Cozy up in front of the fireplace because this is going to be a long one.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I recently went on a trip with my girls (Mel, Tee, Nina & Qing) to Banff. And you may or may not know, but McCafe has recently partnered with WestJet to now serve freshly brewed McCafe Premium Roast coffee on all flights, and we were invited to help celebrate the partnership. Now you may be thinking to yourself “but Vic, we never see you drinking McCafe, only coffee from hipster cafes.” And you’re right, I do showcase many different cafes across Toronto and my travels, but McCafe has always been the go-to since Day 1, especially when it comes to travel or on-the-go fuel.
Compared to many other mass-market brands, their roast is actually quite delicious, their coffee is often consistent (when comparing how much milk and sugar goes into each cup), their service is always quick, and there’s always a fun drink for each season. Though their partnership with WestJet only offers freshly brewed black coffee, you bet your bottom dollar that I stocked up on the Festive Holiday drinks while on the trip.
I’ve had my fair share of McDonald’s pit stops on my visits back and forth from Toronto to Ottawa, so instead of ordering my same old Double-Double, I decided to switch things up a bit for the trip and go a little festive. This year’s offerings included the Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Mocha, and the Salted Caramel Latte. And for all of you who hate on peppermint flavoured drinks because they remind you of toothpaste, fear not. Because McCafe has got their peppermint recipe on lockdown and it just tastes like candy cane goodness in the form of a caffeinated drink. Why would you say no? Can you guys guess which drink I was literally inhaling for the entire trip? I’ll reveal later on…
And yes, although it’s now way past Christmas, it doesn’t mean that McCafe’s festive drinks are done for the season. You can still easily get your hands on any of them in-stores until about mid-January. So rush, but don’t really rush!
Although our trip to Banff was shortlived (you can’t blame us for trying to be responsible and not taking too much time off from work), it was certainly a memorable one. What started off as a quick pit stop to a nearby by McDonald’s by the airport to pick up our much needed caffeine at 3 AM, quickly turned into a long but adventurous and coffee-fueled day.
Travelers’ tip: if you end up getting a McCafe coffee in-flight, make sure to peel and save your sticker! Yes, for all you avid McCafe drinkers, you can also collect your McCafe Rewrds 40,000 ft up in the sky. Think about it, you’re basically getting a free sticker… which means that you’re also spending less for that free 8th cup of coffee!
Luckily for us, the West Coast lags by the East in a couple of hours, so although the flight was about 4 hours long, it didn’t feel like much of the day was wasted due to travel. The minute we landed, we began our immediate trek into the chilly wilderness of Alberta to explore the winter wonderland that awaited us.
More or less all of us girls had visited Vancouver at some point in our lives, but none of us had yet been to Banff – queue the questions as to why in the world we decided to travel to a snowy place in the winter. Yes I know that most sane people would love to get away to the tropics when it gets chilly but we have a fine appreciation for the beautiful Canadian winters and really wanted to take in Banff on a much less explored side. You’ve all seen the beautiful pictures of Lake Louise in the middle of the sumer when it’s all sorts of blue and emerald gorgeousness, but not often do you get to experience it in it’s calming winters.
Side note: To anyone asking if it was cold while we took these photos – the answer is yes. Of course it was! But in true Instagrammer/Blogger fashion, we did it for the #Gram!
Our first stop of the trip after we picked up our rental was straight to Banff to see the famous Fairmont Banff Hotel. We spent quite awhile there hiking through the heavily wooded forest before stumbling upon Bows Lake. You’ll recognize it in my photos as the only visible lake that we encountered while on our trip. I’m glad that we had a chance to enjoy the lake for a bit because every other body of water that we visited for the remainder of the trip had frozen over and just looked like a skating rink. Pretty in theory, but not the best for photos.
Upon deciding that our fingers and toes had frozen over enough, we made our way back to the hotel for some late afternoon tea before taking in the sunset over the valley. Watching the sun set in the city is one thing, but being able to admire the beautiful golden glow of the moutains light up by the sun is something else. We felt that it was necessary to call the night short since we had all gotten up quite early for travel, and decided that it was time to go back to our AirBnB to rest up.
Easter Egg: If you’ve made it this far, then I’ll reveal that my favourite Festive McCafe drink is their Peppermint Mocha! Were you surprised?
Our next day proved to be just as chilly but with the addition of a snow storm. This definitely was not advantageous to us visiting Lake Louise, almost everything was blanketed in white fluffy snow that whipped up into a cloud thanks to all of the wind. We made the best of it and took some photos, but ultimately decided that although it was beautiful, we definitely wanted to come back at some point in the summer.
Not wanting to waste the day, we drove up to Yoho National Park to check out Emerald Lake, in hopes that the weather conditions were better there. No such luck. Although it wasn’t snowing as hard, everything was covered in a thick blanket of snow from the previous night’s mini storm. Shooting in the winter time renders extremely similar photos wherever you go, because everything literally looks like deciduous trees and white. Luckily we stumbled upon a cute little bridge that served perfectly for our impromptu shoots and made for some beautifully scenic memories.
After spending nearly an hour exploring the lake and its surroundings, we decided that it would be perfect time to head back Banff for dinner and a quiet night in. The sun sets quite early, so it was tough for us to get much else done, and I think everyone agreed that being out in the cold takes quite a bit of energy out of you. Another early night only seemed like the right thing to do.
We had another full day of activities planned for us on our last day in the city, but unfortunately food poisoning struck a couple of the ladies, and we ended up taking an early flight back to Toronto. I’m thoroughly sad to have missed out on some beautiful sights, but I know that I’ll be back soon, so no regrets.
We enjoyed some much needed warmth in the form of more coffee on our way back (wishing that I had some of the Bakery goods to accompany my coffee – anyone who likes to pair their drinks with food should really check out McCafe’s suggestions for some pleasant pairings!) before landing an reuniting with our fur babies.
As cheesy at it sounds, I am thoroughly beyond blessed to have been given this opportunity to not only travel with McCafe but with some of the sweetest girls that I know. We made some memories to last a lifetime and I couldn’t imagine a better way to close out 2016 than with some of my nearest and dearest.