Travel Diaries: Ice Magic Festival of Lake Louise

When you grow up in Canada, one of the things you hear about every year is the Ice Magic Festival of Lake Louise. That and also that Niagara Falls is a must see in your lifetime. For me, though I’d lived within driving distance of Lake Louise for almost my entire life, I’d never actually been to the festival.

I love Lake Louise, and try to visit several times a year, but I’d never managed to make it in late January/early February when the Ice Magic Festival is taking place.

Fast forward to 2019 and the year that I’m making things happen. Knight and I decided to take the weekend to see the Festival. It was supposed to be bitterly cold, but I convinced him to come anyways, knowing that the colder it was, the less tourists there would be out.

We began at a little bakery in Lake Louise called Laggan’s Mountain Bakery. This place had a line up that was almost out the door. The Baked Goods were delectable. As someone who eats strictly gluten free (Celiac Disease) finding gluten-free baked goods in a tiny little town in the mountains was quite a score. I ended up picking up a few, eating one then and saving the rest for home.

To the lake we went.

Despite my best hopes, there were still quite a few tourists out to bare the blistery -31 degree weather. I guess they, like me, decided it was still worth it, no matter how cold.

It had snowed quite a bit since the sculptures were made, but I still made my way around the lake to try and make out what each of the sculptures were. Some of them were difficult to tell due to the sun being behind the mountains and the snow having fallen. Even still, it really amazes the talent people have to create such intricate statues and sculptures out of ice.

Though it was tempting, we decided to not stop at the Ice Bar and opted to wander into the hotel to shop and warm up. There’s so much history in the Fairmont Lake Louise, wandering the halls just makes you feel as though it could be filled with ghosts of guests past.

There’s a gorgeous restaurant inside the hotel that overlooks the lake, the festival and the mountains in the background. It might be a little too rich for my blood, though. So, after checking out the sights of inside, we made our way back out to the lake. My desire was to walk far enough onto the lake that I could get a photo without anyone in the background.

Saying that you’re walking out to the middle of the lake is a weird thing to speak. But when you get there the view is so, so, so very much worthwhile.

About a third of the lake was plowed from what I could see. A portion was arranged for public skating (I wish I had brought my skates) a portion was arranged for playing hockey (it is as picture perfect as the photos showcase) and a portion was arranged for cross country skiing. Basically, it’s an outdoor lover’s dream.


To me, Lake Louise is the prettiest place on earth. It really is. Of all the places that I’ve ever been, my heart always comes back to Lake Louise and those incredible mountains shadowing over the picturesque lake, the forests, the animals, the majestic world that is the Rocky Mountains.

It was a perfect day… a picture perfect day wandering the festival, eating incredible food, watching the tourists in awe of how much snow there was.

There’s something I used to tell my friends a lot, that still stands true to this day. If ever I lose my way, that’s where you’ll find me – the tiny little town in the mountains. The place where everything’s good and everyone knows everyone. To me, that will always be Lake Louise.

Tips for travelling on the cheap.

If you’re anything like me, all you want to do is wander the world. It’s hard to blame anyone for Wanderlust when there’s so many places to go and so many things to see. Travelling is an expensive hobby, though. And, if you’re not smart about how you’re travelling, things can get really out of reach, really quickly.

A desire to see the world should never be haulted by cost, though. So, if you’re like me and not independently wealthy, then steps need to be taken to ensure that you can get where you want to go without suffering for it for months before, or after.

So, without further adieu, here are some vague tips that I frequently use when planning trips, when looking for new places to see, or when helping friends/family (who aren’t independently wealthy themselves) book trips.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET:

Be flexible with your dates. Obviously this isn’t always possible. If you’re needing to get to a wedding, or some sort of an event somewhere, you have to go on a certain date. But, if time is your oyster, the world can be too.

Example: I was hellbent on the idea of being in Las Vegas for my thirtieth birthday last year. Flights to Vegas for my birthday were $350 there and $395 return. Flights nine days after my birthday were $100 there and $78 back. That’s a savings of more than $500. Just for going nine days after my birthday. When I thought about it I reminded myself that Vegas is still Vegas, and no one’s going to hear I went nine days after my birthday, they’re going to hear that I went to Vegas for my birthday.

Uses travel-friendly booking websites. Though it may seem as you’re selling your soul a small bit when you give your email address over to websites like Expedia or Trivago, these sites can actually be incredibly helpful. Being able to see hotel prices all in one place can allow you to know which hotels are more within your budget and what places to avoid. These websites can also, often, have cheaper prices for reservations than booking on an individual hotel’s website.

Ask a local. Whether it through a blog, or asking someone on a street when you get there, ask someone where the best places to eat or shop are. Tell them you’re on a budget, tell them you’re trying to save. There’s no one who is going to know more about a place and where is cheap to eat or shop then someone who lives there.

