There are times when you find both zen and adventure in surprising places -- like an invitation to ride a luxury train through Canada. But if you think you know anything about trains, erase and start over. The Rocky Mountaineer is like no other train ride in the world. Hopping from Sea to Spa perched in my own personal glass dome filled with panoramic views of the rolling Canadian Rockies, this is a rail journey like no other.
About the Train
Running for over 25 years, the train has racked up a long list of international awards including being named one of the "World’s Greatest Trips" by National Geographic, and one of the "World’s Ultimate Experiences" by Lonely Planet. Attracting more than 1.7 million travelers aboard, the railway is the largest, privately owned luxury tourist train in the world.
When they bookended the experience with pampering at Willow Stream Spa and rolled out the red carpet, I couldn't wait to hop on board. They offer more than 65 different vacation packages with five different routes, like cruising through British Columbia and Alberta to see firsthand why the Canadian Rockies are classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- and why I put them on my must-see bucket list for all travelers. The highest standard of service is GoldLeaf, which includes a champagne toast upon takeoff and five-star dining in your own private room along with an outdoor car, complimentary beverages and supreme service. Not to mention that multi-level glass dome for the views.
Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Spa
This particular journey offered a completely different perspective on British Columbia. Everywhere you look, there’s water. In the distance, the snowy mountains remind you that no matter how metropolitan the city feels, you're not far from some of the most pristine wilderness in the world just begging to be explored. Well known for its outdoor pursuits (is there any better fishing in the world?), this trip showed off the hip and contemporary side of Vancouver. The city itself is overflowing with culture and style, and boasts top-notch restaurants like Andrew Richardson’s CinCin, where both locals and celebrities flock to dine on whatever comes out of the Inferno, a massive state-of-art wood fire grill. Design is always in the mix, whether in the architecture, clothes on your back or food on your plate. Home of Lululemon, the city is also home to the founder’s son’s own brand, Kit and Ace.
My adventure began at The Fairmont Pacific Rim Willow Stream Spa, notable for their breathtaking indoor and outdoor spaces, relaxation lounge and hydrotherapy area. Schedule a massage in one of the corner suites with floor-to-ceiling ocean views you won't be able to take your eyes off the waves until you're flipped on your stomach. The deep soaking tub will melt your worries away and it's easy to lose track of time so be careful not to miss your appointment.
Spa Tip: Check out the co-ed lounge that offers nourishment along with a great fireplace. Shelled pistachios are a great pick-me-up packed with protein.
Banff’s Fairytale - Fairmont Banff Spa
Your Rocky Mountaineer journey weaves though places that have inspired poetry, songs and your own thoughts. After a short stop in Kamloops to taste some of the finest wines this side of Europe, it's on to Banff. A fairytale come to life, the scene is framed by frozen waterfalls, fluffy clouds drifting along the mountaintops, and soaring bald eagles. I had to pinch myself because Banff looked and felt so much like a dream. Needless to say, make sure you bring an extra storage card for your camera.
Fittingly, the spa here is also magical. Outdoor adventurists can relieve sore muscles in the misty indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy circuit and unwind in the sacred mineral pool, inspired by the famous hot springs that first attracted settlers to the area. Believed to have natural healing properties, many visitors return year after year and on any occasion they can muster up an excuse (birthday, anniversary, holiday) for a dip in it's sacred waters. Some even stay for an eternity.
Spa Tip: Order a bento box to be delivered to the co-ed lounge to snack on while your eyes gaze at the snow capped mountains. It's the perfect place to get lost in thought.