Monday, July 23, 2018

Oh, Canada + 6 Things to Do While You're There

Matt and I recently spent 4 days in Banff and Lake Louise, Canada, and all we can say about everything we saw there is WOW.

The mountains, the lakes, the glaciers, the sunrise and sunsets, the highways (the highways! hah!)... everywhere we went, we saw another incredible view.

If you keep up with us on Instagram, you saw and read about some of our favorite parts from the trip, but I figured some detail was due on the logistics of getting out there, where to stay, and how to map out your days. 

So let's get to it!

Where to Stay:

I honestly believe you can't go wrong no matter your budget if you're staying inside Banff or Lake Louise. We chose to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise because: 

1- Hello, backdrop. Easily the most beautiful hotel location we have ever stayed.
2- It is 1.5 hours (of beautiful driving) to downtown Banff, and about 10-15 minutes from Icefields Parkway, where most of the hikes and view points we visited are located. (More on that below.)
3- Fairmont Lake Louise has been on our bucket list ever since Jillian Harris took her bachelors there on season 5 of The Bachelorette. Somehow, that was 9 years ago already. But alas, we went!
4- Matt was gifted this trip from a Canadian client of his, and they offered to pay for us to stay there.

#4 is pretty important because the Fairmont is not cheap, but it we were doing it all again and paying with our own money, we would still stay here for at least one night. Being able to wake up early and hike the trails around the hotel before they were crowded was a major bonus, as was being able to skip the lines for canoeing on Lake Louise, as Fairmont guests go right to the front. AND, it's minutes from Lake Moraine, which is where we watched the sunrise and sunset one day- absolutely beautiful.

We stayed at the Fairmont all four nights, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to divide your stay between there and downtown Banff. Fairmont Banff Springs overlooks the whole downtown with a beautiful backdrop, but there are SO many cute hotels at all different price ranges right there in downtown, so I really don't think you have to pay more to stay at the Fairmont in Banff unless you just love the fancier hotel experience. No judgement here. ;)

What airport to fly into:

We flew into Calgary Airport, which is 1.5 hours to downtown Banff and 2hr 15min to Fairmont Lake Louise. There are no direct flights from Atlanta, so we had a 2 hour flight to Toronto, and then a 4 hour flight to Calgary. We wanted to maximize our first travel day, so we left Atlanta at 7:25am EST and arrived in Calgary at 1:15pm MST.

What to do:

1- Take the gondola to dinner at Sky Bistro

We did this our first day. So we landed in Calgary at 1:15, drove 1.5 hours to Banff, walked around downtown, and then hopped on the Goldola at 6:00 and ate at 7:30. The views from the top of the gondola and outside the restaurant were so beautiful! Such a fun way to start our trip.

$65pp for Gondola/dinner package and worth it. Reserve here.

Set your gondola reservation at least one hour before your dinner reservation to give yourself time to take in the views from the top. Request a seat by the windows and wait past your reservation if necessary to get a window seat (Nicely of course- don't be those annoying entitled people!) ;) because how often will you get this dinner view?! 

2- Take a helicopter ride

Taking a helicopter ride through Alpine Helicopter Tours was easily the coolest thing we have ever done. Seeing the glaciers up close and viewing the crystal blue waters from the sky was unbelievable. A once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure!

3- Hike!
If you're not a hiker, hike anyway. hah! But for real. I'm convinced that these views and hiking paths and potential for spotting wildlife would make even a non-hiker love hiking. 

The sun rises around 5:45am and sets around 10pm everyday in the summer, so there is SO much you can fit into a day if you value adventure over sleep like we did. Plus, you have such an advantage if you plan your days early and get to the most popular hikes before everyone else. The views from an uncrowded mountain are even more incredible. 

And I don't know about you, but waking up on vacation when you know you have a fun day ahead of you is so much easier than getting yourself out of bed at home! 

Here are some views from the trails we hiked:

Plain of the 6 Glaciers Trail (behind Fairmont Lake Louise):

Marvel Pass:

Peyto Lake:

Parker Ridge Trail:

Wilcox Pass:

Athabasca Falls:

Behind Peyto Lake:

4- Drive Icefields Parkway
This is a 200km stretch of highway that has the most beautiful views and hiking trails.  National Geographic called it "The drive of a lifetime." Even if you didn't stop to hike, make sure you drive down part of this beautiful stretch of highway!

5- Take a Canoe Ride on Lake Louise

6- Eat
When you're in Banff, I feel like you want a combination of inexpensive, quick bites so that you're not wasting your day eating, and more expensive, delicious restaurants, that may or may not be overpriced because of a beautiful view. Here's how I feel about the latter: Give me a view and I'll give you more money. I just think less about the cost of a meal when I'm looking at this:

That's Lake Louise behind us with snow-capped mountains behind it. Money feels so arbitrary when this is your dining view. Hah!