Pack our own food. Where possible, this can be a huge money saver. Prices are marked up extensively at restaurants and cafes, especially in overly touristy areas. Wandering into the grocery store and grabbing some food, even if it’s a pre-packaged veggie or meat tray, can be a lot cheaper than a restaurant or a cafe. I quite often opt for this route. I prefer to spend my money on things other than food when I travel, where possible. 

Don’t shop at the airport. Don’t do it. Ever. Even something as simple as a Starbucks coffee can be 2-3 more dollars just for purchasing it in the airport. Also, those cute and dainty little shops that line the halls en-route to your gate… they’re there to suck you in. Resist the temptations.

Skip the frills. Things like airline wi-fi can seem really intriguing when you’re bored on the plane. But, if you think ahead and bring a book… or a notebook… or a sleeping pill, you won’t need to purchase that wi-fi and can save yourself some dollars.

Ask ahead. Finding a hotel that’s reservation includes breakfast in the morning and access to a laundry room is possible. If you’re going to be staying somewhere for a longer-stint of time, having access to a laundry room can be a life-saver. And, if you don’t have access to a laundry room, it’s a lot cheaper to find a laundromat ahead of time rather than using a laundry service.

See what public transit looks like where you’re headed. Using public transit in a new city, if you can wrap your head around it, can be a lot cheaper than taxi and uber trips. Plus, public transit can allow you to see more of the city if you’re willing to try.

Do your research about free, or cheap, attractions. These are out there. They do exists. Pinterest can be an incredible assistance in this process because people who’ve been there before share their stories about where to go and what to see, what is fun and what is not worth it.

Use coupons, sales, discount codes. There’s a local airline near me that has sales on holiday’s. Doesn’t matter the holiday, every holiday you can bet there’s going to be a sale. Usually it involves waking up early in the morning to be one of the first ‘x’ amount of people to purchase the ticket under the sale price. If you can wake up early and get that discount, DO IT. And if you don’t wake up early, still see if there’s a discount code for you to be able to use to cut costs just that much more. Even if it’s only 10 percent off flights, 10 percent off flights still counts.

Take advantage of loyalty programs. I joined the loyalty program of a car rental company about a year ago. I don’t rent cars a ton, but when I do, I am earning points for them. Those points can add up over time and, eventually, I can redeem those points for free rentals. Taking advantage of a loyalty program for purchases that you have to make, or rentals that you have to have, will help you in the long-run when you take a trip you don’t have to incur those costs on. This works for hotels as well.

Travel Diaries: I left my heart in the Rocky Mountains.

There’s a song by Joe Walsh called Rocky Mountain Way. The first line of the song, ‘spent the last year Rocky Mountain way, couldn’t get much higher’, aptly describes my feelings towards this perfect part of the world.

I still remember the first time my parents took us into the mountains. Growing up with the pacific ocean just minutes from my front doorstep, I’d never experienced anything close to the majestic nature of the mountains before. And the Rocky Mountains, they’re like any other on earth.


I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life. I remember sitting in the car getting lost in the views outside the window. Anywhere you turn. Everywhere you turn. Seeing snow in June. Seeing elk walking down the sidewalk as though they’re humans. Those four days will forever stand out in my mind as my favourite holiday ever taken with my family.


I have stood/sat at this lake shore in every season under every type of weather imaginable and it is always the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. That being said, Lake Louise definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi about it during the winter months.

Being able to walk out on the frozen lake and look back at the shore is an experience everyone should try in their lifetime. It’s something so small, but it means so much when you’re doing it. And, if you happen to catch Lake Louise in late January you can see some incredible ice sculptures built on the lake each year as a part of the Ice Magic Festival. Info here: https://www.banfflakelouise.com/ice-magic-festival

Things to do in Lake Louise:

  • Lake Louise. That’s it. Just go see it. You have to. Sit at the shore. Walk around the lake. Take the horse-drawn carriage. However you do it, just go.

If you carry on down the highway to Banff you will find the tourist mecca that is (quite possibly) the most known of Canadian town in the country of Australia. Banff caters to tourists. Amidst the big chain stores (that normally are only found in larger city centers) there are tiny little one-of-a-kind cafes and shops where you can truly find the spirit of the mountains.

Highlights of Banff:

  • The Rose and Crown – incredible food and has some really fantastic staff.
  • Banff Ave – This is the most photographed piece of Banff. Main street is worth the wander, just to see what kind of treasures you can find.
  • Mount Norquay – Head up Mount Norquay to see some incredible views of the town from above, and, of the landscapes surrounding Banff in the national park. Info here: https://banffnorquay.com/

Now, Canmore. Let’s talk about Canmore. Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents would read you storybooks about perfect tiny little towns where everyone knows everyone and everything is good? Those books were written about Canmore. Well, maybe not. But, if ever there were a town that could have served as motivation for those books, it would be Canmore, a tiny little town of dreams in the mountains.

