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The smell of wood smoke deliciously wafts through the air as I slip from Emerald Manor into Sapphire Hall for my welcome cocktail. Snug by the fire, champagne in hand, I look out the floor to ceiling windows that frame stunning views of the twilight sky and miles of evergreen forest. I’m not at an English country house, but at Azuridge, a luxury destination nestled at the base of the foothills, 30 minutes from south Calgary. This has got to be THE most romantic hotel near the Rockies.
After a $5 million refurbishment, this former enclave of Mogens Smed, was given a new lease on life as a private estate hotel. Should you be in the market for 27000 sq. ft. of the great indoors, rent the entire compound and have your run of the place, or simply book one of 13 guest rooms, each named and themed after a gemstone.
With a design influenced by the historic architecture of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Rocky Mountain train stations, they’ve paid heed to the number one rule of interior decorating: bringing the outdoors in, with rich timber beam and rundle rock construction.
The welcome cocktail at Sapphire Hall has given me the courage to pop into the open kitchen to see what Executive Chef Alois Multerer has whipped up for dinner. But it doesn’t look like any professional kitchen I’ve ever seen. For starters, it’s spotless, and the atmosphere is completely calm. Shrimp cocktail glasses rimmed with salt and topped with Louisiana crayfish are lined up on a massive granite island ready to be filled with New Brunswick lobster, mango and avocado. I’ve never been encouraged to poke around a hotel kitchen while the cooks are working, so I’m cautious, but Chef Multerer orders me to loosen up.
“When you stay here you’re like family and you need to consider this your home.” he says.
While I’m too uptight to wander around the hotel in my sox and loosen my jeans after a gut bursting dinner, I get his point. While the property is upscale, it’s not pretentious. Staff are approachable, not intimidating.
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Where is Azuridge?
This remote property would be an ideal choice for those who want to get away from it all. Rooms are sprinkled throughout the estate, not concentrated in one area, so while you may run into other guests, it’s not a given. Good news for duffers, a stay here allows guests to hit the links at Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club, a private course of 36 holes.
Surprisingly, families are also welcome. Kids can choose to bed down the traditional way, or camp out in the loft (accessible through a ladder) inside a North Face tent. I’m not going to kid you, with rates starting at $448 per night for the family suite, a stay here doesn’t come cheap, but it is a splurge-worthy destination.
A ten minute romp through the forest lands you at Priddis Creek, where you can take a twirl around the ice. Then there’s a life size dinosaur hiding in the woods, that’s sure to delight mini-paleontologists. Cozying up by the fire in the Tiger’s Eye Den, it’s easy to lose track of time (especially if you’re roasting marshmallows indoors), but those dedicated to screen time, can pull up quality children’s programming on a 103 inch screen in the theatre room.
Hotel butler service in Calgary
One of the best perks for guests, is exclusive use of the butler service. Wondering what a butler can do for you? A handy brochure indicates she can pretty much take care of your every whim. From sorting out any special requests to attending to your laundry (that’s right, clean undies!) to arranging for the spa-bath attendant to draw you a luxurious hydrotherapy bath. Why, they’ll even pack your bags for you and ensure your suite’s mini-fridge is well stocked. I wonder if asked super nicely, they’d play with your kids and listen to their home reading on your behalf. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, I say.
Swish properties such as this are a dime a dozen outside of Toronto, but luxury accommodation in Alberta is primarily concentrated in the mountains. If you’re keen to commune with nature without the crowds synonymous with the resorts of the Rockies, you’ll want to check out Azuridge first hand. Driving out for Sunday brunch is one of the best (and most affordable) ways to do this.
Where are your favourite places for a family vacation in Alberta?