Story by Miranda Post
PRIDDIS, ALBERTA — Every person who stays at Azuridge is made to feel like a prince or princess — whether they are 17 months old, 37 or 57 years old.
Case in point: As we park my decidedly middle-class Volkswagen Jetta in Azuridge’s cobblestone driveway and walk towards the entrance of the main lodge we are intercepted by man in a perfectly pressed vest, bow tie and enthusiastic demeanour. Director of Butlers — of impeccable comportment and smile-filled freckly face — Jimmy-Lee Vennard gently demands that he take our bags at once and promptly greets my mother, son and me as though we were Kate, George and Gran Middleton themselves. He’s warm yet, formal: “We’ve been waiting for you!” His greeting is punctuated by a firm handshake and quick turn with our bags in tow towards the tall, glass entrance to Azuridge’s Sapphire Hall.
Errr, but here’s the difference between my travelling trio and the mamas Middleton and baby Windsor. We were not from Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and nor is this England. And, the last time I checked I’m not married to the future heir of the Commonwealth. We’re at Azuridge, just 20 minutes south of Calgary in Alberta’s foothills district. My mother and I travelled to the Calgary area with my son for a little triple generation road vacation to the Calgary area. We are here specifically, to learn just what the difference is between Azuridge estate hotel status and other high-end luxury hotels.
Once we’re through the main entrance of the Sapphire Hall, Vennard coaxes us into Opal Dining Lounge and swiftly hands us a prosecco cocktail called “Dangerous Diamond” complete with Blue Curaçao caviar daintily floating on top.
“Welcome to Azuridge! We are so excited to have you here, in fact you have the place to yourselves.” Not a bad start. After we sip our welcome cocktails at this estate 40 kilometres (24 miles) outside of Calgary, we make small talk — Vennard telling us about his passion for singing and his studies to become Canada’s second guilder butler and eventually meet all the staff at our service: three butlers, a sous-chef, a pastry chef, a bartender, a waiter, and a handful of cleaning and grounds staff busy making Azuridge sparkle in the background. It starts to feel a little “Downton Abbey” with a younger, funnier version of Carson playing host.
Size and Sparkle Matter at Azuridge
Azuridge consists of two buildings — the Emerald Lodge and the Sapphire Hall. There are just 13 guest suites between the two. All suites are named after precious gemstones — Pearl, Rhodochrosite, Amethyst, etc. — and are adorned with Egyptian cotton sheets, floor-to-ceiling windows that face the picturesque Priddis Valley and Rocky Mountain horizon. While all Azuridge rooms are stunners (I know, Vennard showed me each one), I’m especially partial to my room — Lapis Lazuli. My overnight abode has mountain vistas and outdoor chill space on a large wrap-around deck, to which my son excitedly exclaims, “Wow!” He then tears around the deck.
Vennard toured me through the property after we settled into our rooms, introducing the exclusive Azuridge features like the Celestite room with its private 102-inch television theatre, the games room equipped with poker table and cigar smoking balcony, and the new gym decked out with branded, free yoga mats and all new equipment.
During my hotel tour, I notice that the guest rooms are all almost larger than the average Vancouver apartment. I am completely relaxed and comfortable. Perhaps it was because we had Azuridge to ourselves. Or perhaps it was because of the uber-friendly, very polite young cadre of staff. Or maybe it was the Dangerous Diamond melting away the stresses of being a working mom whose job is to anticipate the needs of her two princes (adult and child) at every turn. Either way, it was a pretty awesome feeling to have someone above me in the chain of care, anticipating my (our) every need.
[box_light]Read About a Romantic Getaway at Azuridge[/box_light]
During our 24-hour stay at Azuridge, it felt more like we were visiting a wealthy uncle’s posh country home, not a hotel frequented by the likes of Steven Spielberg. Sophisticated coziness comes to mind. In fact, when my whirlwind of a toddler repeatedly escaped our clutches, there were no judge-y stares. Instead we were greeted with the odd giggle-inducing funny face and entirely sincere enquiries as to whether or not myself or the little emperor needed anything.
Alberta’s Luxury Gem
If god is in the details, then Azurdige is a temple of sorts. Azuridge’s strengths include: its legion of attentive butlers led by Vennard and royally trained, guilded butler and general manager Clarence McLeod; and its Ammolite luxury retreats that feature ballroom dance lessons, wine tastings and even yoga. Azuridge’s view is also one of the otherworldly details impossible to ignore, especially if you choose to climb to the top of the water tower to drink in the hilly, westward landscapes of the forested Rocky Mountain foothills.
There are so many luxury hotels, most a part of multi-country behemoths who have great customer service standards but can’t often stray too far from the company manual. Azuridge is not one of these. Azuridge literally bathes guests in luxe perks — from the no-charge mini-bar stocked with Moet & Chandon and Lindt chocolate to the in-room spa treatments to the apres-dinner night caps delivered by a white-gloved butler.
Likely, one of the sweetest moments I experienced during our stay took place as we finished breakfast and prepared to check out. The pastry chef offered to pack my son a wee midday snack box containing a mini yogurt, fresh danishes, napkins and cutlery. As any parent can tell you, having someone else consider your child’s never-ending appetite is a lovely way to start any road trip. As we drove into Calgary, sure enough my little man grew hungry from all his meandering (running) around the Azuridge grounds before we left.
We departed Azuridge that sunny Tuesday morning with a few gems: a hand-written note from Vennard with a Sophocles’ quote (‘Children are the anchors of a mother’s life”), genuine gemstones gifted by Azuridge to represent our stay (a round, blue lapis lazuli and a pearl), and the care package of fresh pastries. The pastries were the most precious of them all: little jewels of flaky French pastry eaten with infant abandon as we carried on to our next stop, which sadly was butler-less.
More About Azuridge Estate
Address: 178057 – 272 Street West, Priddis, Alberta (see map below)
Room Rates: Nightly rates vary by season and room type. Azuridge also offers packages, including a Couples Escape that costs $375 per person and includes a five-course dinner and breakfast.