When you wander into Starbucks you see the barista wearing a nametag that says “Songbird” and you’re quickly reminded of the slower pace of life that comes in small towns.

Don’t get me wrong. Canmore is a resort town. There are some incredibly breathtaking places to stay in Canmore. The thing that I love about Canmore so much more than Banff, though, is that it’s less touristy. It’s more home-y… if that makes sense. Everything seems to be within walking distance from you, and even if it isn’t, you want to walk anyways because the views are so breathtaking.

I love Canmore. I’ve been 15,000 times in the past six years. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but truly, if I could have been 15,000 times, I probably would have. Take a hike, take a bike, see the galleries, eat the food, be at peace in this tiny little town in the Rockies.

Must see in Canmore:

  • The Drake Pub – Trust me, you won’t regret it.
  • Dogsledding – Do it. Epitomize what it means to be in winter. Info here: https://howlingdogtours.com/our-tours
  • Golfing – Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club is one of the most incredible courses I’ve ever had the privilege of golfing. If you’re a golfer and you visit in summer, check it out. Info here: http://www.stewartcreekgolf.com/

Day 27: What’s it like to be homeless?

The day that I was fired from my job I gave notice that I would be moving out of this apartment. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t want to be here, and if I wasn’t working, why should I stay? I was clearly way too over-confident in thinking that I would have everything sorted out in one-month’s time.

Here we are 27 days later and I don’t have any more answers now than I had the day I gave my notice. I’m packing my things, cleaning my apartment and getting ready to become a stow-away/couch surfer/mooch from everyone I know.

In the truest, societal definition of the sense, I am not ‘homeless’. I won’t be on the streets. I won’t be in dire straights not knowing where my next meal will come from. Thankfully, I do have some extremely wonderful and loving people in my life whom I know will make sure I have a place to sleep during this awkward transition I seem to be going through. That being said, it’s going to be weird to be of no fixed address. To not have my things and my bed and say I am going home to my place at the end of each day. Maybe I’ll get used to that. Maybe I’ll even like that. It might be nice to have nothing to tie one’s-self down.

The one thought that has remained constant during the past 27 days is the desire to travel. I have the most intense, urgent desire to up and leave everything behind and see the world. I want to take beautiful photos, eat exhilarating foods and spend all of my savings just living. Truly living.

Perhaps I’m wrong. But then again we’re all allowed to make our own definitions of what it means to truly live. I can’t shake this feeling though that there’s got to be more out there for me than a cubicle with my name on it.

Maybe I don’t need a fixed address. Maybe what I need is out there… somewhere in this world that I have yet to travel.

Question of the day: where’s your ideal travel destination?

Day 26: Money can’t buy happiness.

Actually, money can’t buy a lot of things. But, as I sat in the salon listening to the woman next to me complain about her husband, her children, her home, her life and her motivation, I couldn’t help but think that she was the perfect example of that statement.

Wearing a diamond ring larger than any I’ve seen before, fumbling through her $5,000 purse to find her car keys to shut the car alarm of her $150,000 Mercedes, she continued on about how her husband doesn’t listen to her. About how he doesn’t care. About how when she gets upset with him his response is to buy her something new. Be it diamonds or electronics or vehicles, he’s bought it all for her and he still hasn’t learned that what she wants most is for him to listen.

As she continued on talking about how her children were spoiled brats who didn’t understand the values of anything in life, I couldn’t help but wonder if she played a hand in making them that way. I don’t think it was intentional, but I do think that when they’re not looking, parents play a larger role in passing on bad behaviours to their kids then they believe.

Here’s the thing: the woman was clearly very depressed with her life. Something that seemed quite ‘beautiful’ from the outside, at a personal level was tearing her up. She was not happy. And maybe too afraid to do anything about it. (That last part is absolutely speculation) And, as I watched what seemed like a perfect exterior fall apart in a salon chair, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that material possessions are nothing more than that. Possessions can’t give peace of mind. Possessions can’t make you happy. Sure, they can make things easier, if you use them properly. But they won’t buy your happiness.

I’ve never been someone to be wowed by fancy things. With a whole world out there to explore, I have no desire for diamonds, I desire experience. I want to walk with penguins in Antarctica and go cave diving in Madagascar. I want to see the whole world. And yes, money is needed to travel. There is a bit of a catch-twenty-two there. But watching her, clearly deeply unhappy with her life and how it’s turned out, I was reminded that experiences are far more important than things.