Now on the flip side:
We lived on PB & Banana Sandwiches, Larabars and apples on our Icefields Parkway hiking day. Taking a 1-2 hour break to find a restaurant and eat lunch was not nearly as exciting as eating a sandwich while climbing this mountain:

So with that in mind, the two places I would spend more money for eating are Sky Bistro Restaurant in Banff and the Fairview Restaurant in Lake Louise. Ask for a window seat as Sky Bistro, and sit outside at the Fairview. (But buy a bottle of wine while grocery shopping and enjoy a glass in your room, because the drink menu at the Fairview was CRAY, and the corking fee was more than I've ever spent on a bottle of wine- hah!)

For more casual, quick, and still delicious meals, try:
Eddie Burger Bar in downtown Banff
Bear Street Tavern in downtown Banff for delicious pizza and apps
Bill Peyto's Cafe for breakfast, lunch or dinner
Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen for delicious to-go breakfast and lunch sandwiches

Matt and I are not ones to travel to the same place twice, but we already want to go back with our kids when they're a little older ( 3, 2, and 1 felt a little young for this trip- ha!) That being said, we could have definitely taken our kids with us and catered our days to more age-appropriate adventures. We likely wouldn't start with the sunrise and end with the sunset everyday, or fit in quite as many hikes, but there is plenty to do and see with kids! 

If you have any questions about our trip or planning a trip for yourself, I'm happy to answer them. Just leave a comment below or email me at:


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Whole30 Take Aways + Favorite Recipes

We are officially Whole30 finishers!

The bad news was that on our very last night, we had a water heater flood part of our basement and had to call in an emergency plumber and water removal company who worked until around 2am.

But the good news was:

Haha! It hit us both as we started to get hungry again that we could eat whatever the heck we wanted! We were like kids whose parents let them stay up late and raid the pantry and fridge.

Okay, we actually only had wine and ice cream, but man did it feel like freedom!

But funny enough, the ice cream did not taste all that great! And this is my favorite Publix Chocolate Trinity that I ate a coffee mug full of every. single. night. #embarassingconfession

And then the next morning, when I went to put coffee creamer in my coffee (which I was super excited about btw), I cut it with the Nutpods creamer because it was too sweet! Whoa.

Praise the Lord the wine tasted good, because that could have been devastating.

Yesterday, we had some friends over for the 4th and definitely enjoyed having the freedom to eat whatever we wanted, but I found myself not wanting as much of the bread/chips/dips/pizza and actually wanting to fill up more on the salads and meat.

This was pretty much revolutionary.

One of the biggest things Matt and I learned from doing Whole30 was a new kind of "full" feeling. The first week, and especially the first few days, I felt like I was hungry all of the time. But I soon learned that the full feeling I was used to, was really a bloated feeling from bread and cheese and other similar foods that are not necessarily unhealthy, but create a stuffed feeling when I finish them.

I felt very aware yesterday of not wanting to have that stuffed feeling. I got so used to feeling a good-kind-of-full for 30 days- where my body had actually eaten enough but didn't feel uncomfortable after eating.

Going forward, I am super thankful for the flexibility we'll have in being able to eat what we want and not having to cook separate meals in the instances when we are out to eat somewhere with our kids, but I will most definitely continue to choose the higher protein, leaner and cleaner path to feeling full whenever I can. It just feels better.

Below is a list of our favorite Whole30 meals that we will continue to make. Whole30 or not, these meals are just GOOD.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
image from The Real Food Dietitians

Taco Bowls
Recipe here

Whole30 Beef Stir Fry 
(recipe here)

Sheperd's Pie 
recipe here from The Real Food Dietitians

Date and Shallot Rosemary Chicken
recipe here from paleOMG
photo from paleOMG

Salmon with Avocado Salsa
recipe here from The Cookie Rookie
photo from The Cookie Rookie

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
recipe here from The Real Food Dieticians
photo from The Real Food Dieticians

Southwest Turkey Stuffed Peppers
recipe here from The Real Food Dietitians
photo from The Real Food Dieticians

We also got to where we loved having salad every day for lunch. A few of our favorite meat toppings were leftover salmon from the salmon with avocado salsa recipe above, buffalo chicken from the slow cooker recipe above, or grilled chicken marinated with the ingredients from the rosemary, date and shallot recipe above.

Our goal going into Whole30 was to learn cleaner ways to eat foods we already loved and to learn how to better read labels on the foods were buying so we could find good-tasting alternatives to some of our favorite snacks and foods. We absolutely learned these things and more. I feel like our bodies are set to crave healthier, cleaner foods now, and less of the carbs and sugars we ate without thinking about before.

We also really liked the empowering feeling of sticking with something for 30 days, even when our bodies or minds were feeling like taking the easy route and eating something convenient and non-Whole30. It got us thinking about other 30-day goals we want to create for ourselves.

And while I don't think we'll ever do the whole 30 days of Whole30 again, I think we'll definitely do a Whole7 after holidays or vacations when we feel like our bodies and minds need a quick, healthy reset. But who knows, maybe we won't even want to go back to those days of binging on all the not-great-for-us things? I guess we'll find out.

Thanks for following along with our journey on here and on Instagram! No more pictures of what I'm eating for lunch on my IG stories, but if I come across a new really great recipe, I'll share. ;)