Calgary, Canada: Food worthy of a detour

For someone who was born in Calgary, with no ocean nearby, it’s hard to find tasty seafood. Thanks to our mountain fed lakes we do get to enjoy fresh and local trout and pickerel (Walleye). But it’s very rare to enter a place and feel like you are close to a coast with the display of oysters in the middle of the Catch Oyster bar.

Shucking station

I’ve been to Catch a half dozen times in the last year even though they were closed for quite a few months for a remodel. We’ve enjoyed birthday parties, date nights, couple nights out and even taken our parents here to meet for the first time.

To start there are actually two restaurants here, Catch the Oyster bar downstairs and Catch restaurant upstairs. Upstairs is more on the fine dining side of things but the actual room doesn’t give off this vibe. The restaurant has a large private dining table and the whole room has a fun upscale feel to it.

The Oyster Bar downstairs has an open kitchen and fresh oyster bar with bar style seating. There are booths along the windows which are comfortable for two but I would think slightly tight for four people. The menu at Catch Oyster bar isn’t as fine dining as upstairs and this works well for me.

Open kitchen at the Oyster Bar

The prawn tempura is one of their hit starters and I really suggest you order at least a half order on your first visit. I enjoy them but not as much as my dining companions who always order these on their visits. The clam linguine is a hit in my books. The dish has the right amount of spice and just works well together.

Prawn Tempura; 3 in a half order 6 in a full order. $2 each on Tuesdays

We always get a pot of mussels too. It’s a substantial portion compared to other restaurants in Calgary and you have a choice of 5 different broths. I always start with a few oysters per person while dining here. They have at least a half dozen different types and I’ve enjoyed them all. The oysters are accompanied with some fresh horseradish, lemons and two very tasty sauces. So in case you have any first timers or people who like to dress up their raw oysters these extras do a fine job.

East coast oysters are usually larger then their west coast counterparts because they take longer to mature.

Half order of mussels during their Thursday night Mussels and Fries special

The night before I watched a new episode of Deadliest Catch so I had a crab craving on this visit

A few times we have eaten here right at 5:00pm and the place is usually fairly full so there is a social atmosphere. You can also park underground at the Hyatt hotel and the reception will validate your parking which is a good perk. As for service, every visit has been excellent except once. Otherwise the staff have been terrific and I notice little turnover which is a good sign for us frequent guests.

Overall if you are craving seafood in Calgary head to Catch. Weather you are in the mood for a more casual setting and food or fine dining this place has both options covered and their seafood really is that fresh since it’s flown in daily.

Impressive

Enjoy some live music at Thomsons across the hall from Catch

Plenty of places to grab a drink before or after your meal on Stephen Ave.

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Excellent hotel deal for the Fairmont Kea Lani and Orchid in Hawaii

If you are planning a luxury trip to Maui do not miss this offer. Tomorrow (May 8th) at 1:00pm ET Amex daily getaways is offering 6 nights at the Fairmont Kea Lani or Fairmont Orchid for $1750 or $1600 if you pay with an American Express card. There are NO expiry or blackout dates. Breakfast and all taxes and fees are also included.

This works out to $266.67 all in per night for the Kea Lani if you are paying with an Amex card. This is well under half the average rate. During high season such as Christmas or Spring Break I’ve seen their rooms start at $799 a night plus taxes with no breakfast.

Here is a recent report I did on the Fairmont Kea Lani, it is an all suite hotel too. If you are planning to take advantage of this deal keep in mind they are only selling 10 packages so I would be at my computer clicking buy right when the deal opens because I think it will sell out fast.

Link to this offer

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Get 16,500 Aeroplan points for under $40 with the Aeroplan Star Challenge

Who doesn’t enjoy a good challenge? The Aeroplan Star Challenge is a new promotion where if you attain 70 stars they will reward you with 16,500 bonus Aeroplan miles. This is enough for a roundtrip short haul ticket.

To get stars you will have to purchase items from their partners who give out Aeroplan miles. There are 4 ways to earn these “stars”:

-You get two stars if you shop at Esso, Costco, Sobeys, Rexall and other partner stores. In my case I have a Sobeys and Rexall right next to each other close to home so when passing by I will make an effort to stop and buy something as close to $1 as possible. You are allowed to visit Sobeys 20 times to get 40 stars but you can only do it once a day.

-You get 3 stars if you stay at a partner hotel, rent a car or book a cruise or vacation

-You get 5 points for each segment you fly on Air Canada

-If you have an Aeroplan affiliated financial card you get 5 points. I know the American Express Aeroplan and CIBC Aero cards qualify

Since I already have 5 points thanks to my AMEX I need 65 more by the end off the month. I have no plans to travel or fly Air Canada so have to visit 33 stores to make up the difference. I told you this was a challenge at the beginning 😉

Luckily for me the stores are right next to each other so I only have to park the car 17 times. But I will probably make a few stops at Esso for gas across the street where if I spend $3 I qualify.

If you have a few people in your family you can also multiply your transaction and both enjoy a trip in the future with the Aeroplan point bonus.

Click here for full details at the Aeroplan site

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50% Bonus when you transfer your AMEX membership reward points to British Airways Avios points this month

If you need AVIOS points and have American Express membership reward points now is the time to transfer. Keep in mind it takes up to 5 days to show up in your BA Executive Club account. Avios points can be redeemed on BA flights, their partner airlines including American Airlines and for upgrades.

Link

This may only be offered in Canada right now.