She, for me, will serve as a reminder that things are not necessary. Money can’t buy happiness. Money cannot buy peace of mind. Actually, money cannot buy a lot of things. Money can’t buy:

  • Respect
  • Truth
  • Work-life balance
  • Natural Beauty
  • Manner
  • Common Sense
  • A clear conscience
  • Purpose in life
  • Integrity
  • Good Friends
  • A long life
  • Close-knit family
  • An open mind
  • A worry-free day
  • Trust
  • A new beginning
  • A great idea
  • An honest politician
  • Peace of mind
  • A good hair day
  • Patience
  • Luck
  • Happy Memories
  • Time to relax
  • A strong work ethic
  • A positive attitude
  • A happy home
  • Good Karma
  • Blessings
  • Appreciation and love of the simple things
  • True Love
  • A new shot at a missed opportunity
  • Peace in the World
  • A golden anniversary
  • Talent
  • A second chance
  • Quality time with the ones you love
  • Wisdom
  • Happiness
  • Intelligence
  • Humility
  • A good reputation
  • A 25 hour day
  • Youth
  • Experience
  • Class
  • Justice
  • Perspective
  • Selflessness

Travel Diaries: Copenhagen is calling

Something inexplicable happens when I step off the plane in a foreign land. Overcome with the possibilities of the unknown, I can’t help but want more.

It’s been two years since I stood at the edge of Nyhavn. Two years since I wandered the cobblestone streets and felt the gracious charm that is Copenhagen.

When I look back on my travels there is always one memory that stands out in each country I’ve visited. One moment in time that I remember above the rest. Something that stands out as a just a little bit brighter and a little bit better in my mind than all the rest. In Copenhagen it was Thai Food.

I know how that sounds. Trust me, I do. Who goes to Scandinavia to find Thai Food? Shouldn’t the best Thai food be found in Thailand?

“I can get Thai food at home!” I remember yelling at my brother as I followed him down Strøget after watching the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace.

“Trust me, sister. You haven’t ever had Thai like this before.”

Though I didn’t believe him, I reluctantly chose to follow him and my sister-in-law anyways… daydreaming of lunch at any of the Danish cafes and restaurants we passed along the way.

Very few times in my life have I had to admit that I was wrong. And oh boy, was I ever wrong about this.

Scurry Hub, an unassuming hole-in-wall restaurant with fewer than 15 seats inside, dubs itself as “Street Food” that can be eaten in or taken out. And, if you intend to eat in, good luck finding a seat. Truthfully.

From what I gathered during the hour we spent there, people in Copenhagen are also aware of just how phenomenal Scurry Hub’s food is. People continued in and out the doors the entire time we ate lunch… hoping to find a seat, realizing there weren’t seats and having to take their food with them to ensure they didn’t miss out.

We sat, we laughed, we talked and we planned the rest of our day and we ate some of the most incredible food that I’ve ever had.

‘Did we magically get the only table with four chairs?’ I asked my brother.

‘I guess so’, he laughed as he took another bite of food.

That day, that food, that restaurant will forever stand out in my mind. It was a shining reminder to myself that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.

As we got up to continue on with our day, a group of locals was already scooping our table before my jacket was on. I remember thinking that I couldn’t blame them for doing that. I also remember thinking that I’d be back there one day.

Copenhagen is a magical city. The old-world charm I witnessed as I wandered cobblestone streets, ate incredible food, shopped in one-of-a-kind stores with salespeople who LOVED learning of my Canadian’ness made it feel like home. And, though I didn’t speak the language, know the culture or even how to read the street signs, I felt as though I belonged.

The wanderlust has hit hard in 2019. I will be back, Copenhagen. I can promise that with certainty.


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VISITING COPENHAGEN:

  1. Eat at Scurry Hub – It is THE BEST Thai food that you will ever have.
  2. Climb the Rundetårn – The top of this tower has 360 degree views of the Copenhagen skyline. And, on clear days, you can see across to Sweden.
  3. Visit the Nyhavn Canal – Quite possibly one of the most synonymous sights of Copenhagen, this is one instagram opportunity you won’t want to miss.
  4. Walk. Walk everywhere – There are so many unique stores, cafes and restaurants all over the city. If you’ve got a good pair of walking shoes then I strongly encourage you to walk so that you don’t miss any hole-in-the-wall along the way.
  5. Amalienborg Palace – Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family. Tourists flock to the Palace Courtyard each day to watch the changing of the guards. It’s a very ‘touristy’ thing to do. But it’s definitely a cool thing to witness if you’re up for it.
  6. Shopping in Strøget – If you want to shop in Copenhagen visit Strøget. It’s the shopping district in the centre of the city that is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe. There’s something for everyone, no matter your tastes.

-V