Home in the Mountains

May 22, 2010

I like feeling I belong in my own ‘home’.  In this case ‘home’ means in the environs that I have lived in for most of my life.  This includes Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise and all the surrounding country.  This week I discovered that parts of my home have changed to the point of being alien to me.  The good news is there are other parts where I still feel like I belong.

My wife and I stayed at The Juniper (hotel) in Banff this week to celebrate our fortieth and there were treated to a few, relaxed days connected with a spirit of Canadiana.  This took the form of a very comfortable, reasonably priced room with a view of the Bow Valley that, for me, was second to none; great food presented in a uniquely western Canadian menu that celebrated food from the west ( I never saw Bison short ribs on a menu in Nova Scotia. ); a cadre of very personable staff who seemed to enjoy their jobs; and a management that is conscientiously working not only to demonstrate practical stewardship of our environment, but also to celebrate our western history both before and after Europeans arrived.  I really did feel at ‘home’ at The Juniper.

The antipode to that was our experience at the Chateau Lake Louise.  We have been to Lake Louise several times in the recent past, but that was only to walk along the lake or up to the Lake Agnes Tea House.  For the first time in twenty or more years, we went into the Chateau.

We planned to have a coffee or tea with a treat while sitting in the lounge and looking out to view the lake and Victoria Glacier at the end of the valley through those original Châteauesque windows with their curved top.  We did this a long time ago and as this was our fortieth anniversary we thought we would revisit a good memory.  

The Chateau is exquisite and has maintained the old world charm in its architecture and interior decorating, but the scene in front of those windows that looked out across the still frozen lake was ostentatious.  Evidently there are many who can or will pay the excess required for the privilege to sit and have a coffee in that ambience.  We chose to stand back and watch.

The tourist crowd sat with their coffee and sandwiches while a woman dressed in medieval garb (real Canadiana, eh?) played background music on her harp and sold her CDs between compositions.

Along the adjacent wall were stores of expensive jewellery and overpriced tourist souvenirs.  Gone are the Scottish tartan and tweed shoppes, the fine linen stores, and the simple candy shop, all of an earlier generation.  We felt we were in an alien place that was vaguely familiar, but maybe we were the aliens.

The two experiences were enlightening.  Our choice for future visits to the mountains is clear.