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Trip Report: Red and Blue Design Hotel Prague, Pakat Suites Vienna, Holiday Inn Krakow and Monopol in Wroclaw

Part 1: Lufthansa Business Class and Air Canada to Wroclaw, Poland
Part 2: Exploring Prague, Vienna, and Krakow including the Red and Blue Design Hotel, Pakat Suites, Holiday Inn Krakow, Monopol Wroclaw
Part 3 Coming soon: United Airlines Business Class and Lot Polish Airlines back home

My whole family was at the airport for my arrival and we drove to my aunt’s house where we shared stories and feasted on perogies.

I love homemade perogies stuffed with either cheeses or mushrooms

Wroclaw is one of the host cities for the EuroCup this summer. They have built an enormous stadium, new airport, spruced up the city, and extended the public transport system. A massive investment into infrastructure which I hope doesn’t crumble and gets used in the future.

Fountains on town square

The shops and restaurants in town have changed since my last trip here 4 years ago. Wroclaw has one of the nicest town squares in Europe. It’s large and houses hundreds of different cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops. The buildings in the town square are all recently restored and it’s a nice place to people watch.

Wroclaw

Breakfast for two at grandmas 🙂

After a few nights in Wroclaw we rented a car and were off to Prague which is about a 3 hour drive away. The morning of our departure I booked the hotel on Expedia for only $68 a night. This ended up being one of the best hotel deals I’ve ever scored.

The Red and Blue design hotel is a 4 star property which has only been open a few years. One side of the hotel is designed with blue rooms and the other red. The hotel sits right along a park on the east side of the river about a 15 minute walk to the Charles Bridge.

When we first arrived we got a bit nervous when they said their parking lot was full but luckily we ended up getting a spot. The lot is a few hundred meters up the hill from the hotel and parking was a reasonable charge.

This hotel is also used as a check-in area for many different condo rentals so it may get back logged once in a while. We were given a room on the top floor facing the park on the red side. For Prague, the room was a good size and the bathroom was large. The fixings and furniture were in good condition and contemporary.

Top floor on the red side

Digital TV and good wifi

Modern and open WC

For the price we paid I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. Since it was my other half’s first time in Prague I showed her the main sights and we enjoyed dining out. The city has changed so much over the last 20 years. There are quite a few tourist traps including the majority of currency exchange spots and pick pocketers which you have to be careful of.

Prague

Very close to Charles bridge this is the Mandarin Oriental hotel

Castle from the Charles bridge

The bridge from the Four Seasons Hotel Prague

The original Moser store. The Rolls Royce of Crystal

There are a few very nice hotels near the castle. Great place to stay if you want to get away from the major crowds.

After four nights and too many pilsners to count we headed to Vienna. The night before we left I booked the Pakat Suites hotel on booking.com for $128 a night. The hotel is located in the embassy section of Vienna so not where the bulk of hotels tend to be. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the action near their town square.

The Pakat Suites was advertised as a 5 star hotel. Check-in was smooth and we entered our room on the top floor. This hotel is very new so the furnishings were all spectacular. The bathroom had black marble and we had a little sitting area and bedroom separated by a wall with TVs on both sides. The balcony overlooked the interior garden courtyard and we never had any noise issues.

I didn't knock my head on the slanted wall!

Very nice large shower on the left. From the shower you could reach out onto the sink in case you needed to grab your toothbrush or soap which was nice.

Flatpanel TV in bedroom and sitting area on other side

View from the balcony

Looking down at the courtyard of the Pakat Suites hotel

For the price we paid we would return to this hotel. The only negative is there aren’t many dining options within a short walk of the hotel. Once we got our fill of schnitzels at Figlmuller it was off to Krakow for three nights. We stopped for a night in Wisla which is a Polish vacation town and made it to Krakow during rush hour with a temperature outside hovering around 37 degrees.

5 minute walk from our hotel

The only part that wasn't being renovated

After we entered Krakow, we asked a taxi driver to lead us to the Holiday Inn. The hotel is located on a one way street and with our limited map it made sense to ask for help. Occasionally I’ll ask a stranger at a traffic light and next thing you know he leads me right to my destination and drives off before I can hand over some $$$ as a thank you.

The lobby of the Holiday Inn Krakow used to be the house of a successful business man. It was very nice and cozy and had a comfortable bar. We were handed our keys to a room on the 3rd floor overlooking the entrance area of the hotel. The air conditioning worked very well so this was a relief. I hate hotels that advertise AC and then when you arrive it’s in an old building and barely works.

Wall in the lobby of the hotel

Nice Entrance

Over the past week we had been visiting historical landmarks so it was my turn to pick an activity. It was so hot outside that we got in the car and went to my favorite water park. I paid the small fee for 2 hours of use and was ready for fun. The slides here are colour coded according to difficulty just like ski resort runs. It’s an adrenalin blast and made me feel like a kid again.

Water park entrancec

Town square from Wierzynek restaurant

Krakow at night

After 3 nights of visiting Krakow and an excellent dinner at Wierzynek we made our way back to Wroclaw for a few nights before heading home to Canada.

Last breakfast at grandmas

In Wroclaw we found an extraordinary spa at the Monopol Hotel. Compared to treatment costs back home it felt like hitting a homerun. We had the whole place to ourselves on a weekday morning. After our treatments we enjoyed the complimentary glass of bubbles and a nice fresh berry salad. The restaurant on the top of this hotel is also a worthy of a detour next time you end up in Wroclaw.

Monopol Spa pool and jacuzzi

Salt room

Bucket shower

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