Banff_1

Sometimes I like judging a book by its cover. More often than not I’m proven wrong. This breakdown of stereotypes and preconceptions keeps me on my toes. It makes me appreciate the fact that nothing is ever what it seems – a fact that everyone should be reminded of from time to time.

The most recent experience that took me by surprise was a trip to Banff and Calgary. Although I’ve been lucky enough to travel to both ends of Canada, I never made my way to The Rockies. It happened to be one of my biggest regrets after moving back to Toronto from Vancouver.

When my friend Lauren McPhillips of This Renegade Love reached out to me to be a part of a trip designed to get Torontonians interested in visiting one of the best destinations Canada has to offer, I couldn’t say no. Within days I was on a plane with two cameramen I’ve never met and two friends I was about to share one of my best experiences with to date.

We landed in Calgary at eight in the morning and were immediately whisked away to Banff for a quick lunch and our first two surprise activities: cycling and horseback riding. With the mountains in the backdrop and glacier lakes surrounding us, it was a breathtaking introduction to the resort town we were staying in for the next two days. Of course, the best surprise was staying at Fairmont Banff Springs, an iconic luxury hotel that could easily pass for Hogwarts.

Banff_2

The next day we set out to Banff’s true gem: Lake Louise. Although undeniably touristy, appreciating the postcard-worthy scene was hard to resist. Kayaking on the lake was a special treat and definitely yielded some of our best photos from the entire trip.

Banff_3

Yet it was our gondola ride up Mount Norquay that truly stole my breath. Corridors of mountains lay before us with what appeared to be no end. I’ve seen mountains before, even camped under a glacier in British Colombia, but nothing compared to The Rockies.

Banff_4

When we arrived back in Calgary the next day, we were immediately taken on a lazy river adventure down the Bow Valley River. It was a much-needed change of pace and offered the best entrance into any city center I’ve ever experienced. Once we docked and had a delicious lunch on an island park in the city, we biked around to some hotspots to gain a better appreciation of the city. If only Toronto was so cyclist-friendly…

Calgary_1

Calgary_2

But it was the next day, and our last, that was the most memorable. It began with an amazing banana bread Panini and ended with a hilltop view of the city amidst a setting sun. In between was an epic bobsled experience straight out of the movie ‘Cool Runnings’ and a luging race that had us channeling our favorite Mario Cart characters.

Calgary_3

Calgary_4

I didn’t think I had any expectations of Calgary before this whirlwind of a trip since I never considered traveling there, but I was wrong. The idea that I didn’t consider it a must-visit city was an expectation itself and one I’m glad was recently dispelled.

Calgary_5