witnesses to their engagement! It was pretty cool actually, then this singer sang a special song for them and they got up and danced.

    I love Byward Market, D'Arcy McGhees Pub, all those cool shops and boutiques. 18 Restaurant is still in my Top 3 for best steak dinner ever. Stella Osteria was good too. We went on a Ghost Tour downtown, that was fun. The Library at the Parliament Buildings was stunning. Glad you had a marvellous time!

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    1. ps. The lounge at the Chateau Laurier, I meant to say! :)

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    2. LR good tips, thank you, and clearly we need to go back soon. I need to visit that library!

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  17. Welcome back Dani. Best of both worlds with a city and country vacation. You look just like the model from brora in that picture . Gotta love a screened -in porch and a break from cooking!

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    1. I agree, very Brora model-like

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    2. Marsha the break from cooking was my longest ever at 2 weeks, it was quite something! Thanks for that nice compliment you two.

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  18. I really, really, really want to go to Bartlett Lodge. It looks so beautiful... no cars! no shops! how utterly fantastic!
    You look so healthy and happy in that picture!
    Welcome back!

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    1. Thanks Ruth, you would love it. The lack of distractions, including internet, is pretty peaceful.

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  19. Oh so beautiful! You have rekindled very distant memories of a family holiday to Canada when I was 10 (I haven't returned since then). I can remember a very long car drive from Vancouver to Banff (my father inaccurately thought it would be around 2-3 hours) and the stunning scenery of the mountains all around with my mother's favourite word quickly becoming "phenomenal". The trees in Canada and the purity of the air and the little brooks are just so lovely, and so special compared to any other place I've been. That dock is divine!
    Now I want to go back!! I will definitely mentally file away your hotel recommendations for the day I make it back. Glad to hear you had such a lovely break xx

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    1. Thanks Heidi. That sounds like an amazing trip... 2 to 3 hours, that's pretty funny! Yes please come back!

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  20. Welcome back from your lovely holiday! I love the interiors-- old rattan-- and the nature photos are wonderful. I want to go there!

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  21. Welcome back Dani! Your holiday looked so wonderful and relaxing.

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  22. Wow, Dani this sounds perfect. I do like the combo of nature and then the city and luxury hotel! Your frocks were so pretty and I love how you have it all color coordinated, including your cute casual look. I agree nothing is quite as good for your health as being in nature! Truly restoring. Loved this!

    xxKim

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